Milwaukee is a vibrant county of 945,000, 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 Champions, the Milwaukee Bucks.
A workforce of 6,000 keeps the county running – 4,000 of which are full-time, the rest seasonal or temporary. 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 various departments and diverse workforce. The team is split into multiple divisions: HR operations, Learning and Development, Talent Acquisition, Employee Relations, Compensation, 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 is less attractive to job candidates than industries like manufacturing or technology, posing an obstacle to recruitment. The county also struggles to compete with the private sector on pay, leading to challenges in recruitment and retention.
For example, 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 state of struggling to keep up. Since it cannot compete on pay alone, Milwaukee County’s competitive edge is its total compensation package. This includes pension, benefits, working conditions, and professional development opportunities.
To sharpen that edge, and improve staff engagement, retention, and recruitment, Milwaukee County needed a unified HR solution that could centralize multiple sources of workforce data, provide better visibility into the overall health of the workforce, identify workforce patterns and trends, and support a focused approach to learning and development across all departments.
Milwaukee County completed the first phase of implementing Dayforce in 2020, focusing on payroll, workforce management, and learning. The next phase will see them roll-out recruiting, onboarding, compensation, and performance.
Dayforce is making 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 phases two and 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 technology will also 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 accountants based on the core competencies/duties but have unique titles that have morphed over the years and 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 a point-in-time reporting across our disparate data sources really handicapped us on what we could communicate regarding where the organization is, and where people can go.”
Baez and his team are now leveraging the dashboard and data insights in Dayforce to map an inventory of the skills its workforce currently has and forecast the skills it will need to succeed in the future.
“We’re trying to understand what the gap analysis looks like, and then institute training, learning and development, and organizational development type initiatives to get us to the state 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.”
Milwaukee County understands the high cost of employee turnover. While the county can’t match the salaries offered by the private sector, it can compete in areas like learning and development. By investing in professional development opportunities for its staff, the county not only hopes to improve retention and engagement, but to improve performance and position itself as an employer of choice.
Baez is using Dayforce for performance management to support several departments and make the connection between the skills they have and those they need. The county is also leveraging performance to make training and upskilling part of employees’ goals, to support managers in having productive career pathing conversations with members of their teams, and to develop effective learning curricula. Milwaukee County plans to evaluate its managers’ performance in part based on how successful they are at upskilling their teams.
“Are they in our learning management system (LMS) 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.”
By providing learning and development opportunities for its employees, the county hopes to increase retention and improve recruitment success. As the focus of learning and development becomes more ingrained, Baez hopes staff will become more motivated to act as ambassadors for the county, recruiting new qualified staff and building a stronger workforce.
Having access to a unified system is enabling Milwaukee County to better define and communicate its unique value proposition: total compensation. Dayforce provides a line of sight into workforce data and helps prioritize learning and development.
“We’re one of the few employers where people can still get pensions and accrue their work hours towards the realization of the pension. Few organizations have pensions and deferred savings plans like we do,” says Baez. “We also offer extended paid time off as well as a robust benefits program. When you add them all up, compensation as a singular annual dollar amount starts to kind of weaken its advantage, and we as an employer get a slightly higher profile.”
With its new knowledge and system, Milwaukee County is able to shift from reactionary HR to intentional workforce planning. It will start by painting a clearer picture for employees of what their future with the county will look like and will tackle one of the biggest challenges employers face: creating a sense of belonging among employees right from the minute they walk through the doors.
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.
As Milwaukee County moves forward with the next few phases 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 that Dayforce can support the county in its quest to be best in class.