HR Technology

By Dawn S. Onley Apr 1, 2006
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HR Magazine, April 2006 HR is finding that information on key performance indicators is just a click away.

Matt Schuyler, executive vice president of human resources at Capital One Financial Group, based in McLean, Va., can easily identify which of the company’s 20,000 employees make up its top performers.​

Dave Heberling, senior director of corporate human resources at Erickson Retirement Communities of Baltimore, knows which of the company’s 13 independent retirement complexes are having trouble retaining staff and which ones have seen employee satisfaction ratings dip. Erickson has 10,000 employees spread out from Texas to Massachusetts.

Neither Schuyler nor Heberling are clairvoyant. But they do share one thing in common: Their companies use digital dashboard technologies that allow them to track key performance indicators that are relevant to their business and that can help them spot workforce trends. The dashboards can measure everything from workers’ compensation claims and diversity statistics to employee skill sets, training and workforce morale.

Just as the dashboard of a car gives a driver indicators of how the car is performing, digital dashboards give a company a glimpse of how a workforce is meeting its goals, using whatever areas a business decides to measure. HR professionals are using these interactive graphing tools to monitor and manage their organization’s workforce and chart HR’s progress toward meeting strategic and tactical objectives.

Gaining Perspective

At Schuyler, executive vice president of human resources at Capital One Financial Group, based in McLean, Va., can easily identify which of the company’s 20,000 employees make up its top performers.

Dave Heberling, senior director of corporate human resources at Erickson Retirement Communities of Baltimore, knows which of the company’s 13 independent retirement complexes are having trouble retaining staff and which ones have seen employee satisfaction ratings dip. Erickson has 10,000 employees spread out from Texas to Massachusetts.

Neither Schuyler nor Heberling are clairvoyant. But they do share one thing in common: Their companies use digital dashboard technologies that allow them to track key performance indicators that are relevant to their business and that can help them spot workforce trends. The dashboards can measure everything from workers’ compensation claims and diversity statistics to employee skill sets, training and workforce morale.

Just as the dashboard of a car gives a driver indicators of how the car is performing, digital dashboards give a company a glimpse of how a workforce is meeting its goals, using whatever areas a business decides to measure. HR professionals are using these interactive graphing tools to monitor and manage their organization’s workforce and chart HR’s progress toward meeting strategic and tactical objectives.

Measuring Tools

Franklin Joseph, senior director of human resources at Henry Ford Village in Dearborn, Mich., one of Erickson’s retirement communities, says his business started using HR dashboard technology about four years ago to keep up with the rapid growth of its staff.

“Things got more complex,” says Joseph. “Using dashboards made information processing a little more efficient.”

Plus, people pay attention to things that get measured, says Joseph.

“When we put it on the dashboard, we know we’re accountable for it so it does change behavior. Everyone wants to make sure they’re successful,” he says.

Erickson executives say the company’s dashboard saves the business money by saving time. Previously, the process of overseeing its food budget required managers at each community to look through myriad reports, from Excel spreadsheets to written revenue statements, to gather information on staffing, costs and revenue.

Now the company gathers information from residents and employees on a monthly basis and sends it up to the corporate office where Heberling and other senior executives aggregate the data into a monthly report. The statistics give the company instant feedback on communities that are struggling or succeeding in any of the measurable areas.

“Think about it in terms of business process improvement,” Heberling says. › “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. This helps to point out areas where we might need some improvement. If we see a spike in a lot of workers’ comp cases, we can work on it and improve it.”

Erickson’s dashboard also helps the company identify and share successful business strategies. The dashboard, just like a traffic light, uses three colors that rate performance in a particular area. Green shows a target has been met, yellow indicates that some improvement is needed, and red means performance has dipped to a critical level. For example, if Henry Ford Village receives a yellow rating for employee retention and another community’s score is green, Joseph can find out what the other community did to retain workers and then adopt some of those practices to improve his community’s score.

“We can objectively evaluate how a budget compares to how a community did something in the past,” says Craig Erickson, vice president of financial planning and analysis for the retirement living communities. “It’s a much more efficient way of evaluating performance,” Erickson says. “A good dashboard is going to draw your attention to problem areas.”

Too Much Information

Nationally, companies began deploying dashboards to handle proliferating amounts of data. HR executives are using the web management tools to get an up-to-date view of their company from a single portal by selecting an assortment of metrics to monitor and track performance.

Today, many of the largest companies in the world—from technology giant Microsoft to home improvement retailer Home Depot—use digital dashboards in several departments, including HR.

“We recognize that our customers are awash in data,” says Mark Christensen, director of product management at Corda Technologies in Lindon, Utah. Many companies began developing their own dashboard solutions to sort through it all, Christensen says, but the problem was that the technology was piecemeal and didn’t give HR executives the enterprise view that they longed for. “We’re seeing such great success because the customers are realizing ‘I can buy it rather than build it.’ ”

Corda launched its CenterView enterprise dashboard in August, which brought the company’s performance management process to the web. The technology aggregates data from various databases and applications, including business intelligence and enterprise resource planning, into a common dashboard picture. It can also be programmed to run over a mobile device that has Internet access.

The dashboard uses color-coded graphics, charts and other displays to illustrate key performance indicators that customers seek to measure.

“We want them to be able to visualize the data,” explains Christensen.

A Macro View

Many companies use dashboard technology to keep a close eye on employee performance. The dashboards allow senior executives, including HR, to routinely monitor how an employee is performing and whether key metrics are being met. ›

“We think one of the problems that happens when you do performance reviews is a big surprise at the end of the year,” says Kevin Dobbs, senior vice president at Workstream Inc., a provider of enterprise workforce management solutions and services headquartered in Orlando, Fla. “Dashboards make this information visible. This enables an open discourse on ‘how am I doing?’ This has a positive effect on an organization, plus it helps the employee. By opening lines of communication between managers and employees about performance throughout the year, companies can do a more effective job of managing.

“Our products provide a lot of different analytical capabilities,” Dobbs adds. “Organizations are looking at how things are currently structured and also what to look at three to five years in the future. It allows them to visually take a look at that.”

Workstream has 450 customers that use HR dashboards, including Nike, Motorola and VISA. Dobbs says his company has three proprietary dashboard technologies: Workstream Compensation, Performance Management and Succession Planning. But while large companies are the most common users, Dobbs says small and medium-sized companies can scale down the dashboard technology at a minimum cost of $1 per employee per month.

Corda offers CenterView under various packages, costing from the tens of thousands of dollars to over $1 million, depending on the level of support and the number of concurrent users a company needs to accom- modate.

Christensen points out that Corda’s CenterView technology secures sensitive employee data by having the software provide single sign-on authentication and by restricting user access based on position and authority within a company. The data are also encrypted.

But despite the growing use of dashboard technology, some critics argue that the acceptance of dashboards could create a Big Brother atmosphere by opening a virtual window into various aspects of a workforce’s successes and failures.

Erickson says the fears surrounding dashboards are no different than those for any new technology.

“Anytime you introduce change in an environment, it becomes disruptive,” he says. “Better reporting solutions help you identify the top per- formers in a company. If your goal is to keep good people, you need to be able to identify them and reward them. I think we have better capabilities to do that today.”

Schuyler says political concerns that the dashboards can be used to monitor employees’ productivity do not represent or reflect how Capital One is using the technology.

“Our dashboards are at a more macro level,” Schuyler explains. “We’re looking at broader trends like how many workers do you have, what skill sets do they possess, how much training did they take. We don’t look at statistics around vacation. We don’t monitor their hours. We’re not using it in that way.”

Dawn S. Onley is a Washington, D.C.- based freelance writer.

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