Western Sydney University Case Study

University partners with Acendre to supercharge its casual employment with the first fully online, end-to-end casual employment process.

The Impact

Western Sydney University (Western) partners with Acendre and the result is the first fully online, end-to-end casual employment process, saving thousands of person hours, eliminating paper and reducing application to complete onboarding time to 15 minutes.

The Challenge

Western serves over 40,000 students across eight distinct, people-friendly campuses. Teaching and Research are the heart and soul of the university, and casual employees are a critical component, with 5,000 casuals hired each year, accounting for a payroll of approximately $44 million. Numerous people had been involved in the process of moving a casual from application to onboarding – HR staff, Hiring Managers and System administrators all had a hand in the very manual processes.

Further complicating the issue, each School had a unique process for onboarding casuals. However, as a rule, they all involved several manual touch points, from the candidate to HR and Payroll staff. This included time-intensive and error-prone tasks such as downloading an application form from the website, manually filling out the form and then shepherding the form through numerous people and approval processes, including spread sheets, mail merge, faxing, loading paper, data entry and filing records in order to commence a new starter. The opportunities for delays and errors, culminating in frustrated staff and disillusioned candidates, were plentiful.

The workflow for recruiting and onboarding academic casuals is very detailed, including information such as what courses they will be teaching, when the course will be taught, which campus will the teaching take place and most importantly, the number of hours they will be teaching. All this had been done manually, with paper. There was much back and forth between HR, hiring managers and the casual academics – there were always delays and bottlenecks – every part of the process involved paperwork.

When casuals submitted timesheets, Schools had to maintain spread sheets to sync how many hours were taught against how many they were contracted for – a huge amount of administrative work.

“There were so many manual touchpoints. Now, casuals enter their own details at the start of the workflow, and from that point on, no one else touches the information – there is no middle man now.”

–Arvinder Singh, Manager, HR Information Systems at Western

The Solution

Western decided it needed to completely streamline the hiring and onboarding process of casuals, eliminate paper and move to a fully online process. Having used Acendre Recruitment for several years for recruitment automation, it was a logical step to implement the new system with Acendre Recruitment, through an integration with Western’s payroll system.

“We had to find a way where the casual academic staff would receive the primary benefit, but where the university would also benefit,” said Arvinder Singh, Manager, HR Information Systems at Western. “There were so many manual touchpoints. Now, casuals enter their own details at the start of the workflow, and from that point on, no one else touches the information – there is no middle man now.”

The process is now streamlined – paper has been eliminated and it’s a complete online process, culminating with a digital signature that has replaced physical signatures, when the casual accepts an offer. If everyone is at their computer, a new contract can be generated and onboarded in 15 minutes.

“We were asking for a lot –money and faith in our vision – nobody is quite doing what we are,” noted Chris Youness, Associate Director, HR Partnerships at Western. “When you are first, there’s a lot of hesitation, because not just HR was involved, but also IT and Finance, and stakeholders had a hard time understanding the value at first.”

Together, Singh and Youness wrote a business case, and their teams went to each School to obtain approval and buy-in. This approach really paid off. “The support of the School Management was critical,” said Singh. “This was not going to be an HR thing – there was a broader vision.” One of the keys was that the casuals had many complaints about the existing system. The entire life cycle of a new hire, from start date to departure, was affected.

A project team was formed which engaged with different staff members, business analysts and HR to provide input and come up with a final mapped workflow that each college would use, rather than each maintaining a unique workflow. A prototype was presented to all the stakeholders, where they had the opportunity to provide input, and that led to more improvements.

Integration is a key part of the new solution, and Acendre’s powerful interoperability capabilities were a key benefit of Acendre Recruitment. IT was very supportive of the pilot stage, as it could show a new way of enabling integration across each university component. Workshops were held with Acendre, where Acendre talent management solution specialists were shown manual forms, desired workflows and various data points.

A design document was prepared and given to each stakeholder which they reviewed and signed off. They were also involved in the User Acceptance Testing, where stakeholders could comment on anything, including items they might have forgotten in their original design. Another round of testing was performed, with a project manager ensuring everyone was kept abreast of changes, and then final signed off.

The entire system was rolled out in phases to 3 schools at a time. “Feedback is through the roof and rapid acceptance of offers online is the highlight of the online experience,” noted Youness. Casuals academics are very important to Western, and we’ve generated a lot of good will with them.”

Besides the huge reduction in contracting time, HR activity reduced significantly (one example was 5 FTE to 0.6 FTE at the first pilot site, and all have experienced significant staff savings in HR and payroll. It’s a long way from struggling with large spread sheets and ongoing iterations of Mail Merge.

With onboarding now online and rapid availability of data, there are new opportunities for reporting. All contract information can now be seen online, including contract expiration date and number of hours worked. “Reconciliation between time sheets and actual hours previously took hours — that’s now available online and can be completed quickly, and even seen by School Administrators and reported back to the Directors of Academic Program and Deans” said Singh.

Western has created a Casual Eligibility List, which allows for searching on disciplines, skills and eligibility. A Candidate Portal lets casuals view ads and quickly apply for open positions.

“The University sector as a whole experiences difficulties with casual administration management,” noted Youness. “Our Casual Employment Process Improvement (CEPI) project has eliminated almost all of this at Western Sydney.”

Western Sydney University’s Casual Employment Project

  • Faster hiring and onboarding of casuals
  • Completely paperless system
  • Reduced staff
  • Staff time savings
  • Improved goodwill with casuals
  • Improved retention and engagement of casuals