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HR, Streamlined

Powerful HR modules now efficiently deliver the applicant data needed to comply with employment regulations.

HR, Streamlined

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 can't match.

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 more applicants."

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."

High Visibility

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."

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