Harrisburg Area Community College aligns goals and achieves 100% participation

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With more than 16 000 students in campuses across Harrisburg, Gettysburg, Lancaster and Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) prides itself on being an accessible, affordable, high-quality, comprehensive community college. As the nation's largest provider of nursing and allied health professionals, and law enforcement and other safety personnel, they offer more than 130 degree and certificate or diploma programs. Many of these programs can be obtained through their Virtual Campus distance learning center.

HACC provides its students with the necessary knowledge, skills and values to excel in today's competitive environment, and students are held to very high academic standards. This not only requires the organization to make optimum use of technology for both instruction and services, but moreover, to employ and retain its faculty and staff of over 800 high quality employees.

Challenge

In 2002, HACC set out strategic planning goals for the entire organization, which included a section related to governance, human resources and organizational structure. Goals for HR included providing a comprehensive salary and benefits package, and the development and implementation of a comprehensive system for reviewing employee performance. These goals became the force behind the adoption of a new performance management system for the College. To that end, HACC's President appointed a task force to select a new performance management system. Their mandate was to ensure it allowed for fair and meaningful performance reviews that motivated all employees, aligned employee focus with the College's goals, as well as provided consistency for merit increases.

For years, HACC had conducted its employee performance appraisals using a manual, paper-based process. The inefficient process made HR the central collection point for hundreds of employee evaluation forms, and there was no easy way to monitor the process for consistency or timeliness. For instance, under the old process, managers submitted completed paper appraisals to HR managers who then manually checked off employee names on a spreadsheet, confirming their completed appraisal had been received. Finally, the paper appraisals were filed in the employee records. Over months, completed appraisals would trickle in and the massive spreadsheet was the only record of who had or had not yet completed their appraisal. The process took 30 person hours for HR to complete and created a lot of extra work for the team, who could have been using their time for more strategic activities.

Under this frustrating yet tolerable process, the organization was never able to achieve 100 percent participation in the process. One major problem was that employees were never held to the timelines that were set with the manual process, or more likely, their completed appraisals were simply lost in the shuffle.

HACC determined that the new system would be required to:

  • Make performance appraisals strategic instead of a tedious administrative task;
  • Automate the entire process to increase speed and efficiency;
  • Store electronic copies of appraisals for easy accessibility; and
  • Better manage the process of tracking, overseeing and reporting by setting up system reminders of review and assessment due dates.

Solution

HACC sourced potential systems by means of an RFP process. In total, five employee performance and talent management vendors were selected to participate: Halogen Software, HRSmart, Intellimark, Knowledgepoint and PerformancePro.

The task force had identified several baseline criteria that the new HR software system must meet, including:

  • Goal setting
  • Self-evaluations
  • Ratings/weighting
  • Real-time reports
  • Development plans
  • Online notes
  • Email notifications
  • Comment helpers
  • Affordable cost

Vendors were evaluated based on their ability to meet these criteria. After careful review, HACC found that Halogen Software's solution met and in some cases exceeded the task force's criteria, in addition to providing excellent technical support. This made the approval process very simple to manage once the choice was made.

HACC purchased 500 licenses of Halogen Performance™ in December 2002. They chose to have Halogen host the system and attended some on-site product training. Within just a few months of purchasing the product, HACC had successfully launched its first web-based employee performance appraisal process.

Today, Halogen Performance is being used to conduct annual reviews and create development plans & objectives enterprise-wide. As a result, HACC better aligns organizational and employee goals. The software is also being used to conduct interim three- and six-month evaluations for some employees. "The system has created better communication between supervisors and staff," said Tulli. "It has provided a more objective way of introducing pay for performance as well."

In December 2005, HACC made an additional investment with Halogen and purchased 500 licenses of Halogen 360 Multirater™ so they can easily gather 360 degree feedback.

Results

From an HR perspective, the overall appraisal process at HACC has improved greatly. By automating the process, the organization has an electronic record of each appraisal and the ability to generate reports on the fly, providing a snapshot of where each employee is in the process.

"Since we started with Halogen, we have received an evaluation for all employees. We only received completed evaluations for half of our employees with the manual, hard copy appraisal process!" expressed Tulli. "It is a much easier way to go through the process and more importantly, it encourages managers and employees to talk and provide valuable feedback."

For managers, the automated reminders keep processes on track, compelling them to follow through and complete appraisals on time. HACC's managers particularly like the personal pages, where electronic files of past appraisals are kept as a reminder of their employees' past accomplishments. Appraisal authoring tools like the comment helper and spell checker, which are not always available for paper-based appraisals, also make the system very user-friendly.

The most significant value added was getting all managers to communicate with their employees, letting them know how they are doing, how they can improve, and how the employee's department and their role in the department fit into the College's strategic plan. With the implementation of Halogen Performance, HACC made some major changes to their existing performance appraisal process. Employees now complete self-appraisals, and together managers and employees agree on goals and understand how they relate to the College's strategic plan. "The technology certainly enabled us to add these features because it would have been very cumbersome if we were still using hard copy appraisals. We'd never get the appraisal in by the deadline, if at all!" said Tulli.

In terms of the investment, Tulli knows that it was undeniably worthwhile. "Overall, managers are doing a much better job at managing employees. Appraisals are completed fairly and because the results are measurable, they add value for the employees," explains Tulli. "For the first time, employees have a good understanding of what is being expected of them and employee goals are now more in line with organizational goals. Halogen Performance is just more efficient and timely and as a result we had 100 percent participation!"

The new technology also saves significant time for the HACC HR support staff, who were spending days manually filing hard copies of completed appraisals into employee files. Now staff can use their time to focus on more strategic activities.