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University improves efficiency and adds intelligence with system overhaul

The University of Lincoln has had a rapid rise through the university league tables in recent years and is now firmly established as a ‘Top 60’ institution. It’s a modern university that promotes a unique experience for both its 13,000 students, from over 100 countries, and its 1,700 members of staff and 2,000 casual employees. 

The university’s HR team found that it was increasingly being asked to adapt to new demands, such as auto-enrolment and RTI compliance legislation. However, the systems it had supporting these operations had been developed in house over a number of years and were not designed to adapt to the changing demands of the organisation. This inflexibility meant that any adaptations to the existing system were both expensive and time consuming to implement. 

The HR team also wanted to make major changes to its systems to help it operate more efficiently and behave more strategically. Ian Hodson, Rewards and Benefits Manager, University of Lincoln, said: “The lack of integration was incredibly inefficient. If we had a new starter, for example, we would have to update several different databases for pay, absences, training, etc. There was also a lack of self-service which meant employees couldn’t update or view their own details. One of the university’s main marketing campaigns promotes the idea that we are a ‘third generation university’. We wanted a system that showed employees that the Payroll Department was fully aligned to the main university strategy.” 

The university wanted to work with a solution provider with whom it could have a ‘real relationship’. The HR team believed the success of the project would hinge on the ability of the supplier to impart knowledge and form a long lasting partnership. Ian said: “We did not want an off-the-shelf solution. We needed a partner who could to fit into our delivery schedule, as we also had day jobs to do and also look at how the system could be built around and improve our operations rather than having to compromise them. Having looked at several options we felt NGA, which also has a sector customer support group, was best placed to provide that level of support.”

NGA worked with the university’s HR team to deploy its fully integrated payroll and HR platform, ResourceLink. This solution brings together the existing HR, payroll, sickness and training systems, along with other data stored within spreadsheets such as performance reviews, into one integrated platform. Reporting tools within ResourceLink will allow the HR team to compare the different data sets and analyse the results to produce more powerful and informed data sets that could be accessed by managers and the operational team. 

In addition, two layers of self-service access have been provided for employees and managers. Employees are able to access the system in order to change personal details, view payslips, request annual leave, report absences and much more. Managers are also able to monitor, and approve, these requests and also access reports showing important workforce metrics and performance indicators. NGA’s consultants worked closely with the university over a period of 18 months to implement a system that fully met its requirements. The university’s HR team was able to decide how the application looked and operated. Ian said: “It felt like we built the system together with NGA and that helped us maintain ownership of the project the whole way through and build internal knowledge to get more from the system going forward.” 

The deployment of ResourceLink has delivered considerable financial savings to the University of Lincoln. The system has helped the HR team operate more efficiently and provided the metrics needed to become more strategic. Furthermore, it has encouraged the HR team to push for, and find, new ways to improve daily operations. 

Benefits include: 
1) Cost savings – The university estimates that ResourceLink will save the institution £500,000 over the first five years of use, as other service contracts are switched off. 
2) Efficient HR operations – With the HR team no longer having to spend time creating workarounds for its ageing systems, huge time savings have been realised. Payroll processing times have been reduced, the integration of systems means duplication of work is no longer happening, the manual support provided to employees has been reduced and time spent printing and distributing payslips and other materials has been cut.
3) Added intelligence – The system has enabled the HR team to become ‘strategic, not just operational’, as managers can now review metrics that influence decision making. 

Continuous improvement – Unlimited flexibility allows the team to build bespoke screens for gathering and storing data on immigration, student work and associate lecturing hours. The system is also being used widely across the University by areas of Finance and IT to enter data at source by being able to customise use to their requirements whilst maintaining security access restrictions. “To say that ResourceLink has changed everything seems like an understatement. Internal turnarounds are quicker, while customer service is timely and accessible. The university has moved from systems that were holding everybody back to a system that is driving everybody forward” Ian concluded.

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