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Employer Solutions Client Spotlight: Livingston County is On the Road to Success
By: Net at Work Team
The historic Route 66, often known as the Main Street of America, passes through Livingston County, Illinois on its way from Chicago to Santa Monica, California. There is probably no more apt metaphor for the journey the Livingston County government has been on with regard to their Human Resources development, especially in the past year. Changes driven both by the pandemic and by upgrading of their technology last year has been a part of a long road the County has been on to improve their HR functions and better serve their constituents.
Recently I spoke with Ginger Harris, the Human Resources Director about the past year and the challenges they faced; how Net at Work assisted and what lies ahead. Livingston County has been using Sage Abra since 2010. The county pays on average 180 full time employees, 60-70 board members and another 50 part time and seasonal workers. The organization is divided into different EINs and in effect processes a total of 7 separate payrolls in a two week cycle. Employees range in jobs from Public Health to Assessment to the Court system to Corrections.
We picked up the story early in 2020. Livingston County had actually begun the migration from the older Sage Abra in 2019, but due to hardware and other issues postponed the project until March of 2020. Up ahead on the road loomed a huge unseen roadblock in the success of the project – the COVID-19 Pandemic.
According to Ginger, the message from the county board was clear from the outset, “Your safety is important, we have a job to do and if you can stay home, stay home, otherwise here are the protocols.” Moreover, the county board made clear to employees that they would do whatever they could to mitigate the financial consequences on employees of the pandemic and partial shutdown of the County offices, including the court system.
HR became very involved in implementing flex scheduling for office employees to minimize the number of people working together. In conjunction with the Public Health department, Ginger was involved making sure that all required protocols were enforced. This was especially true in the county jail, where local health safety protocols had to adhere both to the Illinois Department of Corrections, but also to federal guidelines through the federal marshal.
In addition, Ginger was dealing with FFCRA leaves and temporary relaxing of paid time off plans maximums since employees were not able to take vacations during the Summer. Oh and by the way, there is this little migration project for HR and Payroll to migrate their systems to a new platform.
The Net at Work team, spearheaded by Lynda Dixon, first had to plan for and execute the conversion of data which involved companies of a hundred of more and as few as 6 or 7 employees. Her accounting background allowed her to understand and to configure the system general ledger to accommodate the various funding sources, accounts, and differences between the various divisions of the County government.
Re-training the staff as the go-live date got closer was a critical function for Lynda and the team. They used technology to video record each training session. As Ginger related to me, “My ladies in Payroll downloaded the recorded training sessions and took them home to watch during the COVID lockdown.”
In October of 2020, the migration was complete, and Livingston County moved down the road to their next milestone.
When asked what lies ahead for the HR department, Ginger reflected on several initiatives she has in mind for 2021 to enhance her system and enable greater digital transformation.
One of those is to revamp the onboarding process for new employees. Certainly, in the last year many organizations have moved to digital onboarding tools to collect data from new hires. Ginger told me that when she sits down with a new employee to onboard them today, the paperwork requires them to fill in their address and sign 17 times. “Yes, I have counted!” she confided.
Her take away from the past year is that she wants to work with Net at Work and determine the best way to share all of those forms in a digital format for new employees to complete, but that will not be a substitute for face-to-face meeting with new employees. Ginger said “I want them to know where HR is. I want them to recognize my face. I want them to understand my style.” Eliminating the paper pushing, Ginger points out, will allow her to spend more time explaining the benefits of working for the County.
She has also convinced the County board of the importance of a learning management system to attract and retain employees. Employees increasingly value the ability to learn new skills and attain expertise. This, in turn, can unleash their potential to better serve the members of the community in the County.
When I remarked that the Pandemic is often referred to as ‘Once in a Lifetime’ event, Ginger pointed out that the lessons learned and the software and hardware put in place during the Pandemic will not go unused. The County is better prepared for the next emergency, Ginger observed, noting that there have been 4 tornadoes in Illinois in recent memory. Having a backup plan is critical for HR and Payroll.
For now, however, the road does seem a little brighter and users are better appreciating the value of their new resources to serve employees and ultimately the residents of the County. New at Work is proud to be working right alongside Livingston County on the next leg of their journey.
For more information about Net at Work and how we help companies unleash the potential of their organizations, you can contact us.