The desks of HR managers historically have been piled high with papers that often contain requests for simple updates to an employee's address or marital status. When Lutheran Homes of Michigan decided to adopt a new human resources system, increasing employee and manager self-service for such tasks was a key reason it chose Ceridian Dayforce human capital management software for time and attendance, payroll, benefits management and core HR.
"We wanted our employees to be more engaged and take more responsibility for managing their workday, instead of having to run to someone else to open the computer and put the information in, or in many cases fill out a form," said Todd Seibt, chief support officer at the elder-care nonprofit organization based in Frankenmuth, Mich.
But with a relatively short time frame for implementation, Seibt said the organization didn't have a chance to test the software adequately before deploying the time and attendance and payroll modules, which he thinks could have helped to avoid minor snags along the way. And implementing a centralized payroll system led to the discovery of disparate policies at different sites, which has necessitated policy review and standardization.
"When you centralize a task like [payroll], you can really see 'we need to bolster here, we're good here,'" Seibt said. "It opens your eyes to how you can put in checkpoints to make sure things are being done right."
HR system accessibility for a widespread workforce a chief concern
Seibt said the search for a new HR system started in anticipation of his organization's contract expiring with the previous vendor, ECI. While Lutheran Homes had "taken some big steps" with ECI, the organization was bumping up against the limits of the system, he said. Besides self-service, the decision team wanted an integrated platform so that data could easily flow between modules and sync with the financial management system.
With the organization's nine sites spread throughout Michigan and approximately 1,150 employees, accessibility was also a key factor. "More and more of our workers were deployed, so we needed something that they could tap [into] from the Internet anywhere rather than walking up to a machine bolted to the wall," Seibt said. The decision team -- composed of members from the HR, IT and accounting departments -- narrowed the vendor pool to three, including Ultimate Software's UltiPro, before selecting the Software as a Service-based Ceridian Dayforce in July 2012.
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Lutheran Homes made it a priority to implement the payroll and time and attendance modules in time for the first payroll cycle of 2013. Seibt said he was impressed by the level of service from the vendor's implementation consultants despite the time crunch. "They were going live at the time with 20 to 25 other charter members all at that year-end window, [so] they had a huge task going on," he said. "But given the time and attention we got, we never felt like we were in second place -- they always responded quickly to our requests."
Proper testing and training critical in HR system implementation
But the implementation of the payroll and time and attendance modules was not free of hurdles. Lutheran Homes acquired two new sites in the past decade and is merging with an adoption and foster care nonprofit. Seibt said this growth resulted in divergent policies that surfaced during the implementation.
One policy that had to be standardized was holiday compensation. "We are coordinating holiday pay so it's the same at all sites," Seibt said. "There were minor fluctuations between sites that don't make sense when you're using a centralized payroll system, and trying to treat your employees fairly."
Testing and training were two other areas that posed challenges.
"We had no parallel testing before we went live, and if there's one thing I'd recommend, it's do that parallel testing," Seibt said. "We didn't have that opportunity, and I think both sides of the table kind of have responsibility [for that], but I think that would've helped us catch a lot of glitches."
Training was also a sticking point, since workers were dispersed throughout the state and had varying degrees of familiarity with technology. Employees ultimately participated in virtual training through webinars, as well as face-to-face meetings when Ceridian's consultants traveled to several sites. While Seibt said the system currently has good uptake, he also said a refresher is in order. "We're in discussions right now to do a second round of training because it feels like we've plateaued a bit with our employees' understanding of the system," he said. "It would be a way to kick-start where we are, and trade tips."
Functional problems with Ceridian Dayforce have been minor and few, Seibt said. "What we found, being a charter account, is there were some coding issues, and we still find a snag here or there," he said. "But the implementation team responds quickly, so [there are] no big surprises or deal-killers to report." He also extolled Ceridian Dayforce's adaptability in customizing for specific union rules.
Ceridian Dayforce's self-service capabilities commended by research firm
Nucleus Research named Ceridian Dayforce a leader in its May 2012 "Technology Value Matrix for Workforce Management," along with Kronos, ADP, Infor Workbrain, Sumtotal, and Workforce Software. In a release, Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of research at the Boston-based firm, said, "We found Ceridian customers were taking advantage of advanced scheduling, employee self-service, and mobile capabilities to not just cut costs but transform the way they manage their workforce."
Seibt testified to the system's scheduling capabilities, which are especially important in his industry. "We have a lot of complex schedules at our sites -- we're 24/7, taking care of elderly people [and] handling a lot of sensitive medical cases, so it's really important to make sure you've got the right workers at the right time," he said. "The scheduling has helped a lot."
Seibt had three suggestions for colleagues who are considering new HR systems. "A longer [implementation] onramp is better, more training is better, and parallel testing will uncover glitches," he said. "We have no regrets [about] going with Ceridian. It's given better access and power to our employees, and as we exploit the reporting capabilities, it's going to give us better data to drive business decisions."
Emma Snider is the associate site editor for SearchFinancialApplications. Follow her on Twitter: @emmajs24.