In two years, McData tripled its number of employees, from fewer than 300 tomore than 1,000. As a result, the HR team had to re-evaluate the processes theyused to manage employee data and find ways to do more with less, says DebMorton, director of business systems. "We needed to drive non-essential costsout of the business so we could be more efficient."
The company’s HR processes depended heavily on spreadsheets and paperrecords. Résumés and employee files were maintained in hard copy, and theemployee roster and workers’ compensation information were tracked onspreadsheets. Employee paperwork was frequently lost, and data inaccuracy led topayroll going to the wrong departments and employees appearing in the wrong costcenters. The company didn’t want to add more people to the HR department, butthe existing team of three HR reps, two administrators, two trainers, and a vicepresident was overwhelmed by the work, and errors in employee data werewidespread.
It was not uncommon for employees to have three different social securitynumbers recorded in three different databases, Morton says, and because of thelegacy system’s limited reporting capability, managers could not trackchanges. "Because the information had to be entered manually into eachseparate system, there was incorrect and inconsistent data all over the place."
The need to combine greater accuracy with less effort led them to the idea ofemployee self-service. "It just makes sense for employees to enter their owndata directly," Morton says.
Already a client of Oracle, they implemented the software vendor’s HRself-service application and immediately saw improvements in their processes.Once all of the HR documents had been moved online, routing time for documentapproval shrank dramatically. Instead of paperwork being sent throughinter-office mail to be approved by managers who are often out of town for daysat a time, now it is e-mailed so anyone can sign off on documents from anywherethere is Internet access, she says. That means that approval of employeedocuments, such as a promotion or a salary change, which used to take two tothree weeks to complete, now takes two days.
And because the data is entered directly online by employees, the amount ofpaperwork handled by Morton’s team has been reduced by 80 percent, allowingher to avoid hiring six new people to manage the growing workload. Accuracy hasalso improved significantly now that fewer people handle the data.
Along with saving money, the self-service system has given management abetter overview of its resources, allowing them to act more tactically, sheadds. They now have up-to-the-minute employee data on such things as head count,training, and employee review details. "Having access to this kind ofinformation enables them to make more effective decisions for the company."
For the most part, employees supported the transition to self-service. Morton’sgroup marketed the switch through e-mails and the newsletter but offered littletraining. The only push-back they received was from a few engineering folksconcerned about privacy, she says. "They were afraid that someone could usethe refresh button on the browser-based application to access their personaldata," she says. The fear was unfounded. Once data is taken off a screen, itcan’t be refreshed, she says. "Once we put their minds to rest, theyaccepted the technology."
Selling managers on self-service, which will be rolled out by early 2003, hasbeen tougher than winning the support of employees, she adds. "In the past itwas easy to blame HR when information got lost or was incorrect. We were theconvenient scapegoats." Now managers will be expected to complete such tasksas online performance appraisals, status changes, promotions, and hiring andfiring documentation.
Managers have been reluctant to undertake this responsibility, but Morton andher team have met with them on several occasions to help ease the transition. Instaff meetings, lunch-and-learns, and computer-based training sessions, they’veintroduced the managers to the new system, answered their questions, andimpressed upon them how cost-effective self-service can be. "Everyone here isvery cost-conscious," she says. "As we point out the benefit self-servicebrings to the organization, the managers begin to accept it."
Workforce, January 2003, p. 62 -- Subscribe Now!