By Jen Stroud
HR is a people business. We help our people deal with a wide range of issues and problems, from simple tasks such as asking for vacation days to the complicated and very emotional challenges life throws at us, both at work and at home. We strive to establish one-on-one relationships because we want our colleagues to know we care and are committed to helping them.
Ironically, trying to address all issues and questions on an individual basis makes it more difficult for us to do our jobs effectively. We get bogged down answering phone calls, replying to emails, and doing other administrative tasks, so we often have little time left over to spend quality time with employees. The key to reclaiming that lost time is to provide employees with tools and information they can use to personally manage their basic HR needs. I call this a service management approach, and it enables people to help themselves immediately, rather than waiting for you to answer questions about health-care plan options or review PTO requests. Service management enables employees to be more self-reliant and less dependent on HR. An important point is to ensure employees still feel like they can turn to HR when they need the expert support and guidance only we can provide.
Asking employees to use an online HR portal they can access at work, home, or wherever they may be could potentially be a more difficult concept for you to imagine than it is for them. After all, they use a portal every time they order something from their favorite e-commerce site, download an app to their smartphones and tablets, do their banking online, or even make a dinner reservation. Completing those tasks is so easy, and service management can enable you to provide the same simplicity and level of service to employees 24/7 from their computers and mobile devices.
Here are three ways to introduce self-service to employees:
1. Route and track HR inquiries. The foundations for building an excellent self-service platform are a strong knowledge base and case management capabilities. Picture this scenario: instead of having employees send emails, call or visit you for every inquiry, give them a robust knowledge base where they can get the answers they need when they need them. Service management can also take more complicated questions not found in the knowledge base and automatically send them to the right experts. For example, it can route questions about qualifying life events to the person or team most qualified to respond to that topic. It can even track how long it takes for employees to get a response, so you can spot and resolve delays.
2. Design an HR portal. Use your service management find answers, present questions or comments to HR, and make requests such as maternity leave or PTO. Actually, the word “portal” is perhaps too simplistic. A better term is “storefront” because you are providing a reliable one-stop shop they know they can use to get stuff done and answers to their questions which ultimately eliminates guesswork and frustration.
3. Build out HR services. Once you have rolled out case management and a knowledge base, you can enhance the employee experience by offering a service catalog that might include such workflows as employment verification, corporate donation match requests or tuition reimbursement—the sky’s the limit. Employees are not the only ones who will reap the rewards. Take a moment to think about how many phone calls, emails and even “pop-in” visits you field every week. If employees are empowered to manage most of the upfront work, your team will have more time for other activity like employee engagement, talent development and coaching. And keep in mind that most employees enjoy the expediency of automation, and have grown accustomed to factual and timely transactions. They also like finding their answers or making the request on their own time. Because of their experience in consumer sites, they have learned to be self-reliant on the Web. You can create this same experience for them.
You’ll also be able to track and analyze knowledge-base searches—this will allow you to fill in any documentation gaps and make it easier for employees to find the most searched topics. You’ll also be able to analyze the questions that employees submit so you can prioritize and optimize your workload and make changes whenever the need dictates. Chances are the number of inquiries about vacation policies and PTO requests jump before the holiday season or in anticipation of summer vacations, while the majority of questions about benefits hit in the weeks leading up to the re-enrollment period. You can display relevant information prominently on your HR portal and promote it to employees when it’s most relevant to them. Go a step further and link directly to the right knowledge-base articles and other collateral, so that employees learn how easy it is to find information on their own.
Introducing tools to manage HR services is a win-win for the organization. In addition to empowering employees, it injects greater productivity and job satisfaction into the HR team. This can be much needed as administrative work is likely not what drew you or your colleagues to a career in HR. You want to interact with people and help them develop their careers and create an engaging environment. It's a service industry, not an administrative one.
HR can make a real difference when an employee is struggling with a supervisor, a manager needs coaching on employee development, or you would like to establish a mentoring program. That's when one-on-one involvement matters, and when you can make substantive changes to help make your organization a better place for people to work. Service management lets you automate both repetitive and complex manual work, strengthen your business processes, and deliver a vastly better employee experience.
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Jen Stroud is ServiceNow’s HR evangelist, helping customers simplify and improve their HR services. Previously, she was the executive director of Human Capital Services at TeleTech. In that role, Jen led an enterprise HR transformation initiative for its more than 45,000 employees, transitioning the company from a decentralized HR support model to a shared services operating model.