Hamilton opts for Internet recruiting

Changes to the City of Hamilton workforce demographics called for adjustments in the way the human resources (HR) department operated. As part of a business process transformation initiative, the city recently added Web-based recruiting software to streamline its HR processes.

The software allows users to create job postings, accept applications in various formats and incorporate screening information, such as pre-interview questions.

According to Mark Amorosi, director of employment and client services, the business case for the new end-to-end Internet recruiting system was to help the city adjust to current job trends.

The job market has changed drastically; more people are using the Internet as their number one means of job searching. Much like the rest of the Canada, Hamilton’s workforce is aging. The average age for full-time staff is 45 years; in the next 10 years 68 per cent of the workforce will be eligible to retire. In effect, Amorosi said more people will be retiring than are entering the labour process, thus increasing the competition for talent.

While no system fully replaces the human element, the City of Hamilton is using a Web-based system to “minimize the transactional stuff on the HR side to focus on the more value added things,” Amorosi said. Specifically, end-to-end hiring process automation software automates and enables the entire hiring process to help employers attract, screen and assess potential staff. The Web-based component was important in order to enable applicants to create, review, and update resumes online, he said.

To achieve these goals, there were several options available, Amorosi said. There were other vendors with similar offerings, as well as Internet job and recruiting Web sites such as Workopolis.com and Monster.com that enable the same type of functionality. According to Stamford, Conn.-based research firm IDC Corp., recruiting remains poorly understood and executed within organizations.

Experts note that enterprises will need to look more holistically at their needs across the entire workforce management life cycle. Lisa Rowan, program manager, HR management and staffing services for IDC, said the two biggest obstacles when choosing an end-to-end hiring solution are the sheer number of vendors in the space and the buyer confusion that results from a crowded market.

There are a slew of best-of-breed software providers along with major vendors such as SAP AG, Oracle Corp. and PeopleSoft Inc., all offering some sort of enterprise recruiting tool. Vendors are now enhancing these solutions to more effectively manage talent acquisition from the vantage points of both hiring managers and the candidate pool itself, she added.

According to Amorosi, the City of Hamilton was already using a PeopleSoft offering (HRMS 7.5) for its base HR and payroll functions, and has since upgraded to version 8.3. Weighing this into consideration, the municipality decided on PeopleSoft’s Enterprise eRecruit software. The tool provides a set of self-service transactions for both external and internal job applicants.

Choosing eRecruit meant that the PeopleSoft module would be easier to integrate with employee data, Amorosi said, adding that other options might have created duplicate work. Users can search job postings, apply for a job and view scheduled interviews. On the employee side, the software offers current employees certain self-service options, such as the ability to view and change personal information. The workflow is built in so that HR staff can automatically be notified of any change by e-mail.

The software tools are part of an overall business transformation project, which began a year and a half ago, Amorosi said. The goal was to update the City’s Web site by increasing user access through self-service tools and by providing relevant information about the municipality’s mission values and overall benefits.

The recruiting software enables job seekers to quickly apply online and includes built-in functionality for online screening (answering questions related to the job posting) to weed out unqualified applicants, thus saving time. Another major benefit is that the system provides automatic confirmation and application receipt notification.

The actual software implementation went relatively smooth, Amorosi said. There are going to be pain points, he noted, particularly since no system will exactly mirror your business processes.

There was also a culture shock from staff who viewed it as yet another change to a business process. Hamilton has undergone various departmental restructuring phases (brought on by a recent amalgamation) which have affected HR. There must be a certain level of staff buy-in involved or else the project won’t work, Amorosi said.

The system went live to the public in September, Amorosi said. So far, the new jobs site has received 19,000 hits in September and 33,000 in October — meeting expectations, Amorosi said. Previously the average time to hire was 65 days, Amorosi said, adding that with the new business process changes, the City has cut that down to 45 days and intends to further reduce the time.

In and of itself, the software isn’t necessarily seen as a panacea. But as part of the overall business structure, “it’s vitally important to the process and in marketing the organization as a great place to work.”

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