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Cautious Optimisim at Cardinal Health

June 6, 2007
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Related Topics: Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS/HRIS), Featured Article
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Vince Eugenio is on the verge of discovering a treasure trove of talent management information.

    But Eugenio, vice president of enterprise learning solutions for medical products and services company Cardinal Health, knows enough about HR software to realize that promised returns from technology can be elusive. So he’s both excited and cautious about a workforce analytics application that Cardinal will begin using soon as part of a new outsourcing agreement.

    Eugenio is eager, for example, to get rapid reports on such topics as how particular training programs correlate to employee retention, sales growth and profitability. But rather than rely solely on the vendors to suggest the best ways to slice and dice Cardinal’s learning-related data, Eugenio and his team are doing their own homework.

    "I’ve been in this space 20 years," Eugenio says. "I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons."

    Cardinal is one of a growing number of organizations turning to applications to help them study their data related to employee recruiting, performance, development and compensation. Companies have seen evidence that closer attention to their workforce data can help boost the bottom line, and software to mine that information and present it clearly has improved in recent years.

    On the other hand, hurdles to wider adoption of analytics tools include lingering skepticism about the products and the difficulty of piecing data together at large, complex companies.

    Cardinal, with some 40,000 employees, multiple business units and operations on five continents, has challenges along these lines. During the next three years, the company plans to consolidate nine separate learning management software systems into just one or two, Eugenio says.

    Eugenio declined to identify the learning management application or the workforce analytics tool being supplied by ExcellerateHRO, which announced its contract with Cardinal in April 2006. He did say, however, that the analysis application is from one of the major vendors of "business intelligence" software, whose makers include Business Objects, Cognos and SAS Institute.

    Cardinal’s combination of learning management software and workforce analytics will "go live" beginning early next year. Its workforce analytics application is an example of a stand-alone tool, designed to draw data from other applications holding workforce or business data. Other vendors of analytics software combine their data-mining products with talent management applications or broader business management software. Eugenio says the product he’ll be using stands out from analytics tools built into learning management systems.

    "What I have will be exponentially better than what any learning management system can provide," he says. "The analytics tool in the LMS isn’t dipping into the other systems."

    Eugenio has been at Cardinal seven months. Before that, he spent several years at staffing company Randstad, where he honed his data-digging skills by noticing a link between how thoroughly a manager trained and oriented new sales professionals and their overall sales performance. The program won Randstad an Optimas Award from Workforce Management in 2006.

    Still, Eugenio’s software skepticism persists. He notes that Cardinal’s learning data won’t initially be linked to its finance information. He hopes that will occur down the road.

    "I can smell the steak. I can hear it sizzle," he says of the new system. "But how is it going to be cooked?"

Workforce Management, May 21, 2007, p. 30 -- Subscribe Now!

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