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Making the Move to Manager Self-Service

Manager self-service software can reduce the administrative workload

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We live in a self-help world. In the context of human resource management systems, self-service gives employees—including managers—greater access to information while freeing up HR to work on higher-level tasks.

“The efficiency of self-service helps you move from more of a reactive role to a proactive one,” says Rita Harris, SPHR, director of HR for GreenbergFarrow, an architecture, planning, engineering and development services firm headquartered in Atlanta.

Manager self-service software allows managers to perform tasks online that previously required the assistance of HR personnel. This includes accessing data on direct and indirect reports, using paperless hiring processes, managing salary and performance reviews, and performing status changes.

Most human resource management systems vendors now offer some sort of manager self-service functions, and more companies are implementing these features. In some cases, reducing HR head count is a driving factor for doing so, but the real benefit lies in freeing up HR staff to perform higher-level tasks that produce value for the organization.

Manager self-service redirects some operational work “so the HR generalist can spend more time working with business leaders on human-capital-related issues,” says Karen Piercy, a partner in global consulting firm Mercer’s Philadelphia office.

Making a Strategic Move

Companies typically start by implementing employee self-service and then add manager self-service.

Piercy says manager self-service offers three levels of use:

  • The first, and simplest, level allows managers to view information on employees and run reports without having to go through HR.
  • The second level includes transactional activities such as employee transfers, terminations or pay raises.
  • The third level consists of talent management functions such as recruiting and onboarding, performance management, succession planning, and career development.

Piercy’s colleague Michael Martin, a principal in Mercer’s New York City office, says HR staff are sometimes concerned that managers won’t want self-service because they will view it as the HR department trying to dump work on others.

“It is quite the opposite,” Martin says. “A lot of managers are eager to get their hands on the tools. They want access to the data and to have a bigger role in managing staff.”

However, the tools must be easy to use; otherwise, manager self-service becomes a burden. Vendors have made improvements in usability in the last half-decade. Early manager self-service systems were often complex, requiring the study of a manual and the use of a separate employee login.

Martin says that over the last four years, vendors have built portal interfaces that enable information access with a few clicks.

Some organizations “are grappling with the role of the manager in relation to HR,” Martin says.

Managers’ role will determine the manager self-service features needed.

That determination can only be made based on an organization’s business needs and culture. There are no hard and fast rules; the best approach is to learn from the experiences of managers in other organizations.

Automating Everything

Intermountain Healthcare, headquartered in Salt Lake City, is a nonprofit system of 23 hospitals, an assortment of clinics and 32,000 employees servicing the needs of patients in Utah and southeastern Idaho. In the late 1990s, Intermountain was using a homegrown HR and payroll system.

“We wanted a system managed by a vendor so we would gain access to innovations and also benefit by using enterprise resource planning by a company that specializes in it, not health care,” says Shawn Davis, Intermountain’s director of workforce solutions and analytics. “Our long-term vision was to save costs and become more efficient by taking advantage of self-service.”

Intermountain uses Oracle’s human resource management system, including its HR, payroll, employee self-service, manager self-service, benefits and compensation modules. The system serves as the central repository for all reporting relationships. Every couple of hours, the data is fed from Oracle into an enterprise directory system for use by other systems including Outlook and the directory on the intranet portal.

Intermountain started with employee self-service, automating open enrollment and allowing employees to change their addresses, phone numbers and W-4 allowances online. Next, it provided access to statements of earnings right after a payroll period and to W-2s. In January 2010, the organization added online employment and income verification. Now, 99 percent of those employment and income verification requests are handled through self-service.

Once employees were on board, it was time to tackle manager self-service. The first step was to work with all HR business partners to come up with one standard process, rather than trying to automate each hospital’s unique workflow.

We took the base function that Oracle delivers and configured it to meet our specific needs,” Davis says.

The organization then rolled out the system to all 1,500 managers. HR’s communications division prepared a training booklet and partnered with HR representatives in each region to train managers on-site.

Because managers had already used employee self-service, they were familiar with the system, Davis says. “Manager self-service used the same login, the same system, the same look and feel, the same basic flow, which made the transition easy.”

Every two weeks, managers are sent a message to log in and certify staff payroll. They can change hourly rates, job titles and reporting relationships and can transfer employees. Changes are automatically routed to an HR representative for review and approval. Managers can log on at any time and see if changes were approved. They can also view employees’ employment, pay and leave of absence history.

“They can make changes 24/7 and have full insight into what is happening,” Davis says. 

“Manager self-service has improved [managers’] visibility, has empowered them to make changes, and makes changes happen a lot faster,” he adds. In fact, “Managers and HR partners are asking for more self-service capabilities.”

So, Intermountain is moving from a homegrown performance evaluation system to a Peopleclick Authoria integrated talent management system that will pull basic employee data from Oracle and feed talent management data back in. The Plateau Systems Ltd. learning management system will integrate with the talent management system. As employees and managers look at talent management in Authoria, they can review the appropriate developmental course offerings in the learning management system.

The human resource management system’s data is also fed into an Oracle data warehouse, where managers can use Cognos business intelligence software to run reports.

Improving Customer Service

Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spas of Stamford, Conn., turned to manager self-service to address its complex HR and payroll needs. As the world’s largest privately held day spa company, Red Door has 3,500 employees at about 50 day spas and its executive offices, regional offices and warehouse. In 2007, the company replaced its enterprise resource planning system to improve integration, automation and data accuracy.

“Our spas share employees as several of our locations are clustered. We needed to better our HR business processes, and SAP’s Concurrent Employment model allowed us to make the necessary changes,” says Jennifer Hayes, director of HR information systems and benefits, who works in Red Door’s Phoenix office.

Red Door implemented manager self-service in three phases. The first phase involved setting up basic functions including installation of the SAP portal and core employee self-service; manager self-service functionality such as viewing employee information; and self-service for personal data changes, direct deposit, W-4s and benefits information. Portal development and core functions were handled by outside consultants, while security, role management and additional customization were done internally.

Phase two added personnel change request processes, including hires and rehires, position changes, pay changes, special payments, employee separations, and status changes. This step was done with the help of NorthgateArinso, an HR software and services provider that includes an SAP human capital management consultancy.

“During the initial implementation, we found that the standard personnel change requests did not meet our needs, and we needed more flexibility than what was provided ‘out of the box,’ ” Hayes says. “We turned to NorthgateArinso, which provided us with completely custom personnel change requests that fully integrated into the core SAP manager self-service system and supported our business needs.”

Phase three was to add leave request functionality, which was handled internally.

Since managers are spread across 14 states from coast to coast, a system was designed to remotely train the managers. Two managers at each location can access manager self-service. The company rolled out personnel change request processing one location at a time. Guidebooks containing reference sheets on all core manager self-service functions and every personnel change request process were created internally. Human resource information systems staff trained managers over the phone.

Hayes says manager self-service has sped up many of the HR processes that formerly relied on using paper forms. For example, managers previously had to wait for HR approval before they could schedule a customer with a new technician, which impacted the ability to service guests. Now, managers can hire and book a technician in less than an hour.

“By giving managers faster access to information and automating routine processes, we’ve allowed them to make better business decisions and enabled them to pay greater attention to their guests,” Hayes says.

Intermountain Healthcare and Red Door adopted fairly complete manager self-service systems. But manager self-service functions need to be geared to the culture and processes of each particular organization. Not all organizations need or want full-blown automation.

Three years ago, the Ohio Heartland Community Action Commission—a nonprofit with a 280-person staff running programs for low- and moderate-income families at 30 sites in four counties—adopted Auxillium West’s HRSource human resource information system, including the SelfSource employee self-service and manager self-service expansion module. The system, which uses a Microsoft Access database, was installed by the commission’s information technology staff using phone and Internet support. Managers can view information on employees, approve leaves in advance, and post job openings internally and on the web. But the best thing is the automated payroll system.

“People can enter their own time sheets and have managers approve them, instead of us having to collect paperwork from 30 sites and manually enter it,” says Chief Financial Officer Jim Lavelle.

“Doing it electronically saves us several days each payroll period.”

GreenbergFarrow uses the employee and manager self-service modules that come with Abra’s human resource management system. The employee self-service module came first, starting with open enrollment three years ago, with manager self-service being implemented about a year ago. Since the managers were already familiar with employee self-service, training them over the web to use manager self-service was fairly simple. Then, when managers would call later asking for information that could be acquired through self-service, rather than HR giving them the data, they would walk the manager through the steps needed to find the data themselves.

With the construction downturn, GreenbergFarrow had to reduce its staff from 300 to 150 and its HR staff from three to two. Harris says it would have been impossible for a depleted HR department to fulfill all of its responsibilities without using the self-service functions, which saves HR between 10 and 15 hours per week—and double that during open enrollment. She says manager self-service also helps managers in their staffing decisions.

“The economy has taken its toll on our business, like it has on many others,” Harris says.

“Because our revenue is driven by the number of hours people work, managers have to constantly evaluate what their staff is doing. Having that data at their fingertips, instead of waiting on me to give them updated spreadsheets, helps them to manage the ebbs and flows of staffing.”

The author is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.

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