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County Sees HR, Payroll Efficiencies from Modernization

Deploying a modern solution enabled departments at the local government to work together more closely and helped make crucial processes become more effective.

servers and code
One of California’s original 27 counties has realized efficiencies and identified significant best practices following its successes in a human resources and payroll modernization.

Yuba County, one of seven in the greater Sacramento area and home to more than 78,000 residents, began working with Kronos Inc. — now UKG following a merger last year with Ultimate Software — about five years ago to address HR and payroll needs. The project, which continues to seek efficiency gains, has achieved foundational modernization and change management wins and more are expected. Among the takeaways:

  • When Yuba County purchased payroll and time and labor management modules from what is now Ultimate Kronos Group (UKG), its processes around ingesting and tracking employment and health data, doing payroll, and reporting to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) were quite distinct — as were the two key entities charged with managing them: the county’s Auditor-Controller and the Human Resources departments. The county used ADP for payroll processing and payroll, which “lived entirely” in the Auditor-Controller’s Office, Assistant Human Resources Director Karen Fassler told Techwire. HR, she said, instructed the Auditor-Controller on pay rates and “many nuances as to how employees were paid and what they got paid for and when they got increases.” HR entered that information into multiple Excel spreadsheets, which the Auditor-Controller then re-entered into ADP. It was, Fassler said, “a pretty manual process.” HR joined the Auditor-Controller on the initiative in 2018, during which time Jason Kopping — now county airport manager — became its project manager. Fassler said he was “pivotal to future successes” by convening the team that shepherded it to go-live, including circling in UKG. She also highlighted HR systems administrator Cameron DuBray’s work immediately after the go-live on documenting and creating good processes and reports — and the achievements of the entire team.
  • By utilizing the company’s UKG Ready platform with an initial go-live in mid-2019, Yuba County was able to achieve an integration with its general ledger, make employee time accruals less manual, retire at least six Excel spreadsheets, and move employee data off paper and online. The county’s employee record is live and current instead of being a “look-back.” Tax 1095C forms have become more automated and simpler, and employees can now access pay statements, W-2s and key personal data online — and make changes. On the payroll side, sending data to CalPERS isn’t yet touch-of-a-button, but the process, which involves XML files, has been simplified. The new system now securely houses the county’s employee medical files, and it enabled mobile work during the pandemic that previously would have been extremely difficult. And, perhaps most importantly, unifying and streamlining processes brought the Auditor-Controller and HR departments so close that, said Fassler: “We are partnered. We are joined at the hip and that’s a good thing.” An integration with the county’s dental and vision providers eliminated dual entries there as well. Next year, an integration on the CalPERS health file — health data — is expected following open enrollment and more testing. The new platform has also streamlined the county’s new employee onboarding process, saved considerable staff hours on payroll, facilitated accurate budgeting via easy data aggregation, and sped up benefits balance reports, UKG indicated in a recent customer story on the initiative.
  • Fassler and UKG sales representative David Chetlain offered several takeaways for public-sector entities contemplating a similar IT initiative. Be realistic about an implementation — particularly, the time it will take, Fassler said. The idea that a hefty implementation may be accomplished in a short time frame should be closely scrutinized. “The idea that you’re going to be done in six months, that’s not true,” Fassler said.
    She also recommended that entities budget and convene sufficient staff to get the work done. Standing up new platforms can be challenging, and creating implementations like this one, which wasn’t plug-and-play, can be more demanding still. “It’s a lot of work to do your regular job and implement and test and troubleshoot,” Fassler said. The fact that we’ve done things creatively, quote-unquote, has made it more difficult.”
    You don’t know what you don’t know, Chetlain said, meaning that sometimes IT staff and leaders may not be entirely aware of the powerful solutions available in the marketplace. He recommended retaining a third party — consultants or even a prospective IT vendor — to inform the organization on the available technology and what it can accomplish. “Spending $20,000 or $30,000 on a team of consultants to come in and give you a holistic view of how things can change is money well spent before you start moving forward,” Chetlain said.
    Governments don’t necessarily need to replicate legacy processes with modern technology, Chetlain said, pointing out that the only reason these processes may exist is because they predate current tech such as automation. By stepping back to look at what can be done now, he said, and possibly rethinking workflows, processes have the potential to be accelerated dramatically and go from a dozen steps to just a handful.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Techwire.