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Resource center cuts through red tape

To improve efficiency, Human Resources has begun consolidating the transactions of three of its departments-recruitment, rewards and recognition, and benefits-into a new centralized location, the Human Resources Information Center, located in the Erwin Mill complex on Main Street.

The HRIC was formed in response to a series of complaints about the speed and efficiency at which Human Resources transactions were taking place, especially in getting new employees on the payroll.

"The hiring process at Duke is really involved and very complex," said Beverly Abbot, associate management coordinator for the Hospital. She said transactions occurred in many steps and were spread out through many departments.

Often, customers said they could not find their own transactions. "Things were very inefficient before, and it didn't make you feel good," said Aida Nichols, human resources manager for the Hospital pharmacy. "We kept copies [of our paperwork] all the time [before sending it out to Human Resources]."

The staff of the new center comprises human resources specialists who are trained to operate in every department so that they will be able to answer questions and conduct business in all departments of the HRIC. The specialists, seven of whom came from the three Human Resources departments, began their training with a trip to the Disney Institute in Orlando, Fla., where the group worked on team-building and customer service skills for two-and-a-half days.

The center has been up and running since Nov. 1, but it is still undergoing many improvements. Initially, a telephone customer service center was staffed by one operator who handled nearly 280 calls a day. Now, callers are greeted with a menu of eight options, and three operators are available to take questions. When an employee is unavailable to take a call, an e-mail tracking system sends an automatic e-mail with the caller's concern and contact information to the employee.

Response to the center, as measured by unsolicited e-mails and surveys, has been mostly positive, said Nancy Sutter, business manager of human resources. However, the HRIC is not finished.

There are plans to improve the walk-in center of the HRIC, which is used by 75 to 100 employees everyday to obtain information about benefits and job offerings or to speak with a specialist. The center also provides two computer kiosks where customers may work on resumes or apply for jobs online.

Starting Feb. 26, there will also be a bilingual specialist in the HRIC. Previously, there was only one Spanish-speaking employee out of the 24 staff in the main Human Resources building. The final stage of technological upgrading will occur in August when a new computer system will put all of the HRIC's functions online, eliminating much of the paperwork.

Abbot said that although there is a learning curve in the development of a new center, "the potential is there for it to be a big improvement"

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