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Virginia City Provides Employees with Better Feedback

“We saw the paperwork problem as an opportunity to convert the city to digital document management, something he has wanted to do for several years.”

When government officials in Hampton, VA, decided to upgrade its employee performance review program two years ago, most everyone applauded – until they contemplated the additional paperwork, it would generate.

Under the new program, department heads would give each of the city’s 3,000 permanent full-time workers one two-page mid-year review and one six-page annual review, with much of the reviews focused on goals and expectations for the coming year. Previously, employees received single, one-page annual reviews focusing mostly on last year’s performance.

Virtually everyone supported the change as a progressive move with the potential to lead to significant productivity increases. That included the Human Resources department, which would have to implement the new program, and Hampton’s 30 department heads, even though it would mean significantly more work for them.

In contrast, no one looked forward to dealing with the inevitable increase in paperwork – except perhaps Information Technology Director John Eagle.

“He saw the paperwork problem as an opportunity to convert the city to digital document management, something he has wanted to do for several years.

We were looking at going from 3,000 pages of reviews each year to more than 24,000. That doesn’t count extra copies being kept in departments and in outlying offices such as public works shops, which could double or triple that number.

We calculated that we could get back a good portion of our investment in a digital document management system solely through converting this one program. It was literally going to be easier to manage 24,000 pages of digital images than to handle 3,000 pages on paper."

After winning support for their plans from the Human Resources director, the City Manager, and several stakeholder departments, Eagle and Ms. Fisher brought a leading Laserfiche reseller. Their assignment was to assist the IT Department in developing an enterprise-wide document management solution that would start with harnessing the employee performance reviews as a pilot project.

The overriding objective starting out was to maximize automation while maintaining strict file security procedures. The biggest security-related challenge was to manage exchanges of information between the Laserfiche document repository and the Human Resources department’s other software applications.

They created a base folder in the Laserfiche repository to serve as a gatekeeper and distribution point. Every captured document must go into that folder first. From there, the system responds to each request for employee information separately, in accord with the security levels of the requestor and his or her connection with the employee. There are very strict safeguards to ensure that confidential information, such as I-9 employment verifications and drug testing, are not given out inadvertently.

The security precautions are especially important when dealing with employees who have two jobs—a full time job in a one department and a part-time job at the city-run [Hampton] Coliseum, for example. The system ensures that employees who terminate from one position are removed from that department, but remain active elsewhere.

As these critical safeguards were developed and tested, the Human Resources department was converting decades worth of employee reviews from paper to digital images and using the system on a limited basis. “They’re pretty much hooked,” says Ms. Fisher. “Their fears that the paperwork for the employee reviews would be unmanageable are gone.”

At this point, the pilot project has been deemed a resounding success. Human Resources plans to implement the system fully and extend access to the files to department heads this summer. As that happens, IT Director Eagle looks to expand the City’s use of digital document management to other tasks and plans to deploy it to other departments, such as the Treasurer or Finance departments. The IT Department is already using it successfully to manage contracts and keep track of PC inventory and all related service calls.

Eagle will continue to champion the conversion to digital file management in the City and looks forward to the day when all files are managed and available digitally.