Growth is nothing new to Aqua America Inc., one of the nation’s largest US based publicly-traded water utility companies. Throughout the past decade, the company has taken aggressive measures to acquire 120 companies in 13 states. Because of these acquisitions, the company achieved record earnings and high shareholder return.
As pleased as Aqua America was with their financial performance, they realized they needed to make some adjustments in other areas of the company in order to accommodate the expansion. One area was the human resource department. Here’s how Aqua America’s human resource team handled the growth.The need…
As the company began to expand into new territory, HR faced a flood of new employees and applicants—they were tracking close to 7,300 active, terminated, and retired employees and over 17,000 applicants. Another concern for the HR team was communicating with staff located in different office locations, as Aqua America has over 100 locations scattered across the US. The HR team also wanted to reduce their administrative time and paperwork by automating and customizing several features to become more efficient. Additionally, they wanted a system to track affirmative action responsibilities and to generate customized reports for managers and officers.Managing the growth with technology
Choosing the right HRIS proved to be a simple task for Aqua America. For the past 14 years, they had partnered with Spectrum Human Resource Systems who provided Aqua America with their first DOS and desktop-based HRIS. Since Aqua America already had a good relationship with the company, they were confident that Spectrum’s web-based system, iVantage®, would be a perfect fit.
One of Aqua America’s main concerns was managing the 17,000 existing applications and the new applications coming through the door. According to Carrie Panetta, Assistant Manager of Employee Relations of Aqua America, iVantage Connect™, an applicant and employee self-service module, is especially useful for applicant tracking. The module enables her team to easily post job openings to their company website, lets applicants apply online and makes the entire applicant process virtually paperless.
“Legally, we have to track applicant flow,” Panetta said. “With 17,000 applicants to date, we never could have kept up. The system saves my staff an unprecedented amount of time because they no longer have to key in all of those applications. Before iVantage, we had to key in resumes one at a time and then send out individual mailings to each applicant requesting sex and race data. This system has saved us an exceptional amount of time and money!”
Not only does the web-based HRIS assist the HR team in managing applications, it also helps them to easily create complex reports for managers and officers in a matter of seconds.
According to Panetta, HR often pulls important company data including organizational charts for succession and new position planning, employee terminations for stock option planning, and workers’ compensation reports for managers. Additionally, standardized email templates in the base system assist HR in keeping in constant communication with employees and managers at any of the 100 plus office locations.
Additionally, Aqua America wanted to be able to easily tailor the system to fit their needs. One system customization they have lets them track the employees covered by a pension plan, over 75%, because they needed to track vesting rules.
“Employees with 5 years of service are vested in the pension plan,” Panetta said. “So, if an employee works for us from the age of 20 to 26, they are vested in the plan, but are not eligible for another 40 years. We use the same screen to track employees who have participated in the plan and have retired because we need to keep their beneficiary information for long periods of time as well. Figuring out a way to track this process was imperative to Aqua America.”
Another system customization enables Aqua America to track medical benefits for retirees.
“The majority of our employees qualify for continuation of medical benefits when they retire,” Panetta said. “How much the employee pays toward this continuation of coverage is different for almost every retiree.”
Prior to using iVantage, the continuation of medical benefits for retirees created a lot of extra work for the HR staff. A special customized ‘Retiree Medical’ page shows how much the retiree must pay, how much the company pays, the percentage Aqua America pays towards a predetermined cap and from what account to deduct the payment.
One last concern for Aqua America was the system conversion process. During the conversion process, Aqua America interacted with a Spectrum client service representative on a daily basis. This was key to successfully implementing their system and building a positive relationship.
“Our client service representative is both an HR and Spectrum technology expert—she really strives to understand what we are trying to accomplish on a daily basis,” Panetta said. “Spectrum goes above and beyond to make sure we stay satisfied.”Where they are today
Aqua America continues to expand into new territories, all while providing exceptional customer service and quality drinking water to their clients. The HR team continues to use iVantage on a daily basis. With the use of features like applicant tracking, employee self-service, pension planning, and the ability to generate key reports for executives, the HR department at Aqua America continues to exceed expectations for its 7,300 active, retired, and terminated employees.
iVantage is Spectrum’s fully web-native, human resource information system. iVantage provides complete HR functionality in the base system and additional modules for value added capabilities. Using leading technology, the system delivers robust reporting and analytical capabilities. Available for license, ASP, or a subscription model, the system is affordable for organizations of all sizes and budgets.
Spectrum, founded in 1984, is a leading provider of high functionality web and desktop-based HR and workforce management software. As a full system and service provider, Spectrum delivers the full range of product related services including system planning, implementation, training, system customization, data conversion and system consulting. Spectrum, headquartered in Denver, Colorado, can be reached at 1.800.334.5660 or on the Internet at www.spectrumhr.com.