Software Reviews

By Jim Meade & David Shair Jul 1, 2000





​A Detailed, Robust Staffing Project; Involve Managers In Pay Planning; Software Bits

You’re desperately looking for qualified people to fill jobs. Yet your company is downsizing in some areas, sending talented employees out onto the streets. It’s like trying to fill the bathtub with the plug out.

The dgStaff product from digitalgarden.com provides a complete hiring solution, from creating job requisitions to sending out applicant acceptance letters. A special strength, though, is an internal posting and bidding capability that lets current employees locate and bid on available jobs. Instead of being downsized, a person might just be reassigned.

Bob Dever, digitalgarden.com president, says that recently one customer credited the product with helping reassign 3,000 employees who otherwise would have been labeled “surplus.”

Built-in Alerts

To use web-based dgStaff, you go to the web site running the program, log in to dgStaff and arrive at a menu page with five folders at the top. You can prepare job requisitions, search applicants, screen current employees, perform other activities (such as bidding, testing or drug screening) or administer the system.

At any time, you can click an “alerts” button that reminds you of anything you may have overlooked so far in the hiring process. Behind-the-scenes rules keep track of what you should do and what you’ve done.

If you have an applicant not directed toward a job, or a job requisition that’s not approved, the alerts tell you. If an applicant hasn’t taken a required qualifying test, an alert tells you.

When candidates search for jobs or managers search for people to hire, people don’t just read through unsorted lists of information. The dgStaff software uses a matching process that lets internal candidates fill out a resume, go to classes, take tests and become qualified to get a different job within the company.

To bid on jobs, an employee clicks a button that says “Placement Request.” The candidate can specify the type of job desired, the preferred location and whether he or she prefers that the job be full-time or part-time. When the employee enters the request, the program compares the candidate’s skills with the job requirements. If the employee is qualified, he or she can apply for the position. If the employee doesn’t qualify, the program says so and tells why.

Aimed at non-management positions, dgStaff is computerized em-ployee counseling that knows all positions available, all the requirements for those positions, all the qualifications of the applicants and all the steps needed to get applications and positions together.

Helping the Insiders

I really like dgStaff’s internal bidding function. “You need to have a fair and stated policy for moving people around within the company,” Dever observes, adding that in many companies “there are not a lot of systematics related to internal candidates.” The product isn’t limited to internal candidates. It includes a module for handling external applicants’ information too.

The dgStaff software potentially allows HR to offload routine work to line managers, who can prepare requisitions and search through applicants on their own. HR can oversee the process, becoming an adviser who decides whether people are truly qualified, makes sure there are enough people in the applicant pool and manages hiring overall.

This staffing program goes into detail. For instance, job requisitions are not just simple listings. They specify the required skills for a position (such as JavaScript and Java for a programming position) and the tests required for the position. Any company-required qualifications appear automatically in the job requisition. You don’t have to worry about forgetting to add a requirement to the requisition.

As you might expect from a high-end program, dgStaff is more flexible than the average staffing program. For instance, you can choose to work with temporary, occasional, full-time and part-time positions.

There is more to like. The point-and-click interface is effortless. Click on folders or buttons and fill in blanks to work with the program. Organization of the interface is clear and logical. Online help is available.

Technically, too, the program is superior. According to Kate Hodgdon, senior consultant in staffing systems for Pacific Bell, a dgStaff-based system allowed the company to blend “multiple staffing systems that didn’t talk to each other” into one, integrated system. Also, adds Hodgdon, “Our data warehouse folks love the way the database is laid out.”

Expect to Invest Time, Money

This is a high-end system. Pricing starts at $100,000, which eliminates most casual shoppers. Dever is reluctant to limit the size of the companies that might consider the product, but admits that those under 5,000 employees might not be candidates.

At present, dgStaff runs only in Netscape, though an Internet Explorer version is in the works. As for reporting, dgStaff has the popular report writer Crystal Reports built in but doesn’t contain pre-developed management reports (such as “time-to-hire,” “time to transfer,” “time to fill a req.”) You should plan to develop the specific reports your company needs.

Overall, for a high-end program like dgStaff, plan to spend time and money working with a consulting company to tailor the product to your purposes. The process can take months. Implementation cost, estimates Dever, could be “one to two and a half times the purchase price.”

Pac Bell’s Hodgdon offers this advice. “Build it incrementally so that as modules and components are completed, they can be implemented for end users—18 months seems to be a good working window for each module.” Pac Bell started with the employee bidding module and later moved to the external applicant module.

Make plans, too, to import your existing data. Using a utility built into dgStaff, you can feed employee data from your human resource information system, and you can download applicant data from web sites. Or applicants can apply through your own web site.

Staffing is almost every employer’s crying need these days. The dgStaff software may be a Cadillac of a staffing solutions but mid-sized to large companies will like the way it allows them to reassign employees readily.

The image of number-crunchers toiling over paper spreadsheets while figuring budgets, salary increases and bonuses is long gone, replaced by the image of those number-crunchers toiling at computers. Now, with intranets and the Internet, the compensation landscape is changing again as technology enables HR and compensation offices to push some responsibility for compensation management down to line managers.

TotalComp Manager, the product of Burlingame, Calif.-based Kadiri Inc., helps HR oversee compensation while giving managers more responsibility for compensation planning. The product covers salary, variable pay and stock options. Users can see not only current pay information but also historical pay data, pay policies and even online advice about how to handle tasks.

Until recently, Kadiri was known as Decisis Corp. and the product was Decisis.comp. The firm’s new name is Swahili and it means to assess or to evaluate. The name is appropriate for a company making a product that’s strong at analysis.

Customize to Your Needs

TotalComp Manager is delivered to managers’ desktops through the user company’s intranet. The information in the user company’s databases is readily captured using a separate, detailed export/import module.

The program is eminently customizable. Senior compensation managers feed it parameters such as merit ratings and percentage ranges for increases, variable pay, stock allocations and budget targets into the system.

TotalComp Manager offers users advice through its proprietary knowledge management system. You can set up the knowledge management system and associated analytical tools with your company’s guidelines and policies, then use the system while making compensation decisions.

Once the system is set up, planning and reviewing managers have a tool at their fingertips that permits them to deal with compensation for an individual employee or for all employees in a work group.

The software’s graphic presentations are particularly strong and let the user display information clearly, completely and usefully. The graphics options allow seemingly endless possibilities for dicing and slicing data and presenting the results.

A user plugs in merit ratings with appropriate percentage increases, salary increases, variable pay ad- justments and stock allocations. Supporting data and analytical bar charts or pie charts illustrate the results. In dealing with annual salaries, the maximum, minimum and midpoint are highlighted in color. A budget line displays a running tally of the allocated amount, assigned amount and what remains. If you have employees abroad, Total- Comp includes a handy, instant currency converter to translate dollar amounts into local currency.

Navigation is seamless. Help and support are available online, through a copiously illustrated printed manual, by phone and by e-mail. Commendably, Kadiri staff even take calls on their cell phones to help with emergencies. You won’t be left hanging when you need help.

A final spreadsheet supplies the complete picture. The user has yet another opportunity to review and adjust the final version before sending the spreadsheet to the next level for approval. Reviewing managers access the spreadsheets with encrypted passwords and can view compensation plans for their direct reports.

Faster Work, Fewer Errors

This software leads managers and compensation planners through the operation step-by-step. In the process, they absorb a greater understanding and knowledge of the organization’s policies and practices.

TotalComp alerts the user to problems, flagging materials with red exclamation points if information is incomplete, over budget, outside guidelines etc. The software offers the user alternative ways of dealing with the matter. If others in the compensation chain need to weigh in, the user simply clicks on an icon designed to look like the familiar yellow sticky note and adds a signed and dated explanation for others to consider.

Some users note that errors all but disappeared once managers started using the product. The software also greatly reduced the time HR spends helping managers with compensation planning. Because line managers found so many avenues for compensation help on their desktops, they cut back on calls and e-mails to HR, freeing HR to turn to other tasks.

By putting more compensation responsibility into managers’ hands, the product also helps streamline the compensation process. Trisha Parker, compensation director for Kaiser Permanente’s California division, estimates that TotalComp reduced by 60 percent the time needed to conduct a compensation review.

Another user indicated that the product does not seem to offer the same flexibility to parse stock range information as do the salary screens. Also, the software’s variable compensation features don’t completely reflect today’s complexities in compensation. It would be valuable to enlarge that picture to encompass insurance, training opportunities, hiring bonuses and the like.

Pushing Pay to Managers

TotalComp Manager gives users a comprehensive, configurable system for planning and managing vital elements of a compensation program. It can address the ne​eds of medium-to-giant organizations, accommodating many different plans and processes.

The product increases efficiency and accuracy while saving time. It gives line managers access to information not otherwise readily available to them and takes some pressure off HR and compensation officials while still letting them oversee the process.

Editor's Note: Inclusion in this column does not necessarily imply endorsement by SHRM or HR Magazine.

Compiled by Leigh Rivenbark, associate editor for HR Magazine.

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 o HR Software with Harcourt Professional Publishing. E-mail him at words@lisco.com.

David Shair is a retired vice president of HR. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Human Resources Association of New York, a Society for Human Resource Management affiliate.

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