It’s cool, it’s fun, it’s the future. But are we ready for it? Or, more appropriately is AI ready for us?
In case you have never heard the term, AI stands for Artificial Intelligence. Essentially, AI refers to teachable computer software applications, or machine learning. The more you use it the smarter it gets. Apple’s Siri and those new smart speakers are good examples of AI’s practical application. Ask Siri “restaurants” and she not only assumes you are asking for restaurant suggestions, but it assumes you are interested mainly in places near your current location and possibly serving your favorite cuisines.
Chatbots are another good example. Have you ever initiated a chat session online only to realize well into the conversation that you are interacting with a computer “bot”, not a live person? “Hello, my name is Andy. How can I assist”? Andy is in fact…an Android.
IBM’s Watson computer is probably one of the most well-known and comprehensive examples of AI in a real world application. First used in the healthcare industry (not including its debut on the game show Jeopardy) and spreading rapidly into many other markets, Watson is a shining example of AI at its best. A lot of power for IBM’s nearly $2B investment.
HR Admins already know the importance of a robust help desk solution being central to developing a comprehensive shared services program. HR Help Desk manages all employee interactions with HR from onboarding through off-boarding. HR Help Desk uncovers patterns of issues that can impact overall employee performance and productivity, by identifying even subtle warning signs. Ongoing harassment complaints, manager disputes, departmental unrest, and other critical issues come to light in help desk reporting and analytics.
So what is different in the higher education industry? College and university campuses not only support hundreds and even thousands of employees, those employees interact closely with student populations in numbers that far exceed the employee base. Even a small university with just a few thousand employees can have 3-5 times as many students on campus. And those students on work-study are also technically employees of the institution.
Other businesses may engage closely with the public (i.e., the retail sector), but none can compare with higher education when it comes to potential personnel issues and complaints. Students frequently bond with their professors, and professors often develop closer relationships with special needs students or especially higher performing students. The same holds true with students and coaches. If those relationships sour, accusations can occur unexpectedly, and be quite serious in nature. HR must be prepared to intervene immediately to assess the situation and document all of the details and supporting materials in order to minimize the negative impact on the institution.
Your decision to implement a new HRIS system may or may not factor-in a potential return on investment (ROI). Some systems are necessary regardless of cost (i.e., Payroll). Others (talent management, for instance) may require some level of financial justification.
Then there are some systems that clearly demonstrate a solid ROI. One obvious example is replacing a manual time and attendance collection process with an automated one. Automated T&A systems dramatically reduce time collection and processing hours (thereby reducing FTE’s), and reduce errors down to almost 0%. Not to mention stricter adherence to payroll policies.
Take the following example:
- 500 employee company with an average $45,000 annual salary = $22,500,000 annual payroll
- According to the American Payroll Association automating T&A can save a minimum of 1% of payroll = $225,000 annual savings
- A typical SaaS-based T&A system (clocks, software, services, etc.) for a 500 employee firm will generally cost <$100,000 annually for a top-name system
- That equates to a virtually instant ROI ($100K annual investment to save $225K annual payroll expense)
One caveat is the inclusion of hard dollar savings (i.e., less paper used) vs. soft dollar savings (i.e., FTE time). Why aren’t FTE savings a hard dollar benefit? Because payroll departments rarely cut headcounts, even if they can. More often than not, underutilized FTE resources are reallocated to other responsibilities. But the overall benefits are still obvious.
Service Level Agreements (SLA) are the means for tracking and managing response times to resolve employee issues, measured against corporate commitment times (performance guarantees).
For instance, HR may guarantee a 24-hour (one day) response to a paycheck or harassment issue, but as many as 5 days to process a tuition reimbursement request. In many government regulated industries and unionized organizations, businesses may be required by law or contract to provide response guarantees, while other businesses may offer guarantees simply as a courtesy and for good will.
There is no better tool to manage SLAs than your HR Help Desk — assuming you have one. Administrators set up general (broad) case categories and specific subcategories within each category, then assign SLA periods to each subcategory. From there, the system takes over and automatically tracks SLA performance in detailed reports.
So far, so good. But, how robust is the Help Desk SLA configuration engine? Are your rules simple or complex? Do you measure SLA periods in hours or days? Do weekends count towards the SLA time? What about holidays or any other special days? Do they count? Are the rules different for different locations or employee classifications?
Utilizing an HR Help Desk in large organizations is unquestionably critical to the company’s success. A typical 5,000 employee business generates on average 30,000 HR cases per year, with issues ranging from simple PTO requests up to sexual harassment complaints and other legal-related complaints.
Case volumes in the tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands can be analyzed to find patterns of issues that HR must recognize and address before they hit critical mass and begin to negatively impact the business’s operations.
However, companies with, for instance, 500 employees may only create as few as 3,000 annual cases, or about 12 cases daily. From an administrative point of view, numbers that small can easily be tracked in Excel spreadsheets, without the need for a formal help desk solution.
So why consider an HR specific case management system for your small business? The answer lies in 3 acronyms – HIPAA, PHI, and PII. Small businesses are not immune from lawsuits filed due to breaches of private employee data. HIPAA violations can cause fines in excess of $1M per incident – regardless of company size. In today’s litigious society, workers are often likely to sue, even for small HR related infractions, if their contingency-paid lawyer thinks they have a case.
Whereas a larger organization may have the resources to fend off frivolous lawsuits, one bad case could put a small company out of business.
A well-designed HR Help Desk tracks all employee-to-HR interactions, and maintains that data in a secure and HIPAA-compliant system. From initial complaint through case resolution, necessary confidentiality is guaranteed. Unauthorized eyes will not have access to sensitive case data, documents, phone records, etc. …Read More
One of the most frequent questions from LBi’s HR Help Desk clients is when to purge and archive older help desk records. Our answer is simple and straight forward — never. Each employee’s complete case history reveals a lot about that employee’s disposition in the company. Changes in productivity, temperament, company loyalty, and more can occur over periods ranging from weeks to months to years. LBi HR Help Desk captures that valuable information. Having that data live and available for analysis presents a tremendous benefit to HR management.
Since individual case records are very small in size (less than 10K plus attachments, if any), the help desk database for a 10,000 employee organization might not even break 3-5 Gigs after a full 5 years in production. Considering the standard LBi hosting configuration includes arrays of 300 Gig drives (and unlimited in the Cloud), that same company could easily store well in excess of 20+ years live data, with no loss of performance.
Often, our prospective clients express concern about data privacy, suggesting that aged records (let’s say case records >5 years old) are better (read safer and more secure) archived outside of the live system, and accessible strictly to limited users. LBi HR Help Desk can accommodate that request, but we ask why. Our hosted systems provide the highest level of data security possible, with layer after layer of security designed to manage the most confidential data. We are HIPAA and SSAE16 Type II certified, Safe Harbor certified, including multiple additional certifications and industry compliances. And user defined security levels provide our clients with the ability to restrict access to data based on your policies and rules.
Return on Investment (aka ROI) implies at some future point you get your money back after the investment is made. There is an initial financial investment, and an eventual “return” of those dollars (and then some, hopefully) down the road.
Depending on the system being implemented, calculating your potential ROI can be simple math or a much more complex process. Are there truly hard-dollar quantifiable savings — elimination of paper records and storage, staffing cuts, etc? Or are the savings more in the soft-dollar category, such as time saved or greater employee satisfaction? Probably, with HR systems, it will be a combination of both.
Calculating the Total Cost of Ownership
First you have the task of attempting to accurately quantify the numbers. How much does all that paper actually cost? And did the staff cuts force new overtime pay for the remaining employees, cutting FTEs with little to no drop in overall payroll expense? Did employee satisfaction improvements result in measurable productivity gains and/or lower turnover? Can you even determine that?
Many corporate HR departments are enjoying the benefits of a robust HR Help Desk. Critical to HR is the ability to track every employee request or issue, while maintaining a comprehensive permanent record of each and every case. Equally critical is the means to provide consistent and accurate responses, and compliance with company SLA terms. HR Help Desk systems are designed specifically to provide those services and more.
Other systems, such as Talent Management applications, provide tools to ensure the smoothest recruiting, onboarding, training and development possible, as well as managing the full lifecycle of the employee’s tenure with the organization.
So what happens when the unthinkable occurs and an employee decides to leave? Especially a valued employee. While the wheels are already turning rapidly for the employees planned exit, unfortunately “rolling stones gather no moss”, as they say.
One of the most important functions of the HR department is to respond to employee issues and requests in a timely manner. Certainly, different case types have different priorities. For instance, a manager dispute would always take precedence over a tuition reimbursement request.
But other factors may also weigh in on Service Level Agreement (SLA) policies. Multi-national or multi-regional organizations may have to contend with differing local laws and regulations. Companies with union employees may have different requirements for non-union employees, or even different unions. Not to mention hourly vs. salaried worker policies.
SLA tracking gets even more complicated when dealing with varying time zones. What does an 8 business hour response time mean to a worker in California when the corporate HR department is in New Jersey? Whose 8 hour day does the SLA refer to? In many cases, this can be cleared up by well written policy and procedure documents. However, it may not be that simple, again when dealing with the likes of unions and government regulations.
There is a general category of software based business systems that is considered mission critical to most organizations. Very few companies can operate without a general ledger package, a payroll system (or service), HRIS system, as well as industry specific systems for time and billing, manufacturing, distribution, etc. Final selection of these applications (often through an RFP process) is generally based on a combination of factors such as required functionality, ease of use, integration with other internal systems, and cost. Ultimately, regardless of whether these systems can actually save time and/or money, the business needs them and choices are made.
Where ROI (Return on Investment) analysis starts to become a greater factor in product selection is when internal business units (such as HR) are seeking out ancillary systems, sometimes referred to as “bolt-on” solutions. Examples are Data Warehouses, HR Recruiting systems, Performance Review systems, Case/ticket Management, etc. Products in this category may not be viewed as mission critical to the entire organization, but rather are considered more business critical — important primarily to the specific business group seeking the solution. In other words, the company would not shut down without them, although business operations could likely be greatly improved with them.
With the advent of productive office automation systems in HR, management now has the tools to create, track, and effectively adhere to standards of service delivered to their employees. Modern HR systems for time and attendance automation, case management, talent management, and more all provide the ability to set unambiguous SLAs and analyze actual HR performance results.
So what is the best process for defining specific SLA standards for specific tasks and functions? Some tasks, such as handling FMLA requests or payroll errors, are likely already defined by the government or your current company policies. But since newer, more comprehensive computer systems provide the ability to be much more granular in task management automation, service levels for many other discrete tasks may now have to be developed and agreed to.
Implementing automated HR Case Management/HR Help Desk can save you money. This post will show you how to calculate that savings.
If you have a traditional manual HR call center with no automation you already have efficiencies in handling the incoming queries compared with a traditional HR staffing system. But you still face the challenges of providing accurate and consistent information, as well as the problem of managing the call center and staffing it with HR professionals. The bottom line is that many of the challenges inherent in a manual process tend to remain, while the biggest potential for reducing costs through an automated system are not leveraged.
Upgrading your call center with an automated HR help desk will help you address these problems and lower operating costs.
The last thing you need is for employees to distrust HR. It can happen when you don’t have a system in place to route confidential cases, such as harassment or manager dispute cases, to strictly authorized personnel. It can also happen when you use a manual system that fails to ensure that you’re compliant with HIPAA, PHI, PII, and safe harbor regulations. There can be fines of up to $250,000 for violations (and imprisonment of up to 10 years for knowingly abusing or misusing an individual’s health information). …Read More
We live in the self-service era — self-serve check-out lines, pay at the pump, YouTube do it yourself videos… I just fixed my mountain bike by watching a YouTube video on how to adjust the disc brakes. It is just faster to do it ourselves. I didn’t have to drop my bike off at the shop and waste any time. Also, there is a bit of a self-esteem lift involved when you fix it yourself. Recently I fixed my garage door opener by ordering a $10 part and watching a YouTube video. (Although when I started it I did not realize the video was “1 of 5” and it would take me 8 hours to do it. But time management will be saved for another blog post.) The key was even though I wasted a tremendous amount of time, I felt good that I had fixed the door by myself.
An HR Knowledge Base can contain all types of employee information — benefits guide, code of conduct, policy information, PC FAQs… It is more than just an online Employee Handbook. The key to a knowledge base is the information that allows the employee to easily find answers to their questions. So properly indexing the knowledge base is essential. The knowledge base should have search engines that allow an individual to type in a question. It is much more than an FAQ.
A good knowledge base and supporting tools can empower your employees to find the answers to their questions themselves. This both saves HR time and engages your workforce.
The combination of case management and self-service technology gives employees the power to answer their own questions and take care of many of their own HR and benefits tasks at a time of their choosing and from their own desks — or even from home. Employees are increasingly expecting their online interactions at work to be as easy and personalized as their online consumer experiences. Online workplace applications — including HR programs — are now considered table stakes for businesses of all sizes to reach and support their employees.
This means that by implementing these solutions, the company is also giving time and resources back to HR. Fewer HR hours need to be allocated to answering employee questions and managing routine paperwork. And that means more time and resources to focus on strategic business tasks and planning.
Studies show that the right self-service system, like that in LBi HR HelpDesk Pro and ProPlus, can accurately address and resolve 80 percent of all employee inquiries. This is particularly significant for SMB organizations that are still operating with a traditional HR department and a manual case management system or resolution process.
HR departments in small to medium sized organizations share the same employee issues that occur in large enterprises; the only difference being the volume of problems HR is confronted with. Labor disputes, morale problems, productivity issues, compensation inequality and more, are the bane of HR departments both large and small.
As one well known technology company proudly articulates, “There’s an app for that”. And there is. But until now case management software solutions explicitly developed to address the privacy and confidentiality requirements of HR have been out of reach for the SMB market due to the generally higher cost factor. Lower cost IT help desk and sales/support focused CRM systems, even Excel spreadsheets and simple email public folders, have long been considered “good enough” for smaller HR departments, and for some companies that is certainly true.
However, what happens when that emailed ticket declaring an employee’s sexual harassment accusation is inadvertently (or intentionally) BCC’d or forwarded to unauthorized eyes? This breach of confidentiality can be extremely costly for any sized organization.
We’re not here to say HR technology has ignored the small and midsize business market. If we did, we’d be cut to ribbons in a heartbeat. A Google search I just did for “HR technology for SMB” returned 29.7 million results. HR technology vendors have targeted the SMB user with cloud-based software to handle everything from recruiting and onboarding to performance management, time and attendance, career development and compensation.
Until now, however, no one has offered the SMB market a fully featured HR case management solution the way SMB companies really want to buy software — which means going beyond offering Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). That’s become table stakes.
Doing more for SMB buyers starts with offering free trials, just as SMB users expect from all kinds of other SaaS products. So LBi is offering LBi HR HelpDesk to the SMB market with free trials — including a free-forever trial for companies with fewer than 100 employees on the system.
Life is full of sad realities. One is that the SMB market has been vastly underserved by the HR technology industry. There’s one very simple reason: Despite the glut of cloud-based HR software, HR technology vendors have until now largely failed to sell products the way small and midsize businesses want to buy them. (For the record, we’re talking about companies with 2,000 or fewer employees.)
For starters, the HR technology industry has traditionally failed to let the SMB user “try it before you buy it.” They certainly haven’t wooed the SMB buyer with free trials like they offer to the enterprise customer. We concede that until now, we at LBi Software have been as guilty of this as our competitors, especially when it comes to our flagship solution, the HR case manager and call-tracking workflow system, LBi HR HelpDesk.
That’s a shame. HR leaders in the SMB market until now have never been given the opportunity to determine, without pressure or hassle, whether an HR technology solution could really benefit them (assuming, of course, other motivating factors also fall into place — factors like pricing and having an easy purchasing process).
Call us crazy, but we think HR buyers in the SMB (small and midsize business) market have been overlooked for too long. We believe HR technology vendors — including LBi — have failed to sell products the way SMB users want to buy them.
We think we’ve set things right.
LBi Software is proud to offer the SMB buyer HR HelpDesk, a fully featured yet affordable HR case management and call-tracking workflow solution. Of course, the powerful and robust enterprise edition of LBi HR HelpDesk is a highly configurable system that offers complete integration with HR, ERP, and email systems; advanced document management; options for on-premise hosting and licensing, or hosting on a dedicated server (for maximum security); single-sign on; corporate branding, and more.
But now we’re giving HR leaders in organizations with up to 2,000 employees the opportunity to launch a cloud-based version of LBi HR HelpDesk as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and start using it right away. And we’re doing that in a way that’s hassle-free — consumer-friendly access with no obligation to buy and a simple, one-step purchasing process.