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Cornerstone integrated talent management lifts airport

The Detroit airport authority implemented Cornerstone integrated talent management but said it was critical to first revamp HR processes.

The public entity that manages the Detroit Metropolitan Airport is using Cornerstone OnDemand cloud software to...

key a major revamp of talent management.

The multi-year effort requires tight connections among learning, performance management and succession planning, while working with unions, said Gale LaRoche, vice president of HR for the Wayne County Airport Authority.

"The key message is that learning plus performance management equals succession planning," LaRoche said. "It is pretty simple."

The integrated talent management software was important in changing and improving old HR processes at the authority, which is charged with keeping the nation's 16th busiest airport open, operating and safe. The authority also manages the Willow Run Airport, a large cargo airport.

Some of the talent management changes required union approval or cooperation. About 85% of the estimated 600 employees are in 10 different unions.

In March 2012, the authority went live with Cornerstone learning, the first module in the integrated talent management system. Performance management was deployed in October 2012, and succession planning in early 2014. The authority is now working on implementing talent acquisition. Each module took about seven months to implement, according to LaRoche.

The total contract price of $581,000 for nine years includes the four modules, licensing fees and implementation costs, she said.

The Cornerstone modules integrate with Tyler Technologies' MUNIS ERP. The authority also uses MUNIS for core HR data and an applicant tracking system.

Once employees could see a clearer way to success, tuition reimbursement doubled, as the integrated talent management system enabled an increased focus on employee development, she said. "There is a lot of activity. People see a light at the end of the tunnel. They see a way to move forward in the organization."

LaRoche said an audit by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prompted the decision to buy the learning management system. Having one is critical for compliance and safety training for the authority's firefighters, police, engineers, field operators and security staff. The FAA had encouraged the authority to implement a unified system to track training, but the old manual system "was really painful," LaRoche said. "Nothing fit together. At the end of the day, there were a lot of pieces of paper or a big pile of paper. It was hard to manage the data."

The Cornerstone learning management system makes it easier to obtain training through thousands of online classes, she said. The system assigns each employee a transcript for more efficient scheduling of classes and training and recording of completion dates. It also tracks vehicle assignments and ensures correct licensing and insurance

Performance evaluations, once done entirely on paper, take place in the software twice a year, with a final review counting toward possible bonuses. Employees enter goals that are approved by managers and must be aligned with overall corporate strategy.

Integrated talent management marries technology, processes

LaRoche said it was critical to revamp processes when implementing the integrated talent management system. "If you don't do that, you will recreate inefficient processes that were not successful in the past," she said.

For example, when the authority implemented the performance management module, it negotiated pay for performance -- bonuses based on meeting certain goals -- with unions, along with regular increases in contracts.

Unions were skeptical at first but are now starting to embrace the change. The authority helped smooth the way for pay for performance by ending a rigid, end-of-year merit rating of employees on a scale of one to five, she said. It stopped using numbers and collapsed the scale to three levels: exceeds expectations, fully competent or needs improvement.

Meanwhile, a new focus was placed on coaching and development, she said. "If there are areas that need improvement, then we are providing resources for that to happen in terms of training and development. If the employee does not grab onto that and own that, then, of course, there are consequences -- but only after we have worked with them."

With the succession management software, employees can list career goals and potentially advance to a position if it opens. For the most part, the authority develops talent from within, she said. "The idea is to develop employees for future roles, plus assess performance to see if they are ready to step up into that next job on the career ladder."

The authority's succession plan covers all positions except entry level, according to LaRoche. It is easy to track successors and develop bench strength in the software, she said. If a key position is vacated, a pipeline of potential replacements exists.

Another process change facilitated by the software eases the way for retiring employees. The authority is using the integrated talent management software to end a culture of secrecy that surrounded a planned retirement, so now, if people are retiring, they can choose to transfer skills to possible successors and track their progress in the software.

The authority is in the final testing phase for the Cornerstone talent acquisition module, which will include applicant tracking and onboarding, as well as applications for video interviewing and posting simultaneously on different job boards. The plan is to go live in the fall of this year.

Next Steps

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Is a revamping of your talent management workflow in your future?
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Our HR partners have been working on revamping talent management for the past several years. I think it’s something that is sorely needed across much of the industry. We often here about how IT has changed or needs to change to stay relevant, but many companies have not updated their talent management processes to address that. Sadly, when ours did they did so in a silo, and have crafted a talent management workflow that is no more representative of reality than the previous version was.
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mcorum:Thanks for the comment.If an HR leader at your company would be willing to discuss the revamp,I would like to write a story about it.
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I don't know, but I sincerely hope so. Our HR processes are so dated and inefficient; this is true of talent management in IT but also throughout the rest of the company as well. HR functions like talent management should be developed with and integrated into the various departments within the organization.
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Thank you for your comment, abuell. Of course,I would also like to interview an HR leader with your company about your dated and inefficient processes.That would offer a window of what is happening in a lot of companies, no doubt. 
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The concept that learning plus performance management equals succession planning may be a simple concept, but it’s often not an obvious one. Still, it makes sense that learning management systems are so closely related to performance management and succession planning, and I can see why our HR partners were so interested when they found out that we were looking for a learning management system for tracking our in-house training.
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mcorum -- Thanks for the comment. Gale LaRoche, the HR leader in this story, is noted in the industry for that simple concept and seems to be succeeding with it at the Detroit airport.
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