- By Rama Ramaswami
Powerful HR modules now efficiently deliver the applicant
data needed to comply with employment regulations.
AT CORNELL, a department manager can review all the material on an applicant and determine
who to interview or reject, without HR intervention.
THE WORDS 'HUMAN RESOURCES' and "paperwork"
go hand-in-hand-- or do they? On many college
campuses, that assumption is changing. Human Resources
administrators are finding that as software modules
are installed to automate various processes, they have
more time to focus on strategic objectives. And as compliance
with affirmative action and other employment regulations
comes under increasing scrutiny, HR staffers are
finding that software can deliver and track data
with an accuracy that paper-based processes
In fact, higher education institutions that
launched such automation a few years back are
now reaping the fruits of their foresight. With
nearly 10,000 employees and about 20,000 students
at its campus in Ithaca, NY, for instance,
Cornell University had urgently needed to
streamline its uncoordinated employee recruitment
efforts. Faced with difficulty recruiting and
retaining top talent, and with no mechanisms to
track or report on search efforts, Cornell administrators
decided to install an online applicant
tracking system from Taleo.
"What we had before was completely paperbased,
with no automation in any way, shape, or
form," says Allan Bishop, director of Cornell's
Recruitment and Employment Center in the
Office of Human Resources. "It was very decentralized.
There was very little ability to know what
jobs were available, or get details on affirmative
action or the responses we were getting."
The new software changed all that, allowing
approved users direct access to applicant
information. Now, all academic and some nonacademic
job opportunities are posted to a
central site, and a consistent employment
process is used across campus. According to
Bishop, today a manager can review all the
material on an applicant and determine who
to interview or reject, without HR intervention.
In addition, "Affirmative action data collection is up by 50
percent," he reports. "We're very pleased with that; we
now have a much more proactive recruiting environment."
What's more, he adds, "The system's ease of use attracts
The Taleo program was designed primarily for corporate
environments-- and that, Bishop says, was actually a plus.
"We did not want to mirror our old academic ways," he says. "Taleo helped us break the mold. The Taleo people
forced us to make changes." As Taleo's first academic
client, Cornell had the opportunity to educate the vendor
about the academic environment, thereby receiving a solution
customized for the university's needs, as well as helping
Taleo with its R&D for the education market.
Although the cost of adding HR software modules can
seem forbidding, Bishop advises administrators to take the
plunge. "Don't get scared off by the price," he says. "Look
at the functionality. When we got into this, one of our fears
was, 'There's no way we can afford this!' But it has been a
very positive experience for us." He adds that in the future,
Cornell will "take advantage of the best practices in the
recruiting environment. We want the job candidate to feel
welcomed and find the process easy to use. On the management
side, we want robust tracking, decentralized management
access, and management of searches-- we will
look for additional functionality for search committees, and
collaboration between search committees."
Just a Few Clicks
A few years ago, the University of New Hampshire, with
12,500 students, was one of the first schools to use an
applicant-tracking module from PeopleAdmin. Today, the institution has decreased its time to
hire by more than 30 percent, according to Kevin Hinchey,
information technologist in the university's HR department.
What was once a "long-drawn-out and labor-intensive" hiring
process is now just a few clicks online, Hinchey says.
"We've cut a lot of time on the front end. We have a template
in the PeopleAdmin application that a hiring manager
can use directly. Salary, minimum qualifications, and experience
for the job are all built in. All the manager has to do
is pull up the template, tweak it a bit, submit it to HR, and
open the position. Then hiring supervisors can go into the
program 24/7 and view their applicant pool. It's freed up a
lot of HR time to do other things."
The software module also has made regulatory compliance
easier for UNH. "Another huge benefit is that affirmative
action and EEO [Equal Employment Opportunity] data
are 100 percent accurate because candidates are selfidentified
online," says Hinchey. "Previously, applications
had to be filled in by hand, and if the applicant did not
include all the data, the supervisor would fill it in and there
may not have been as much accuracy."
Hinchey is eager to deploy other PeopleAdmin modules,
such as the vendor's position description and performance
assessment applications. "It's a budget issue, but we're
looking for ways to fund this because it's the wave of the
future," he maintains. Currently, UNH's online performance
assessment involves the staff filling out a form in Microsoft Word and sending it by e-mail or
post to the HR department, which then scans and indexes
the form. "If we had the PeopleAdmin performance assessment
module, this would all be done online, and the workflow
would be behind the scenes," Hinchey says. "None of
that is available to us now. It would be a great benefit to any
HR administrator. It's just the way to go."
With the use of applicant tracking, the University of
New Hampshire's 'long-drawn-out and labor-intensive'
hiring process is now just a few clicks
online, but HR is pushing for position description and
performance assessment applications, as well.
Automate to Manage Growth
Recently, Kimberly Sherfesee, director of employment and
compensation at Coastal Carolina University (a South
Carolina institution of about 8,000 students), decided to
develop an electronic workflow process for hiring student
assistants. "Previously, an actual physical form had to go to
multiple offices such as Student Employment and Financial
Aid before being processed. We wanted to find a way to
handle that process more effectively."
In 2006, Sherfesee installed Colleague HR, a workflow
management module from Datatel. The
application, which integrates with other Datatel applications
such as Colleague Student and Colleague Finance, enables
HR staff to quickly fill out a form online and, through automated
e-mails to different departments within the university,
gather relevant information about a student. "We've been
really pleased with the results," Sherfesee says. "The program
is very pliable. We can check financial aid records
without having to contact the financial aid office, and without
giving people access to information they shouldn't have.
It takes under an hour to be trained to use the system. Our
goal is to replicate this for other processes. So far, we're
using it only for student employment workflow."
What started out as a pilot program for a few departments
was so successful that Coastal Carolina launched
it across the entire campus in January 2007. Still, for
future rollouts, Sherfesee admits she would do a few
things differently: "The lesson learned was that we put in
too many bells and whistles for the first program, so it
took longer than we expected." Generally, for future software
rollouts of any kind, Sherfesee says CCU will lean
toward simpler applications without all the advanced features.
"We're looking at something less complex so we
can deliver faster," she stresses. "Also,
for special assignments, we have to
tweak the system. But on the whole,
the rollout has gone very well for us."
Sherfesee adds that installing the
workflow module was an absolute
necessity for the university, and that the
added efficiency has offset the financial
investment. "We've had a lot of growth
in the last 10 to 15 years, and there's
only so much human capital you can
add. You don't want to lose the human
element, but automation does enable
you to focus on other things."
At the College of Southern Idaho, a
two-year community college in Twin
Falls with about 10,000 students, CX
Human Resources, a module from
enterprise software provider Jenzabar, manages all
aspects of employee compensation
and summarizes employee information
for management reporting at the
departmental level. The software
enables administrators to record, track,
and store histories for each employee,
including hire date, rehire date, adjusted
service, retirement, and termination.
A centrally integrated, common database
makes HR data immediately available
to other departments.
This visibility of information and
resulting access to a wider pool of
applicants is critical in a region of the
country where the labor market is
extremely tight, notes Monty Arrossa,
the college's director of human
resources. For instance, "Sometimes
we have difficulty finding custodians,"
he says. Happily, "The system has
helped us upgrade our job classification
system in the last three years.
There has been a savings in cost and time."
Like his counterparts at other schools, Arrossa cites a
pressing need to be able to access all employee information
for complying with EEO and affirmative action requirements.
"It's becoming tougher for HR departments to keep
track of all that information," he says. "We're now using our
time more efficiently."