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Dave Foxall 6 Tactics to Improve Employee Self Service Software Adoption Rates

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 By Dave Foxall

Overcoming Resistance to Employee Self-Service Software

With so many HR software systems incorporating employee self-service (ESS) functionality to a greater or lesser degree, it would be reasonable to imagine a general acceptance among employees. Indeed, the 2011-12 Towers Watson report, New Horizons, No Boundaries states, "Our experience shows that even as organizations deploy self-service technology at a fairly rapid pace, employees and line managers are interested in an even more aggressive pace for receiving these capabilities and the ability to access and control their own data." However, surveys deal in percentages and majorities, and human nature being what it is, organizations seeking to introduce or expand their ESS processes are still likely to encounter resistance to widespread adoption. Given that analyst firms such as CedarCrestone see self-service as essential to HR service delivery excellence, a comprehensive implementation strategy must include a variety of tactics to drive up employee usage of the ESS functions.

ESS Software Adoption Tactic #1: De-emphasize old processes

Faced with a choice between 'old and familiar' and 'new and uncertain' most people naturally choose the former. In fact, a 2010 Sage white paper on implementing HR systems notes, "To get the best out of your new system you need to ensure that everyone adheres to new procedures rather than reverting back to old ways of doing things." It may be possible to completely remove the previous service route for particular transactions, if not then measures such as phasing out paper paychecks or simply enlarging the employee portal link on emails while reducing the call center number will help reinforce the new process.

ESS Software Adoption Tactic #2: Easy access

A research paper from the HR Management Review, Factors Affecting the Acceptance and Effectiveness of Electronic Human Resource Systems, notes that 'perceived control' is an important factor in employee acceptance of any eHR system and that factor can be increased via anytime intuitive access, and by providing interfaces that require minimal technical knowledge (i.e. giving the new system a familiar surface appearance). Other measures can include multiple access channels (including instant message or chat facilities for some transactions which provides an element of person-to-person interaction) and the automatic creation of Favorites or Bookmarks giving quick access to the Employee Self-Service application portal.

ESS Software Adoption Tactic #3: Marketing

When promoting any new service, client awareness is a key factor. The Employee Self Service software options can be marketed to employees via giveaways such as mouse pads, magnets, mugs, and calendars, etc. The ESS application's brand/logo could be prominently displayed on company intranet pages. The HR Outsourcing Association (HROA) also suggests direct emails to advertise the ESS technology's benefits (although organizations should be careful not to spam their own employees). Still, adoption tactics can be taken even a step further by incentivizing employees with additional and tangible benefits for using the ESS. For example, an HROA case study cites the example of an organization that offered a free draw for a year's free benefits, open to all employees who accessed benefits enrollment via the web portal. The result was a rise in web enrollment from 67% to 85% within a year.

ESS Software Adoption Tactic #4: Ad hoc coaching opportunities

The Society for HR Management 2011 report, Transforming HR Through Technology, observes that, "The challenge for most organizations is …how to encourage employees to fully use the system and be self-reliant." HR personnel should be aware of opportunities to offer guidance and coaching to employees and managers on using the new Employee Self-Service software functions. A prime example is when an employee calls HR with a query that could be dealt with via the new ESS application. Taking a few extra minutes to instruct on the use of the faster process will save time in the future.

ESS Software Adoption Tactic #5: Peer pressure

Organizations should enlist the help of early adopters among employees. These enthusiasts can be instrumental in engaging their colleagues in system use—influencing at a grass roots level. A Ceridian article on ESS software use points out, "Ask a few employees who have used HR tools to be ambassadors. Sometimes, employees will listen more to colleagues about their experiences rather than engaging [on their own] in an HR self-service initiative."

ESS Software Adoption Tactic #6: Report on-going success

One key benefit of Employee Self-Service applications is that they reduce the administrative burden on HR personnel. In fact, Towers Watson research found that, "69% of respondents reported HR service center and administration workload reductions as a result of ESS technology tools." However, that fact alone can act as a disincentive to employees who may perceive that HR employees simply now have less to do. As part of the success reporting following ESS application implementation, an organization should provide statistics covering the additional workload (of a higher value) that HR has been able to take on, thus providing a feeling that the whole organization is now working more efficiently together—rather than work merely being pushed down the chain.

Employee Self Service Software Use – The Bottom Line

User adoption is, of course, the key to fully leveraging the benefits of self-service technology; and tactics such as those above can form elements of a strategy to drive adoption from initial project stages through to go-live and beyond. However, nothing in HR process automation is ever completely certain and should adoption rates still lag behind expectations, the only sure way to proceed is consultation. As HRMS vendor Ceridian advises, "The most important thing to do when a company discovers their employees aren't using the HR system as it intended is to ask why. You will never hit the mark if you don't start by asking why employees aren't using it." End

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Towers Watson research found that, "69% of respondents reported HR service center and administration workload reductions as a result of ESS technology tools."


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