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Do organisations get the most out of their Employee Self Service implementations?

Firstly let me make it clear that I am all for Employee Self Service (ESS) systems and the obvious benefits that they can deliver to organisations.

While these benefits are loudly touted and well known enough that I don’t need to list them here, there are pitfalls to success that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Recognising the pitfalls can be the difference between successful Employee Self Service implementations and mediocre outcomes. If there’s not much to view or update in an ESS system or it’s difficult to access, then employees won’t see the benefits.

Here are some issues to consider:

Will all employees be able to access the system?

In some organisations, not all employees have a personal computer or email address. This is often the case for the traditional blue collar worker.

Sure you can setup ‘kiosks’ in lunchrooms and the like, but these can have their own issues, usually related to security. I mention this later in the article.

The risk is that rather than address access issues, organisations may find it easier to maintain manual systems for their ‘blue collar’ employees and implement ESS for the rest.

How will you approach training and change management?

ESS systems may be quite intuitive and easy to use, however many organisations will have policies regarding training.

The employees in your organisation may be very savvy with newer technologies and they may embrace it. Others may resist the change and require some degree of training to adapt.

Training for ESS systems can be difficult, time consuming and costly to undertake. At the very minimum, you will need to develop training manuals and/or instructions to assist employees. At the other end of the scale, you may need group demonstrations.

What about the human error factor?

I know this can be a big concern for payroll officers, in particular about the quality and integrity of the data being entered. This is especially relevant for data such as bank details and home address details.

There can also be issues with the format of phone numbers, and whether data is entered in upper case, lower case or a mix.

You will need to consider setting up controls to counter these concerns. A good example is email alerts whenever changes are made by users via HR21. My blog Using Chris21 Email Notifications in HR21 for Added Peace of Mind for more information. Additionally, you can run reports on a regular basis to check the quality of the data.

Has security been considered?

While your IT department will ensure sufficient security from a network perspective with corporate intranets and firewalls, there are other security issues to consider.

If you do need to setup ‘lunchroom kiosks’ for employees be aware that there can be security concerns relating to the printing of payslips to a communal printer.

Or, what if an employee forgets to logout correctly? Most systems will have timeouts, these should be set to 5 minutes at the most.

Also, password resets can be an issue and this will lead to more help desk calls. Single sign on systems, such as LDAP are critical to the success of Employee Self Service implementations.

What are the barriers to successful user uptake of the system?

You’re going to all the trouble of implementing the system so you want to be sure that it will be embraced by employees. I mentioned resistance to change earlier and this will be a significant issue for many organisations.

This can happen for many reasons, for example, managers who may have traditionally passed some functions onto assistants. These functions now must be handled by the manager because the system requires them to be logged in.

Organisations who take a ‘too cautious’ approach with their Employee Self Service Implementations just may not be offering enough to their employees. Why login if there’s not much to see?

Do employees understand how to access and use the system? This comes back to the question of training.

Don’t employees still rely on face to face interaction?

Some employees will still need to talk to someone in HR or Payroll so that they can understand exactly what is required when updating some data. Of course, this avenue will still be open to employees but the employees themselves may feel that this has been removed by ESS.

This is an important message to get across to all employees in your organisation during your training phase.

In addition to these issues, I have also seen some evidence of the divide between HR and Payroll departments. I’m not saying that this happens everywhere, but I would be interested to hear opinions from anyone in the HR and Payroll fields.

I often see HR wanting to put more information into the hands of employees, while Payroll are much more cautious about this, citing risks to data integrity.

Regardless of this, if organisations aren’t willing to recognise these issues and factor them into their planning, they run the risk of failing to attain all of the benefits that Employee Self Service implementations can deliver.