November 2016, Vol. 2

Using HRIS effectively

by Karen Dooley

Managing a school district human resources department can be time-consuming and cumbersome. Have you ever wished there was a simple way to free up time to work on department strategies, save district money, and engage your department staff and employees in your district’s HR functions? Effective use of your Human Resource Information System (HRIS) can save time and money, improve tracking and managing of data and documents, processing applications, employee enrollment, and surveys; and provide employee self-service.
 
Several different HRIS systems are used across the state of Texas. Although these systems may appear to be different, many components of the systems are similar. Knowing your system’s capabilities and maximizing them for your district’s benefit will inspire greatness in your department. Reading information on your vendor’s website, contacting a sales representative from the company, or networking with other districts that currently use your system may be helpful and is often the first step to take. 

Data Management

Data can be confusing and overwhelming if not properly managed. Not only is HR consumed with data, but data frequently is requested by individuals. Using your HRIS to help organize, manage, and track your data will free up time in the department for other initiatives. In addition, it can provide a more effective and efficient method for achieving an outcome than using pencil and paper.
 
Heather Brubaker, senior HR systems analyst from Mansfield ISD, found that expanded use of the HRIS system led to improved accuracy of HR data. Use of the task manager in their HRIS has been the most helpful implementation, according to Brubaker. The task manager digitalized processes formerly completed on paper. The system allows district staff outside of HR to follow processes being completed by the system, which reduces calls and questions from principals and other staff and lessens the burden on the HR department.
 
Your HRIS can assist you by:
  • Streamlining data entry by uploading new hire information from the system’s application module or the interface with another applicant tracking system
  • Scheduling automatic uploads throughout the year with the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) database to track required certification renewals or issuance of additional certifications
  • Tracking and managing the annual contract renewal process
  • Processing volunteer and applicant background checks through direct interface with the Texas Department of Public Safety
  • Using data mining capabilities to extract information for open records requests, comparison reports, district trends, and generating lists

Document management

Document management may also be improved through effective use of your HRIS. Typically, systems provide the ability to track processes through reports that verify whether the process has been initiated, is in process, or has been completed by the employee. Features to notify the employee a task is awaiting their attention or reminders of upcoming due dates also are available. Paper documents can be converted to online forms with electronic signature capabilities, including onboarding paperwork, employment contracts, and annual notifications, such as notice of assignment, letters of reasonable assurance, and handbook receipts.
 
Christy McWhorter, HR technology specialist from Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD, has implemented HRIS processes and eliminated the need to hire additional HR staff to keep up with the pains of being a fast-growth district. She effectively uses the online form capabilities of her system to reduce the amount of paper flowing through the HR office and streamlines the district’s document management process. 

Employee self-service

Typical phone calls to the HR department are from district employees needing some sort of information regarding their employment with the district. What is my leave balance? May I have a copy of my W2, I lost it? I need to give you my new address because I've moved. These are examples of just a few of the calls that can be handled through an employee self-service component of your HRIS. Giving employees access to this type of information on your system and providing proper training on the use of the system can alleviate calls to the HR department, saving time for other more strategic tasks.
 
Activities that may be handled by the employee or made available to the employee through an HRIS include:
  • Processing changes to personal information (e.g., address, phone, emergency contact)
  • Requesting time off
  • Reviewing employment information (e.g., leave balances, pay stubs, withholding information,  benefit and salary information)
  • Recording time worked 

Suggestions for implementation

As you seek to use your system more effectively, we offer the following recommendations. Brubaker suggests setting up a test database to examine the outcome of processes before implementation with live employee data. If a mistake is made or the outcome is not as expected, the process may easily be aborted, adjusted, and reiterated.
 
McWhorter recommended creating a team to collectively design a plan and get buy-in, using a team approach throughout the process. She has small test groups use the implemented processes to ensure the system is working as intended. This also provides input into the process from individuals outside the HR office. Principals are involved from the beginning and are generally excited for new initiatives using the HRIS.   
 
Building a strong, positive relationship between the HR Department and the IT Department is also key to implementation of HRIS processes. Many times, these initiatives require IT support through coding or interfacing other software systems. Some of the technology processes may also be improved through this working relationship. Automating the issuing of district usernames, passwords, and securities for the different software used by district employees may also be accomplished through the HRIS.
 
Effective use of your HRIS can result in improvement in traditional processes and can enhance strategic decision making in your department. Specifically, it improves tracking and process efficiencies, simplifies employee requirements, and reduces printing costs with the exchange of information without the exchange of paper. Delivery and mailing may become non-existent. Don’t think it’s impossible to go paperless in your HR department.