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Getting Employee_Manager Self-Service to Work for You

September 24, 2000
Related Topics: Benefit Design and Communication, Featured Article
Human resource departments over the past decade have been undergoing atransformation. What used to be an "overhead" department in mostcompanies is now being charged to become a strategic partner in corporatesuccess.

This shift has made it necessary for the HR staff to shed administrativefunctions in order to focus on ways to become an essential business partner inthe organization. This has given rise to the concept of "employee/managerself-service."

In a nutshell, it's giving managers and employees the ability to do certainHR-related administrative functions that were once done for them. These itemsrange from the simple address change to compensation planning. There are manyexamples of employee/manager self-service:

  • Automated benefits enrollmentusing voice response or web-enabled technology

  • Employee demographic changes(e.g., name, address, dependent information) through workstations orkiosks.

  • Online performance review andcompensation planning, allowing manager to make paperless changes toemployee information.

  • Online application and resumeacceptance and tracking.

Today's HR systems are loaded with all sorts of self-service bells andwhistles that have HR managers drooling at the possibilities. But if you'rethinking that giving employees and managers "the keys to the car"will immediately lighten your workload (as well as your HR budget),think again!

While some may argue that employee/manager self-service comes at asignificant systems cost that is hard to justify, the real challenge comes inmanaging the cultural shift with the employees. A successful transformation toself-service will involve ample lead time, a lot of communication and dependingon your employees, a lot of hand holding.

As with most projects, moving to a self-service environment involves thefour main tenets of organizational theory: planning, organizing, leading andcontrolling.


  • Understand your audience.Many companies that want a self-service concept put the cart before thehorse -- or the system before the employee, in this case. Training andcommunication are absolutely essential to self-service success. How welldo your employees respond to change? What types of education initiatives(e.g., classroom, newsletter, one-on-one) work well with your employees?How technologically savvy are your employees to accept the latest IVR orweb-based applications? Do you have multiple shifts or multiracial issuesto consider? Preparing your employees for change will go a long waytowards making the systems issues run smoothly.

  • Establish a reasonableschedule for rollout. It is not uncommon for a company to purchase anew HRMS or put in interactive technology and then turn them loose. Thetruth is, people, in general, don't like change and taking a trustedprocess and moving it into "technospace" sends chills down mostemployees' spines. The best plan of action is to start out small and buildupon the little successes. Put your company policy manual or benefit plandescriptions on your company intranet or Web site. Employees can't changeanything and it gets them used to finding information without the "HRumbilical chord."


  • Staff up for change.If you're going from a paper benefits enrollment to either voice responseor web-based enrollment, make sure you have enough staff in the first yearto answer phone calls, do one-on-one's with employees and handle dataglitches that can occur. In addition, develop manager champions who buyinto the self-service concept and will be able to help staff employees whoare having difficulty.

  • Communicate early andoften. If possible, use a single department as a test pilot for thetype of system you'll be putting into place (i.e., testing an IVR script).You may even want to conduct a focus group to determine what issues mayneed more education than others. Written communications should complementthe new process, not replace it. Remember -- if the process isn'tself-explanatory, you'll have a harder time getting employee's to acceptand use it.


  • Motivate for change.You can expect all kinds of reactions to self-service initiatives. Somepeople will embrace their new freedom with an air of efficiency andpersonal time savings, while others, especially "technophobes,"will see it as an opportunity to mess up their information. Staff in theHR department can be apprehensive too because of the threat to dataintegrity. Once you've planned and tested a good system, take the time toexplain the benefits of the self-service concept and the ease of use inusing the new system. You may even want to entice your employees to usethe system by offering a chance at a giveaway, such as a plum parkingspot, an extra day of vacation, or a TV.

  • Be there for youremployees. During the rollout of your new system, be visible for youremployees. Set up a display in a prominent employee location (e.g.,cafeteria, lobby) where you can show off a live example of yourself-service model. You may even want to have in-services for yourmanagers so that they can assist you in helping employees, especially ifyou are geographically diverse.


  • Verify data integrity.Although testing has been completed on the system you are implementing,you should always incorporate some type of confirmation mechanism back tothe employee to ensure the data is correct. Most benefits enrollment or401(k) enrollment systems from third-party vendors provide automatedconfirmations sent to the employee. A similar system should be in placefor internal changes within the HRMS, whether it be at the point of thechange (i.e., onscreen prompt to verify changes) or a confirmationstatement by e-mail that is auto-generated by the HRMS. Be sure to alsoverify downstream data integrity to insurance carriers and otherthird-party systems.

  • Follow-up with employeesand managers. Conduct periodic focus groups or surveys of employees todetermine the level of acceptance for the new system or any problemspeople have with using the system. Your goal is to have employees usingthe system without coming to the HR office, so any employee discontentneeds to be dealt with immediately.

Remember that the whole concept of self-service relies upon the employee ormanager. Properly managing their expectations and successes will reap thelong-term benefits you desire.

For more on employee self-service, there are articles in the Research Center andvendor product listings in the technologysection of Workforce Tools and in the softwaresection.

Recent Articles by William Dickmeyer, CEBS

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