Milwaukee County sharpens its competitive edge
The county uses Dayforce to help maximize the potential of its workforce and implement innovative employee retention strategies.
Milwaukee is a vibrant county of around 930,000, perched on the western shore of Lake Michigan. It boasts attractions for every taste and interest, including a rich culinary and microbrewery scene, galleries, and Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival. On any given day, you’ll find the county teeming with people visiting the Harley-Davidson Museum, spending the day at the zoo, catching a Brewers game, or cheering on NBA 2021 champions, the Milwaukee Bucks.
A workforce of around 6,000 keeps the county running. Roughly 4,000 are full-time employees, while the rest are seasonal or temporary workers. They work for departments as diverse as the international airport, the zoo, the local park and transit systems, various law enforcement agencies, and a behavioral health hospital. “It’s like running a company with a dozen lines of business,” describes Genaro Baez, Director of HR Operations, Learning & Development, and Talent Acquisition for Milwaukee County.
The HR team plays a critical role in supporting the county’s varied departments and diverse workforce. The team is split into multiple divisions: HR Operations, Learning and Development, Talent Acquisition, Employee Relations, Compensation and Benefits, and Retirement Plan Services. Both Employee Relations and Talent Acquisition are structured as centers of excellence that each support a portfolio with several departments.
While people enjoy living in and visiting Milwaukee, attracting talent to work for the county can be a challenge. The public sector is essential to keeping the county functioning and thriving, but the county struggles to compete with the private sector on pay, leading to challenges in recruitment and retention. Baez notes that when he started with the county, the average tenure for newly hired corrections officers was only 11 months. Many left for jobs with better hourly rates. The high turnover rate kept HR in a constant struggle to keep up.
Since it can’t compete on pay alone, Milwaukee County’s competitive edge is its total compensation package. The County offers a good pension and benefits package, healthy working conditions, professional development opportunities, and strives to communicate this value proposition to current and prospective employees.
In 2018, Milwaukee County declared racism a public health crisis. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace have become a top priority. All departments are now working towards its goal of making Milwaukee County the healthiest county in the state by addressing racial inequities.
To help achieve its DEI goals, sharpen its competitive edge, and implement innovative employee retention strategies, Milwaukee County needed a unified HR solution that could centralize multiple sources of workforce data, provide better visibility into the overall health and diversity of the workforce, identify workforce patterns and trends, and support a focused approach to learning and development across all departments.
Leveraging the power of data
Milwaukee County has completed the first two phases of its Dayforce implementation and is now live with Payroll, Workforce Management, Learning, Recruiting, and Onboarding. The next phase will see them roll out Compensation and Performance.
Dayforce has made it possible for the county to centralize employee and payroll data in a single system, giving it a more holistic and detailed picture of the state of its workforce.
“Part of what Milwaukee County is looking to leverage with Dayforce is to have a true data dashboard view into everything HR,” says Baez. “Once we're fully implemented with phase three, this is going to be the first time in Milwaukee County’s history that it’s had a digital solution across all these divisional areas in human resources.”
The system will allow the county to simplify and standardize job types to develop greater consistency across departments.
“We have a large number of jobs across all the agencies in the county that are effectively accounting-related. This is based on their core competencies and duties, but they have unique titles that have morphed over the years and the different administrations,” says Baez. “The compensation module will help us to boil that down to three, maybe four positions. Once we’ve set that up, we’ll be able to communicate career ladders and succession plans on how to get there vis-à-vis learning and development and performance management.”
Baez is happy that the days of separate systems and disconnected data are behind him. Having workforce insights at his team’s fingertips is critical to maximizing the potential of the workforce. “Not having access to dashboards and just-in-time or point-in-time reporting across our disparate data sources really hindered us on what we could communicate regarding where the organization is and where people can go.”
The time savings created by Dayforce has allowed the HR team to focus its efforts on reducing time to interview and time to hire and making quality hires. Since implementing Dayforce, the county has seen a positive trend in its retention rate, including that of corrections officers.
Competing on total compensation
Having access to a unified system is also enabling Milwaukee County to better define and communicate its unique value proposition: total compensation. The county is one of the few employers that still provides pensions and deferred savings plans. It also offers extended paid time off and a robust benefits program.
“Milwaukee County employs a total compensation strategy that focuses on every facet that impacts an employee. That could be work-life balance, a pension, or our focus on education and organizational development. A person could come work for Milwaukee County and really take advantage of great learning opportunities,” says Baez. “When you add that all up, compensation as a singular annual dollar amount starts to weaken its advantage, and we as an employer get a slightly higher profile.”
With Dayforce in place, Milwaukee County has been able to shift from reactionary HR to intentional workforce planning. It paints a clearer picture for employees of what their future with the county can look like and creates a sense of belonging from the minute they walk through the doors.
Focusing on learning
To boost this total compensation package and encourage engagement and retention, Baez and his team are leveraging Dayforce Learning. The dashboard and data insights map out an inventory of skills the county’s workforce currently has and forecasts the skills it will need to succeed in the future.
“We’re trying to understand what the gap analysis looks like and institute training, learning and development, and organizational development initiatives to get us where we need that future workforce to be,” says Baez. “But none of that is possible without having a data-driven perspective. You can't improve what you can't measure.”
The county has made customized learning content available to employees across every department. Dayforce Learning allows Baez’s team to upload courses based on the department a person works in or their job level. If the employee wants to move into people management, they can access learning courses on working with a diverse workforce, working with different departments, and project management. Mike Cucciardo, Manager of Learning and Development, estimates that around 95% of the county’s employees touch Dayforce Learning throughout the year.
The county is also rolling out Dayforce Performance to make training and upskilling part of employees’ goals. It will also support managers in having productive upskilling and career-pathing conversations with members of their teams. Managers’ performance will then be evaluated partly on how successful they are at upskilling their teams.
“Are they in our learning management system assigning trainings towards that upskill initiative? Are they setting that as part of their direct reports' New Year's goals?” says Baez. “That feeds back into talent acquisition because you gain the reputation of being an employer of choice. It helps us be the place that employees think of versus the 12 other competitors.”
As the focus on learning and development becomes more ingrained, Baez hopes employees will become more motivated to act as ambassadors for the county and recruit new, qualified staff to help build a stronger workforce.
“Dayforce has given our people managers the tools to really promote quality of life for their direct reports through learning, internal mobility, and opportunities to set smart goals,” says Baez.
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Making informed recruiting decisions to bolster DEI
Dayforce is also giving Milwaukee County the tools and information it needs to help turn its DEI goals into reality and achieve its strategic priority of making it the healthiest county in the state.
The county now has key performance indicators (KPIs) for DEI that are helping to ensure that it is prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace at every level. This way, the employee base is more reflective of the demographic makeup of its constituency.
Workforce Data Analyst Molly Xiong leverages employee demographic data from Dayforce to look for gaps in the workforce as it relates to DEI. She then provides these data points to the HR team and department managers so they can make informed recruiting decisions that further the county’s diversity goals.
“Dayforce gives us the opportunity to show them snapshots of their candidate pools and workforce. We can recommend they participate in management development programs and work with community partners that are going to bring a greater array of candidates and talent for consideration,” says Baez.
Since implementing Dayforce, Baez and Cucciardo say the county has seen a measurable return on investment both in the diversity of candidate pools and in the percentage of female and minority graduates from the management development and leadership excellence programs.
Partnering on a successful implementation
Bringing several departments and a large workforce under one system is a challenging project. Understanding current business practices, customizing for specific needs, and streamlining processes takes time, patience, and dedication. Having a trusted implementation partner is key to success.
In its journey, Milwaukee County has relied on the Ceridian team for guidance and support. That partnership has made all the difference. “Partnering with Ceridian is really that: it's partnering. It's more of a focus on implementation versus an installation,” says Baez, noting the important distinction between the two.
“Our experience with the Ceridian team to implement Dayforce was a lot of fun. It just truly was enjoyable. There was a passion and an energy there that was just very exciting on both sides,” adds Cucciardo.
As Milwaukee County moves forward with the next few phase of its implementation, which will include rolling out the mobile app to its workforce, it is constantly pushing the platform’s capabilities to meet its needs. Throughout this process, the Ceridian team will be by the county’s side, responding to each challenge, and striving to meet the complex needs of a thriving metropolis.
Baez is looking forward to growing his partnership with Ceridian in the coming years and finding new ways for Dayforce to help support the county in its quest to be best in class.
“Ultimately, my job in Milwaukee County and in the public sector vertical is to not only identify great talent, but to help keep them here. Dayforce is a tool that helps me to achieve those goals,” says Baez.