Outreach. The government requires that you do it in order to participate in government contracts, but how do you find the time and the tools to effectively document anything you’re doing? How do you start building a program that may not even exist and THEN get buy-in from other teams and key stakeholders to not only support but participate?

Any time a new action is required, employers work to establish a new process to support that requirement. Many start from scratch, while a few are lucky enough to already have a foundation in place they can build from. The bottom line: whether a process is built or not, employers want the magic sauce. What’s the secret recipe to building a new process that is efficient, accepted and supported by their company?

Many of you are familiar with the Partner Relationship Manager (PRM), a product included in membership with DirectEmployers Association. It’s an application that allows unlimited users at a Member company to document their interactions with partners in their pursuit of veteran and disability job seekers. You may be thinking, “Really? Another system to learn? I don’t have time for that.”

Well, keep reading…

Introducing, Ashley Herman, Senior Employee Relations Consultant with ONEOK. ONEOK, a government contractor, was and is in the same boat as other companies facing the need to launch and support an outreach program targeting veterans and individuals with disabilities. When talking with Ashley, she will freely admit that the process was daunting at first. “The most difficult part for me was learning the compliance piece, while also learning a new system and trying to clean up and catch up,” Ashley says. Documentation of any outreach activity was inconsistent, “disorganized and haphazard.”

Once Ashley had a solid understanding of the outreach required as part of the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) and Section 503, she was able to begin the process of building the new outreach and documentation process.

For ONEOK, the initial step was to identify what they were currently doing for outreach. Many government contractors may be surprised to learn that they are doing lots of connecting already, it just isn’t being documented. For Ashley and her team at ONEOK, this was the easiest part of the outreach build-out process. “Taking assessment of what we already do. Looking at our processes that we take for granted and asking, Is this outreach? Does this activity demonstrate our commitment to hiring a diverse workforce? If so, let’s log it,’” Ashley says decisively. Her team came to the conclusion that even if the communication didn’t relate to a specific requisition, it still needs to be recorded. For example, ONEOK has Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that frequently interact in the community. She and her team decided that is outreach and realized that they were truly doing more than they thought they were.

For ONEOK, organization and standardization were two key elements that would help this process live on and remain balanced. But, in a system that everyone has access to, how do you eliminate the possibility of human error? How do you create consistency when there is the potential for total chaos? Simple. You can eliminate the chaos and keep things organized by using these two features: Tag Management and Single User Logging. The Partner Relationship Manager has a tag feature so users can create tags (similar to hashtags seen on social media) to group partners and records that are similar together. For ONEOK, it was key for them to use tags to record the type of partner, Diversity & Inclusion events, Community events, and a tag for the outreach owner. Now, with one click, Ashley can see all of the veteran outreach at ONEOK. She can search and see how many records are being added by each employee, allowing her the ability to keep a good handle on any areas of opportunity that present themselves and even recognize exceptional work.

To keep documentation consistent, Ashley made the decision to funnel all data entry through her. She notes that while it may be overwhelming at times, she knows that this will result in better recordkeeping and ultimately better OFCCP compliance evaluation support if and when the time comes. “It’s just a commitment that I had to make, and sometimes, that means I get a random stack of paper laid on my desk that needs to be entered, but that’s ok. That’s why I am here–to ensure our compliance.” Ashley went on to say, “The PRM tool gives me a place to store all the documentation and gives me peace of mind that in the event of an audit, I won’t be chasing people down to compile our outreach after receiving a scheduling letter.”

After working with so many Members who experience the same challenges, we know that building and supporting an outreach process is daunting. We also know, that while DirectEmployers provides exceptional training, we still don’t sit in your chair and experience your day-to-day events. This is why we wanted to feature a relatable story from Ashley and her team at ONEOK. They are doing the outreach and using the PRM to document it. The best part about the PRM: It’s already included in membership. If you are staring at this elephant and aren’t sure what to do, Ashley asks that you consider this, “Just do it, don’t wait until you have perfect plan or system in place. Document what you are already doing and if it isn’t working, try something new.”

Ashley has much more to share on the PRM and how her team uses the application. For more information and how they tackled such a large project, Members can view the recorded PRM webinar in the Connect Community. Be sure to register to attend DirectEmployers 2019 Annual Meeting & Conference (DEAM19) in Naples, FL, to connect with other members facing the same challenges as you. If you aren’t currently a Member, and would like a full demo of the capabilities of not only the PRM tool, but our membership, fill out this form to schedule a short demo!

Jen Bernhardt is Director of Membership Engagement at DirectEmployers Association. Known for her high-energy and motivated personality, Jen has been assisting and educating Members of the Association on VEVRAA and Section 503 OFCCP compliance regulations for over six years. Full Bio »

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