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Best Practices of HR Portals

Thirteen reminders about self-service, site branding, usability, content ownership, and customization.

July 18, 2002
Related Topics: Intranets/Extranets

 Here are some suggestions from companies that have been successful getting a portal up and running.

    1. Insure usability. Design your site as an “employee-centric” site, which means that accessibility and functionality from the end user’s standpoint are central to all design decisions. New tools and applications should be user-friendly, easy-to-navigate and intuitive. Review frequently-asked-questions and other employee feedback. Solicit input and support from all functions in the organization to ensure that customer needs are heard. Without input, self-service efficiencies will be diminished and there will be more frustration, workarounds and calls to HR. With input, the HR department will get “buy-in” and there will be broad ownership.

2. Facilitate communication between technical and content people. People who work in close physical proximity tend to get to know and understand each other better. Move the IT people, who develop applications for HR, to the same office as their HR customers. Another approach is to designate “business area liaisons” from IT to actively participate in HR business, including attending HR staff meetings. The more that technical people intimately understand HR initiatives, the more appropriate will be the technological solutions they suggest.

3. Perform rapid prototyping. Devise a simple prototype of an HR module, implement it, and then work with end users to expand the functionality of the system. Using a fast and simple start with your strategy is better than staying in the design phase for years. It is also more impressive to executives and employees.

4. Personalize or customize wherever possible. For example, you might organize your benefits site according to demographic profiles, which helps employees in specific situations or stages of life make better use of their entire benefits package. The site might allow the employee to review benefit options related to a single person, someone with children, or an employee nearing retirement. Differences in benefits and policies at different plant locations may also require customization of content by location.

5. Create and follow a clear, step-by-step implementation approach. First, make sure that your strategic plan for automation aligns with HR goals and your company’s overall strategy. Then, rather than rolling out everything on your intranet all at once, a stair-step approach gives employees time to learn the new system piece-by-piece. Introduction of new tools keeps them coming back.

6. Develop a process for content ownership and updating. If users detect that the site isn’t being regularly updated, they are unlikely to continue using the system. There should be a well-defined process by which content leaders update Web information. One approach is to send an e-mail message to users who wish to be notified that a module has been updated, along with a hyperlink to the revised module. This subscription service assures users that they will be informed when something changes.

7. Evaluate processes before automating them. Instead of automating an inefficient process, reengineer it and then automate it. Promote ownership of new approaches by creating a cross-functional task force with representatives from all areas of the organization to participate in planning and implementation. Pay attention to aspects of the organization’s culture that are needed to support improved processes and new technology.

8. Provide “self-service” access for everyone. If employees do not have access to their own PC or kiosk-based PCs, an IVR (interactive voice response) system may be necessary. Mobile employees who do not have network availability and use modems may need a text-only version of the HR Web that provides relief from long download times. Consider making it possible for employees to access the intranet from home.

9. “Advertise” new content. Be creative in introducing new features. One way to do this is to organize a contest with prizes to raise employee interest. Another way is to let the intranet market itself by spreading announcements throughout Web space with cross-linked sites.

10. “Brand” your site. Give your HR site a name and identity to help employees perceive it as the “go to” place. Make the Web the authoritative source for HR information.

11. Develop ways to attract and retain talented Web designers. Web interface design is a hybrid of communication, industrial design, and technology. The process is more complicated than many companies imagine and people with the right combination of skills and experience are in short supply.

12. Make this the only game in town. If you want people to use online transactional capabilities, take away alternatives. For example, if you want employees to enroll in benefits online, take away the traditional paper enrollment process.

13. Create a fallback resource. For employees experiencing difficulty using the Intranet, set up a “help desk” to answer questions about Web tools and features and to direct them to needed Web information. Based on the kinds of questions employees have, help-desk staff can make recommendations for improvements to Web applications and organization.

SOURCE: Reprinted with permission from “e-HR: Best Practices in Human Resources Service Delivery,” Watson Wyatt Data Services. For more information, visit or call 201/843-1177.

Workforce Online, July 2002 -- Register Now!

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