Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative, Inc., (CHELCO) is a not-for-profit electric distribution cooperative employing more than 150 people and serving more than 53,000 accounts in Walton, Okaloosa, Holmes and Santa Rosa counties in Northwestern Florida.
The co-op used a payroll system to maintain HR records as best it could for many years. It was an add-on to a financial information system still in use by the rest of the organisation, a suite of programs created specifically for electric utility cooperatives.
Unfortunately, this system was unable to meet their needs. The cooperative owns and maintains over 4,100 miles of power lines, including those on Eglin Air Force Base - making them a defense contractor with additional regulatory requirements. Their old system just couldn’t keep pace.
Susan Neumans Van Buren, Manager of Human Resources and Training, had a lengthy list of features the cooperative was looking for in an HCM solution by the time they had narrowed down a list of six possible vendors to three. But, they didn’t anticipate what would become one of their favorite features - Carrier Connect.
Criterion’s Carrier Connect captures the employee’s benefit information such as dependents and plan choices directly from the employee. After a review by an HR generalist, the information can be sent to the benefit providers directly with a click. Now those routine tasks are streamlined, and CHELCO’s HR department has time to tend to more important tasks and provide employees better service.
"The Carrier Connect feature was not even something I knew to look for. When Criterion came in for a demonstration they talked about how much easier it makes entering, changing and managing benefits."
Criterion has also created customization to fill other unique needs, such as to help the co-op move their Paid Time Off data out of their old payroll system and into the new one. The team at Criterion also helped CHELCO get their 1095 reporting system—made more challenging because the cooperative is self-insured through a consortium of electric coops—down to literally a push of a button.
"That’s the way it should be. Now when there is a new hire, the codes go with the position and will automatically populate all the job-specific stuff."
“The first year there were some hiccups,” Van Buren said. “But before it was an ordeal because so much of the process that is now integrated was manual.”
Other benefits include a simple process for handling annual salary increases and capturing relevant information directly from the employee such as changes of address, bank info, and W4 form updates. The workers compensation activity log allows restricted access but makes it so anyone on her team with that access can find a status very quickly, without any manual logs.
Another time-saver was Criterion’s ability to accommodate the co-op’s need to track family disaster plans for each employee, which are updated annually. It also helps to organize their disaster team, whose job it is to do minor mitigation for CHELCO employees after a disaster, such as boarding up broken windows, so the employees are free to do the job of restoring power.
“Because we live in a hurricane-prone area, we need all hands on deck to restore power after a storm. In their family disaster plan, employees identify their emergency contacts and who will evacuate or care for dependent children or others requiring special care.”
“Having that information allows us to know what supplies are required should we need to do these minor interventions. This data used to be all on paper. Criterion has functionality that will pull the data collected and put it in a spreadsheet with a click of a few buttons instead of having to have someone type it up.”