Calgary sets up one-stop HR shop

Following the deployment of its 3-1-1 telephone access to city services and programs, The City of Calgary has implemented a similar approach to provide HR-related services and information to 16,000 city employees.

Dubbed HR Service Centre, the initiative gives city workers one phone number to call for HR-related issues and questions, said Gilles Champagne, manager of enterprise support systems with The City of Calgary.

HR Service Centre runs on Oracle’s PeopleSoft Enterprise HR HelpDesk application, part of PeopleSoft’s customer relationship management suite of products, said Champagne. “It’s a centralized environment so they are calling one number for all employees, whether you’re an employee or a manager.”

The City of Calgary worked with Minneapolis-based Oracle system integrator, Apex IT, for the HR Service Centre project, which was implemented in three phases, Champagne said. The first phase went live last September, which comprised of the HR Solutions Centre, a pre-packaged “knowledge base” of solutions or ready-answers to many of the common HR-related queries from employees.

Solutions Centre comes with a search engine tool at the front end that allows an employee to find information by typing in a keyword. The software searches the knowledge base repository for relevant content. The search tool also scours the city’s intranet database, as well as its third-party benefits carrier’s site for pertinent information.

Ensuring that employees will get the most accurate and relevant information out of the Solutions Centre was a key element of the implementation, Champagne said.

“The most important thing is not to minimize the importance and the amount of time that you should be devoting to making sure that the information in your knowledge base is accurate and is written in a manner that the employees, at large, will be able to benefit from,” he said.

This week, Champagne’s team is expected to turn on the second phase of the HR Service Centre project, which involves the roll-out of an HR case management tool. This application links directly to the city’s PeopleSoft-based human capital management (HCM) system in the backend, so that as cases are handled on the front end, the data gets updated on the backend as well, Champagne said.

“So you have a full record of the action and who authorized it in the case management tool, and then you’ve actually got the action happening within PeopleSoft (HCM) to make it take effect,” Champagne said.

The third phase of the project, which is set to go live in the first quarter of 2008, will facilitate self-service capabilities for employees, he said, which is envisioned to relieve some of the traffic that are coming to the city’s HR agents. Currently, the city’s HR agents are handling an average of 4,100 HR calls per month.

Through the self-service HR functionality, employees can get quick answers to simple questions while allowing HR agents to focus on more complex issues, Champagne said. “Being a municipality, we don’t have unlimited funds and unlimited resources, so it’s important to use the HR agents that we have effectively.”

Many organizations are going down the path of providing a customer service approach to HR management, said Eric Steege, CEO of Apex IT. The public sector, he said, is increasingly looking at providing employees with easier access to information they need with less manpower and more on-demand access.

“The idea that we need to treat employees and constituents like we do customers in the commercial marketplace is a very exciting theme that rings through with this implementation at The City of Calgary,” Steege said.

Data security was also a big factor for Calgary in choosing the PeopleSoft application, Champagne said. The city uses Oracle Identity Management, which has been integrated with the HR Service Centre application to facilitate identity authentication for employee calls.

When an HR agent receives a call from an employee, for instance, the Identity Manager application validates the identity of the caller. The process also ensures that only authorized individuals are given access to employee files, Champagne said. “From a data perspective, we have to make sure that only my manager or my director (for instance) is the only one who has the ability to change information for me.”

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