Integrated. Upgradeable. Simple. Affordable. That’s the message HR professionals at universities and colleges are sending to software developers.
“We don’t want to be locked in to what we’re doing today and not be able to adjust to the world tomorrow,” says David Jones, organizational effectiveness specialist, division of housing and food services at Purdue University. Jones says no one in HR has the time to enter the same information twice or perform the same data search in different programs.
Is anybody listening? Apparently so.
Many technology products built within the last 18 months are more user-friendly, says Katherine Jones, vice president of human capital management technology research at Bersin by Deloitte, a subsidiary of Deloitte Consulting, LLP.
Vast navigation improvements offer more intuitive interfaces and reduce redundancies, such as the need to complete similar forms multiple times. Just as important, the cost of hardware and cloud storage is dropping, making it cheaper for higher ed institutions to store massive amounts of records online, Jones says.
HR departments also can take advantage of the increasing number of analytics programs as well as an increase in other software intended to create a totally wired or mobile campus for all university departments. But only if it’s in the budget.
The greatest tech challenge for schools is finding the funds to purchase new technology, says Jones, a former assistant dean in the school of education at the University of Connecticut.
“HR is just not going to be seen as a priority,” she says, explaining that school executives and state legislatures tend to favor other school projects or departments—such as research—that generate notoriety and attract funds.
Many universities realize they need reliable data to manage their school like a business. Some 85 percent of respondents said they were planning to make material changes to HR’s service delivery and structure within the next several years, according to a benchmarking study done for the Association of American Universities by Towers Watson, a global professional services company.
Likewise, a majority is also scheduling upgrades to their HR systems because they understand the value of good data.
“The buzz around big data is the possibilities it offers, like bringing together recruitment statistics with other kinds of higher education relevant data,” says Towers Watson consultant Dave Young. “But this can’t be done effectively unless you have the proper data management procedures in place and link the data to other business outcomes.”
The desire for powerful metrics is a driving force behind some technology purchases and upgrades.
“HR at many educational organizations is suffering from older systems and an inability to upgrade or convert older systems,” Young says. “But there is now a willingness among some schools to spend money to build and put in place the right systems that have decent useable data.”
Tweaking and customizing
Still, not every school is chasing new technology. Some have discovered the advantages of modifying older software. The College of Graduate and Continuing Studies at Norwich University in Vermont created a customized form and workflow process that it was able to integrate with the content management system it already owned.
Not only was this cheaper than a new system, less training was required as staff was already familiar with the software, says Toni Raftery, a project manager who implements software and systems for the online college.
Next on its list is adding digital signatures to its faculty contracting process. “What will really impact HR is this digital contract,” she says. “Right now, it’s still a paper contract that gets sent to instructors. We want them to put their digital signature on it, email it back to us, and then it gets stored in our digital files. The idea is within a year, this faculty contract will be 100 percent digital and no paper contract will ever be printed.”
Technology must be flexible enough to be tailored to a school’s processes, not the other way around, she says. As software and systems evolve, she envisions them being more compatible with traditional school processes.
As Jones at Purdue says,“We’re a society that wants technology good, fast and cheap. The choices are unbelievable.”
Carol Patton is a Las Vegas-based writer.
New HR Releases/Upgrades
NuView Systems, Inc.
Description: Provides mobile manager access on global human resource management software
Description: Enables schools to deliver a robust set of best-in-class HR functionality that helps increase productivity, accelerate business performance, and lower cost of ownership.
Cornerstone Recruiting Cloud
Description: Natively social and unified with Cornerstone Integrated Talent Management suite – driving both external referrals and internal mobility, while improving the ability to identify, attract and engage the right candidates.
Orange HRM, Inc.
Description: Offers modules that provide personal information management (PIM), employee self-service (ESS), leave management, time and attendance tracking (PTO), performance evaluation and recruitment, all at no cost.
Description: Allows organizations to complete and track Myers-Briggs assessments and use valuable insights to improve self-awareness, communication, coaching, and collaboration across the entire company.
Description: Helps ramp up new hires by connecting, informing and empowering them with the right people, tools and content they need to start contributing in record time.
Description: Features activity-based and academic-year pay, grants management and reporting, effort certification, and the ability to assign academic appointments to visiting professors or academic affiliates not formally employed by the institution.