Human Resources Guidelines

This is not meant to be an exhaustive manual on Human Resource Planning. There are already many resources that cover the various facets of Human Resources quite extensively. This is a checklist and introduction to what should be done in order to establish a Human Resource plan.

Many of the sections will direct you to other resources that will expand on the areas you may be interested in and will answer questions that you may have that will not be answered in these guidelines.

These guidelines will lead you step by step through the process of establishing a plan and gathering information that should be collected to help you come up with solutions to Human Resource issues.

A Human Resource plan will help you attract the right type of people, retain your good employees, adn motivate them to be an integral part of the organization's success.

Section 1: Assessing human resource needs
Section 2: Employee policies
Section 3: Job descriptions
Section 4: Employment options
Section 5: Recruitment
Section 6: Performance reviews
Section 7: Legislation
Section 8: Succession planning
Section 9: Human resources documents checklist
Section 10: Annotated resources



  • Why do you need to assess human resource needs?
  • First and foremost, you need to ensure that the organization has enough human resources to support the organization and the organization's goals. All too often it is a matter of playing 'catch-up' and struggling to find people to carry out the organization's projects and plans. By assessing what you have and what you need, you will have a better idea of what you can and cannot do in the organization and then put together a comprehensive plan for the board.

Organization's Mission and Strategic Plan

  • What is the mission statement?
  • Your human resources plan should always address the mission statement.
  • Can you fulfill the mission statement with your current resources?
  • Do you have an organizational strategic plan? Many organizations now have strategic plans. Did your plan include human resources as an important component, or was it simply something that was inserted because the outline said you need to include human resources? It may be that you need to revisit the strategic plan to fit human resources planning into it. In any case, you will need to see what the plans are, and what human resources will be needed to carry out any new strategic plans.

Organization - Structure

  • Are you board-run? Are you part of a municipal structure? Depending on your governing body, it may impact your human resource planning.
  • Do you have an organizational chart? This will help you identify gaps and assess needs in terms of human resources.
  • Who answers to whom?
  • Do you have an identifiable chain of command? This will become important when you start to look at job descriptions and to fill positions.
  • Remember to include volunteer labour as well as part of the structure. It is important for most museums to remember that volunteers perform many of the smaller jobs that regular staff do not have the time to do, but they also have to answer to someone in the organization, and this may take up time and resources. So it is important to identify staff members who supervise volunteers.

Numbers of Staff, Volunteers

  • It is important to get a picture of how many people work at the organization and what positions they fill. You may find that when you look at the numbers and then back at the organizational chart, only one person is really responsible for all the staff and volunteers. Do they really have the time or resources to the job well?
  • How many full-time staff? Write down the number and positions of each.
  • How many part-time staff? What are the part-time hours for each? Write down the numbers, hours and positions of each.
  • How many volunteers? How many of these are active? You will have 2 numbers here. You need to know how many volunteers you have registered, but you also need to know how many volunteers are regularly active and work regular shifts at the organization. Also, make sure you record the hours and positions of each of the active volunteers. Again, when you go back to your organizational chart you may find that only one or two staff members make use of the volunteers.

Number of Unfilled Positions

  • According to your strategic plan, do you have any unfilled positions? Were there any plans to create new positions and are these new positions still sitting empty?Who is the governing body?
  • Have you had any staffer active volunteers leave without being replaced?
  • In some cases, you may have had staff leave and the position was never filled. Make sure this is recorded, since that position may well need filling or the job may need to be reassigned. Make sure that you include active volunteers in this statistic as well, since they may have been doing a chore that needs to be performed by staffer by recruiting another volunteer.

Age Distribution - Retirement Eligibility Projections

  • For planning purposes it is very important to get an idea of the age distribution, since this will give you an idea of future changes in personnel.
  • Look at the age distribution for both your employees and volunteers. How many are 5-10 years away from retirement age?
  • Long range planning is the goal here. Do you have staff that is eligible for retirement soon? Have you made plans for replacement and succession training?
  • What is the average age of your volunteers? Don't forget to include your volunteers. In general, the volunteer age is older; volunteers will need to be replaced as well, and should be part of your recruitment strategy.

Gender Distribution

  • What is the gender distribution in your organization? Do you want to achieve gender balance, or is this something that is not a concern to your organization?

Equity Distribution

  • Look at the equity distribution in your staff and volunteers. Are you representing your constituency?
  • This is a big question. Who is your audience? Is your audience's demographic reflected in your staff? With your volunteers? Do you need to recruit or attract more of one group or another?

Turnover Statistics

  • How often do you have to hire? This is very important when it comes to planning. It may be that you have a regular turnover, and this is causing some difficulties in project development, funding, etc. Constant staff change means more time training and loss of program continuity. Why is this happening?
  • Alternatively, has there been no turnover for 20 years? What will happen when these people retire or leave?
  • Who is in place to take their positions?
  • Include returning summer staff as well as volunteers. It is important to include volunteers and seasonal or casual employees as well. Do you get the same summer staff every year, or do you need to train new staff every summer? Are the volunteers constantly changing? Do you spend a lot of time and resources training?
  • Or again, do you have the same volunteers consistently performing the same jobs, and no one has been trained to take their place?

Identify Key Positions

  • What are the key positions within your museum that need to be staffed - either by paid or volunteer staff - in order for your museum to operate?
  • These positions are the ones that need special, immediate attention in order to ensure seamless transition.

Job Descriptions

  • At this point in the process, do you have job descriptions written for every position in the museum?
  • In order for seamless job transition, you need to have a full written job description so the new employee will have all the information needed to do the job effectively. The written job description will enable you to hire the best person for the job based on the qualifications specified.
  • Do you have written job descriptions for positions traditionally filled by volunteers? Please don't forget the volunteers. A job description will facilitate supervision of the volunteers by describing what is expected and what skills are needed to perform their duties. It will also help you recruit qualified volunteers.


  • What will you do with all this information?
  • Once all the above information is collected you can look at what you need to do to build an effective human resources plan. You can use this information to help obtain funding for new personnel or training for present personnel. You can use it as a basis for a recruitment strategy. Above all, this shows you the capabilities needed to effectively manage the organization.


Why do you need policies?

  • Policies establish the rules and regulations mat assist in fulfilling an organization's mission and goals. Any written policy should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. It is important that you look closely at what policies your organization needs and make sure they are in place and understood by everyone.

What policies are needed?

  • Depending on the size of the organization and the number of employees, different policies will be needed. The Human Resources Council HR Management Toolkit has noted that the following policies should be in place for smaller organizations.
  • Hours of work
  • Overtime Compensation
  • Vacation
  • Holidays
  • Leaves
  • Evaluation
  • Hiring
  • Termination
  • Employee information and privacy

Because of the importance of volunteers, it is also very important to have a volunteer policy as well, particularly if your organization is considered a volunteer-run organization.

This is not a complete list, and you may find that depending on your situation and past experience you may need to define other rules and regulations dealing with human resources.

For a complete list of policies that that you may wish to consider for your organization see:

What needs to be in a policy?

  • Policy name
  • Date of Policy and revision dates
    Remember: it is important to include all revisions. Policies should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis
  • Purpose
    What is the main purpose of this policy? Why have you written it?
  • Main policy statement
    What is the key element of this policy?

How to write a policy?

  • Make sure it is well written and laid out in a logical manner.
  • Use clear language and avoid jargon.
  • Make sure the policy is fair and flexible.
  • Make sure the policy complies with any legislation.
  • Start by identifying the important policies for your organization.
  • Collect information needed to create the policy.
  • Draft the policy.
  • Circulate and get feedback.
  • Get approved by governing body.

For a very good introduction and guidelines to writing policies see:

For examples of policies and what should be included in each of the different types of policies collected by the HR Management Toolkit go to:


Every position within in your museum must have a current job description. Start the process by asking all your employees to write down what they do in a given week, how long each job takes, how often it needs to be done, etc. Look at each of the tasks and ask if there are any specific requirements or equipment needed to perform them. You may find that there is overlap in duties and that some things are left undone. The next stage after collecting this information is to write it all down.

Job Title

  • Most people want to know what their title is going to be. Make sure this title reflects the type of work the person will do.


  • In larger organizations you may be divided into different departments. Which department will this job fit into?


  • What is the chain of command? Who will this position report to? Make this very clear in any job description.

Purpose of the Job

  • Why was this job created? How does it fit into the museum's mission statement?


  • Start by listing all of the day-to-day duties expected. Make sure you include everything, no matter how trivial it appears. Make a chart to look at when each of these duties is performed, the time required, the location, the materials used, necessary equipment, etc.
  • Then take these duties and divide them into into Primary, those that are essential to the job; Secondary, those duties that will performed as needed, not necessarily on a daily basis; and Tertiary, those duties could stand to be performed if time permitted, but can be performed by someone else.
  • Make sure that you include in this section staff/volunteer supervision, financial responsibilities, etc.


  • Make sure you list all of the qualifications needed to do the job. Include general skills needed, as well as specific ones. You may want to include the 'nice-to-have' skills as well, depending on the job. Review the duties and see what skills are needed to do the job. Do not expect a skill that is not a requirement for the job.

Experience Requirements

  • What experience do you expect the person to have in order to do the job? Do you expect a certain number of years spent on a specific task, or are you looking at general overall experience?

Education Requirements

  • Do you expect the person to have a minimum educational requirement? Why? Make sure you understand why you are asking, and what that credential will bring to the job.

Personal Traits

  • We all know we have to get along with coworkers in order for our organization to run smoothly, so personality is important. What does this job entail? What are the personality traits that will best suit this job?

Other Considerations

  • Make sure you address such things as physical demands, working conditions, interaction with the public, etc. - if you haven't already covered this in other areas of the job description

For more information on Job Descriptions see the following site from the HR Management Toolkit. This also includes example job descriptions and a template for writing a job description as well as a sample job analysis questionnaire to help you collect the information you need:


When looking at hiring anyone for your organization check with the standards set by the province or municipality you are in. There are different standards for what defines full- or part-time, casual, etc. Some general guidelines follow.


  • Full-time, for the most part, describes a person who is doing a single job for an average of more than 30 hours per week.
  • Do you need a full-time person for the position you are thinking of filling? Keep in mind the type of job and the necessary availability of the employee.


  • A part-time position is generally defined as working at one job for between 12 and 30 hours per week.
  • Why would you use part-time positions? Part-time positions should mainly be jobs where a full-time load is not justified. For the most part these are jobs that are self-contained and that can be picked up and put down at any time. They should not be time-sensitive or complex projects.
  • What positions arc best suited for part-time staff? Think about your organization. Do you have positions where someone can come in for a couple of hours each day, or for one or two days a week? Things like the gift shop or programs that are only run one day a week, etc., can be examples of part-time positions. However, if you have a very active gift shop or programming you may want to reconsider part-time and look at full-time. It is a balancing act.


  • Contract positions are used primarily for short term projects. There is a beginning date and an end date with a specific budget.
  • Contracts can be both good and bad. They are helpful in that you can bring in someone with the expertise that you may lack to develop and administer one specific project. The challenge you may encounter is ensuring that you do get the best person you can and that the project is completed on time and on budget.
  • Make sure that you have a signed contract detailing the project expectations and what you expect from the contractor including timelines, budget, materials, etc. The other thing that you should be aware of is that you must monitor the contractor to make sure that things are progressing as laid out in the contract; you must budget for this supervision.


  • The use of volunteers in a cultural organization is a given. Most organizations would not exist without the volunteers and their time and energy. They are often an underutilized and underappreciated human resource.
  • What jobs should be assigned to volunteers? As with part-time staff, it is important to think carefully about the type and design of the job that will be given to volunteers. Remember: they should not be doing the job of a person that could be hired for the position. Volunteers are there to assist you in your day-to-day tasks or for specific projects. They should be called on for their expertise and experience. They are giving their time and energy willingly and would like to get satisfaction from the tasks they are assigned. Match the volunteer to the job and you will have an effective and happy volunteer.

Other employment relationships
For a full and comprehensive listing of other employment relationships see:
This gives a listing and explanation of these relationships as well as noting legal implication and examples of employment contracts.


The first thing you must do is ascertain whether you have anyone within your organization who has the skills or can be trained for the position. Remember you are planning in terms of who you have, what their skills are and their suitability for the vacant position.

If you have decided or found that no one within the organization is qualified or interested in the position, then you will need to find the right candidate externally.

There are three facets to filling a vacancy:

1. Make sure you have defined the skill and talent requirements.
Confirm the type of position you are seeking. See SECTION 4: EMPLOYMENT OPTIONS

2. Attract the right people
Look at where you want to advertise the position or how you want to propagate the information. Using more than one type of recruiting method is recommended.

Examples of methods you can use include:

  • Personal and professional network - Talk to your colleagues; is there someone they may have had working for them and they know is looking for a job and would fulfill the requirements?
  • Professional organizations - Go to the provincial organizations to advertise your position or to see if they have a recruitment centre.
  • Colleges and universities - Advertise directly departments that would have the type of people you are looking for. You can also send to their general employment centre as well, just be prepared for applicants who are not qualified.
  • Employment agencies - Useful for high-ranking positions, not necessarily for most jobs in the museum field Public employment agencies (particularly for government funded jobs) - Used when hiring summer students through grant programs.
  • Online recruiting - Use your website as an area for advertising then you will definitely get people who are interested and will probably have the qualifications. A general website may not be as helpful especially for skill-specific jobs.
  • Newspapers - both local daily and weekly are a good bet for people from the community. If you want to go further a field look to the larger chains.

Job Ad

  • Once you have decided on the medium it is time to write the job ad.
  • Format it for the medium.
  • First describe the organization: who you are, what you are all about. Make it so that people will want to come and work for you.
  • Next describe the primary roles and responsibilities - cull these from the job description taking only those that are absolutely essential for the job.
  • Describe the critical skills and personal traits needed to do the job - make sure to connect to roles and responsibilities List the level of education you have established as necessary - make sure that you have not exceeded the level of need for the job.
  • Describe the job experience level expected - how many years in what capacity.
  • Finally give all the details as to what needs to be sent, to where, by what means, and by when - be very specific so that there will be no misunderstanding. If you say you will accept emailed resumes then make sure you check your emails, etc.

Resume Review

  • Next you will be screening the applications that come in. You will find that for most jobs you will be getting any number of applicants and your next chore is to go through all the resumes and applications that have come in.
  • What are you going to look for and how will you find the best among the pile of submissions?
  • You will have set up the expectations according to your job ad. What skills did you ask for? Can you find that in the resume? Set up key words, phrases that you will be looking for as you read through the resumes and set up 3 piles. One pile will be 'no,' one pile will be 'yes' and the third pile will be 'let's look at it again.' You will then go through the 'maybe' pile and finally weed down to 'yes' and 'no.' If in doubt put into the 'yes' pile. Now take the 'yes' pile and go through it again to see who really fits the profile of who you would like for the job and decide how many you want to interview. You may want to do an initial telephone interview to weed the pile down further. Remember if you talk to them on the phone, you are not guaranteeing them an interview.


  • The interview is next.
  • First decide when, where and who will be involved in the interviewing process. It is always a good thing to have other staff members involved with the interviewing and screening process especially if they will be working with the candidate.
  • Prepare questions ahead of time and decide how you expect them to answer the questions. Will you be scoring the answers or just taking a general opinion, who will be asking the questions etc.? Make sure this is all worked out ahead of time.


  • Once you have interviewed everyone and everyone is in agreement with the choice it is imperative that you check the references. If you are stuck choosing between 2 candidates sometimes the reference check will tip the balance one way or the other. Make sure you inform the candidates you will be checking the references and when so that they can make sure their references will be available.


  • The final stage is to formally offer the position to the successful candidate. You may decide to inform by phone or letter. Decide if that person should have time to decide or not and if they decline be prepared to offer to the second choice.
  • Have them sign a letter of agreement as to the position, salary, etc. before they begin work.

This will give you an example of a letter of agreement:


What is performance review all about and why do we have to do it?

  • The major reason for performance review is to ensure that the employee's activities are in line with the organization's goals and visions as well as creating and maintaining a motivated and contented workforce.
  • It is also very helpful in clarifying goals and expectations for the staff so that everyone knows what they should be doing.
  • Performance review can range anywhere from an occasional chat with the employee to a professional performance rating.

Continuous Feedback

  • One of the most important areas within performance reviews is the aspect of continuous feedback and support.
  • Everyone likes to be appreciated and to know whether or not they are doing a good job. Make sure that there are plenty of opportunities to give the feedback.
  • As well set up a system of rewards for jobs well done. It may be as simple as a letter thanking them for the job they did to financial rewards. Make sure you match the reward to the job as well as the individual.

Constructive Criticism

  • There are going to be times when you have to give constructive criticism to your employees. There are four things to remember when you are in this position.
  • First, confirm the facts - find out if there is a problem and how major a problem it is.
  • Second, set up a meeting with the staff member and keep the conversation on a neutral level.
  • Third, attack the problem by expanding on the employee's strengths and how you can eliminate the weakness.
  • Fourth, keep the dialogue open. Allow the employee to express their opinion and encourage them to give solutions to the problem.

Managing Differences

  • Communication is the key here. Chances are if you have good communications with your employees and are giving constant feedback there will be few problems with conflicts.
  • However, if they do come up, first identify the problem and see what needs to be achieved to solve the problem.
  • You may find that the problem is solved once everything is clarified.
  • Allow for discussion, gather viewpoints, and come to some consensus about how the solution will fit the organization@not necessarily how it will benefit the employee.
  • Keep the emotions under control at all times; if you find the control slipping, it may be time to take a break and continue at a later time.

Annual Review

  • This is something that should be done for every employee. It is the acknowledgement of their year's work with accomplishments being identified. It is also the time to set the goals and actions for the next year.
  • There are a number of ways this review can be handled. It can be an informal meeting with the staff member.
  • Where you give feedback on the way things have gone that year, or a more formal meeting where you have documented the information on a form after discussion with the employee. You can also have the employee analyse his or her own performance over the year.
  • The goals and actions for the next year should be clearly stated and understood, as they will form the basis for the next year's review. Work out with the employee what he or she would like to do, or what you think would benefit both the organization and the employee.
  • The most important part of this review process is to monitor the progress, so you may want to set up a meeting part way through the year to see how the employee is doing and whether or not the goals should be changed.


HR Management Toolkit has identified the following areas as important areas to consider. Every province has legislation in the following areas. At the end of each section a website is listed, allowing you to connect with your provincial regulations.

Employment Standards - Employment Standards are the minimum standards of employment for workplaces required by law. Employment Standards cover many aspects of employment including, but not limited to, the following topic areas:

  • Minimum Wage
  • Meal Breaks
  • Paydays
  • Hours of Work
  • Overtime
  • Holidays
  • Leaves
  • Termination
  • Deductions
  • Keeping records


Human Rights Legislation - in place to protect people from discrimination. This legislation includes:

  • Recruitment Ads
  • Application Forms
  • Interviews
  • Hiring
  • Dismissal
  • Promotion
  • Demotion
  • Benefits
  • Wages
  • Harassment


Occupational Health and Safety - regulates the standards of workplace safety: This legislation includes:

  • Refusal to work because of unsafe conditions
  • Violence in the workplace
  • Dangerous equipment/material Emergency procedures
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • First Aid skills requirement



This section comprises a paper written by Bill Barkley, for January/February 2007 MUSE. It is an excellent summary of the needs and how to go about succession planning.

Don't panic! Managing succession  pdf-file


This section will review the various documents you should have ready at your museum and why. For complete information on what should be in each of these documents see the appropriate section.

Human Resources Policy - Introduction
This is a must for all museums and should be updated regularly.

The following is from the Ontario Ministry of Culture:

a.  Ensure that staff responsible for administering the museum and its collections has appropriate professional training
b. Ensure that all museum activities are carried out by appropriately trained staff
c. Ensure that each staff member has a written job description
d. Ensure that human resource management, including recruitment, performance assessment, and termination is conducted in an ethical manner and is consistent with accepted practice and applicable legislation
e. Ensure that staff is provided with information on health and safety hazards in the workplace and is trained in their management or mitigation
f. Ensure that at least one person on staff has current First Aid training
g. Endeavour to provide equal access to the workplace by staff of all abilities
h. Ensure that staff is familiar with and adheres to a museological code of ethics
i. Meet municipal, provincial and federal legislative requirements relating to people in the workplace.


Employee Handbook - Section 6

This handbook will include all of the information that is in the employee policies and that is needed by staff to effectively do their jobs.

Employee Policies - Section 6

Policies will include things such as:

  • Employee records; recruitment and staffing; probation; disciplinary measures; resignation; compensation; expenses; hours of work; health and safety; grievances; job descriptions; performance reviews; conflict of interest; vacation/leaves; professional development; volunteer policy; copyright and dismissal. Please note that many of these things can be included into one or two policies and do not have to be separate.

Job Descriptions - Section 3

  • Make sure that you have a job description for every position within your organization including volunteer positions that are regularly staffed by volunteers.

Applications for Employment - Section 4

  • Do you have an application form for summer jobs?
  • Do you have application forms for volunteers?
  • Are they current or is there need for change?
  • Do they meet current legal requirements?

Interview Form - Section 4

  • Do you have a standard interview form?
  • Does it meet with current legal requirements?

Contracts - Section 4

  • Do you require your staff and volunteers to sign a contract or letter of agreement?
  • Does it meet with current legal requirements?

Performance Reviews - Section 6

  • Do you have a standard form for performance review?
  • Does it meet with your policy for performance reviews?


The HR Management Toolkit. Used extensively for this resource. Excellent information with examples in each of the different areas of human resource management.

This site is for employers and answers many questions you may have about human resources that deal with more general issues as well as a number of legal issues.

Volunteer Management Audit - good checklist of things needed to manage volunteers. [PDF]

Excellent resource for information on Volunteers.

Please remember to visit your Provincial Museum Organizations for many more tips and help with your human resource planning. for many more tips and help with your human resource planning.