The SEC’s ambitious effort to change how it does HR

Working at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s HR group is much different than managing personnel for a small business. Staffers carry out their duties using custom software tailored for the agency’s onboarding, training and payroll needs. Behind the scenes, meanwhile, the software is powered by a vast amount of technology infrastructure that’s run almost entirely in-house.

The SEC is currently pursuing a multi-year initiative to upgrade the environment in a bid to help the HR team support employees more effectively. On a recent Federal News Radio broadcast, SEC Chief Human Capital Officer Lacy Dingman and IT head Pam Dyson provided a glimpse into the inner workings of the project. They shared several practical lessons about HR technology in the process that smaller organizations would do well to take note of.

A team effort

Dingman detailed that the first leg of the project saw her department and Dyson’s spend 5 years laying the groundwork for the initiative. She said that the IT group was “involved with us from day one”, reinforcing the operational priorities that the HR team established for the project with technical input. It’s the basic approach a private company should follow when adopting a new technology so to ensure that key operational needs like security are met.

Preventing privacy breaches is a particularly big concern when it comes to the sensitive employee records in an HR system, which is why GoCo places such a big emphasis on encryption. At the SEC, cybersecurity falls into Dyson’s domain. She said that one of the main technical priorities for the modernization project is adding in user authentication and access management protocols, staples of modern software, which the SEC’s current infrastructure doesn’t support too well.

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The hope is that the new functionality will accommodate a broader range of use scenarios than what is supported today. More specifically, the SEC wants to remove the requirement that users only access applications from their office workstations due to security reasons. “We have to be able to deliver these solutions with a diverse set of tools, a diverse workforce in terms of how they access and use those tools,” Dyson detailed. “We’re looking at how we can be more mobile with these solutions going forward so that you can access them from a smartphone and access them remotely.”

The business side

Over at Dingman’s office, the HR team seized the opportunity to modernize the business processes that were developed around the current infrastructure. As is the case on the security front, the SEC’s case study mirrors the situation in the private sector. Businesses using GoCo, for instance, are able to streamline a considerable number of day-to-day tasks simply because the user experience is better.

For the SEC, one of the main focus areas is to help employees communicate with the HR department more easily. The agency plans to achieve this with a self-service support portal that is set to roll out in a later stage of the project. “We’re trying to get consistency in how we answer questions and getting information out to them,” Dingman said. She explained that it’s a two-pronged push “to elevate the demand on the HR staff and to effectively deal with all the issues that come our way.”

Dingman’s department is also working to streamline the bureaucratic work involved in handling personnel matters. She detailed that her team “looked at almost every process within HR” in an effort to identify areas for improvement. They went as far as assessing the department’s forms to see whether paperwork can be reduced. According to Dingman, their findings have been incorporated into the project to ensure that the HR team will be able to make the most out of the new software.

The road ahead

By consulting the IT team on the technical aspects of the project and revising business processes where appropriate, the SEC managed to put together an impressive game plan. Dingman said that she expects four of the 11 new software modules developed as part of the initiative to go live in the next 18 months, which is a solid roadmap for a rollout of this scale. “For most agencies you wouldn’t have this much attention focused on an HR environment, but it’s paid off in dividends and the SEC has seen that,” Dingman said.

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