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Webinar Recap: How Pima Community College Is Supporting Its Staff During COVID-19—And Preparing Them for Work After It

Cornerstone Editors

When college campuses closed earlier this year due to COVID-19, universities hopped into crisis management mode. Colleges had to quickly adopt new, virtual ways of educating their students while ensuring the safety and sanity of remote and on-site staff. Pima Community College (PCC) is one such institution. Located in Tucson, Arizona, PCC is one of the largest multi-campus community colleges in the United States, serving all areas of its Tucson community. The College began preparing for the switch to remote learning in the weeks leading up to campus closures. They held forums, communicated possible changes to the student body and created a crisis management plan: First, they would stabilize its staff, then create normalcy and then focus on their employee’s future growth and development.

To help with this effort, PCC created EmployeeConnect, a centralized digital communication and training hub for all staff members. At first, the platform aimed to create organization and connectivity for the College’s temporarily disparate staff. But since its deployment, EmployeeConnect has expanded in scale, reach and impact. It has boosted learning and development among staff members and ensured that PCC will emerge from this crisis armed with the skills necessary to succeed in a post-pandemic reality.

Creating Organization and Clear Communication During the COVID-19 Crisis

Like so many academic institutions, PCC needed a way to quickly get organized and keep its staff informed amidst all the coronavirus-induced change. With this in mind, Jesse Diaz, an advanced program manager at PCC, and other members of the College’s leadership team got to work creating EmployeeConnect. And by using Cornerstone’s Learning and Connect solutions, Diaz was able to build, design and deploy the platform in less than 48 hours.

The team first made sure EmployeeConnect served as an informative resource for every member of PCC’s staff—meaning its remote workers as well as those still on-site like facilities personnel, campus police, payroll teams, and members of the finance department. They then outfitted the platform with context-rich content that’s applicable and relevant to everyone. Administrators shared posts like "Working During COVID-19" to explain what actions PCC was taking to keep its onsite workers safe and "Things Going on Around the District" to give an update on the construction of a new downtown campus.

The platform also serves as a repository for all of the College’s communications so that staff members never miss an update. Every new remote work policy or direction from HR is accessible via EmployeeConnect so that staff members can read or submit questions on these changes without sifting through emails.

Diaz and his team can also track how employees interact with the platform. By identifying popular posts and frequently asked questions, they determine which pain points are most common and update the site’s content accordingly. For instance, PCC added a section to EmployeeConnect dedicated to payroll because so many employees were submitting questions on the topic.

Fostering Connection and Offering Employees’ Support

PCC is using EmployeeConnect to do more than organize communications and provide clear updates: Like most companies and institutions, PCC is worried about how COVID-19 is affecting their workforce’s mental health. According to arecent study, nearly 7 in 10 employees believe the COVID-19 pandemic is the most stressful time of their entire professional career. Inanother poll, nearly half of Americans said that the coronavirus pandemic has harmed their mental health.

In addition to encouraging the use of their wellness benefits, PCC wanted to create connectivity among its employees and help socially distant personnel feel less alone during this particularly isolating experience. And with the EmployeeConnect platform, this kind of virtual and united community was quickly created.

The platform gives PCC’s workforce an opportunity to share and comment on their coronavirus-induced experiences through posts and comments. There’s content on where to shop for groceries, tips on balancing childcare and work, techniques for managing anxiety and indoor exercise routines for everyone to try. Administrators at PCC also share information on the College’s wellness benefits and encourage staff members to use them.

"Within the first few weeks of using the platform, people realized that there was value in this private online community," said Diaz. "They could contribute and talk about their worries in a private forum where they could be human, be themselves."

Opportunity For Professional Growth and Development

PCC also added professional development and skills training to its EmployeeConnect platform. Their goal is to not only help staff members navigate their new remote work environments, but to ensure every employee comes out of this crisis stronger and more prepared for the future.

As newly remote employees, PCC’s faculty and staff needed to develop certain hard and soft skills: For example, some had to learn how to use new technologies, like video conferencing and online meeting scheduling, for their now virtual classrooms. They’ve had to strengthen their leadership and emotional intelligence skills, too: In remote work environments, conversations are typed out, and meetings happen through a screen. This lack of in-person interactions makes it harder to pick up on social cues, understand someone’s moods or properly convey needs. PCC’s staff members needed training on how to lead in these scenarios and connect with students or co-workers, even if through a screen.

On EmployeeConnect, learning is delivered via playlists from Cornerstone’s Learning Solution—a format that proved highly effective for PCC’s staff. These collections of training and courses are organized by topic and skill-level, so employees can choose from beginner, intermediate or advanced. In practice, employees log onto the platform, find the section dedicated to the skills they need, choose their proficiency and start learning.

"With these curated playlists, our employees are learning in a Netflix-style format," explained Diaz. "This has made learning more effective. They can just scroll through collections of video to find the one they need and press play."

By creating learning content that’s easy to find and consume, PCC has set its employees up for future success. According to the numbers, staff members are now taking more courses: When the site launched in March, only 720 employees had completed their compliance training, so PCC added marketing to EmployeeConnect that drove users to "College Directed Training," a section of the site dedicated to compliance training. Since then, 468 more employees have finished the courses, pushing the completion number up to 1188 employees as of May 4th.

It’s also become clear that staff members will continue using the site to learn, connect and grow because they derive value from it. The platform’s user engagement is far above the industry standard: While average engagement levels for internal community websites like EmployeeConnect usually land around 0.09%, PCC has maintained a solid 13% for two months in a row.

Even after this crisis has ended, Diaz and his team expect to use the EmployeeConnect site as a place where PCC’s staff members can share experiences, improve themselves and learn new skills. This virtual internal community has brought more than organization and connection to people facing a difficult time—it has helped PCC build a pathway towards future growth and talent development.

The full session is available on-demand and includes many more tips and details on how EmployeeConnect has helped Pima Community College prepare for work during the COVID-19 crisis and for future growth after it. I hope you find it useful in helping make your work easier and more impactful.

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Alexander Mann Solutions wins Cornerstone OnDemands sponsored categories at the TIARA 2020 Talent Solutions Awards

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Alexander Mann Solutions wins Cornerstone OnDemands sponsored categories at the TIARA 2020 Talent Solutions Awards

Here at Cornerstone, we absolutely love to hear inspiring stories and share them far and wide, especially when they are about talent management! We were recently headline sponsors of the TIARA 2020 Talent Solutions Awards. These annual awards, hosted by TALiNT International, celebrate excellence across the RPO, MSP and Talent Solutions marketplace, and recognise the wonderful ways companies are demonstrating exemplary growth, innovation and leadership. For 2020, it was the usual great awards with a bit of a difference. As we know, everything has now moved online – even this year’s Convergence! But this didn’t seem to impact the TIARA Talent Solution Awards at all. Despite not being able to celebrate face-to-face, the event was filled with laughter, engagement, and most of all, lots of fun! This year, we also supported the Best Use of Technology Award as well as the Overall Winner. The winner – triumphing in both categories – could not be more deserving, and so we duly wanted to pass on our huge congratulations to Alexander Mann Solutions! Alexander Mann was awarded the Cornerstone OnDemand Best Use of Technology Award for their brilliant ‘Find Your Fit’ technology solution. The platform offers users personal preferences and assisted future growth through interactive videos, personalised one-to-one calls, and a dedicated platform to match skills with current roles within the organisation. The solution had 1,200 employees enrolling within just six months of implementation and is continuing to improve every day. Find Your Fit helps employees to understand how their organisation functions better, including the areas that are growing the most rapidly. In turn, this helps employees to develop the skills they need in order to take advantage of these developments to enhance not only their personal career progression, but overall business performance. After all, businesses don’t innovate, people do! The judges commended this entry for “the clear way in which an innovative technology solution clearly delivered in results”. The judges also applauded Alexander Mann for demonstrating customer care by really listening to client’s individual challenges and using inventive technology solutions to help design a custom built solution that helps to support the overall internal career options and pathways available to each organisation. The award was accepted virtually by Stephen Gordon, Recruitment Tech Lead at Talent Collective/AMS. In addition to being awarded Best Use of Technology, Alexander Mann was also recognised as this year’s overall winner of the Talent Solutions Awards. Chair of Judges, Jim Richardson highlighted that “the overall winner is based on the organisation that consistently demonstrates excellence and innovation across all of its activities”. Both Peoplescout and Guidant Global were highly commended by the judges for their brilliant work, but ultimately, Alexander Mann took home the award for demonstrating consistently high standards across all areas. Jim Richardson added that although Alexander Mann has the resources to support many initiatives, it has still managed to deliver consistently on large scale and complex global projects. This is a phenomenally impressive achievement that all of us at Cornerstone also wish to say a huge congratulations for! The other winners and nominees from this year’s TIARA Talent Solutions Awards have highlighted more excellent work and brilliant stories across the recruiting sector and HR community. For the full list of winners, check out the TALiNT International’s September/October 2020 edition here.

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It's been going on for a while now - the shift towards more agile and flexible companies that quickly can adapt to the fast-changing times of today. Organisations that are unable to make this move are gradually losing competitiveness and finding it more difficult to prove themselves against smaller and faster players. Those who recognise the need and are able to create new conditions for the business, in the form of new structures, will survive and flourish in tomorrow's economic reality. Agile HR can be viewed from two different angles; How HR should work together within the HR team and what / how HR should deliver value to the business for which they exist. All HR processes that are part of Talent and People Management will be different when you start working agile, and each of the processes have their specific tools and working methods. Here we will look at HR from a more general perspective, to get an overall understanding of how the HR role, and the corresponding deliverables, change in a company that wants to increase its business agility. The goal is to focus on creating better workplaces through the development of teams and individuals, throughout the whole organisation. Small and medium-sized companies are easier to change, as they have less hierarchical structures, and often a more decentralised business, where everyone has an ability to make the decisions that need to be made, locally rather than centrally. The larger and more complex a company is, the more systems, processes, and structures there are that cannot be easily and quickly changed. Although it is possible to change a department in the organisation, some issues might remain that forces the department back into the central structures. This happens because it is not possible to isolate a specific part of the business. You can compare it to an attempt to change a rubber ball. It changes when it is being squeezed, but when you let go, it quickly returns to its old shape. However, there is one functional department in most large organisations that can influence all the other parts at once – HR. In many large companies, HR controls; ● Leadership programs and development ● Change management ● Organisational development ● Employee engagement ● Employee training and skills development ● Rewards and bonuses ● Recruitment ● Goal setting and performance reviews ● Long term mix of employees All these processes or areas flow through the entire organisation. These are the structures that can support, or prevent, a more radical change towards a more agile company. It all depends on HOW we work with processes and programs. They can be developed in a way that, paradoxically, prevents performance and commitment. Or they can optimise performance and employee satisfaction. HR struggles with criticisms, it is accused of being some kind of "organisational police", which hinders performance and commitment by implementing Talent management processes in a way that was intended to increase the same. This needs to change. HR has been in the back seat for too long and now it is time to take responsibility for a change in how to support the organisation. Because it is about people, and relationships between people, this is the key to how the company performs as a whole. It is the system that fundamentally needs to change, not the people. We do not need to do more things or implement complicated frameworks and methods. Instead, we need to understand how we can make it easier for people to make their best contribution to the company, by providing supportive structures, instead of hindering structures. It is through more experiments and by trying different working methods, that one can find the best path for each organisation, and each team/individual. Here, the agile principles and the agile mindset serve as a guide. Agile tools and frameworks work sometimes, but not always. The only way to continually improve is through constant learning, which also means that we sometimes fail. Companies that learn faster than others, and turn that knowledge into new ways of working for employees, but also new products and services for external customers, gain a competitive advantage and will be the winner of the future. HR has the power and the ability to design the structures that aim to either support or make it harder for employees to contribute in creative and innovative ways. If HR sticks to the old, traditional ways of working, the consequence will be rigid and non-agile organisations that use inefficient systems and processes. HR can either hinder or support the change, so HR must show the way. By providing opportunities for alternative and more agile working methods, and by focusing on value creation and value flows for the internal and by extension also external customers, HR can lead companies through changes that no other department is capable of. The next blog chapter will dive into HR's changing role.

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