Employee self service has come a long way baby.
By Brent Skinner
For many of us, pumping our own gas is second nature, just a normal part of the day. We don’t even think about self-serve fueling. It’s the full-serve stations that feel unnatural—and cost more, too. But in New Jersey and Oregon its illegal to pump your own gas and second nature for residents not to do it. Perception is often the case of what you are used to.
Given properly technology-facilitated options, most employees are comfortable doing what they can do themselves, instead of heading to the HR department. Ignorance of self-service technology is bliss only for employees who’ve never experienced the joy of managing for themselves aspects of their pay and benefits, let alone softer elements like contributing interactively to their performance appraisals or retrieving a gift certificate for a month’s worth of coffee, sent by a manager who recognizes her staff for a job well done. As employee self-service grows more sophisticated and sticky, employees become more engaged with their organizations, and they tend to stick around. Conversely, your best talent, sought after by your competition, might defect to an environment that features such conveniences.
Workforce Self Management
“The biggest challenge is user experience,” says Larry Dunivan, senior vice president of products and technology for Ceridian, whose workforce management offerings’ ESS [employee self service] functionalities now benefit from Ceridian’s recent acquisition of Dayforce. The new system, Dayforce | HCM, now draws on the boost of belonging to a company whose financial year 2011 budget was $1.5 billion.
“Employees want to interact with these applications when and how they choose, and the right mix between usability and mobility is critical,” he continues, expanding on the growing sophistication of ESS functionality, as well as its increasing availability to a more mobile, more dispersed workforce. “While all generations are now comfortable with self-service, younger generations insist on mobile accessibility. It sets a high standard for software companies to meet, but when it is done well—like what we’re doing with Dayforce mobile apps—adoption rates skyrocket. Not only are employees more satisfied and engaged, but also, service delivery costs for the employer are materially reduced.”
Employees use tools in Dayforce | HCM to manage their work schedules. “Hourly workers, especially, are at a significant advantage,” says Dunivan. “They can easily track their work schedule, request time off, bid open shifts or request coverage when they want to give a shift to another worker. There is great convenience to both the employee and employer.”
Mobile-enabled self-service functionality has a positive impact on the satisfaction and engagement levels of stakeholders, i.e., employees and customers, finds The Engagement/Performance Equation, a report compiling Aberdeen Group’s May 2011 survey of 438 enterprises using engagement and performance in varying industries and geographies. Happy, empowered employees beget happy, returning customers, after all. Versus those who do not offer mobile access, companies whose employees can view their timesheets in real time via a mobile application report the highest percentages of employees who rate themselves as “engaged” or “highly engaged” (54 percent). Additionally, 44 percent of these mobile-enabled organizations report improvements in customer satisfaction; this is, again, the highest percentage.
“Within Dayforce | HCM, employees can also exercise more control over how much or little they work,” says Dunivan. “Supervisors and managers can effectively manage labor, leveraging Dayforce mobile apps to add and adjust shifts in real-time, thanks to the direct communication leverage the self-service platform facilitates with its employees.”
A Big Step Forward
Self-service technology for HR wasn’t always this way. ESS used to be an activity limited by clunky technology. Using technology was an improvement over pushing paper, but still something only someone tasked with doing it would tackle. New and emerging ESS technologies for HR, however, come with decidedly un-clunky user interfaces; some lack any apparent interface at all, and some enable self-service talent management. Employees love them, and the combination of automation and improved interactivity between employee and employer can be a cost saving.
In order to increase their customers’ ability to connect with employees, several vendors have run with the notion of creating an environment that emulates Facebook or some other social media tools. The results have been technologies that maximize employees’ ability to take the initiative and do things themselves.
Take Kapta Systems, whose product for small and growing companies is a Facebook-like ecosystem that makes the performance appraisal more interactive and less annual. Give and take between employee and management with regard to goal-setting and self-assessment becomes an embraced, yearlong activity. Ensconced within this inviting, sticky environment, employees enjoy a great deal of self-direction and self-guidance as they map out and plan a way forward for themselves within the employing organization.
“Employees are really excited about the social wall, which gives them the ability to share accomplishments, kudos, and questions with their team,” says Alex Raymond, founder of Kapta Systems. “There aren’t many barriers to using self-service technology—almost all employees are familiar with Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. That’s why we designed our tool to look and feel like something they would have used before. Employees love to connect with other colleagues and understand what’s going on in the organization, which of their coworkers are performing well, what sort of challenges they’re facing, and how they can help.”
Kapta’s product adds several dimensions, staying power and perpetuity to the traditional year-beginning goal-setting activity. Every employee creates a highly configurable profile, to a great degree choosing what information to share with coworkers. For example, professional goals can be displayed for all to see, or kept private and invisible to others. The depth of personalization increases buy-in from customers, whose executives may want to project an appreciated level of transparency to employees without sharing information perhaps inappropriate for all staff to see. All activity revolves around a wall, which fuels interactivity much like a Facebook wall does. Staff and managers alike continually post to the wall, which archives a traceable, accurate legacy of goings-on that informs performance reviews and helps leaders to compile reports about them.
Self-Service Employee Recognition
Managers are employees, too. And effective, sentient managers want a quick, seamless way to show recognition to subordinates who do a good job. There’s an ESS app for that, and it’s mobile.
“Immediate recognition tends to improve engagement between both the sender and receiver of the recognition and aligns with McKinsey’s findings that immediate recognition is 70 percent effective in motivating a person,” says Todd Horton, founder and CEO of KangoGift. “This simple act of kindness scored higher than all other forms of motivation including cash and taps into how self-service can be used for aligning instant recognition to company values and goals.”
In March of this year, Horton presented KangoGift as the “Next Big Thing” at the annual Prepaid Expo in Las Vegas, where KangoGift’s HR solution was identified as an innovator in digital gifting. KangoGift is a social recognition product designed to help coworkers celebrate each other’s small wins at work. The ESS comes in the delivery. Employees gain access to the platform and send real gifts to their colleagues’ cell phones; they do it themselves, in real time, without having to navigate any kind of bureaucratic sign-off. The goal is to make recognition more instant and amplified. For example, a manager might send a colleague a coffee for working extra late.
Beyond ESS—Ecosystems as Default Interfaces
In its 2011 report, Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Application Servers, Gartner, Inc. placed Oracle in the leaders quadrant for enterprise application servers, whose underpinnings are designed to run Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g. Middleware might not seem like the first place to look for bleeding-edge ESS functionality, but “with Fusion, the term ‘self-service’
really goes away, in many aspects, because it’s all about role-based processing,” says MiPro Consulting’s PeopleSoft HCM Practice Manager Anne Meyers. MiPro helps its clients to deploy and maintain implementations, upgrades, optimization, and training for PeopleSoft HCM, PeopleSoft Financial, PeopleSoft ALM, PeopleSoft SCM, as well as solutions relative to Business Intelligence and Fusion.
What might be apparent from the aforementioned solutions is that interfaces are morphing into ecosystems, and ESS itself becomes a foregone conclusion not even worth pointing out. “So, as an employee, I don’t sign on to a self-service app anymore,” says Meyers. “I simply sign in, and I have multiple roles. I’m a manager, and maybe I’m an employee or HR administrator, too. And all those features and functionalities are just available to me. So there’s no real concept of employee self-service.”
ESS becomes seamless, no longer a defined activity achieved by visiting a discrete online destination. The ecosystem itself is the destination, and it provides employees with an ability to do the various things that need doing as those things arise. Such an environment is the employee’s default residence for all online aspects of interaction with the employer.
The Next Generation of ESS: Talent Managing Itself
“The challenge we face is that many of our clients operate with a lean HR Department and staff,” says Eileen Bowers, PHR, training and development at CheckPoint HR, whose web-accessible HRMS integrates payroll, HR and benefits. “While rolling our self-service is a desire, if often takes a very proactive approach on our part to work with these employers to roll out all the functionality. But we see this as an opportunity rather than a challenge because we take a very proactive approach with our clients and assist them in all areas of human resources.”
ESS used to be hard for employees to try and for employers to implement. But the employees self-serve experience is becoming more dynamic and pleasant, and thankfully, easier to implement, too. The benefits are clear: Through Checkpoint HR, for example, employees can easily log in to make necessary updates to marital status, the number of dependents they claim; to view their W-2, payroll stubs, and tax-filing status; and to review paid-time off balances. Such are the now-standard features of many workforce management solutions, and technology is assisting employees in achieving professional self-actualization. The next generation of ESS technology is upon us, and helping talent to assume a much larger role in managing itself is its apparent benefit.