An employee self-service portal can ultimately save time and money, but only if workers use it.
Dear Addi P.,
We are thinking of investing in a self-service portal where employees will be able to access their pay stubs and request time off. How should we educate our employees about using this new tool? How do we ensure the rollout of this new tool is both easy on the employees and effective enough to get this expensive initiative up and running fast?
—Ready to Roll in Raleigh
Your employee self-service portal will work best if it's structured to look more like Amazon, social media or other websites that your employees are familiar with — especially as it relates to user-friendliness. If you want employees to use your site for all their paycheck stubs and time-off requests, then all the related information tied to this must be available through the portal. This includes federal W-2 form information updates, work schedules and remaining vacation time.
If your employees must access the portal for some information and go look at boards, talk to their managers or rummage through paperwork for other information, your portal's supposed benefits will be a lie in the eyes of your workers. This can lead to your employees opting out of using the portal over time, or never using the portal in the first place.
Many organizations have had the expensive software they purchased end up as "shelfware." That means the implementation was canceled, stopped or unwound because the users didn't understand or use it. Before you make the investment in an employee self-service portal, see if you can get a test or demo version to use in-house for a few weeks. It could be web-based and reside on the portal provider's servers. Then recruit a large test group of employees from across different departments or functions to use the service portal and provide you with feedback. Make sure you involve the portal provider's engineering or IT team so they can make the necessary changes to the portal relatively quickly.
Not only will involving the actual users in the process early on help to make the actual employee self-service portal more user-friendly and ensure it does for the employee what you think it will, involving your employees early makes them feel like a part of the process and hence decreases their resistance to new procedures. Take several weeks to do this to allow time for your workers and managers to sing the praises (assuming it works well!) of the new portal and thus increase the anticipation and receptivity of the rest of the staff to it when it's finally available to all. Finally, regularly solicit insights from these "beta" employees regarding how to market the portal internally. For example, "Tell them that now we can approve their vacation in two days instead of two weeks."
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, employee self-service portals offer significant potential benefits in terms of costs savings, increased efficiency and higher employee satisfaction. As organizations consolidate information in one area — the portal — the need to manage various paper streams, websites, etc., decrease. Efficiencies and productivity likely improve as employees can now find all the information they need regarding particular tasks and functions in one easy-to-use area.
Your employees' use of the portal to request time off and access their pay stubs could greatly increase HR's productivity by drastically reducing the amount of paperwork the department has to process and by decreasing the number of calls or in-person inquiries the office must field. It can also increase your organization's managers' productivity by reducing the amount of time they spend trying to document or juggle vacation and personal time-off requests.
During the rollout, stress these benefits to employees. Since the portal is web-based, use short video introductions to introduce the portal and tutorials to show employees how to use the various options in the portal. If video is not an included option in your purchase, you can train your managers on the use of the portal and have them train their direct reports. When employees inquire about their pay stubs or time off, refer them to the portal.
Remember that usability increases the adoption rate and the acceptance of your portal, so make sure you have enough engineering and IT support to rapidly correct any glitches that occur during the organization-wide rollout. If people get really frustrated with an application, it's often difficult to persuade them to use it again!
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