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Dave Foxall 5 Employee Self Service Software Implementation Pitfalls

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 By Dave Foxall

The Implementation Risks of Employee Self-Service Software

Employee self-service (ESS) software is a well-established feature of most HR systems; the potential benefits of which (i.e. reduced costs, better use of HR resources, empowered employees, improved data quality, etc.) are certainly familiar to most organizations. Indeed, as the Society for HR Management (SHRM) noted in 2011, "A well-designed ESS [software offering] allows employees to make informed choices and to become self-reliant for many HR services. For employees, this means increased convenience; for organizations, this means significant cost savings." That said, the process of introducing or enhancing something that is virtually a standard feature of the modern workplace is still not without risk of failure. In fact, all too often, organizations make critical implementation mistakes that can impede the progress and reasonable returns on investment that Employee Self-Service software can provide. Here's our list of the top 5 most common implementation pitfalls that companies should proactively recognize and mitigate.

ESS Software Implementation Pitfall #1: Not listening to employees

The initial driver for an Employee Self Service software solution may come from the C-level, but there are advantages to involving employees in all roles in working out the details via surveys, briefings and focus groups. Not only does consultation with end users create early engagement and enthusiasm for the project, it can also provide valuable information on which features will be more easily accepted, and which will not. For example, in a 2010 report, the HR Outsourcing Association cited an anonymous case study that revealed: "a surprising interest in using chat, particularly for questions not related to pay or benefits." Indeed, the survey showed a 50+% population subset wanting chat functionality, with upwards of 81% of employees wanting that functionality as a supplement for the company's call center (especially during off hours or busy periods). Consultation with employees can shed light on employees' preferences such as this—which may have never been discovered otherwise. In turn these efforts help to ensure a focused implementation strategy, create a sense of 'working together' throughout the organization, and encourage early user adoption.

ESS Software Implementation Pitfall #2: An overambitious program

When deciding on the clear and measurable objectives for this HR software implementation strategy, many organizations can be tempted to implement too much, too soon. For employees unaccustomed to the benefits and tenets of self-service, the shift in process and working method can be a huge attitudinal leap. Organizations intent on overloading the system with features run the risk of making that leap in attitude appear far more daunting than it actually is. Instead, a more steady and sustained approach is to begin slowly—introducing a small number of easy-to-accept functions or processes; allowing for a period of normalization; and then incrementally increasing the functionality and complexity of the system in stages. For instance, vendor Bond Teamspirit recommends, to allow for normalization first by deploying a "read only" access area (where name and address details can be checked) so that employees and managers can build up their confidence quickly—gradually learning to trust the system. From this point, users can "progress on to accessing and changing simple data", says Bond.

ESS Implementation Pitfall #3: Failing to encourage usage

Simple availability will not be enough to create widespread adoption of ESS software. In fact, the implementation strategy must include a selection of tactics designed to encourage usage – some that point out the benefits of the new processes and some that detract or withdraw completely the previous way of working. A 2011 survey from the Shared Services Institute observes, "As one might expect, the rate of ESS adoption is closely linked to how it is positioned. Many companies today offer ESS [automation] as the primary service delivery channel." In other words, if the "old route" to HR is still open, most users will find the familiar route more comfortable. The portal or interface must be easy to navigate and intuitive. Appropriate training must be provided, backed up by some form of follow-up support (help desk, 'super users', how-to guides, etc.). Additionally, any call or visit to HR which could have been handled via the new ESS system is an opportunity to "sell" the new process and coach the employee in its use for next time.

ESS Software Implementation Pitfall #4: Insufficient communication

Few facets of organizational change are as widely applicable as the need for effective communication. However, companies shouldn't let that fact diminish communication's potency when it comes to HR software implementation initiatives such as Employee Self-Service. New ESS system users must be clear in their understanding of both the need for self-service and how to actually use it. As such, particularly influential is how management communicates the benefits of the new HR software solution. Indeed, even the most enthusiastic, inquisitive and "tech-hungry" of employees are likely to give up on the ESS system if management fails to communicate value and importance. Early successes must be acknowledged, communicated widely, and focused on securing additional successes—especially from late adopters. Continuing this engagement strategy with users will bring ESS into the arena of everyday working, creating a firm foundation for future expansion.

ESS Software Implementation Pitfall #5: Not measuring results

As part of setting clear implementation objectives, systems of measurement and metrics should be established so that (from an early stage) the organization can track the benefits realization. Simple measures such as usage rates compared to employee headcount, or reduction in calls to HR can help demonstrate the early worth of ESS software implementation. Further organizations looking to optimize Employee Self Service software will need measurements in place to access trouble spots. In larger organizations, it may be possible to introduce self-service automation in one division or department at a time; however, it should be noted that if a series of small implementation projects is opted for, each one of those projects should be built upon the lessons of those done before.

Employee Self Service Software Implementation – The Bottom Line

Employee Self-Service is fast becoming a ubiquitous workplace feature—and for good reason. According to the Aberdeen Group, organizations with self-service are 41% more likely to achieve Best-in-Class HR performance results. Further, with ever-expanding mobile/social technology functionality rapidly reinventing ESS, few pundits disagree that soon, automated ESS capabilities will simply be table stakes. However, implementation of these disruptive technologies can have wide-sweeping effects on the employees who are actually tasked with using the software. Because of this, organizations must keep an ever-present understanding that it is the employees who will be leveraging the software and passing along the benefits to the larger organization; ignore pitfalls such as these is done at their own risk. End

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Employee Self-Service is fast becoming a ubiquitous workplace feature—and for good reason. According to the Aberdeen Group, organizations with self-service are 41% more likely to achieve Best-in-Class results.


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