Pitfall lies in half-hearted embrace of technology, ADP’s Watson says. To really leverage all the benefits that self-service offers, employees must not be allowed to lean on HR for services they can obtain via the web.
Employee and manager self-service, by now, is de rigueur at employers of any notable size. Adoption of automation technology continues unabated, driven by organizations’ need to reduce costs while maintaining services.
The embrace of self-service is especially high among companies that have outsourced payroll because just about all providers today offer a cornucopia of online tools that aid employer and employees to easily check their accounts, make changes, access documents, and perform a host of other functions. However, despite having access to robust self-service through a third party, many employers have not taken advantage of all that’s available to them.
“The biggest barrier to really successful adoption is if they [employers] embrace it halfway or they view it as ‘This is a nice thing to have’ but don’t use it,” explained Rich Watson, vice president of marketing and business development, Major Account Services at ADP, the largest payroll provider in the country.
Watson, whose organization offers myriad online tools to its clients, said self-service has been an especially effective way for HR organizations to improve accuracy, address problems in their HR processes, and cut administrative costs, but many adopters still drag their feet in the implementation. He explained that some of the reluctance stems from the HR leaders’ fear of losing control over payroll and employee records—a concern that he said was understandable but unfounded.
“Those who do it halfway are still allowing access to HR when they really should embrace it and drive it down into the organization. Our research show it’s very empowering to both employees and managers,” he added.
Indeed, many organizations that have only dipped their toe into the water typically allow very rudimentary types of self-service such as access to pay stubs, and the printing of W-2s, but a more comprehensive offering might include employee and manager access to components such as time and attendance, training and development records, skills assessment, and a whole host of other services that the HR professional might have performed in the past. Although many payroll providers offer higher-level services, not all clients are eager to embrace them, said Watson.
“Those that have been most successful have said, ‘This is the way we are doing business,’” he said, adding that concerns about loss of control have been the primary stumbling block. “They are not losing control, but they are actually doing the opposite. What we generally see is without self-service, the processes are still happening, but HR doesn’t know what’s going on.”
Despite pockets of holdouts, Watson said he sees adoption rates still rising, even in industries whose workers don’t traditionally have desktop access at work. These include manufacturing and others in which internet access is limited, but employers in these sectors are offering at-home log-in. He credits the falling costs of technology for the ubiquitous presence of self-service in many industries, but he also credits the evolution of software tools for making the user experience less intimidating. For the user, that means interfaces must be intuitive, simple, and required little education. Managers, on the other hand, need access to data and analytical tools to help them better leverage the information.
Not surprisingly, Watson said adoption remains highest among industries where online access is highest. However, businesses across a variety of industries are embracing self-service regardless of whether their employees have desktop access on the job. Setting up standalone kiosks and encouraging at-home log-in are some of the alternatives to giving workers desktop access. And with consumers growing more comfortable with online shopping, for instance, the intimidation of online self-service seems to have diminished, as well.
“As there is a greater adoption of technology in general and more comfort on the part of employees…you just don’t have that fear,” Watson added.