HR Magazine, February 2001: Software Review

By Jim Meade and Gary Meyer Feb 1, 2001
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HR Magazine, February 2001Vol. 46, No. 2




DynaSuite by Performance Software; Kenexa Career Tracker by Kenexa

Web-Native DynaSuite: Powerful HR Tools

As an HR and payroll person, perhaps you have some tricky demands to make of your system. Your business may have several locations, and maybe you employ consultants who bill themselves as employees to several companies in several states.

Having everyone send and receive information over the web would solve the problem of multiple locations, but how do you find integrated HR and payroll software that can do your complex tax deductions and benefits calculations over the web?

DynaSuite from Performance Software Inc. of East Hanover, N.J., uses Java to build the kind of advanced system you wouldn’t expect to find on the web. “We’re one of the first transaction processing systems to run on the Internet,” says Karen Rusinak, vice president of product marketing at Performance Software.

The net result of using such a true web system is that this program does the sophisticated payroll and HR processing yet “doesn’t have the glitches, bugs and crashing” that can happen with a so-called web-enabled system, explains Larry Kass, president and chief executive officer of National Employment Alternatives Inc., a professional employer organization in Florham Park, N.J.

The fact that this software is web-native is important. A web-native product is written from the ground up for web use, while a web-enabled product—which covers many other HR applications these days—is based on a non-web product that has been adapted for web use. Web-enabled products may require add-ons and may have more complex maintenance needs. When a product is web-native, like DynaSuite, you generally avoid extra requirements.

Simple Setup

You might use DynaSuite as a direct end-user, after buying the software.

Or you might use it through a third-party provider, such as an application service provider (ASP) firm or even a professional employer organization (PEO) that helps you run HR functions.

Performance Software offers particular flexibility to the system administrators who set up what end-users see.

As a system administrator, you click on a menu choice to begin what the software calls “Global Setup,” then select from a list that includes benefits information, deduction information and report setup.

Instead of having a programmer write code for everything, an ordinary payroll or HR person points and clicks to set up, say, the types of deductions allowed or the number of benefit plans offered. For example, you can set up an unlimited number of benefit plans, according to Rusinak.

System administration is not all that you can do. As a user you simply point and click to display the information so nicely defined during setup. You can see employee information, benefits options, job and salary information and even employee career development details.

Reporting allows plenty of flexibility in creating the reports you would want to see. In addition, more than 100 built-in reports display everything from birthday lists to 401(k) information.

Nothing but Net

DynaSuite is a dream for the technical person—not necessarily a programmer, but the technically inclined businessperson that administers the system or sets up and runs a service bureau.

Kass says DynaSuite “does a couple things nobody else could do,” such as set up end-user companies to do their own payroll processing using self-service.

Curt Bishop, vice president of Paymast’r Services Inc. in Boulder, Colo., processes payrolls for more than 10,000 companies all over the country using DynaSuite. He says the product makes excellent use of the Internet.

Before he used DynaSuite, his clients had to dial in to submit information and often their computers would not be configured properly at first to talk to his company’s computers. With DynaSuite, he says, “We just say, ‘Do you have a web browser, and are you connected to the Internet?’”

Kass, too, praises the product’s Internet capability. When he tries to tell people what this software does on the Internet, people “don’t seem to get it.” People are used to seeing Internet systems that display simple information. “DynaSuite,” says Kass, “is built from the ground up to be web-based. It’s built to do what it does.”

Powerful Processing

DynaSuite has a strong integration of payroll and HR. “We have one database,” explains Rusinak. “An employee exists once in the system,” and both HR and payroll draw on that same employee information.

While the database is strong, so is what the program does with the data. It doesn’t simply display data; it processes even complex data.

For example, DynaSuite “can do a gross to net on the Internet,” says Rusinak—a special feat with numerous calculations. “The calculation begins with your gross pay, deducts state and local taxes, takes out insurance payments, takes out stock options and arrives at net pay, without counting on a mainframe or other non-web system hiding in the background.”

Consider Third-Party Access

You almost can’t expect a program that is this technically powerful to be completely easy to use, and DynaSuite is not.

Yes, it is a point-and-click operation on the Internet. But you point and click at complex information that’s necessary but can prompt some head-scratching (such as set-up information for payroll deductions for multiple types of employees.)

People like Kass and Bishop appreciate the ability to make changes in DynaSuite without having to call in a programmer, but they are savvy users. For the rest of us, it’s a good idea to use DynaSuite through a third-party ASP or PEO, which can take care of all the setup for us.

Jim Meade, Ph.D., based in Fairfield, Iowa, is an author and HR software consultant specializing in software selection. He is currently preparing The 2001 Guide to HR Software with Harcourt Profes-sional Publishing. E-mail him at words@lisco.com.

Succession Plans Made Easier

It’s a fact of business life, or organization charts wouldn’t seem to be under constant revision: People in your company are going to resign, retire or move into higher positions.

When those kind of events occur, are there usually qualified internal successors? People who have managed their careers so that they are ready to fill the vacancies? Or does HR have to launch time-consuming and expensive external searches to find replacements?

New software from Wayne, Pa.-based Kenexa, formerly called TalentPoint, helps HR cultivate an in-house talent pool of promotable employees using an approach that attracts and rewards active employee participation.

Kenexa CareerTracker is a comprehensive system offered via the web in an application service provider model—Kenexa hosts the software, you just log on and use it. This product gives employees abundant tools to manage their own careers within their company’s framework of core goals and standards.

HR can use this software to discern and then address developmental needs affecting employees’ advancement. Managers can use the system to track high-potential people and instantly identify employees who are prime candidates for open positions. With a mouse click, Kenexa CareerTracker can link users to resources to meet their specific training needs.

Goal-Driven

For employees, the first step in using Kenexa CareerTracker is defining their career goals. The system furnishes an easy-to-follow template, displaying the employer’s pre-set business goals, followed by an area where the employee types in his own goals.

Employees can set goals spanning one, three or even 10 years and assign them low, medium or high priority. When jobs open up, managers can search employee goals for key words such as “manager” or “assistant vice president” to find people whose sights are set on such positions.

Formulating a personal development plan to achieve career goals requires the employee to be aware of how he or she measures up against colleagues and the organization’s standards.

To help with this measurement, Kenexa CareerTracker has a “My Scorecard” module that stores assessment data about a person in four categories. “My Profile” contains information about traits and behaviors, usually derived from psychological tests; “My Per-

formance” reflects performance evaluation history; “My Tests” records the scores on tests taken; and “My Survey” can show 360-degree and other assessment results.

With this wealth of feedback an employee can zero in on personal strengths and weaknesses and construct a reality-based plan for self-development.

Rich Resources Included

Before working on the plan, users should enter the “My Resources” section for access to a rich library of development aids that can help eliminate gaps between actual and desired levels of competencies and behaviors.

For specific skills needing improvement, such as conflict resolution or communication, the software will list books, seminars, videos and courses focused specifically on that topic. Kenexa updates this resource directory quarterly.

In the “My Action Plan” section, assessment data brought over from “My Scorecard” appears in a template. The action plan template describes detailed action steps, indicates the resources needed to complete those steps, determines how to measure success and assigns progress review and completion dates.

The end product is a clear, unique master plan for accomplishing one’s goals. These plans can be viewed by managers for tracking and performance evaluation purposes. Employees can flag items that they accomplish and add, delete or change items to keep them up to date.

Special Uses for HR Managers

For executives, managers and authorized HR staff, the software offers specialized functions not available to employees. Authorized users can create “hot lists” of employees who are on a fast track to promotion. Authorized users also can post jobs and use search features to identify employees who are attractive prospects for open slots.

A manager can target a particular sub-group such as female employees or employees in a specific location, looking for candidates with desired key words in their goal descriptions.

Drilling down even more, the manager could identify employees whose overall scores on performance evaluations and proficiency tests exceeded desired levels. The software lets the manager specify the acceptable test scores for the specific skills being sought.

An add-on module called “My Career”—which I highly recommend—greatly enhances the base system. It serves as an online, internal job board. Employees can search for jobs and transmit resumes internally.

Kenexa CareerTracker helps employees take control of their careers and, by doing so, lets them be the major players in succession planning.

User Data Is Critical

Success with this software depends on the employer’s willingness to add fresh data; performance evaluations, tests, surveys and other information must be current and complete, or the software’s value is seriously impaired. Any potential customer should understand that this product’s effectiveness depends on the continual gathering of a considerable amount of evaluative data.

A second prerequisite for achieving excellent results with Kenexa CareerTracker is having everyone from the top to the bottom of the company actually use the system. It’s vital that employees see that managers are using CareerTracker to track talent and promote from within, which in turn motivates employees to pursue developmental opportunities and keep improving their “virtual employee folders.”

Kenexa CareerTracker seems best suited to larger companies with multiple locations or branches. For those customers, it would help promote training and development opportunities without scheduling or logistical problems. This software offers a practical means for tracking talent that might otherwise remain undiscovered.

Gary Meyer is a freelance writer and software reviewer based in Cincinnati.

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