New HR technology focuses on compatibility, standardization

HR needs simple navigation, intuitive self-service tools and streamlined workflow processes
By: | Issue: March, 2015
February 23, 2015

While some schools operate aging HR systems that can’t perform key tasks, others are looking ahead to their next technology purchase.

Towers Watson, a global consulting firm in Dallas, conducted two surveys last year looking at human resources technology trends. In the first survey, 41 percent of the 1,000 responding organizations (including colleges and universities) said they will make significant changes to their HR organization, service delivery and technology within the next two years, says David de Wetter, director and senior consultant for the firm.

The second survey—which benchmarked 62 public and private research universities for the Association of American Universities—found that almost half of respondents (45 percent) expect to implement new HR systems in the next few years.

That’s the plan at Tennessee State University, where Linda Spears, the HR director and associate vice president of business and finance, says big changes are in the works. Although the school added features to its Ellucian Banner HR system last year, Spears hopes to implement online timekeeping, more user-friendly report writing and self-service tools that let employees change emergency contacts, addresses and other personal information.

Closing gaps

HR systems are becoming ever more sophisticated. Last year, Campus Management Corp. introduced CampusNexus Finance, HR & Payroll. It features finance, accounting and revenue recognition; planning and forecasting; human resource management; and analytics.

But unlike other systems, it helps HR better manage faculty by tracking position type, tenure, certifications, teaching load, performance, professional membership and knowledge creation.

Cornerstone OnDemand added a new onboarding module last year to its Unified Talent Management Suite that manages workflow processes. When an employee leaves, the supervisor can electronically manage every detail of the transition, such as initiating a replacement, updating the job description and moving candidates along the hiring process.

With so many HR systems available, software compatibility is essential, says Vanessa Settle, assistant vice chancellor at Brandman University in California.

Although Brandman’s HR information system is from Ellucian Banner, it integrates easily with Cornerstone to take advantage of new performance, learning, recruiting and succession modules.

“Because they are integrated, we always have the most updated personnel information, which is important when assigning training,” Settle says. The system’s auto-assignment feature automatically places webinars and other events on an employee’s learning plan.

User experience

Compatibility carries through to the user experience. HR officials at Baylor University in Texas wanted to functionalize connections throughout a person’s career, such as competencies, learning, performance and compensation, says Tami Nutt, manager of learning and development. So, Baylor will be phasing in upgraded learning, performance, compensation and onboarding modules from Halogen’s

TalentSpace Suite for Education. “Some vendors we looked at had a list of modules they had acquired from other companies and pieced together. It led to a disjointed user experience,” she says.

Garbage in, garbage out

Towers Watson’s de Wetter says many of his school clients are planning significant upgrades with either PeopleSoft or Workday. Both companies have added simplified navigation and direct-access tools to help managers analyze data and gain insight on driving employee engagement.

But a system is only as good as its data, says de Wetter. Before any software implementation, schools must invest in data clean-up; otherwise past problems will be perpetuated. For example, one school implemented three HR systems over the past 20 years, yet there are still occasions where someone must search for paper files in the basement of an off-site building, he says.

“I can’t tell you how many universities have foolishly refused to spend the money. The future of HR is contingent on providing direct access to everyone.”

Carol Patton is a Las Vegas-based writer who specializes in human resources issues.