HR Self Service Isn’t For Everyone

Last week I got the opportunity to speak at the 2011 HR Metrics Summit in Chicago.  Interesting group of HR folks that attend Metrics seminars – combination of HRIS, large shop analytics folks, some talent pros, etc. – all with one common denominator – they like numbers, gathering numbers, reporting numbers, talking about numbers – mostly I sat in the corner, quietly and watched.  One theme, that came up time and time again, was the concept of manager self-service – since building dashboards and integrating self service modules tend to go hand-in-hand with metrics – if you want the mangers to do stuff on their own – you better give them the data, right?

As I was listening to a presentation of one major Fortune 500 HR Pro who was going through a case study of how they were going through the process of moving to Manager Self Service for HR administration (think your normal daily HR admin stuff – new hire paperwork, address changes, compensation data, benefits info, etc.).  On there manager self service dashboard, this HR Shop decided to not give the HR Generalists access to the same information that the managers had.  The theory behind this was, if HR still has access, the managers will continue to call and get the information, rather than look it up themselves through the dashboard.  The HR Generalists were trained, as well as the managers, on how to find the information, so if a manager was struggling to find something, the HR Generalist could walk them through it.  This process probably sounds similar in many ways to many HR folks who have gone through this – minus the HR folks not having access.

Here’s what was really interesting about the case study to me – even after they went forward 100% with the self service dashboard, the managers still called HR.  The HR Generalist, being savvy, discovered if the manager would give them their user-name and password, could go in and do what the manager needed, faster than just telling them how to do it (kind of goes against the concept of “Teach a man to fish…”) – but again not unlike probably what many HR folks have seen in their careers.  It got so bad, they actually ended up setting up a “HR Call Center” for managers to call into for these types of needs. Overall result? HR Administrative work, in HR, was reduced by 40%. Really!  Hey, sounds great right?! 

Wrong! Here’s the deal.  The HR Shop reduced it’s “admin” work by 40% – but it didn’t decrease the Orgs “admin” work by 40% – it just moved it around.  Also, the concept of  “Manager/Employee Self Service” is built on an assumption, a huge assumption, managers want to do this stuff themselves, rather than call HR to have it done.  While that may be the case for many managers and employees – it might not be the case for many others, and in many cases the majority of others.  Manager/Employee Self Service dashboards/portals are a favorite project for HR Shops – big and small – because we get to use technology and the hope is it will take mundane admin work out of HR, and let us do the real cool strategic stuff.  But that is a dream sold to you by the software shops selling you the “solution”.  One problem – what about the managers and employees who don’t want Self Service?

You know – I’ve been in a lot of HR Shops – and no one has ever brought up that question when we were all running down the Self Service path. Not one.  So, you want to be a business partner and be more strategic?  Maybe, just maybe, stop thinking about how something helps you, and start thinking about how the changes you make, impact the groups you support.  Self Service can be great for many managers and employees who want it – but it’s not a 100% solution.  So, people, maybe some very high performers in your organization, want you to help them – they want and need to focus on their operation and making it better, and guess what – performing their own new hire paperwork, isn’t helping.

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