How do I keep track of it all?

My own checklist is complicated enough, and now I have to monitor everyone else’s, too

The problem

“My list of things to do when someone joins the company was already long and complicated, and different for each role, and now I need to keep track of everything IT and Operations does, too. I don’t know what they are supposed to do, so how do I know whether it got done?”

The real problem

HR was running into the problem that happens as companies grow. There is more that new employees need to be told, more things they need to do, more equipment they need, and everything needs to be tracked more closely. Put another way, the company could no longer afford to do it all from memory. Since HR was the main point of contact for a new employee’s first few days, this was the best place to put the checklists in place. The two big challenges were knowing what was needed for each new employee, and making sure it got done. As a bonus, HR got a lightweight Training Management System at no extra cost.

The discussion

The interview process was simple enough – dig into the most painful issue first and follow up with more questions, leading to valuable insights.

  • How are you tracking what needs to be done now? I have a piece of paper that I make copies of, and I cross out each item as it gets done.
  • Does that list change for each employee? Well, it is the same for each role, except it seems like I need to add things to it all the time as the hiring managers change what they want and as new labor laws are put in place.
  • Is it exactly the same for each role? Sometimes certain employees needs extra training because of an extra responsibility they have, and sometimes they won’t need a training because they are not doing the exact same role as someone else, but it’s usually pretty close.
  • If a labor law or company training requirement changes after someone is hired, do you need to go back and make sure they get the information? Sometimes they need it, sometimes they don’t, but I always have to know whether they got it or not.
  • Do the new employees need recurring training? Sure, there’s OSHA, sexual harassment prevention training, anti-discrimination, good interview practices, hazard communication, HIPAA, and the list goes on and one. Each one has a different time period for re-training, and some people need some classes and not others. It takes me two days every month just to make sure it’s up to date and we stay in regulatory compliance.
  • How do you track what other departments do for the new employee? I can’t, since what they need to do seems to change all the time, too. They have their own lists, but I think they are having the same problems I am with the lists changing. Now that I need to monitor their tasks, too, I end up calling them, usually just before I leave at the end of an already busy day, and leave a message that they only sometimes reply to.
  • How much notice do they have before a new employee comes on board? I try to remember to tell them early, but sometimes it isn’t until the employee’s first day.
  • Do they tell you when they’ve given the new employee everything they need? Only when I remind them, and even then it takes a while.

The actions

The solution was a database to store a list of all the different things any employee could ever need, whether it was training or equipment. Each of those “tasks” was labeled with the roles that would typically need them, which department was responsible (HR, IT, Ops, etc.), and, if it was recurring, how often it was needed. It took some time, but it was easy enough to put together a first draft by looking over old lists that the HR manager and other departments were using.

The database’s security was set up to enable each department to maintain its own lists as requirements changed. Each task also had security settings that allowed the employee, HR, or a different department to mark it as done, depending on how it was configured.

When a person accepted their employment offer, the HR manager added them and their role into the system. The hiring manager reviewed the list that was autogenerated to add or remove tasks. Once the hiring manager confirmed the list, the system sent personalized e-mails to everyone involved with the on-boarding that included the specific tasks they needed to handle. At any time, the HR manager could look at a report of all tasks that were past due or coming up. The employee, HR manager, and hiring manager were e-mailed a weekly report showing which tasks were late and which tasks were due in the following week.

Since tasks could be set up to repeat, the HR manager also used it to keep track of recurring training. When the training was done, it would automatically add another requirement for the same training six months, a year, or two years out.

The results

The stress level in the HR department went down, even as the number of new employees went up. The HR manager didn’t need to figure out everything a new employee needed, just what that new employee needed that was different from standard. IT and Ops liked it, too, since they got earlier notification of new employees as well what those employees would need. And, since they could mark the tasks as done themselves, they didn’t get those late afternoon phone calls or early morning voicemails from HR asking for status.

The on-boarding system become a training management system, which made regulatory compliance much easier.

As a next step, HR could add in different tasks so the system could handle off-boarding employees and run reports showing what equipment they needed to return.

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The nitty-gritty details

First up was to develop a template table of all the tasks, items to be received (like phones or computers), and recurring training. The table listed which department “owned” the task, who could mark it as done, and whether it was recurring. Since the system would be used to assign equipment, it also included fields for serial numbers, and recalibration would be handled by using the recurring training feature.

When a new employee was added to the list of employees, including what role the employee was in, HR hit a button that started a script to pull together the specific list of tasks tied to the employee in a separate table. The script compared the employee’s department with the department in the template table to determine which records to bring in. With that step completed, the system e-mailed the employee’s hiring manager with a link to the list and a requirement to verify everything on it and make changes as needed. Once the hiring manager did that, HR, Ops, and IT all received an e-mail with a list of the tasks or items that they were responsible for and a link to the employee’s table so they could start marking things off as complete.

To handle the recurring events, a number field was added to the template table that got transferred over to the employee’s records with the number of days to wait before re-requiring the task, whether it was training or recalibration. Marking a task as complete started a script that, if there were a number in the field, would generate another record for the employee’s list.

Finally, to build in the off-boarding functionality, another field needs to be added to the template table to indicate whether a task was on-boarding, training, or off-boarding. When an employee leaves the company, HR will just run a different script to pull in all of the off-boarding tasks and send out another set of e-mails similar to the on-boarding tasks.

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