Employees Are the Focus of Next-Gen HR Service Technology

 

By Dave Zielinski October 16, 2018
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​Employee experience platforms have created a buzz in the human resources technology industry, but what exactly are these systems, and what new benefits can they deliver?

Employee experience platforms are software or online portals that help employees find basic HR information on their own—letting HR provide higher-level service and boosting employees' perceptions of HR and the company.  

At the recent HR Technology Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas, industry analyst Josh Bersin projected that employee experience platforms may soon become the employee portal of choice for HR organizations. 

One version of such platforms is the integrated HR service delivery (IHRSD) system. This system typically includes employee self-service portals, automated case management functions, a searchable knowledge base and a single sign-on that facilitates one-stop shopping for employees seeking answers to their HR questions. In its report Market Guide for Integrated HR Service Delivery Solutions, research firm Gartner projects that, by 2022, 30 percent of midsize and large organizations will have invested in IHRSDs.

IHRSD platforms integrate with existing HR technologies such as human resource management systems. Examples of IHRSD platforms include ServiceNow, Ultimate Software's PeopleDoc and Deloitte Consulting's ConnectMe.

These platforms can:

  • Route employee requests to the HR professional with the right expertise. This automated case management technology can help avoid problems or service delays associated with employees' sending requests or questions via e-mail to general HR inboxes. Those with questions about payroll, for example, can fill out a form and have that form sent straight to a payroll specialist, not to a general HR e-mail distribution list.
  • Customize content and push personalized HR information to employees based on their unique information needs, such as when they get married, are promoted or request a leave of absence. When employees get married, for example, they may need to add a spouse to benefits packages or change a name or tax withholding.
  • Automate events like onboarding or offboarding that begin in HR but can carry over into and require action from other departments like IT, finance or legal. Online retailer Overstock.com in Salt Lake City uses an IHRSD platform to help reduce the chance of delays and errors in its onboarding process. Overstock.com estimated that it took 60 to 80 transactions to get all needed requirements in place for each new associate. Because of delays in a manual onboarding process, employees spent three days on average waiting for everything they needed. The new software platform now helps manage that process by automatically informing a facilities manager which type of workspace to allocate, communicating with IT about technology needs, creating employee accounts and more. Automatic alerts are sent if onboarding tasks haven't been completed or are getting close to due dates.
  • Give employees 24/7 self-service access to HR information, allowing them to find general HR forms or benefits information, review policies or obtain approvals without having to submit a request and wait for responses.

Balancing Employee Needs with HR Needs

ServiceNow in Santa Clara, Calif., is a large player in the IHRSD market.

The company's platform helps employees become more self-sufficient in meeting their basic information needs, while also reducing HR's administrative workload, said Deepak Bharadwaj, vice president and general manager of ServiceNow's HR business unit. Among the technology's key capabilities is case management, which routes employee requests and inquiries to HR service reps with the specific knowledge to address them.

Case management immediately lets employees know someone has received their inquiry and gives HR a way to identify who is handling a case, granting all involved parties more visibility into a case's history, status and progress.

The ServiceNow platform also can automate the multiple steps involved in new-hire onboarding, providing a centralized way to coordinate the process.

Magellan Health adopted the ServiceNow platform as part of an initiative to transform its HR service delivery strategy. In the past, when Magellan employees had HR questions, they called a service center at the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company for answers. But service reps in the center were being overwhelmed with basic questions about payroll, benefits and employee policies, often putting employees on hold for 30 minutes or more.

After adopting the ServiceNow software platform, Magellan was able to cut down on frustrating phone contacts and stop using e-mail as a communication channel between employees and HR. Employees were trained to use the platform to find answers to their questions. More complex cases or requests are automatically routed from the platform to the HR staff member best equipped to answer them. 

Magellan reports that, in the first three months after introducing the platform, employees completed more than 150,000 searches, and the HR team estimates that more than 70 percent of potential cases were deflected, meaning they were addressed via self-service options. For the remaining 30 percent—many related to payroll issues—most cases were answered in less than three hours.

New System Efficiencies for HR

PeopleDoc, another IHRSD platform, was recently purchased by Weston, Fla.-based Ultimate Software. The company's senior director of research and strategy, Pat Pickren, said PeopleDoc gives employees self-service access to relevant HR data and allows them to receive human help for more complex cases via automated case management.

PeopleDoc integrates with an organization's core HR system, and based on attributes already defined in that system—such as employee location, tenure or job role—it can provide personalized services and information to employees on topics like benefits, policies or pay, Pickren said.

ConnectMe, a product of Deloitte Consulting, is another established platform designed first with employees' HR service needs in mind, said Marc Solow, a managing director in Deloitte's human capital practice.

ConnectMe's case and knowledge management tools track and answer employee service requests. An analytics engine can customize content based on employees' information needs and help them use self-service options to make changes such as when they get married, are promoted or request a leave of absence. 

Dave Zielinski is a freelance business writer and editor in Minneapolis.

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