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Developing a Human Resources Web Site

April 27, 2001
Related Topics: Intranets/Extranets, Featured Article
Progressive corporations are quickly taking note of the publicity that theInternet receives. The popularity of this form of communication has led to atrend within companies: the development of "intranets," or privateinternal company Web sites.

    Intranets present information and applications relatively free of hardwareconstraints of the past. Management is taking advantage of intranets for thevalue they provide to business. This article offers some common sense advice ondeveloping the human resources presence on the intranet.

    In many instances, human resources has led the way in recognizing andenabling the many advantages of a secure intranet. Maintaining online employeereference materials (e.g., policies, procedures and newsletters) saves time andcuts costs for HR.

    Unfortunately, there is not always a good understanding of what the intranetis capable of, nor the amount of work involved in maintaining a Web site.Building a user-friendly (not more than three clicks to get to the in-formation)andfunctional intranet takes time, effort and expertise. Having a team ofindividuals with computer skills and an understanding of the complexity of humanresources is essential for a successful HR intranet.

    At the Mayo Clinic, the HR intranet site is widely used by management andemployees alike, with ongoing improvements constantly being developed. Thisarticle looks at the process Mayo used with its site development. Afterdescribing the organization, Mayo's implementation is reviewed. Finally, weoffer some guiding principles used by Mayo and recommendations for otherswishing to create an HR intranet.

The Mayo Clinic experience
    The Mayo Foundation is one of the largest medical group practices in theworld. With sites in Rochester, Minnesota, Jacksonville, Florida and Scottsdale,Arizona, Mayo employs some 2,116 salaried staff physicians and scientists, 1,572medical residents and 28,500 allied health employees. Mayo Clinic occupies about12 million square feet -- 2 ½ times the size of the Mall of America.

    In addition, the Mayo Health System is a network of clinics and hospitals in55 communities in southern Minnesota, northern Iowa and western Wisconsin. Thesystem includes 500 physicians, 7,600 allied health staff and 13 hospitals withalmost 900 beds.

    Mayo has a three-part mission -- delivering excellent patient care, conductingworld-class biomedical research and educating future physicians and alliedhealth practitioners to serve patients from around the world. Given theorganization's size, diversity of functions and professional nature,opportunities for intranet development and application abound.

    Mayo's HR intranet began as an idea shared by HR leaders who saw promise inthis new technology. The first group, comprised of HR specialists, designed abasic HR intranet site. A college intern helped code the Web pages.

    Initially, this startup site included only a few HR policy and proceduremanuals. Later, a new team was formed, including HR specialists and computerprogrammers, to aggressively move the HR intranet toward a more completeimplementation. The team determined what to put on the Web and identified theresources and priorities associated with each entity.

    As the team was forming its strategy, another team started developingemployee self-service processes for both Interactive Voice Response (IVR) andthe Web. Though separate, the work of both groups was beginning to overlap andmanagement decided to merge the two teams into one, with content owners becomingmembers of the steering team. Based on wide usage by employees and ease ofimplementation, Web applications were selected.

    To evaluate site value, teams solicited user feedback and metrics tracked thelevel of usage. In the next year, the team saw more than a tenfold increase inthe number of users each week. About 45 percent of all intranet usage iscurrently HR-related and about two-thirds of the users use the site in any givenmonth.

    It is interesting to note that the team did not see a significant usageincrease until current users were surveyed regarding their needs and interests.Although there was minimal marketing, when users received feedback, the userbase grew largely by word of mouth. From the HR department's perspective,offering policy manuals on the Web might have been the first easy step, but thiswas not instituted when they discovered that few people regularly look at policymanuals.

    The most-requested item was easy access to internal job openings. Once thisinformation was available on the intranet, usage increased dramatically.Employees visited the site for the job openings, and then noticed the otheritems that had been incrementally added to the site. Some of the items includeda career center, a staff "activity" newsletter, investment informationand some employee self-service transactions, such as changing payrollinformation and personal data. When employees could view personal time cardsonline, usage increased again.

    The future of Mayo's HR intranet looks bright. The organization has developeda team dedicated to giving employees easy access to HR information. The nextgoal is to expand the self-service offerings, adding management tools that willincorporate workflow and electronic signature capabilities.

    More Mayo employees are starting their browsers first thing in the morning.HR intranet developers expect content will soon be tailored automatically toindividuals based upon roles in the company. For example, a change in EEO lawswould be updated electronically to the browsers in the diversity office as soonas those laws are published.

    Eventually, the browser may become the user's desktop with word processors,spreadsheets and other applications functioning only through the browser.Intranet developers must get ahead of the curve and start providingindividualized content that keeps employees using the Web site daily.

    A successful site takes time, resources and effort. Success can be assured ifthere is adequate time to grow the site and gain the needed technologicalexpertise. Getting the right people to balance the needs of employees andbusinesses provides a solid foundation for continued site usage. Organizationscan't be afraid to add staff to develop and maintain a successful site.

    The additional costs of staff can be offset by aggregate cost avoidance andby leveraging the technological opportunities the intranet presents. Theintranet can become one of the primary tools for human resources to transactbusiness and communicate with employees, freeing HR staff to work moreeffectively and efficiently.

By Jay Fernández, an IT liaison in the HR department at Mayo, and Dr. Bijoy K. Khandheria, a cardiologist who chairs Mayo's information and technology group. Mr. Khandheria can be reached at From IHRIM's "e-Work Architect: How HR Leads the Way Using theInternet."

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