Human resources (HR) is an important field for any organization, irrigation districts included. Finding the right employees and making sure they are performing at the top of their abilities is crucial to an organization’s success. While gut instinct always plays a role in personnel decisions, data analytics are playing an increasingly important role as well. If done correctly, recording and analyzing data about the hiring process and about employee performance can give managers important information about how to improve their organizations’ performance.
In this interview, Diane Campanile, the director of human capital management and employer compliance at Lyons Insurance, tells Irrigation Leader about the promise and pitfalls of collecting, storing, and analyzing data for HR decisionmaking.
Irrigation Leader: Please tell us about your background and how you came to be in your current position.
Diane Campanile: I received my formal education from West Chester University, Wharton Business School, and Villanova University. After working in HR at both public and private companies, I decided to pursue a career in consulting, where my skill sets would be used and challenged on a regular basis. Lyons Companies provided me with the opportunity to establish a human capital management (HCM) division, Lyons HCM, where I serve as the main contributor for the services provided.
Irrigation Leader: What does that division do in practice?
Diane Campanile: Lyons HCM provides consultative services that offer your organization assistance with employer compliance, employee training, and HR support. The Lyons HCM team works to identify costly HR exposures and to enhance HR processes with services targeted to the specific needs of your business. Lyons HCM also offers an annual series of compliance-focused seminars and webinars that affords professional Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recertification credits. Each presentation is carefully selected to address the most common areas of concern or the latest topic of conversation.
Most of the work I do is external to our organization. I conduct HR audits and develop action plan solutions for our clients and work with them through implementation. As one of only a few senior certified SHRM instructors, I frequently conduct training in preparation of certification and offer continuing education for HR professionals with a SHRM designation. I present at and participate in conferences on a variety of HR topics. In November, I had the privilege of presenting respectful workplace training at the annual National Water Resources Association conference in Houston, Texas.
Irrigation Leader: What are the topics that are most in demand for your workshops?
Diane Campanile: Without a doubt, the most popular topic is having a respectful workplace, with particular reference to sexual harassment. Several states have enacted legislation requiring employers to provide training on the prevention of sexual harassment to employees, including special sessions for supervisors. These sessions result in productive conversations. The second most popular presentation in 2019 was on managing your diverse workforce. Today, we have five generational cohorts at work! It can be challenging when not managed properly.
Irrigation Leader: How are data and analytics used to make HR decisions?
Diane Campanile: Capturing information creates data, while analyzing that data allows for predictions, comparisons, and conclusions. When used properly, data analytics can improve hiring decisions, increase employee retention, improve individual and departmental performance, and identify training needs. HR professionals are business partners responsible for attracting and retaining employees. HR analytics can help accomplish this.
Most employers collect data to fulfill regulatory requirements. These data sets include applicant and employee gender, ethnicity, and veteran and disability status.
Some employers collect recruiting data to maximize the effectiveness of their recruiting efforts. The data may cover factors like resource performance, the time required to fill a position, and quality of hire. Analyzing the data on resource performance will allow an employer to determine whether a recruiting resource they used helped them meet their business objectives. If the resource did not, the employer now has the data to support a switch.
Employee performance data like key performance indicators can identify strong performers in targeted areas who can make the difference between hitting objectives and exceeding them. Strong performers should be identified early in their careers so they can be set on a career path for both their and their employer’s benefit.
HR professionals also use compensation surveys to determine whether pay levels are competitive enough to attract applicants and retain employees. Surveys are just another form of data analytics.
Irrigation Leader: What are some of the mistakes companies most often make when collecting and analyzing data?
Diane Campanile: Companies make mistakes when they collect the wrong data or apply the right data incorrectly and inconsistently. Especially when stressed, employers may assume that employees are in identical situations and expect identical outcomes.
Irrigation Leader: What organizational and legal factors do managers need to consider before they start collecting data for HR purposes?
Diane Campanile: There are so many considerations that employers would be wise to speak with a certified HR professional about their goals for data collection and how they intend to apply the data.
From an organizational perspective, managers should work with their colleagues to collect data relevant to their areas of responsibility while not placing other areas in jeopardy. Legal considerations include local, state, and federal laws. The U.S. Department of Labor sets standards for keeping and maintaining employee information in both written and electronic formats. Companies should follow appropriate guidelines to ensure the compliance of their storage program. They must also be sure to meet Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy standards by keeping their systems secure and entering into business associate agreements appropriately.
Data collected and records kept can also create liability. An easy example is copying the documentation reviewed while verifying employment eligibility in the completion of an I-9 form. The I-9 form does not require documents to be copied in order to verify employment eligibility, and doing so may raise risk instead of limiting it. There may be other reasons for an employer to collect copies of one or more of the documents involved, but it is best to keep those documents within the area of intended purpose. A company may be foolish to collect data it will not use and does not need. Employment applications no longer ask for Social Security numbers. If something isn’t needed, don’t collect it!
Further, it has been argued that candidate testing with a cultural bias may reward knowledge and practices that are found more in some cultures but not in others. This practice may raise risk of a lawsuit.
Irrigation Leader: What are some of the main factors a manager should consider when deciding whether to terminate an employee?
Diane Campanile: Employers need to consult the at-will employment doctrine of their state and would be wise to seek consultation on complex employment terminations. Managers need to consider length of employment, past performance, and whether an employee’s performance is likely to improve through progressive discipline steps, including the implementation of a performance improvement plan. A company’s progressive discipline policy will likely be addressed in its employee handbook. It is an employer’s responsibility to provide all the tools necessary for an employee to be successful. Managers need to work with employees who can and want to improve while transitioning those who do not or cannot. I have seen employers keep employees who have not been successful for 10 years. To do that is to deny that employee the opportunity to be successful elsewhere.
Irrigation Leader: What is the best way for a manager to terminate an employee?
Diane Campanile: Leave the employee with their dignity intact. Managers control the narrative and should provide the message without ridicule and insult. Be concise in your message and only discuss the termination with those who need to know. Be respectful. If you are terminating an employee, schedule a meeting in a private room or area. Employees who feel they have been disrespected or embarrassed are more likely to sue their former employer.
Irrigation Leader: For an organization that doesn’t have a written employee handbook, what advice do you have about drawing one up?
Diane Campanile: Make sure you work with a certified HR professional to create an employee handbook. When you put something in writing, follow it. If you’re not going to follow a standard procedure, you’re better off not developing it. If I know that an employer is not committed to handling things in a standard fashion, I’ll create a handbook that is compliance related only. I’ll cover equal employment opportunity, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and any harassment or paid-time-off policies that are established by local, state, or federal law.
Irrigation Leader: What are examples of things that companies tend to put in their handbooks and then struggle to follow up on?
Diane Campanile: Annual performance reviews. These policies are well intended, but if they set an expectation that is not met, it demotivates employees. Another problem is when progressive discipline policies are used inconsistently for similarly situated employees. Employee A will go through the steps of progressive discipline while employee B is dismissed immediately for the same infraction.