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How to Reduce the Costs of Operating HR Departments

The Personnel News

By Jerry Fireman

Human resources managers in many companies are faced with the task of substantially reducing the cost of operating their departments. In many cases, managers have been able to accomplish this goal by using software to simplify labor intensive tasks. Yet, in some cases, the cost of purchasing, installing, and training staff in the operation of an HR system outweighs the savings that are achieved. The key to success, according to many companies, is selecting an inexpensive, easy-to-use HR system that is flexible enough to handle all of your workload without costly programming assistance. The following examples will explain how.

McDonough, Holland & Allen is Sacramento's largest law firm with about 200 employees. Several years back Tracy Puritz, Human Resources Manager for the firm, decided to convert to automated human resources management. In his examination of alternate human resources software packages, he found that most could be divided into two categories. One category consisted of the very expensive packages designed for large companies, the other of inexpensive packages designed for very small companies. !Trak-It HR employee information system, from Infotrends Research Group of Sunnyvale, California, stood out by offering nearly all of the capabilities of the most expensive packages at a very reasonable price. Another feature that Puritz liked about the package was that it has a very friendly user interface so that it can easily be learned by anyone with even just a little computer experience. The company installed the network version of the personnel and attendance software.

The money saved on the initial purchase was just the beginning. The firm has dramatically reduced the amount of time required to produce human resources reports. Reports that must be routinely produced range from statistical reports regarding compensation, budget figures and affirmative action reports to miscellaneous items such as birthday and address lists. For example, many of the firm's contracts with state and local governments require that affirmative action compliance reports provided on a quarterly basis. In the past, providing each of these reports could take as much as several hours to update the data.

The !Trak-It HR employee information system generates these reports in a matter of minutes. Puritz also can produce detailed reports on the average compensation and percentage compensation increases of each level of employees, including benefit costs, almost instantly. This information is useful in comparing compensation levels with salary surveys in the legal field, as well as for budgetary purposes.

When Mark Fryer, first assumed the position of Director of Human Resources for Furst-McNess Company, Freeport, Illinois, the human resources department was almost completely dependent on paper records. Fortunately, his predecessor had purchased a Macintosh computer because she felt it was easy to operate and to train staff in its use. Fryer looked at the various HR packages available and concluded that the !Trak-It HR system, although it was far less expensive than the other personal-computer based packages on the market, offered many of the capabilities of the best of them. He purchased this system and employee records were entered. The time savings achieved with the system come from so many areas that they are difficult to accurately track. A good example is the recent situation where Fryer implemented a flexible benefits plan through a third party administrator. The administrator needed to talk to every employee in the company to explain the plan and the appointments were arranged through the employee's supervisor. It took only five minutes on the !Trak-It HR system to generate a list of employees sorted by department and supervisor name. This would have taken considerably longer prior to computerization.

Another good example came recently when Fryer had to prepare a benefit census for the company. This would have taken at least eight hours manually. With !Trak-It HR it took less than one hour. It's interesting to note that in his previous position Fryer worked at a company that maintains its human resources database on a mainframe computer using software that costs about 50 times the price of the !Trak-It HR employee information system. The !Trak-It HR package provides about 80% of the capability of the mainframe package.

The New Yorker Magazine's Human Resources department maintained its human resources records on a DOS personal computer based system for nearly a decade. Then the company purchased its first Macintosh for use in the creative department because of its graphics capabilities. The Macintosh quickly attracted the interest of people throughout the organization because it is so easy to use. The Human Resources department was anxious to convert their database to the Macintosh and selected !Trak-It HR system because of the way in which it took advantage of the natural Macintosh user interface. It was originally assumed that each of the seven users of the system would need to be trained in entering data into the program and of producing custom reports.

Instead, they picked the program up on their own for the most part and only needed help when they ran into trouble. Outside of the attendance and vacation systems the users set the system up all on their own. Two of the users have become particularly expert on the system and have become guides for the other users. Department personnel also expected that a considerable amount of data would have to be keyed in when converting from the old system to the new. In fact, they were able to import 99% of the original data. The key feature here was the relational nature of !Trak-It HR which provides an extreme amount of flexibility in formatting the data structures of the system.

These examples demonstrate the potential for cost savings through the purchase of low-cost human resources software that requires little training and can automate time-consuming tasks. An important requirement is selecting a software package that can be easily learned by your staff and is flexible enough to handle all your needs without expensive customization. McDonough, Holland & Allen, Furst-McNess and The New Yorker Magazine have all found !Trak-It HR to be an ideal cost saving tool.

Although all of these examples refer to the !Trak-It HR Macintosh version 8. !Trak-It HR is now available in a Windows edition with many new features and an even friendlier new interface that includes "George", your HR Assistant.

About the author: Jerry Fireman is a writer based in Birmingham, Michigan that specializes in human resource related topics. His work has appeared in Personnel Journal, Human Resources Executive, Benefits and Compensation Solutions, PayTech, DPMA News and Managing Office Technology.

   
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