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ESS Benefits and Speed Bumps

July 1, 1998
Related Topics: HR Services and Administration, Featured Article, Benefits
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According to the Gartner Group, a consulting firm based in Stamford, Connecticut, organizations are attracted to employee self-service (ESS) for three major reasons:

  1. Timeliness/Accuracy:
    Employees are the first to know about changes in address, beneficiary and benefits' enrollment. Because they're impacted by the timeliness of record changes, employees perform faster, more accurate updates.
  2. Productivity:
    Redundancy of traditional HR record updates is eliminated. Employees no longer have to complete a form and wait for HR to duplicate entry into the HR system.
  3. HR Value-Add:
    HR has time to focus on core activities, such as advising management and employees, and participating in strategic planning.

But the Gartner Group also found that organizations face three major obstacles that can derail an ESS implementation:

  1. Organizational Culture:
    The most frequently overlooked factor in ESS implementation is cultural impact, for both HR staff and employee base. Users should address the following issues in implementation: management concerns about the transfer of responsibility to employees, data accuracy, employee reaction and cost issues; HR concerns about displacement, new responsibilities, and backlash from employees; and employee concerns about new responsibilities.
  2. Training:
    Just because your ESS system is accessible doesn't mean it will be widely used right from the start. Employees typically are nervous about taking responsibility for their records. Train key personnel before rollout to provide plenty of skilled "veterans" to help employees. Provide "hotlines" during rollout to improve satisfaction.
  3. Communication:
    Lack of a solid communication plan will negatively impact ESS projects. Give ample explanation of the project, including positive messages about expected benefits and success stories from other organizations. Plan a "kick-off" event with "hands-on" time and appropriate staffing to answer questions. Survey and report results after project rollout.

SOURCE:The Gartner Group, Stamford, Connecticut, July 1998.

Workforce, July 1998, Vol. 77, No. 7, p. 63.

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