Diocesan human resources director puts service first


Service. That’s the one word that Sandy Hill, human resources director for the Diocese of Charleston, uses to describe her one-woman department.

When Hill came to the diocese, human resources was used primarily for hiring lay personnel in the diocesan offices. Her task was to incorporate benefits, retirement packages and employment for the entire diocese, including parishes, schools and diocesan offices.

With almost 10 years of experience in her field, Hill set out to accomplish the job. She revised the Diocesan Lay Employee Handbook, from which the Parish Lay Employee Handbook was created and implemented. The Office of Christian Formation and Education updated their handbook for the diocesan schools, which references the parish handbook for guidelines.

Her next step was creating an employee orientation program and standardizing job descriptions.

Why all the change? Keeping up with steady growth and gaining a hold on the diocese’s “corporate” status, meant change.

“A lot has happened. The diocese has grown and we’ve got to be prepared to respond to the growth,” Hill said.

Benefits and retirement issues, which were previously handled by the finance department, were also taken over by Hill. She switched the medical insurance program from a straight 80/20 plan to a preferred provider organization, which lowered the deductible and stabilized steadily increasing insurance rates. The workers compensation insurance carrier was also changed recently.

The latest project was switching the 403(B) plan from Merrill Lynch to Interstate/Johnson Lane due to growth in the diocese and, according to Hill, to accommodate the diocese’s stronger buying power.

The new plan offers A-class share type funds with no minimum purchases, no transfer fees, a lower expense fee, no annual account maintenance fee and loads are waived.

The plan is also in the top 2 percent of Interstate/Johnson Lane’s clients, numbering over 1,000 in the Southeast.

The quality of the investments, no vesting schedule, and an unheard of match of 5 percent as long as employees participate in the plan make it very worthwhile, said Hill.

Also, the addition of a third party administrator adds stability to the plan. If one company should pull out of the venture there is no loss.

Hill strives to meet the challenge of staffing diocesan offices, as well as assisting schools and parishes in meeting their personnel needs.

The human resources director is participating in a newly installed diocesan-wide program to offer security and knowledge to employees. Several of the diocese’s offices are taking part in incorporating background screening and education training in schools, parishes and diocesan offices. Education on misconduct, abuse and neglect will help those who have knowledge of those occurences to better deal with problems when they arise.

The screening process will help to ensure the safety of children, as well as, employees.

Hill’s biggest challenge to date has been reaching out to all the employees.

“The diocese is so spread out it’s hard to implement some plans and large projects,” she said.

For the future, Hill hopes to see a central database of all employees facilitating the dissemination of information, which would inform employees of human resources news and projects that portray what she says is her largest role: serving the parishes, schools and employees.