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HRIS at Harris: building a team to meet tomorrow's needs.

As the team lines up on the thirty-yard line, the crowd cheers for the last ten seconds of the Super Bowl. Sweat pours from the brow of the young quarterback. He throws a thirty-yard pass. It's complete--a touchdown. From behind, the competition tackles the quarterback and breaks his arm. The team's only quarterback is out for the next season. The team needs a new leader who can throw, hand off, and scramble. Does the team draft a new quarterback, or does it train one of its own 300-pound linemen for the job?

The answer may seem obvious. Selecting, developing, and training the right people, however, are the keys to winning in today's competitive environment. It takes more than just total quality management (TQM). Speed and lessons learned place an organization one game ahead of another. How quickly organizations can learn new behaviors, new skills, and new technologies, and how effectively it can learn from its successes and failures, largely depend on a human resources system that aligns employee behavior with organizational values and TQM principles.


Harris's integrated human resources system helps Harris and other companies hire the quarterbacks needed for success. Under a joint agreement with Development Dimensions International (DDI), a human resources consulting firm in Pittsburgh, Harris has developed an integrated human resources system--Touchstone(*)--to help management make more effective decisions about people. Touchstone is a software-based integrated human resources system that aids in the personnel selection process, generates a roadmap for development needs, provides detailed job analysis and records from an extensive database, and identifies performance dimensions required to do a job. Dimensions are job-relevant behaviors, motivations, specialized skills, and knowledge that fall into categories such as oral communication, planning, and judgment. The system translates corporate values into dimensions for employees at all levels.

"Touchstone is both a concept and a product," said Jack Mollen, vice president of Electronic Systems Sector (ESS) human resources. He began the concept at Harris's Communications Sector. Harris is a worldwide company focused on our major businesses: communications, electronic systems, semiconductors, and Lanier office systems. "Several Harris pilot sites such as Harris Space Systems Corporation (HSSC), Controls Division, and Government Communication Systems Division (GCSD) have utilized the |Touchstone~ concept in their selection and promotion system, their performance appraisal system, and in training and development." Touchstone has been so successful that other companies, such as Northern Telecom, National Westminster Bank, and Lancaster Laboratories have purchased the beta-release product and formed a users' group. The software will be ready for market in Spring 1994.


Four years ago, Harris took a new look at its human resources systems. We knew it was important that all of us share a common set of values about quality and be driven by a vision that helps direct our activities. We also need to receive consistent reinforcement for our behaviors. We were telling employees that teamwork is important, however, while our performance appraisal system was rewarding on an individual basis. We were also saying that continuous improvement was important, but we were not giving our employees enough training.

As Mollen discovered also, "Employee involvement teams felt that human resource systems were limiting TQM growth. Employees revealed that Harris's performance appraisal and development systems needed a major overhaul. A basic principle of human behavior is, if you know what is expected of you and you get feedback immediately, you are more likely to change your behavior. We were not giving people the feedback they needed, however."

Another key driving force for change was Harris's initiative to grow more of its own talent and promote from within. "When employees see jobs being given to outsiders," said Mollen, "the effects on the organization can be disastrous. It takes anywhere from six to fourteen months to fill a job, which can result in wide-scale disruption of the organization. And it is extremely expensive. Today we are filling well over 80 percent of our executive-level positions internally."


Two years ago, ESS human resources began solving problems by accelerating the learning process at its division pilot sites. Division values were first clarified, and then all systems were aligned with those values. Human resources took those values and translated them into dimensions for employees at all levels. Dimensions are determined by job content experts as a prioritized list of criteria essential for success in a job. "Nobody knows the job better than the person performing the job," said Mollen.

Dimensions chosen by job content experts for each job family help facilitate decisions in the following areas:

* Selection and promotion--ensuring that employees have the necessary dimensions by evaluating past behavior

* Performance management--enabling more accurate assessment and useful feedback

* Employee development--providing just-in-time (JIT) talent


If you want to accelerate the learning process, it's easier when you start off with good employees, identifying ahead of time the behaviors you are looking for.

Touchstone's targeted selection system selects applicants for a given position by targeting the dimensions/behaviors that best define the job. It then uses past behavior to predict future behavior.

When the hiring supervisor defines a requirement, the supervisor and human resources personnel select dimensions that are essential for success in the job from a job-dimension library. After the dimensions are selected, a series of questions are chosen from the database that interviewers will use during the interview process.


Once employees are on board, speed is critical. Employees need to quickly learn new skills. The Performance and Development Summary (PDS) process is a tool that speeds up the learning process. It changes vision into reality by focusing on key organizational results and the behaviors necessary to achieve those results. The system is a two-way process, in which both the supervisor and employee determine and agree on objectives and key results expected for the year ahead. Employees' involvement in the performance management process will enable them to see where the organization is going and how they can help get it there.

"Giving employees feedback on what they've accomplished and how they accomplished it is one of the main objectives in developing Touchstone," said Tony Bartolini, human resources director of GCSD, one of the first divisions at Harris to install PDS. "How employees accomplish results was something that was difficult to measure in the past. With the new human resources system, we are able to pinpoint behaviors and skills required for employees to support corporate values. And we can now say, yes, you are using the right behaviors, or, maybe you should use some different behaviors or skills to achieve results," he added.


The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but effective management is developing people through work. Touchstone's accelerated development planning empowers employees to develop themselves and provide managers with tools to help facilitate the process. It accelerates the growth of employees. It helps talented employees overcome a potentially fatal flaw. It helps employees face a major change. Most importantly, it provides JIT talent that provides the speed necessary in today's competitive marketplace.

For each dimension, a list of developmental skills exists. For example, if an employee was rated low in oral communications, then the employee and his or her supervisor would plan activities to develop skills for this dimension. One development activity is a flash card system to record new words and their definitions as they are discovered in daily reading.

"You need to either improve knowledge or improve performance," said Bartolini. "Training takes care of the deficiency in knowledge. The job we have in front of us is putting together development actions to develop people on or off the job. Sometimes it is hard to improve behaviors on the job. For example, a lead engineer may have difficulty showing patience with lower-level engineers. A suggestion may be to manage a little league team or become the treasurer of a church."

Training can be a powerful building block for a foundation of understanding and skills that will help the organization reach business goals. Training is no longer just nice to have. These days, it's a must-have.

If you are serious about total quality and continuous improvement, at some point in the journey you must adjust the human resources system. Human resources can help you change your culture or stifle its growth.


The new system speeds up the learning process. It changes vision into reality by focusing on key organizational results and the behaviors necessary to achieve these results. Exhibit 1 summarizes benefits resulting in the area of employee selection.

To test the new process, pilot groups were set up at Controls and Composition Division (HCCD), Harris Space Systems Corporation (HSSC), and Melbourne Division's Support Operations (MDSO), and with the new performance and development forms and a set of instructions in hand, the groups were asked to experiment, gather opinions from both managers and employees, and recommend any needed modifications.

Looking back on his division's experience, Roy Valdes, vice president-general manager, HCCD, now believes that the new dimensions are the key. "Only through appropriate dimensions, or behaviors, will results be achieved. The dimensions used as part of PDS at Controls and Composition reflect the emphasis we place on customer satisfaction, TQM, and other drivers that help us implement the ten principles of our division credo."

At HSSC, Bill McCaslin, vice president, programs, has concluded that PDS gives management a better perspective on performance. "We have found that using a common set of dimensions for all our people gives us a better, more balanced view of our team. Also, the peer reviews provide feedback not previously available to employees. The new system does take longer for the supervisors to TABULAR DATA OMITTED prepare, but I think it's a better system." Exhibit 2 summarizes results and employee reactions in the area of performance management.

At MDSO's computing, telecommunications and systems department, director Don Adee gives PDS credit for its objectivity, incentives, and reinforcement. "The new system provides a means to objectively evaluate results on an equal footing with methods," he said, "and then supplies an incentive and positive reinforcement for the behaviors we find desirable. So far the concept has been well-received."

Rick Simonian, lead software engineer at HSSC, has participated as both a reviewer and as one being reviewed. "I'm very pleased with the new direction this system is taking," he said, "especially with the new emphasis on peer reviews and process dimensions instead of just results achieved."

To date, surveys have shown a widespread acceptance of PDS. Ninety-four percent of all respondents said that goal-setting facilitates performance. Eighty-three percent said PDS improves communication between managers and employees. Eighty-six percent said it facilitates individual performance.

In addition to redesigning the performance appraisal system, ESS also began piloting an integrated human resource system, which overhauled three primary processes: employee selection and promotion, training and development, and performance management.

We have known for some time that the best results are obtained when interrelated and coordinated elements are dealt with as a system rather than as single, independent elements. Many companies are talking about it, but Harris has gone beyond rhetoric. We have made great progress in redesigning our human resources systems to support our values and stakeholder objectives.

* Touchstone is a registered trademark.

Exhibit 1

Employee Selection

* Benefits

* Reduce interviewer time

* Lower turnover and increase performance (reduce learning time)

* Lower team disruption by use of peer interview

* Focus training/development investment

* Higher offer/acceptance ratio by making a more positive impression on applicants

* Improve hire-from-within rate

Results (to Date) Selection

* Executive promotion from within 70%

* 8 internal hires directly due to competencies ($800,000 savings)

* Reduce interview time for engineering new grad openings (thus far saving $4,147)

* Higher quality

* Managers: 88% agree or strongly agreed with "using dimensions improves my ability to make a good selection decision."

Exhibit 2

Performance Management

* Objective

* Improve employee performance through feedback and development

* Tool

* Performance and Development Summary (PDS)

* Philosophy

* Continuous improvement goals can best be achieved through feedback and development
Results: Performance Management

Reactions from Managers               Agree or Strongly Agree

  * The PDS process improves                      88%
communication between
managers and employees

  * Dimensions are useful in                      92%
discussing developmental

  * The PDS process facilitates the               86%
improvement of individual

Reactions from Employees              Agree or Strongly Agree

  * I have a better understanding                 93%
about what is important for
my development

  * I better understand the Harris                78%

  * I feel more involved in the                   91%
appraisal process

  * Harris is more committed to                   94%
my personal development.

Terry Geraghty is director of organizational development for Harris Electronics Systems in Melbourne, Florida, which focuses on key technology relating to customer information, processing, and communication systems. He is responsible for management and executive development, training, employee communications, employee development, and is responsible for ensuring that the various human resources systems at Harris maximize the effectiveness of the company's total quality management initiative. He is an active member of ASTD (American Society of Training and Development), served as president of the Space Coast Chapter from 1988 to 1989, and is also an adjunct faculty member at the Florida Institute of Technology where he teaches in the Personnel Psychology and MBA programs.
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Title Annotation:Harris Electronics Systems
Author:Geraghty, Terry
Publication:Employment Relations Today
Date:Sep 22, 1993
Previous Article:HRIS can improve performance, empower and motivate "knowledge workers." (human resources information system)
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