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Three Stories of Self-Service Success

HR fights back against paperwork, expense, and errors by instituting employee and manager self-service systems. Most employees love it immediately. It might take the managers a little longer to adjust.

December 31, 2002
Related Topics: Benefit Design and Communication, Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS/HRIS), Intranets/Extranets
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For decades, even the most experienced HR professionals have been forced tospend much of their time doing tedious data-entry tasks and fielding supportcalls. Because of the mountains of paperwork that flow into HR departments everyday, there is little opportunity to focus on critical human-managementinitiatives. A recent Forrester Research study found that, on average, HRmanagers spend nearly 80 percent of every day administering employee benefitsand answering routine questions.

    It’s a poor use of the HR team’s expertise, but because of paper-basedinformation-management processes, there’s been no way to avoid thesetasks--until now. Many medium-sized and large companies are upgrading their HRmanagement systems, adding self-service capabilities that will forever changethe roles of the HR team. Self-service puts the responsibility for manyinformation-management tasks, such as filing change-of-address forms andcompleting benefits enrollment, in the hands of employees, dramatically reducingthe amount of time that HR staffers spend on administrative tasks. It frees themto focus their energy on achieving more strategic goals for the company, such asreducing turnover and developing skills inventories. It can also enablecompanies to deliver the same HR services using fewer people.


"If a company wants to take better advantage of the skills of HR professionalsor reduce the size of the HR department, self-service is an increasingly populardecision."

    If a company wants to take better advantage of the skills of HR professionalsor reduce the size of the HR department, self-service is an increasingly populardecision, says DJ Chhabra, vice president of global HRMS development at OracleCorporation, an enterprise software company in Redwood Shores, California. "Iteliminates non-value-added tasks, shifting the HR team’s efforts to thebusiness side of HR."

    But the payoff of self-service is more than just happier HR people or even asmaller HR staff. It can also affect the bottom line in several areas, says DonChun, director of Global HRMS product strategy for PeopleSoft, Inc., anenterprise application software company in Pleasanton, California. "Costreduction drives the investment in self-service for most companies, and they areable to anticipate a quick return on investment in the software."

    He estimates that most PeopleSoft clients see a return on investment in twoyears or less, as a result of improved accuracy in data collection, reduction intime to complete tasks, fewer calls to the HR department, and faster turnaround.For example, one of PeopleSoft’s clients documented spending roughly $10 toprocess a change-of-address form before moving to self-service. "Withself-service, that cost dropped to 25 cents," Chun says.

    It’s an issue of efficiency. The $10 cost came primarily from the time ittook an HR staff person to copy an employee’s handwritten form into all of thedisparate databases. Using the self-service system, the employee enters the dataonce online and it’s automatically updated in all of the necessary databases.This level of savings is similar for every information-processing task formerlymanaged by the HR staff, Chun says.

    Paper and mailing costs can be dramatically reduced as well, Chhabra adds.Pay stubs no longer have to be printed and mailed out--which can be a hugemonthly effort and cost--and all HR-related documents can be completed and sentonline, eliminating the need to print and distribute them.


Younger employees who have been raised with the Internetexpect the freedom and rapid turnaround of self-service. They want access tocompany information and control of their own data.

    Self-service HR tools also improve productivity and help attract and retainqualified employees, says Tom Tillman, director of product management andmarketing for Best Software, Inc., a business management software company in St.Petersburg, Florida. Younger employees who have been raised with the Internetexpect the freedom and rapid turnaround of self-service. They want access tocompany information and control of their own data.

    "Self-service is an inevitability for most mid- to large-sized companies,"Chun says. That means in order to stay competitive, HR professionals mustevaluate and update their skill sets. As data-entry tasks are eliminated, so toois the need for lower-level administrative employees, he says. "To movesuccessfully into the future, HR professionals need to transform themselves intostrategic business advisers."

Workforce, January 2003, pp. 60-62 -- Subscribe Now!

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