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HR managers harvest bounty from Web-enabled tools

By Kim Ann Zimmermann

In tight economic times, human resources managers sift through hundreds of résumés for positions that might have attracted only dozens of applicants in more prosperous times. The process of identifying candidates with the right skills for the job has been made easier by KM-related software that can scan résumés and build searchable databases.

But the work of those systems in HR departments doesn't stop with résumés and job applications. KM systems are being used to manage and understand the skills and areas of expertise of people who are already employed. When a manager needs someone who has experience in a specific program or who has received specific technical training, he or she can plug criteria into an internal database and find the right person for the job.

In the hospitality industry, there is a high turnover rate and a need for specialized skills. Bellagio, an MGM Mirage hotel in Las Vegas, NV, has turned to electronic document and data capture technology to manage the complexities of keeping itself staffed by people with the right level of experience. When it opened in 1998, Bellagio HR staff and administrators had to hire 10,000 employees at all skill and experience levels. In addition, they had to manage the documents of employees who transferred from other MGM Mirage properties.

The electronic system Bellagio implemented to process new employees and transfers consists of FileNet’s Panagon Content Services, Kofax’s Ascent Capture software and Fujitsu scanners. The scanners are equipped with Kofax Adrenaline boards to improve speed and performance.

The system was implemented by Phoenix-based integrator Western Office Systems, and since the Bellagio installation, the integrator has installed the same technology at MGM Mirage's other properties, including Mirage, Treasure Island and Golden Nugget in Las Vegas; Golden Nugget in Laughlin, NV; and Beau Rivage in Biloxi, MS. While employee records at Bellagio were created in electronic form, more than 25,000 existing paper-based employee records from the other hotels had to be scanned.

"Bellagio and MGM Mirage's other properties required an efficient solution to tackle the enormous task faced by HR to manage employee files, relieving the burden of shuffling paperwork in response to daily management requests for employee information," says Ray Hughes, general manager of Western Office Systems. "Our firm worked closely with the HR and IS departments to assess the company's needs and develop a clear vision of what the system needed to do. We focused on keeping it simple yet robust to streamline an otherwise complicated and time-consuming file management process."

The system scans and stores documents in a central database so that all managers can access the records through the corporate intranet. The IT department set up a thin-client system, in which computers are connected to the central server that stores the employee information database, enabling management to immediately retrieve employee files for their particular hotel. That saves time because managers can access the information from their desktops rather than sending a request for information to the HR department, a process that could take days or even weeks.

"We've been most impressed by the accuracy of documents and their immediate availability once scanned into the system," says Marilyn Mattick, Bellagio's director of compensation. "We've significantly reduced the number of hours and the amount of staff that it would normally take to manage paper-based files.

"We now have the ability to offer management access to employee files 24/7 via the corporate intranet. Managers no longer have to wait for HR to provide the files. They can go online to view specific employee records and are able to make notes directly in the file. This significantly cuts down on the time and effort it used to take department managers and HR staff to accomplish the same tasks using paper-based methods."

Being able to access employee documents over the Internet is becoming critical, according to Chuck Allen, director of HR-XML Consortium (hr-xml.org). The consortium has worked to develop standards so that standard HR functions in most software packages can be easily placed online and can interface with KM applications. "The idea is that information can seamlessly flow from résumé and job application tracking systems into various specialized knowledge management systems," he says.

Web-enabled and ready to hire

Unisys is among those companies at the forefront of Web-enabling HR functions, moving beyond sifting through paper résumés for qualified candidates.

According to David Aker, senior VP for Worldwide Human Resources, there was a move in 1995 at Unisys to drive down the cost of HR functions by 40%. At that time, the company had 45,000 employees, an HR department of 600 and "no global HR system," Aker says, adding that the HR cost per employee was nearly $1,800 in 1996, but in 2001, that figure was down to $900.

"It's really all about getting the right people on a project as quickly as possible," Aker explains. "The sooner we can get the right people in place for a project, the sooner it can begin to turn a profit." Aker's team has managed to shave about $35 million from its budget. Positions are now filled in an average of 45 days, down from an average of 75 days three years ago.

The IT services and solutions giant uses HR technology from PeopleSoft, but the system is more than just managing the application process. "We've totally Web-enabled the human resources process. Users can enter a portal to enroll in training, as well as perform hiring, promotion and transfer functions," Aker says.

And Unisys' HR departments around the world have their own portal where they can share best practices, process changes and policy information. "Now we can be assured that employees are getting consistent information no matter where they are working," he says.

One of the lessons Aker and his team learned as the system evolved is that too much customization can hamper the development of the system. "At first, we did a lot of customization, but we ran into trouble as we tried to upgrade to later versions of the system," he says.

Unisys has moved much of its training to a Web-based system, making it easier to track and evaluate the skills of the 39,000 employees in its global work force.

"We do about 65% of our training now through e-learning," Aker says. "That's where knowledge management really plays a role. We're managing the information that is shared with our employees in training and we're able to keep track as they develop their skills."

Kim Ann Zimmermann is a free-lance writer, 732-636-3612, e-mail kimzim2764@yahoo.com

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