Ignorance was Bliss

Gwen Brooks, director of Staffing and Records at Ohio University, has learned that there’s more than one way to eliminate process redundancy and drive cost improvement through the hiring process. If you can’t drive process change before automating, perhaps the technology will enlighten users and serve as the wake-up call for instituting change.

When the university decided to automate its hiring process, Brooks was directed to mirror the university’s existing manual applicant process during a migration to PeopleAdmin, an online HR solutions system geared toward higher education and public sector needs. While many organizations seize the opportunity to use an ATS installation as a way to review and streamline processes before going live with new technology, the university users were happy with the current process, so there was no perceived need to make changes. When the ATS went live, the lights went on in user departments across the campus, opening the door for change.

“The implementation of the PeopleAdmin system pointed out the redundancies in our hiring process because for the first time, the users could see the entire 18 step process required from creating a requisition to onboarding a new hire,” says Brooks. “Prior to the technology implementation, we were paper-driven and most of the requisition process was hidden from the view of the users. They generated one piece of paper and they had no idea really what happened to the requisition from there. Now they had to be involved in every step of the process and we started to receive complaints and lots of feedback.”

Brooks’ staff of three coordinates all of the job postings and the hiring process activities for the university’s 3,700 employees and they conduct the complete hiring process including resume screening, interviewing, and selection for the 1,236 administrative and 1,378 hourly employee positions located on the campus. Last year, the hiring team handled 600 openings.

“In the beginning everybody thought that PeopleAdmin was the problem, but it wasn’t the system, it was our workflow process,” says Brooks. “So we went out and solicited feedback from our users, hired a business process engineer, and created a committee of our users to see how we could implement changes and streamline our processes.”

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Brooks says that some additional steps in the hiring process had been added to the manual system to accommodate the unique needs of several departments. By creating a committee of users that included representatives from those departments with specialized applicant process requirements, she was able to build consensus that one-off processing needs should be handled outside the system, reducing the total number of hiring steps from 18 to 10.

“We were able to make a few changes to the system through the feedback from the committee, so at the same time we streamlined our processes, we worked on making the system more user friendly.”

While Brooks says that she’s not fully aware of the cost savings the university has received as a result of the process changes, she knows that her team is now able to spend more time in a consultative role to users, giving them advice on better ways to author job postings and shorten the hiring process.

“Now we can act in a more consultative capacity with the users of our system, whereas before, we pretty much posted the job as it was given to us,” says Brooks. “Often times the higher education community does not like change, so it’s hard to get new ideas through the system. I know now that if we receive marching orders and I don’t think it’s the best way to go, I’m going to question it. This change made me aware that I can get change through the system, so now I’m continually questioning what we do in order to make improvements.”

Leslie Stevens writes for human capital and business publications. She was a senior manager in the staffing industry for more than 20 years and understands how talent acquisition contributes to the bottom line. She likes it when readers share their opinions, innovative ideas, and experiences about overcoming obstacles while fighting the global talent war.

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