College makes the grade with online administration system

Five years ago, Stroud College failed an Ofsted inspection, with the lack of
an HR system to monitor staff attendance cited as a key factor. In September
last year, it was re-inspected, and the report highlighted personnel
administration as one of the college’s strengths.

The dramatic turnaround was masterminded by Nicky Wood, the newly-appointed
personnel manager at the time, who knew the answer lay with implementing some
form of HR software.

"With 300 to 400 employees in the college and little or no information
on any of them, my role in HR was challenging to say the least," she
recalls. "There were no processes in place, no standard terms and
conditions, reporting information was non-existent, and recruitment was done by
each department, irrespective of headcount."

Wood was able to secure some of the recovery funding that the college had
been awarded to pay for her plans.

Stroud College, which offers a range of academic and vocational courses and
learning programmes to meet the needs of local employers, chose HR software
supplier Computers in Personnel to install its new personnel and recruitment
administration system.

"They wanted a system to address an immediate need," says
Computers in Personnel managing director, Chris Berry.

The system ran on existing PCs and went live in 2000. The hardest part of
the implementation, says Wood, was the data collection to populate the system.
It was collected by her assistant, who had to work with every department
manager, key the information into the system, and then get it validated to
ensure accuracy, explains Wood.

With the information held digitally, Wood took the opportunity to review and
renew HR practices and procedures, including terms and conditions, criminal
record checks and teaching qualifications.

The recruitment software allowed her to create a more structured and uniform
approach to authorising and advertising vacancies, and the college also began
to use the data more strategically.

"On a monthly basis, we produce a selection of management reports,
which are circulated to the board and senior management team," explains
Wood. "These cover a range of metrics that we need to monitor, such as
headcount, sickness absence, turnover, equal opportunities and vacancies. The managers
in the college have now become reliant on the information we are able to
provide and are keen to have access to more."

The HR team’s ability to generate data and therefore benchmark its practices
was one of the things that impressed the Ofsted inspectors during their last

"We’d worked for a number of educational establishments before and also
had experience of generating the kind of returns needed to satisfy the various
funding councils," says Berry.

After a lot of groundwork, the ease with which the college can extract data
on its people has made the system vital to Wood and her department’s operation.

"It is an intrinsic and essential part of everything we do on a
day-to-day basis, whether it is sending out a contract of employment, posting a
vacancy or reviewing a job description," she says.

"We make extensive use of the diary facility for key reminders, such as
appraisal meetings and maternity entitlement, and rely on it to trigger the
activities we carry out on that day."

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