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Dave Foxall Manager Self-Service Software: How to Engage Managers in MSS

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 By Dave Foxall

Putting the Manager Back in Manager Self-Service

The business case for manager self-service (MSS) software may finally be fully in line with the HR self-service delivery trends that have been building for decades. Indeed, the veritable "tidal wave" of MSS (and its sibling, employee self-service or ESS) appears unstoppable, as evidenced by a recent 2011 Towers Watson report that found, "organizations are adding more complex self-service capabilities over the next 18 months, including on-boarding new employees, succession planning activities, searching the existing population for candidates, a scorecard of key human capital and business performance, and workforce planning".

However, a key component of implementation success is user uptake, a fact that often works against the industry's Manager Self Service software efforts. In fact, as a 2011 Oracle white paper aptly states, "Although you may provide HR self-service and portal content to the workforce, these self-service channels are often not utilized enough". An unfortunate reality is that while MSS is clearly advancing past simple operations (such as job requisitions and compensation changes) its overall success is still predicated on managers' embracing of the new functionalities and modes of access. In short, managers may not be content to simply be told about the various and sundry capabilities of the system, rather they must be engaged like any other stakeholder group in order to improve uptake, and ultimately fully leverage the organizational gains that are possible with Manager Self-Service software solutions. To help with those engagement efforts (and help stem the tide of why MSS software initiatives fail), consider the following questions:

Why Is The Shift To Manager Self Service Software Necessary?

First of all, managers need to understand the context in which MSS is being introduced. A strong driver is cost and competitiveness. The HROA's Optimizing HR Delivery Channels states, "Especially in today's economic climate, every HR executive faces the competing challenges of delivering better service to employees while reducing costs". Manager Self Service software is in the top three HR technologies for cost reduction.

MSS also offers a shift in HR culture, giving managers more input and control over employee transactions. As the HROA summarizes: "While self-service has relieved HR delivery personnel from low-value data entry and routine queries, it has also afforded employees greater access to information, as well as new modelling and decision support functionality that improve the employee experience with HR delivery". Plus, a more "hands-on" interface gives managers greater confidence in handling HR matters.

What Benefits Does MSS Software Provide For Managers?

In order for managers to decide to fully leverage MSS software, the benefits must be well-laid out and clearly explained. For instance, a web-enabled HR portal offers 24/7, on-demand access, meaning that a manager can conduct business from any location at any time. And according to the above mentioned Oracle report, this functionality is "especially important for organizations that operate across countries, across time zones within a country, or service employee populations that must access a computer after working hours" (i.e. no more waiting upon the HR team's "opening hours").

Furthermore, in a fully-integrated HR management system (HRMS) a number of system efficiencies accrue. Managers can access all employee and HR-related modules via a single login; allowing for a more streamlined user experience. The HRMS and associated modules share a single employee database, meaning that any processes initiated via MSS are based on up to date system-wide information. Likewise, MSS software provides consistency of user settings and access levels across all modules making for stronger security compliance.

How Can MSS Software Help Managers Serve Themselves?

When introducing a new Manager Self-Service software portal, user training is of course, essential. However, too often managers attend their "course" (e.g. face-to-face, online, or maybe even just a manual) and are then considered to be sufficiently skilled in the operation and capabilities of the new system. It's important to note that new skills cannot be consistently built in this manner, and in fact those desired skills can only properly develop when participants have the opportunity to practice and implement their learning.

The pivotal point here is that managers who are poorly trained rightfully lack confidence in their ability to use MSS functions and will unfortunately fall back on old access channels, often sidestepping the new portal software altogether. The previously referenced HROA report brings up a significant point in regards to this development; highlighting the fact that, "Transactions that are repeated regularly (such as new hire requisitions, annual enrollments, personal information updates, or investment changes) or that are informational (such as pension estimates or viewing online pay slips) are more likely to be completed solely through self-service than those that involve critical, one-time decisions (such as retirement initiation, 401(k) withdrawals or terminations)." The key is to schedule time for practice and repetition in order to build confidence and utilization of all available self-service functions.

Bottom Line for Manager Self Service Software Usage

Aside from the above points, engaging with managers for successful implementation continues well past the software "go-live" date. By communicating successes – via reports, statistics, peer case studies, etc. – system use is reinforced and late adopters and resisters are encouraged to join their colleagues. Regardless of any laggards that your organization might have, the fact remains that the practice of Manager Self-Service is widespread. Indeed, according to a 2011 Shared Services Institute survey, self-service technology, "has reached an apparent 'tipping point' at which the majority of companies now offer MSS, in many cases positioning it as the primary service channel." With such widespread and increasing adoption, introduction of MSS is becoming virtually compulsory and an accompanying engagement strategy along the lines stated above can make all the difference. The good news is that there seems to be a strong user appetite—just make sure you're feeding your managers the right food. End

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The pivotal point here is that managers who are poorly trained rightfully lack confidence in their ability to use MSS functions and will unfortunately fall back on old access channels, often sidestepping the new portal altogether.


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