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Rewards & Incentives

Rewards and incentives and employee engagement

Every employee loves incentives and rewards and they can be part of the tools that help keep engagement with your company. They can come in the form of cash bonuses, salary increases (and/or promotions) or prizes (tangible gifts). Generally, incentives are considered more like the carrot on the stick – achieve management’s stated goals and you receive the gift. Rewards on the other hand may be given ad hoc after an employee performs well above expectations, without any awareness of a potential recognition.

So which method can potentially help management achieve peak performance from their employees? In this blog we will only consider positive awards. Negative incentives (threats of termination or demotion, for example) will be saved for a future blog. And we aren’t talking about traditional holiday bonuses.

Let’s take a look at some of the various incentive options that could trigger an award, and the recommended award types:

Incentive/Reward Plan Award? Award Type Meet stated goals Not recommended unless the team as a whole is well below plan/quota N/A Exceed stated goals Yes – can be ongoing Raise or bonus One-off performance contest Yes – occasional Bonus or prize Top producer for a period Yes – ongoing Bonus Special activity – e.g., best new idea, charity work, etc. Yes – occasional Prize Recommends a new hire candidate Yes – when candidate is hired Bonus Unexpected performance above & beyond Yes – as one achieves this designation Bonus or prize Random lottery game Yes – occasional Bonus or prize

How did I select specific award types depending on the activity?:

Award Type Reasoning Raise Permanent, used for rewarding ongoing or longer-term success. Bonus Cash is king. When the achievement is one-time and high-value to the company. Everyone likes cash. Prize Fun, different, unexpected — when the employee’s special performance doesn’t necessarily impact company performance, and the award impacts general morale.

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Employee Self-Service and HR Help Desk

employee self-service portal

What is an HR Help Desk without an employee self-service component? Essentially a very good record keeper of employee HR-related cases/tickets. Data collection in and of itself is certainly a key benefit of an HR case management system — tracking trends, providing early warnings of significant workforce issues, ensuring consistent adherence to HR policies, and much more.

But in the final analysis, it is still an information management system. Data is collected, processed, and archived. Efficiencies are created, analytics provide valuable insights, and some time may be saved.

What would happen if, in addition to my previously-listed benefits, a great amount of time could be saved as well? Incorporate a comprehensive searchable knowledgebase (KB) and employees (in theory) will no longer have to bother HR with common questions, like “when will I receive my W2”? I say “in theory” because unless employees are encouraged to use the KB system, or access is not straight forward and easy to use, little benefit may be obtained.

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Benefits of HR Help Desk in Small Businesses

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

We Moved to a Bigger Space Thanks to You

LBi Software New Building

These past five years have been good. Good for LBi, and good for LBi’s clients. Our organization has seen a tremendous amount of success and unprecedented growth, and we’ve been honored to help our clients reach their full potential as we continue to grow.

Whether we’re helping our sports clients create better teams through improved draft picks, signings, and trades, or helping our HR clients with innovative HR case management and call-tracking workflow solutions, we have a long history of success with our clients across the board.

And it’s paid off.

In just five years, we launched LBi Dynasty, our custom sports analytics solution, and now we have clients in Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and the National Basketball Association. We’re incredibly proud to have clients in three of the four major sports leagues and 20 percent of the teams in MLB. And we’re proud of how our HR clients continue to grow through HR HelpDesk, as well.

These past five years have been incredible, and it’s all thanks to our clients and our amazing employees. It’s because of them that we can make this announcement.

We’re very excited to announce that we purchased a 25,235-square-foot building for $5.4 million in March of 2017. This three-story building is located at 999 Walt Whitman Road in Melville, New York, where we’ll occupy the first and second floors of the building. And it’s all thanks to our clients, our employees, and the past five years of unprecedented growth.

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Is a Chat Service in HR Help Desk a Viable Feature?

Virtually every e-commerce website incorporates an instant online chat service. What better way to get your questions answered quickly and accurately than “speaking” to a trained live agent?

Some questions may readily be answered via a searchable self-help database. But often self-service systems cannot cover 100% of customer issues and/or questions. This is where chat can provide the quality service customers need and expect.

If chat is the ultimate customer service tool for so many businesses, it may seem logical to incorporate chat into other business systems, such as HR Help Desk. Most HR Help Desk systems include at least some level of self-service functionality, but as in e-commerce those databases may not be comprehensive enough to cover every employee issue.

So is chat the answer? Maybe – but unlike e-commerce sites, HR organizations have a number of factors and options to consider before deploying chat. Here are my top 5 concerns that HR must evaluate: …Read More

Should Performance Reviews Include Information from Social Media?

social media

In other words, is it acceptable to judge an employee’s performance on activities that occur outside of the office, even if those activities include disparaging the employer? Though laws and policies are different in different states and jurisdictions, the question is still valid.

It may seem obvious that employees (and really everyone) should not compromise themselves in any way online, but the facts show otherwise. People simply do dumb things all the time and post them for all to see. In reality, anything posted online in a publicly accessible page could be considered fair game to anyone else who decides to use that information freely.

What if the employee is posting a job search on LinkedIn? Is it reasonable that the employer’s view of the employee be impacted one way or another? Management may decide to cajole the employee with a positive review (and associated bonus). Or they may prefer to cut the cord and let the employee go prior to him/her actually resigning. In employment-at-will states, employers don’t even have to give a reason for dismissal, as long as the termination is not violating other laws such as discrimination.

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Is Cross-Training Employees Good for Business?

cross-training

The great majority of new employees are hired for a specific role within the organization. But in many cases new hires (and tenured workers) may be exposed to other functions they were not initially called on to perform. For instance, a payroll clerk may be called upon to handle some related employee benefits tasks. Or a shop floor worker, who has been trained on a particular discrete machining job, may be needed to temporarily substitute for another, absent employee.

Certainly employees, who are multi-faceted and can readily handle new challenges, are a tremendous asset to their employer – and to their own personal career aspirations. However, some employees may relish new responsibilities while others don’t.

Whether a company provides formal, structured training, or encourages learn-as-you-go on-the-job training, unquestionably employee training and education is good for business. But what happens when employees are pulled out of their comfort zone to handle unfamiliar duties? Unfortunately this occurs in companies large and small. “Fire drills” arise at unexpected times (hence the moniker “fire drill”). Unless a company has the ability to hire short-term temps to fill in the resource gaps, the situation quickly becomes “all hands on deck”.

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Using HR Help Desk Statistics to Determine HR Staff Requirements

hr analytics for staffing

The following post first appeared in 2015. 

Much has been written about finding the optimum ratio of HR staff to employee size. A SHRM Human Capital Benchmarking Study has published a suggested ratio based purely on employee count:

The formula to calculate the ratio would be:

(HR Staff Count / Employee Count) x 100

For instance, a 1500 employee company with 10 HR personnel would have a ratio of 0.67, somewhat below the supposed target staff according to the table above (10/1500 * 100 = .67). In theory, based on the chart, 12 HR personnel would be optimal to manage 1500 employees.

SHRM suggests that not all HR staff should be factored into the count. Generally it is recommended to only include HR professionals who work as generalists, and those in areas such as benefits, compensation, labor relations and organizational effectiveness. They suggest that payroll and other specialized roles should not be included in the count.

Obviously this is an imperfect method and is loaded with multiple potential downsides. It does not take into consideration factors such as your industry, business specific circumstances, and the skill/experience of each individual HR worker. It also opens up the door to possible unsubstantiated staff cuts if your ratio is on the high side.

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For Grievance and Conflict Resolution, HR Case Management Software Can Be a Valuable Tool

conflict resolution

The following post first appeared in 2014. 

“A good manager doesn’t try to eliminate conflict,” says Robert Townsend, author of the bestseller Up the Organization, and co-author of Reinventing Leadership. “He tries to keep it from wasting the energies of his people.”

As an HR professional in an enterprise organization, you have a choice in how your team — and, therefore, your entire organization — handles all of the conflicts that arise from employee complaints, grievances, and concerns.

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Is Telecommuting Right For You and Your Employees?

A few weeks ago I wrote an article on the new trend towards open office environments – no walls, no cubicles, and no privacy. The argument towards better collaboration and team spirit may or may not justify this almost draconian office design concept, depending on your point of view. Certainly any drastic change in your office design is going to garner at least mixed reviews and varying levels of acceptance.

In that last blog I suggested as an alternative offering employees the option of telecommuting if their functional role would lend itself to working remotely. Unfortunately not all jobs can be performed from home, but many can, at least occasionally.

So let’s explore the positives and negatives of telecommuting. First, can you check all of these eligibility boxes?:

  • Your work substantially is conducted on the phone and/or computer
  • Your work is generally conducted outside of the office anyway (i.e., sales or service)
  • Home computer work does not violate company security policies
  • Face to face meetings with managers and coworkers are infrequent or can be scheduled when you are in the office
  • You don’t require access to physical documents (file drawer stuff)
  • Management does not tend to micro-manage staff

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Are Open Office Environments Conducive to Greater Collaboration & Productivity?

Or not? There is a current trend in designing new office spaces around a wide open concept, in extreme cases providing seats at long contiguous tables in lieu of individual desks. The days of semi-private cubicles may be numbered. Partitions of any type are becoming scarce in many companies, even for managers and some executives.

In complete contrast, back in the 1980’s when Microsoft moved its corporate headquarters to a brand new campus in Redmond Washington, virtually every employee was provided with a private office — 4 real walls and a door (and a window for the lucky ones). And how did that work out for Microsoft? That’s in the history books.

Now companies like Facebook and others are literally breaking down the physical barriers and counting on greater employee engagement within the organization. In fact, Facebook’s headquarters is the largest open office environment in the world (see picture).

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To Cloud or Not to Cloud (Your HR Help Desk)

By | HR Technology | Leave a comment
Cloud Computing and Saas

As you are evaluating new HR Help Desk solutions (or really any business software system), one primary consideration is always the software and hardware platform.  SaaS? Hosted? In-house? “Which is better for my business”?

The choices are actually more varied than you might expect. Some vendors may offer only one option, while others such as LBi offer many choices.

As I have stated in previous blog posts, your system selection process should first evaluate if the system functionality substantially meets your requirements, and the vendor has a proven record of high quality support. Once that has been determined, then platform and architecture should be next in line for consideration. Somewhere in there is price — and we will get to that shortly.

Let’s walk through the most common deployment options, and their perceived pros and cons: …Read More

How We Determined and Prioritized the New Features for HR HelpDesk 6.0

HelpDesk features

At a sales meeting last week I was asked how LBi Software determines and prioritizes the new features we add to HR HelpDesk. The answer was easy; we poll our users of the various versions – from the Free version to the Enterprise version. At least I thought the answer was easy. The tricky part is always in the prioritizing.

Making a list and checking it twice

Polling your user base is easy in concept. Setup a poll for the SaaS clients (Free, Pro and ProPlus versions) and have the Product Managers call the Enterprise clients directly. Should you have a predefined list of questions?  If so, aren’t you seeding the results?  How do you get the actual user preference? Should you use Free Form questions?

One easy solution was to take all of the SaaS features that were rolled out over the last 2+ years via continuous improvement and ask the Enterprise clients to indicate which ones would be important to them.

So we did all of the above — created Surveys, directly called select Pro and ProPlus clients, called all the Enterprise clients. We then gathered all the results and prioritized.

Prioritizing the list

Here is the problem, we prioritized the list. We lost some of the user preference. Sort of like a parent rearranging the kids list for Santa. The “we know better” attitude takes over. But in HR Case Management we do not know better than the user. In fact, in any application that is the case.

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What’s New: HR HelpDesk 6.0

At LBi Software, we offer innovative, comprehensive HR technology made by HR people, for HR people. So when we make changes to our software, we’ve got you at the forefront of our minds. We’re excited to announce HR HelpDesk 6.0 — the newest version of our case manager and call-tracking workflow solution that creates a rich and powerful knowledge base on the fly.

What’s new with HR HelpDesk 6.0?

Think tighter security, easier access, and better reporting. HR HelpDesk 6.0 will provide users with a modernized and simplified interface for easier employee access, better security, report improvements, and more.

We want the new HR HelpDesk to help you help your people. And you should be able to do that in a way that is safer, more efficient, and less of a headache.

We completely redesigned the Employee Self Service Portal and embedded a Google Translate service with over 99 languages to allow you and your employees to access the portal with ease and communicate in any language you need.

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When RFP Questions Cross the Line of Reasonability

By | HR Technology | Leave a comment
RFP

In my business, responding to RFIs, RFQs and RFPs are a part of my daily work life. If you want to win the business, you must accept these requests as a mandatory function during the sales cycle.

20 years ago, questionnaires focused almost entirely on the business application up for bid; features, functions, bells, whistles, and the like. Technology questions primarily centered around the technology platform – Windows, Solaris, SQL Server, Oracle, web vs. client-server, etc.

In today’s cyber security threat world, IT has essentially commandeered the process, and now RFPs are often heavily weighted on security questions. Frankly, many recent RFPs that have crossed my desk barely touch on the relevant and in-demand application features, in favor of addressing IT Security issues. In a few cases, it has been hard to find the actual application questions buried in one of many Excel tabs (worksheets).

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Should You Ignore Questionable Social Media Posts from Job Applicants and Employees?

Over the past decade, employer reviews of social media accounts rose by around 500 percent, according to a CareerBuilder survey. Employers report using social media to investigate potential new hires and to communicate with — and check up on — existing employees. While the practice of involving social media in the employer/employee relationship is still being debated, if you do decide to review social media, you might not want to take every post into account.

Social Media Isn’t a Complete Picture

Brands today know that social media isn’t a complete picture of any person or company. A single joke made in poor taste or a photo of a night partying doesn’t actually tell you much about a person’s skills, work ethic or overall personality. Instead of reacting to single pieces of content, look for a pattern or trend that would be concerning for your workplace. If you refuse to hire anyone who has at least one questionable social media post, you’ll have a hard time finding any candidates.

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How to Mentor New Hires

A mentorship is an excellent way to help a new employee learn the basics of your company and its culture. No matter what size your corporation, start by introducing each employee to their mentor at orientation. The employee can then pose questions to the mentor during and after the onboarding process. After the onboarding process is complete, you may be interested in having the mentee shadow, regularly talk with, or be formally trained by the mentor.

The Role of Mentorships in Small and Large Companies

In small companies, mentorships bring together experienced employees and new, often younger employees. The relationship builds the bond between people of different generations and strengthens the connections within the company. It also allows operations to proceed more smoothly. In large companies, mentorships train new individuals who would otherwise get lost in the crowd. The mentor becomes the “go-to” person for the new employee, who might not know how to approach higher-ups and may not understand complex hierarchies. In both small and large companies, the mentor acts as a resource for the new employee. The mentor remains a stable, helpful guide who anchors them in place and makes them feel at home.

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The 3 Things Millennials Secretly Want from You (Hint: It’s Not Higher Pay)

What Millennials Want

Labor demographics are changing rapidly, and as a generation, Millennials now make up the largest percentage of the workforce. As a result, this group has a strong influence on management practices. Smart employers are adapting to new ways of doing business in order to stay competitive. Those that choose to stick with traditional methods of attracting and retaining workers are quickly becoming obsolete, because they haven’t recognized that Millennials want much more than a simple raise in pay.

Flexibility: Work/Life Balance Isn’t Enough

To attract Millennials looking for their next job, it’s not enough to tout “work/life balance.” With today’s technology, most employees have accepted that they are always available by phone and email. Millennials are comfortable with a BYOD (bring your own device) culture, and they prefer video chat, instant messaging and texting to in-person communication.

Instead of work/life balance, Millennials want assurance that they will have flexibility in where, when and how they get their work done. Some are calling this “work/life blend,” in which employees are free to take a few hours for a child’s soccer game in the middle of the afternoon, with the understanding that they will catch up after the kids are in bed.

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How Increased Employee Retention Enhances Your Bottom Line

employee retention

Most businesses grossly underestimate the true cost of turnover, and they pay the price when they allow strategic engagement and retention planning to fall by the wayside. Such initiatives are more than just good public relations. They create a culture in which employees stay with the company longer, are more productive at work and provide the priceless word-of-mouth and social media advertising that creates a high-quality employer brand.

Who Are Today’s Job Seekers and Why Are They Jumping Ship?

In a survey of more than 5,000 job seekers and 2,000 hiring managers, CareerBuilder’s 2015 Candidate Behavior Study made a startling discovery. Three out of four employees are open to or actively seeking a new position. While not all are sending out resumes during their time away from work, this figure represents the full extent of the population in danger of being wooed away by friendly recruiters looking for top talent through social media.

The study explored the impetus behind employees’ increasing willingness to take new positions. While the reasons vary from frustration with limited development opportunities to dissatisfaction with compensation and benefits, the underlying theme is low engagement. Employers are simply not offering the type of work environment and company culture that inspires staff members to stay.

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How to Engage Your Remote Workforce

remote workforce

Many of today’s businesses have multiple sites around the country and around the world, and telecommuting employees are less uncommon than before. Technology designed to bring employees together despite their geography isn’t new; however, the growing trend towards employing remote staff members has organizations looking at this technology in a new way. Tools that were once too costly to share with employees working from home offices are now more affordable, making it easier to connect remote workers and increase their engagement, regardless of physical location. Employers have more options now than ever to bring their virtual workers closer to the business.

Creating Personal and Professional Relationships
One of the primary drivers of employee engagement is the personal and professional relationships between team members. Frequent communication and time spent face-to-face builds trust, making teams far more effective. However, remote employees find developing these relationships challenging, as their primary method of communication is through email and instant message. In fact, one study determined that a full 81 percent of virtual employees consider development of rapport and trust within a virtual team the number one work related concern.

Fortunately, travel is no longer required for face-to-face meetings. Video conferencing technology is now so economical that businesses can offer the option to all remote employees without incurring significant expenses. Staff members find they can fully participate in relationship building with colleagues through daily use of video conferencing applications, and they are comfortable with the technology because it is now an everyday form of communication between family and friends.

Adding a Personal Touch
Increased use of inexpensive video conferencing, instant messaging and other forms of communication are proven relationship builders, but they can’t entirely replace the personal touch. Consider organizing regular in-person meetings, first when the team is formed, and then at least once a year. Spending several days together gives virtual colleagues an opportunity to develop solid personal relationships through informal interactions, which facilitates effective collaboration through virtual channels later. …Read More

Don’t Use Your IT Help Desk for HR

Don't Use Your IT Help Desk for HR

When seeking a new case management system for HR, many HR organizations opt for the easy decision of using the company’s existing IT Help Desk solution. Why not? It has similarities to an HR specific system. It has been used successfully by IT for years. It’s feature rich, lower cost, and possibly even no cost to expand the system into the HR department.

Then comes the painful reality of critical differences between IT focused systems and HR-centric systems. And as many people know, once a system is in place it will be very difficult to replace later. You will probably have to live with your selection for years to come.

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SaaS and the Cloud: They’re Different

By | HR Technology | Leave a comment
SaaS and cloud computing are different and do not mean the same thing

Why are cloud computing and SaaS (Software as a Service) so often used interchangeably – incorrectly? Well, clearly, most assume a SaaS offering is in the cloud due to its inherent low cost. But that is not true; a SaaS application could reside on a fixed or virtual server. Likewise, cloud computing should not imply SaaS: any application, including single tenant apps, can be hosted in the cloud.

Vendors and service providers put their own spin on SaaS and the cloud to suit their needs, which makes it even more difficult to understand the differences.

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HR Technology: Ensuring Privacy, Security, and Confidentiality

By | Data Security | Leave a comment

Regardless of what software and hosting they use, all HR leaders share one thing in common: They want to be sure their HR applications can deliver three mission-critical objectives — privacy, security, and confidentiality.

In HR case management, here’s how those three important objectives are defined and achieved:

  1. Confidentiality — Cases are accessible depending on their category or type of case and on rules set up by the organization. Confidentiality is meant to protect the case because of its assumed sensitivity or for legal reasons, and also to protect the identity of the employee and others involved. Examples include claims of sexual harassment, employee theft, and complaints about managers.
  2. Privacy — Cases are accessible only by authorized users based on the type of case and, largely, on the desires of the employee. For example, an employee may have a general HR question and want the response to be kept private. HR may not consider the topic one that demands confidentiality. LBi HR HelpDesk ensures privacy between the employee and HR by letting employees determine how they receive their responses during the handling of their case — email, in-person or directly by phone, for example.
  3. Security — Security is all about protecting data and information, and it’s delivered in various ways:
    • LBi HR HelpDesk Enterprise, for example, uses a single-tenant model with hosting on its dedicated server option including a dedicated hardware firewall. In our SaaS multi-tenant model (Pro and ProPlus) the data is stored in separate schemas divided by client so that “records are not co-mingled”.
    • Data is “encrypted at rest” to increase security. Data at rest is any data that’s not moving over a network or temporarily residing in computer memory to be read or updated (an HR case form that an employee has downloaded, for example). Encrypting data at rest requires password-based access if the server is ever unplugged and rebooted — or accessed by an unauthorized user.
    • Key PII (personal identifiable information) data fields such as Social Security Number or Bank Account info are further encrypted at the field level.
    • LBi HR HelpDesk Enterprise hosting offers “intrusion detection” at the server level that’s physically monitored around the clock.
    • The LBi HR HelpDesk application (and all our applications) are designed and developed using the secure coding principles from the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP).

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Keeping Confidential HR Data Confidential

At LBi, virtually 100% of the systems we develop and support maintain at least some level of private and confidential employee information. Along with the essentials of Social Security Number, date of birth, home address, etc., our systems may also contain work background information, personal health information and other personally identifiable data as well. Therefore, it goes without saying that our clients require the highest level of data confidentiality possible, since a data breach can be costly and inconvenient at best and financially devastating at worst.

Whether our systems are hosted by LBi or deployed on the client’s internal servers, data protection and security is always the #1 concern. During the project stage, critical questions are asked about the vendor’s security measures as well as the data security processes of the hosting provider — not to mention confidentiality features built into the actual system.

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Summertime in HR

The lazy days of summer are finally here. Time for that long-deserved vacation from work and the daily grind. Whether you are a shop-floor worker, business manager, or a senior executive, summertime is the most popular time of year to “vacate”.

Though most businesses don’t shut down during the summer, business activity often slows down because clients, prospects, vendors, and partners are also heading for the beach, mountains, or wherever their desires take them.

So now is a great time for HR to kick back and enjoy the relaxed pace, right? Yes, but… there are still SLAs to honor, paychecks to get out on time, and other workplace issues to address. Additionally, many employee self-service HR applications are supported on mobile devices, so employees can now engage HR anytime, anywhere, with the expectation that HR is there for them when needed. With staffing levels likely lower during the summer season, HR still maintains the responsibility to support the employee population, whether they are on the job or on leave.

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Help Employees and the Company Thrive by Supporting Continuing Education

Encouraging employees to continue their education can increase your company’s profits, improve productivity and create more committed employees. Spending around $680 on education and training per employee returns an annual investment of around 6 percent, according to a study from the Association for Talent Development. Give your employees the tools they need to succeed by helping them choose the best options for their education. Here’s how to get started.

Create an employee action plan
Before talking with employees about their education goals, determine what type of support the company will offer. Consider implementing a tuition reimbursement program, paying for books or supporting specific degrees or areas of interest. Businesses that can’t afford a tuition reimbursement program but still want to support their employees’ education can offer a flexible schedule for classes and study time.

Next, sit down with your employees individually and figure out an education action plan that benefits both the company and them. Ask your employee to draft up a proposal of what type of courses or degrees would benefit their career and how they expect it to fold into their day-to-day responsibilities while helping them grow professionally. Create guidelines for how time away from work will be handled and whether employees must pay back fees if they stop taking classes.

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Determining HR Staff Requirements with HR Help Desk Statistics

hr analytics for staffing

 

Much has been written about finding the optimum ratio of HR staff to employee size. A SHRM Human Capital Benchmarking Study has published a suggested ratio based purely on employee count:

The formula to calculate the ratio would be:

(HR Staff Count / Employee Count) x 100

For instance, a 1500 employee company with 10 HR personnel would have a ratio of 0.67, somewhat below the supposed target staff according to the table above (10/1500 * 100 = .67). In theory, based on the chart, 12 HR personnel would be optimal to manage 1500 employees.

SHRM suggests that not all HR staff should be factored into the count. Generally it is recommended to only include HR professionals who work as generalists, and those in areas such as benefits, compensation, labor relations and organizational effectiveness. Payroll and other specialized roles should not be counted.

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Increase Productivity & Job Satisfaction with Employee Incentives

If your employees seem unmotivated, they might be in a slump. Only 30 percent of workers in America are actively engaged in their jobs, according to a recent Gallup survey. The decline in employee engagement reportedly began in 2008 during the Great Recession, when job security and unpredictability were at the forefront of concern and positive attitudes plummeted.

Today, human resources departments understand more than ever that rewards and recognition can play a key role in helping businesses increase productivity and create an overall happier workplace.

Reclaim your workforce by implementing an innovative rewards program that includes compensation, gifting, recognition, and perks. Here are a few ways to get started!

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Leverage HR Case Management to Help Keep Your Best Employees

Leverage HR Case Management to Keep Best Employees

Keeping top talent has become an increasing concern for HR, and it’s a challenge that’s expected to get more difficult, according to SHRM and others. Yet all too often, it’s only after the fact — during the exit interview and maybe not even then — that managers learn why departing employees are disgruntled.

“The only time the average manager thinks about retention is when she or he receives a resignation from an employee,” say B. Lynn Ware and Bruce Fern in their research report “The Challenge of Retaining Top Talent: The Workforce Attrition Crisis.” “We also found that most managers predictably attempt to talk departing employees out of leaving, trying to convince them that they are making a mistake.”

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HR Help Desk vs. IT Help Desk – It’s all about the Vendor’s Experience

Much has been written (including by yours truly) about the benefits of an HR specific help desk solution for the HR department, versus repurposed IT or generic CRM systems. Features such as enhanced security and confidentiality, HR specific workflow processes, and HIPAA compliance are well documented and are core requirements of most HR organizations.

In the end, however, isn’t it really more about the vendor’s expertise working with HR than it is about the application features? HR personnel may inherently know what they need in a help desk / case management system, but they cannot necessarily correlate their business needs with the features of a pre-packaged help desk solution. That task is left to the system’s implementation team (aka the vendor).

For instance, HR needs the ability to tag particularly sensitive cases as confidential, viewable and accessible strictly to the case owner.  But most IT-modified systems don’t deal with the concept of confidentiality. What is confidential about a PC error or someone’s telephone not working – common tickets in an IT help desk system.  Can the vendor (and product) handle that requirement appropriately?

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Putting "HR Help" Back in the HR Help Desk

HR Hep

The expectations of HR continue to grow — to be more of a strategic player in the organization as well as to provide increasingly user-friendly services to employees. HR could use a little HR help from some friends.

Among those friends is an automated HR case management system, built specifically for HR departments to improve HR service delivery and provide HR self-service. This kind of solution can be just the kind of HR help that HR needs today.

First, however, you want to make sure your HR case management solution is designed specifically for HR departments. A system built for IT’s needs and repurposed for HR will fall short of the mark in several ways. You can read more about why that is in our blog post “HR Delivery Excellence Demands HR-dedicated Case Management: True Temper Tools Would Agree” and dig even deeper into the topic in our white paper “Case Management: The Backbone of Excellence in HR Service Delivery.”

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How Cloud and Other Technology Trends Are Transforming HR

Marc Solow, Deloitte Consulting LLP’s HR Shared Services Practices Leader, was cited in a recent blog post that really hit home for us. In a nutshell, Solow identified several HR trends occurring as a result of changes in technology. We agree with Solow’s insight and think the benefits of cloud-based automated HR software solutions — including HR case management — provide examples of what he’s talking about.

Five of the trends Solow identified are:

  1. Applying differentiated HR service delivery within organizations
  2. Showing a preference for cloud-based solutions for HR tools
  3. Transforming HR processes with social and mobile technologies
  4. Leveraging specialized outsourcing to drive better outcomes
  5. Consolidating processes of transactions to move value up the chain

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HR Self-Service: Why It Matters for Managers, Too

By | HR Effectiveness | Leave a comment

Usually when you hear the phrase “HR self-service,” it’s in the context of how its features can benefit employees and HR. It’s true that organizations of almost any size that have a robust, user-friendly, and meaningful employee self-service application also have higher employee engagement and more-efficient and data-rich HR departments compared with their counterparts that lack HR self-service solutions.

But there’s anther entire segment of the workforce that can also benefit hugely from HR self-service: managers and supervisors. Workplace trends suggest that HR leaders would be well served to consider ways to leverage HR self-service to support managers and supervisors. They’re the people whom research increasingly shows play a crucial role in retaining top employees and helping HR deliver its mission.

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Clearing up the Cloudiness

By | Data Security | Leave a comment

The benefits of the cloud for HR technology are unassailable. It makes the adoption of robust, complex programs and systems affordable and scalable. Unlike legacy systems that run on your organization’s own servers, cloud-based solutions don’t require you to buy any hardware; all system maintenance, updates, and support are part of the package, and they’re usually paid for on a subscription or fee-for-use basis. Cloud-based solutions are also often designed with layers of features and complexity built in — behind the curtain, so to speak — so you can change your configuration and add more users with the flip of a switch.

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HR Tech 2014 Recap: HR HelpDesk Rated “E” for Everyone

By | HR Technology | Leave a comment

Guests at our HR Tech booth had fun playing Plinko for a guaranteed prize (vibration speakers, ear buds, USBs, water bottles…) and a chance at four Chromebooks and four Kindles.

The hottest prize at the booth was the vibration speaker — a cool gadget that magnifies the sound of your smartphone via vibration (no bluetooth); we had a lot of fun giving those demonstrations.

Our booth theme was HR HelpDesk Rated “E” for Everyone – HR HelpDesk, our innovative Case Management software, comes in four versions for organizations of varying sizes.

The E also stands for:

  • Employee Engagement
  • Efficient Case Management
  • Easy Sign up – no credit card required for free trials
  • Encompassing Pricing
  • And any other “E” word our marketing people could come up with.

We also generated some buzz on twitter at #EforEveryone.

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The Rise of HR Knowledge Bases

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.

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ESS…Build It and They Will Come…Not Necessarily

The best thing about computer technology is instant access to information any time, anywhere. Smart phones and tablet computers are a godsend in today’s fast moving world. Don’t agree? Just ask Siri or Skyvi (Google’s version of Siri). Now you can find a movie, a restaurant, a gas station, plumber, or anything else you need with just a few taps of the screen.

Pew Research estimates 58% of American adults have a smart phone, and 42% have a tablet computer. Clearly smart device owners understand the power at their fingertips and are realizing significant productivity gains, at least in the category of personal time management. So it stands to reason that mobile information access would provide similar benefits in the workplace, right? For instance, an HR self-service app that delivers virtually instant answers to all of a worker’s employment-related questions, right on their PC, phone or tablet? Well, this is true…if the content is comprehensive and the search tool is simple to use.

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The Power of Combining HR Case Management with Self-service Technology

SMB Employee Self Service

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.

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Are Employment-At-Will Laws Really Good for the Employer or Employee?

Wikipedia describes at-will employment laws as follows:

“At-will employment is a term used in U.S. labor law for contractual relationships in which an employee can be dismissed by an employer for any reason (that is, without having to establish “just cause” for termination), and without warning…[and] an employee may be similarly entitled to leave his or her job without reason or warning.”

Like many well-meaning HR policies, at-will laws in practice may be a double edged sword.  On the surface at-will regulations appear to be beneficial for the employer and employee, though with some negative implications.

An employee can quit with no advanced notice, freeing the departing worker to “jump ship” Friday afternoon ready for the next new career move the following Monday without skipping a beat professionally. After all, it is the employer’s prerogative to immediately dismiss the resigning employee whether or not they offered the traditional two week notice. If this were to occur, the employee could potentially have a costly time gap between the old and new job. So why provide any notice at all?

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Why SMBs Are Using HR HelpDesk

SMBs and HR HelpDesk

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.

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Is the 360 Degree Employee Review Method a Good Idea?

Are 360 degree employee reviews particularly more or less fair to the employee? Let’s start with defining the 360 degree review process. 360 degree employee performance reviews encompass comments from the employee’s managers and peers, customer feedback, HR statistics such as patterns of absences and late/tardy occurrences, as well as actual performance measures.

Additionally, some companies monitor their employee’s social media sites, looking for more clues into their overall impact on the organization. Some reasonable weight is assigned to each of these processes in order to assess the total picture of the employee’s value and contribution to the business.

Seems fair and complete, right? Well they certainly can be, as long as the proper weight is applied to each component of the review, and subjectivity is minimized. For instance, an employee may have achieved 100% of his MBO’s, but for various reasons is not viewed favorably by his/her peers. Does that really matter in the long run? Another employee might have successfully completed all of his projects on time and within budget, but management was quietly expecting more cost cutting measures, though not openly mandated. Is that fair?

Traditional employee reviews focus primarily on performance compared directly to assigned objectives, with additional consideration given to other mitigating factors such as general employee attitude, leadership qualities, attendance, etc. But 360 degree employee reviews take a truly holistic approach and effectively become the “balanced scorecard” of employee reviews.

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Changing the Game for SMB HR: Case Management Your Way

SMB HR Case Management

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.

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Why Do HR Technology Vendors Continue to Overlook the SMB Market?

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).

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Finally, an HR Case Management Model Designed Uniquely for the SMB Market

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.

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LBi Software Expanded Staff and Headquarters!

LBi Software is pleased to announce that it has completed an expansion of its headquarters to over 10,000 square feet at 7600 Jericho Turnpike in Woodbury, NY. LBI Software also recently reached the 50 employee mark. In the last 18 months LBi has grown by over 30%!  This expansion is to support the upcoming new offering of our flagship solution LBi HR HelpDesk.

The office expansion included new offices, new workstations to support 3 monitors per developer, meeting rooms, video games and a Ping Pong table.

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Do You Really Need to Issue an RFP?

Before starting down the path of developing an RFP, it’s crucial to understand the ultimate goal of the journey. Not all RFPs are released with the objective of finding the best and most robust HR case management solution for a company’s needs. Other business goals for an RFP include:

  • Finding the lowest-cost solution to meet the most nominal requirements
  • Surveying the marketplace and gathering information for a future purchase
  • Collecting ideas and information for building a system in-house

If the above is your reason for considering the RFP process, then please don’t.

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Healthier Employees Make for a Wealthier Bottom Line

A 2001 Gallup poll found that Americans who are obese or have chronic health problems cost their employers an estimated $153 billion per year in lost productivity. As the prevalence of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and other chronic health conditions continued to rise from 1999 to 2010 (and beyond), employers are looking for ways to keep their employees physically fit. The best employee wellness initiatives are those that motivate without harming morale.

Promoting Healthy Body Weight

Obese and overweight individuals are more likely to take sick days, require more doctor visits and experience difficulty performing efficiently at work, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An effective strategy to encourage weight management is to have a friendly interoffice competition. For example, departments might compete against one another to see which can log the most exercise minutes, steps walked per day or pounds lost (following a group weigh-in, so as not to put pressure on an individual). Tying performance to monthly rewards such as an office party, financial benefit, or flex time is a great way to increase motivation.

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Is Work-Life Balance a Myth?

Work-Life Balance

Is work-life balance a myth? No, it just has different meaning and implications for different cultures. In the United States there is a trend towards encouraging employees to find a healthy medium between work hours and personal time. There is a widely held belief here that a happy employee is a productive employee. In some industries, employees are required to take all of their allotted paid time off. Others sometimes discourage long vacations greater than one week at a time. But today we are recognized as the most productive nation on Earth, though that belief is rapidly changing.

What about other countries and cultures? Certainly workers in China, South Korea, Japan and India, as well as other countries, are considered very productive. However, in those cultures generally work comes first, and sometimes to the exclusion of family and personal life. Disconcerting stories such as those coming from the Chinese factory Foxconn, are all too common. At Foxconn, employees often work seven days a week, eat in common cafeterias, and live in crowded dorms, though they rarely complain. On the contrary, many employees there are proud to work hard and strive for a solid middle class existence, which otherwise might be unattainable.

In these cultures, children are taught from an early age that hard work and personal achievement is the root of success and happiness. Anything less is considered shaming to the family. In school, “A” is the new “B”. Nothing less than “A+” is acceptable. Just look at the winners in the annual Intel Science and Siemens Competitions. They are consistently represented by a disproportionately large number of foreign born or first generation American students, often from Asian and Indian countries. It is truly hard to argue with success.

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Keeping Your Contingent Workforce Engaged

The percentage of employees that are contingent is quickly growing. Currently 18% of the total work force is contingent.  Some are predicting this to rise to 50% of the Fortune 500 workforce! HR software and HR software vendors must be prepared to support this growing contingent workforce. Furthermore, this contingent workforce needs to be just as engaged as traditional full-time employees. We need to get the most from our employees whether they are permanent or contingent.

Contingent workers are not permanent employees and they know it. Depending on their contract or agreement with the firm, continued employment is always in question, as is the ability to move to a higher, more permanent position.

A contingent workforce may provide many benefits to the organization, such as helping to fill temporarily needed positions during uncertain times of unpredictable growth. But once those workers are in place they need to be properly managed. It is critical to understand that the disposition of contract workers is much different than the attitudes of regular full-time employees. Are they loyal to the company? Can they be trusted with confidential information? Are they at least as productive as regular workers?

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HR Case Management Can Boost Employee Engagement

The features of an automated HR Case Management System – from resolving cases faster and easier, to empowering self-service – can help create and heighten employee engagement.

For example, an HR case management system designed to serve HR keeps a record, instantly available, of every employee transaction. With just a couple of clicks, an HR team member has access to the entire history of a case. The employee doesn’t need to restart the process if he or she needs to follow up on a case.  It’s obviously more efficient for HR, and it’s also an effective tool for heightening employee engagement. It shows employees that the company cares enough to handle their concerns quickly and knowledgeably – it brings consumer-like service to the world of HR.

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For an HR Case Management Shopping List, Consider Five Features of a Full-platform HRIS

It’s true that an HR case management solution is only one piece of a comprehensive HRIS solution. HR case management lives under the big umbrella of software solutions that help streamline the whole spectrum of HR management system functions, from benefits administration, to time and attendance, to performance reviews and succession planning.

Yet all of the pieces within an HRIS share two overarching goals: to help HR professionals manage their workforce more efficiently and to empower employees. Just as with a full-platform HR management system (HRMS), you also want an HR case management solution that will increase HR productivity by automating administrative processes and supporting HR on a strategic level.

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Is Your HR Help Desk System Smart Enough? See if it Passes the Test.

Help Desk systems have become mainstream solutions in virtually every aspect of business operations, including Customer Support, Salesforce Automation, IT Support, HR Support, and more. Though there are many similarities in these applications, it is a keen understanding of the inherent differences that can make or break a successful deployment. Selecting a product that falls short of expectations in just one or two key areas can lead to time delays, as well as wasted (and potentially very costly) financial and personnel investment.

Never has this been truer than in selection and deployment of a new HR system, particularly HR Help Desk. For instance, a lack of privacy features in the help desk system can breach confidentiality agreements, potentially risking expensive and time consuming legal actions.

A well designed HR system, built explicitly for HR, will plug all of the security holes that may exist in some non-HR centric applications. We invite you to take this simple test below and score your current system against the best solutions, such as LBi HR Help Desk 5.0.

Give yourself 5 points for every question you can unequivocally answer “Yes”.

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BYOD: My Employee Resigned – And His Smartphone Is Full of Business Data

Recent research from British law firm EMW paints a distressing picture of employee data theft. EMW found that cloud computing makes it easier for employees to take enterprise data when they leave, and that court cases over theft of business information increased 56 percent from 2011 to 2012. Adopting “bring your own device”, or BYOD,  in your business can leave you vulnerable to employee data theft when staff move on. Accept this, then take steps to minimize your risk.

What’s at Stake if an Employee Walks

When an employee leaves, he carries with him knowledge of your products, services and workflow. Employee laptops and phones will have enterprise and client emails, strategic information, work documents and other data. Since employees may leave for a variety of reasons, every policy should take this into account. Employees who transfer to another office or take a medical leave may need to keep business information, while those who resign, are laid off, or are fired should not keep data.

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HR HelpDesk Can Burnish Your Employer Brand

The days are gone when a company could control its brand either as an employer or a market solution. Gone also are the days when nearly everything a potential candidate or buyer knew about a company came directly from its public affairs office, from stories the company urged its employees and existing clients to disseminate, or from articles that appeared in the business media.

That was before the days of the Internet and social media, before we had the myriad channels through which an organization’s image could be trumpeted – or soiled. “Brand ambassadors, or employee evangelists, are becoming an increasingly common way for brands to leverage their biggest asset – their workforce, of course – to reach new markets, generate buzz, and put a real face on the company,” journalist Eric Markowitz wrote in Inc. Magazine. “They can be tweeters, bloggers, Facebookers – or they could just be the people you send to corporate events.”

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How Your Employees Communicate with Each Other Does Matter

By | HR Efficiency | Leave a comment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phone, email, text, instant message (IM), in person? Unfortunately, many younger workers have grown up in a world where face-to-face (or even phone) communications are not deemed necessary in order to interact effectively with others. The nuances of verbal communications have given way to graphical emoticons and cryptic acronyms. Why bother interpreting visual or audible cues when there is a Smiley face for that?

Have we forgotten about the importance of body language and vocal inflections? In the animal kingdom virtually all creatures converse, not with the written word, but rather by sight and sound. And they apparently are quite successful at it. If sophisticated communications within species through visual and audible means is the product of millions of years of evolution, what does that say about humans and texting? Is this really the next phase in our evolution… or not?

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Stay True to Your Mission Statement

Almost every organization has a formal, written Mission Statement. These statements have at least two primary purposes — to clearly state long-term corporate goals, and to generally set the guiding principles by which employees conduct themselves internally and with their customers.

Mission Statements are top-down mandates that every employee must follow in their daily professional lives. Often it is the responsibility of HR and middle management to monitor (formally or otherwise) their employees to ensure adherence to corporate policies, including those broad principles detailed in the Mission Statement. So how can “the mission” be efficiently monitored day to day, week to week, and beyond, particularly in larger organizations?

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Bullying in the Workplace

By | Compliance | Leave a comment

One of the top sports stories in the news lately has been the issue of player bullying in the NFL. Recently, a rookie player for the Miami Dolphins, a 312 lb., 6’5″ tackle, suddenly resigned due to accusations of bullying by another player, foregoing a high six figure salary.  Certainly not your typical target, how is it even possible that the allegations (including physical, verbal and mental abuse) could be true? Who in their right mind would bully a 6’5″ giant?  Except maybe another 6′ 300 lb. giant.

But that’s not the real story here.  Several of the accused player’s teammates and many other NFL players are defending the accused, primarily on the basis that this is a common and accepted practice in the league, particularly with rookie players.  Think of it as harmless “initiation” or “hazing”.  In the eyes of many within the NFL community, these alleged actions were simply a means of toughening up the victim, preparing him for the rigors of the sport.  And since the victim ultimately could not take the abuse and subsequently resigned from the team, the team and league are now at a better place – after all it’s about survival of the fittest.  For the NFL, this story is far from reaching its conclusion.

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Why Do the Hottest Things Lose Their Mojo So Quickly?

By | Strategic HR | Leave a comment

This past summer three of my favorite TV shows ended: Breaking Bad, Dexter, and Burn Notice. Each one was very successful yet only one remained on top until the very end. Why is that? Did the others lose their way or just ride out the series like a cash cow?

As far as the reasons behind the failures of Dexter and Burn Notice, they are a matter of personal opinion. Dexter clearly had jumped the shark and, given the series plot, it got less real with each additional microscope slide. As for Burn Notice, in my opinion, it tried to be like the competition and turned from a fun campy A-Team-like show to a lame spy thriller.

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HR Delivery Excellence Demands HR-dedicated Case Management: True Temper Tools Would Agree

“The right tool for the right job.”

That’s been the advertising slogan for True Temper tools since at least 1907, when the Cleveland-based company was called American Fork & Hoe. The catchphrase is just as true today as it was then, and not only when it comes to forks and hoes.

Without the right technology for the right job, it’s highly unlikely any mission will achieve its optimal outcome. Sure, the job might get done. But at what cost? What will be left out or left behind? How much better could the job have been done with the right tools – with the benefit of software and a system, for example, uniquely designed to accomplish that particular job?

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HR Tech 2013 Recap: The Puzzle of HR Technology Solved!

Guests at LBi Software’s HR Tech booth participated in a game to try to solve the puzzle of HR Technology:

Each player would add a piece to the puzzle and try to guess the message. The first correct puzzle guess won a Microsoft Surface and each correct guess after that was put in a drawing for a second Microsoft Surface. Participants would also win a prize for just playing: Kindles, iPod Nanos, ear buds, Amazon gift cards, 8GB flash drives and water bottles.
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Using HR HelpDesk for Talent Management Processes

One of the hottest HR Shared Services products today is talent management software. Designed to manage the entire lifecycle of employee tenure within an organization, these solutions have become one of the most high-demand systems for corporations large and small. However, as they impact virtually every department within HR, from recruiting to benefits to payroll, etc., the decision timeframe for selection of the best-fit solution can be considerably protracted as many users are directly involved in the selection process. Additionally, the most comprehensive systems can be quite expensive, frequently requiring a longer term budget appropriation process.

For many organizations, the short-term solution is to continue with their current painfully inefficient paper intensive processes until a new system can be procured and implemented. There is, however, a viable alternative – LBi HR HelpDesk. As we have discussed in previous articles, HR HelpDesk is a productive and often necessary add-on to even the finest talent management systems, since HR case/ticket management is not generally a component of talent management suites.

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Stack-Ranking Employees (aka rating on the Bell Curve system)

By | HR Effectiveness | Leave a comment

For many years, large companies such as Microsoft, GE and others have rated their workforce on a bell curve system, which dictates how employees in a review period are ranked within their given group. More importantly, it limits how many can be ranked above average, and requires a certain % to be graded below average. Even if the entire team and every individual outperforms their goals!

The image below provides an example of GE’s stack-rank policy:

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Closing the Gap in Talent Management Systems

  • Recruitment
  • Onboarding
  • Performance
  • Training and Development
  • Succession Planning
  • Offboarding

Yes, the very best Talent Management systems are designed to handle the complete lifecycle of your workforce. They connect and manage all of the stages of the employee’s career within the organization. Cradle to grave, as they say.

Or do they? Is there something missing here? Absolutely there is.

Let’s talk about that cradle to grave analogy. Mom and Dad plan to start a family – Recruitment. The big day comes and the bouncing baby is born – Onboarding. Teach the little one how to walk and talk – Performance. Potty training, manners, and formal education follow – Training and Development. College and career aspirations – Succession Planning. The little one finally leaves the nest – Offboarding.

That’s it, right? Wrong. What about all those endless hours of issues, problems, questions and general conversations that you have with Junior through the years? Why can’t I have the car keys? Can you raise my allowance? Can I go to Miami for Spring break with the gang? I am really mad at my brother!

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HR Help Desk vs. IT Help Desk

IT Help Desk solutions are feature rich and generally lower in cost than those developed specifically for HR; but consider the mission critical role of a help desk solution in HR, and the inherent risk of confidentiality breaches from less secure solutions, and the choice seems clear.

IT Help Desk systems generally don’t need to be concerned with employee privacy and information security. They are designed to handle the management of technical computer and telephony issues, software problems, etc. Routing of confidential cases (i.e., harassment or manager dispute cases) strictly to authorized personnel (and out of the eyes of others) is simply not a necessary function for IT. Read 7 Employer Actions that Can Increase Likelihood of a Lawsuit for insights on the importance of HR maintaining proper documentation while handling employee disputes.

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The Affordable Care Act and Your Employees – Communication is Critical

With all the hype created in the media for The Affordable Care Act, (aka Obamacare), it is critical for HR departments to communicate openly with their employees regarding any impact (whether positive or negative) on them financially or otherwise.

While some components of the law have already been enacted, many key provisions (and some of the most confusing) are set to begin in 2014.  Because the press has had a field day covering the political football known as Obamacare, misinformation is bound to be created, causing tremendous FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt).  This fact has the potential to not only generate an unneeded distraction within the workforce at a minimum, but great anxiety and grave concern for their future at the other extreme.

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Are We a Disposable Society? Do We Replace HR Technology Too Quickly?

By | HR Efficiency | Leave a comment

This weekend my friend, an HR Department Head, asked me if he was being too hasty in replacing his legacy HCM system.  After all, his entire department had invested so much time and money into it: learning the nuances, customizations, interfaces…  So I asked him what was wrong with the current system.  His response was that it does not do everything they want and it is too costly to maintain (expensive upgrades and annual fees).  He predicted that the new software’s payback period was less than 3 years.

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Getting Contextual: Beyond Employee Engagement in HR Technology

The use of HR technology to heighten employee engagement is still evolving. In some respects – and despite so much that’s been written about it – applying the features of HR and HCM technology to boost employee engagement is still in its infancy. But in other regards, the trend is already starting to become passé.

The practice of tapping into existing legacy HCM systems to drive employee engagement will soon be outdated. Here’s how Brandon Hall Group and The Starr Conspiracy put it in their recent white paper, The Future of HCM: 7 Trends That Every HCM Provider Needs to Know: “There’s one certainty within this uncertainty. These legacy HCM systems will all eventually go away forever. HCM players have taken novel steps to hasten the progress of this slow death.”

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Webinar Recap: HR Technology vs. Real-world Challenges

It was no surprise to us that our webinar “Leveraging HR Technology to Meet Real-world Challenges” brought some great, real ideas to the table.

We brought in HR thought leader Robin Schooling to talk about these ideas because she’s been there. She’s had to bridge that disconnect between where an HR technology solution may end and where the real solution begins. With LBi Software President Richard Teed, we heard someone with decades of experience in the HR technology industry talk about the challenges of meeting the needs of HR pros. Lastly, the guidance and moderation of Laurie Ruettimann helped balance the two perspectives to give some powerful insights.

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Employees Want to Be More Like Consumers. Let Them.

As with every other aspect of human capital management today, success increasingly depends on engaging employees. And that means HR must give employees consumer-like online experiences in their work life as much as possible.

Why? Two overarching reasons:

  1. HR has gradually and increasingly taken a page from marketing’s playbook. Savvy HR leaders today know the value of actively soliciting feedback about – and keeping abreast of – employees’ needs, wants, preferences, and concerns; developing relevant and actionable data from that knowledge; and responding accordingly.
  2. Also like their colleagues in marketing, forward-thinking HR leaders are aware of – and responding to – the shifts in employee demographics, social networking, mobile computing and connectivity, and online consumerism. Just like consumers, employees want increasingly to be informed, connected, and empowered.

HR technology that supports this trend – while balancing it all with privacy and security – fosters a more engaged, more productive workforce. An HR case management system that features an engaging employee portal, an accessible user interface, and unconditional security offers one big step toward treating employees as consumers. The results: a more engaged and more productive workforce.

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Making HR Technology Real: A Webinar to Deal With Daily HR Life

Let’s face it. HR technology today is so powerful, so robust, and so omnipresent – not to mention so dressed out with bells, whistles, and data-generating gewgaws – that it’s easy to forget what HR’s most important role is every day: solving people problems.

We recently published an e-book, Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Applying HR Technology to Solve Real-world Problems, because we’re concerned about what we see as a gap between the promises of HR technology and the everyday reality that HR leaders face at ground zero.

HR professional, author, and speaker Robin Schooling was among those who contributed to Where the Rubber Meets the Road, and we’re excited that she’s continuing the conversation with us. Robin will join LBi President Richard Teed on July 24 for a one-hour webinar, “Leveraging HR Technology to Meet Real-world Challenges.”

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Data Security: HR Has a Strategic Role to Play

Myth: Data security is a highly technical and esoteric undertaking that is solely the responsibility of an enterprise organization’s IT department.

Fact: Data security is an increasingly significant concern and function of many stakeholders, including HR.

HR is both a huge generator and an enormous consumer of sensitive information about employees and the company.

The kinds of information HR generates and stores have expanded rapidly in the last decade or two. So have the storage capabilities and amount of data HR is responsible for creating and archiving. It wasn’t so long ago that most of the communication between HR and employees or leadership was spoken, handwritten, or typed onto paper. In addition, it was either never retained or was saved only until the schedule called for it to be shredded or tossed out to make more room in the filing cabinets and storage rooms for newer documents.

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Looking Back to See Ahead: The Predictive Power of HR Case Management Analytics

 

In Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, one fellow asks another: “How did you go bankrupt?” The man answers, “Gradually, and then suddenly.”

The same could be said of many of the most volatile, hot-potato situations you face as an HR leader. Even flare-ups that appear to come out of the blue — a breach of company policy that puts the organization’s brand at risk, a seemingly sudden lack of productivity in one sales department — are really just the straws that broke the camel’s back.

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HR Case Management Software: A Tool for Grievance and Conflict Resolution

“A good manager doesn’t try to eliminate conflict,” says Robert Townsend, author of the bestseller Up the Organization, and co-author of Reinventing Leadership. “He tries to keep it from wasting the energies of his people.”

As an HR professional in an enterprise organization, you have a choice in how your team — and, as a result, your entire organization — handles all of the conflicts that arise from employee complaints, grievances, and concerns.

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Strategic HR: Using Case Management to Build an Enterprise-wide Knowledge Base

Science fiction author Ray Bradbury wrote, “Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.”

A similar argument can be made for almost any enterprise organization, and particularly for their HR departments.

Without a library of your organization’s employee-relevant documents, forms, policies, benefits information, and similar items, you run the risk of seeing the same HR problems repeated over and over, and you have no clear path for preventing similar problems in the future.

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Why Are Employees Leaving? HR Case Management Can Provide Answers

Authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman wrote in their 1999 bestseller, First, Break All the Rules: What The World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, that people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. If anything, that statement rings more true today than ever before.  And it’s even more sobering when you consider the most recent findings from Modern Survey, the employee engagement measurement company.

Modern Survey’s Spring 2013 National Engagement Study found that:

  1. Disengagement among U.S. workers is at its highest level since the company began conducting its twice-yearly study six years ago.
  2. Just over 1 in 3 employees feel that direct managers and supervisors are “most responsible” for engaging employees.
  3. Nearly 1 in 4 managers are, meanwhile, unfamiliar with the concept of employee engagement.

So, when someone leaves your organization, odds are good that the relationship between that person and his or her manager had at least something to do with it. How would HR know what those reasons were? More importantly, how would they know in time to change the course of events? How might the problems that one employee is having with a manager be affecting other employees?

Throwing a wider net, what else is going on among your employees that’s not readily visible on the surface but that could nonetheless be causing employee disengagement and, ultimately, be contributing to their decisions to leave? To begin to answer that question, think of all of the personal and professional issues in any employee’s life that might cause them to reach out to HR.

In an enterprise organization, HR is going to be contacted about employee concerns ranging from complaints about their managers to questions about paid time off. Or employees may need help resolving difficulties over, say, getting medical claims reimbursed or their sales bonuses accurately paid.

We’re not saying any one of those concerns in and of itself would lead to employee disengagement or cause someone to quit. But what if you could see where the common denominators lie? What if you could compare the issues affecting disengaged and terminating employees with those of their colleagues, other business units, or the entire company?

A fully featured, automated HR case management solution with robust and accessible analytics, like LBi HR HelpDesk, gives you the power to look back among HR cases of disaffected and exiting employees to get accurate and timely insight into their concerns and to see how those metrics compare with similar reports for other groups. You can track the same metrics against performance and productivity to determine how trends among exiting employees are affecting the bottom line.

From there, HR can be a more strategic business partner and proactively suggest changes in policies or processes.  With a system like LBi HR HelpDesk, you have the tools to help managers positively affect employee engagement and to generate greater engagement among more front-line workers.

To learn more about how an automated HR help desk can help HR transform data into better workplace performance and up its strategic game, download our white paper “Stay Competitive: Use Your HR Help Desk to Drive and Measure Employee Engagement.”

Image source: CallMe! IQ

Want to Support Talent Development? Get Vision Into Your Workforce

You probably wouldn’t think so, but Helen Keller had some advice for today’s HR leaders. “The only thing worse than being blind,” Keller wrote, “is having sight but no vision.”

Today, HR leaders in enterprise organizations often have access to huge piles of data. It sits before them, a sight to behold, a mountain of data compiled from reports and analytics. But do HR leaders gain vision from what they see?

Does HR get perceptions of who their employees are and what truly matters to them? Do they get fresh insight into how to better support talent management and their organizations’ learning and development systems, or where the opportunities for positive change lie?

That kind of vision can come with the incorporation of an automated HR case management system into a talent management solution or a learning and development strategy. With that combination, the enterprise HR leader can support the employee’s entire life cycle, from onboarding through career development and succession.

Sure, an enterprise talent management system — like a good learning and development system — will show you an employee’s defined goals and the training they’ve completed. But will they give you insight into the employee?

What if you could look at an employee’s talent management curve related to his or her historical interactions with HR … and do that at a glance? What if you could compare how your high and low performers differ in their concerns about such personal, ground-zero matters as the use of paid time off, out-of-network medical coverage, problems with an immediate manager, or any of dozens of other potential red-flag concerns?

And what if you could see how cohorts compare based on pay scale, demographics, or business unit? Now you’re talking about having a vision of what your workforce is all about. You gain actionable insight that empowers you to respond immediately and act strategically.

This kind of analysis becomes increasingly important when you further consider such diverse trends affecting American business as the continued increase in spending on learning and a rise in the number of employees working remotely. High-performing organizations look at the entire spectrum of talent management and development through the lens of HR interactions.

A fully featured automated HR case management solution that provides robust and accessible analytics, like LBi HR HelpDesk, turns seeing into insight through real-time tracking of transactional data across every department and system. Logistically, it’s a no-brainer: The best systems, including LBi HR HelpDesk, integrate seamlessly into most HRIS software and talent development applications.

To learn more about how an automated HR help desk can help HR transform data into better workplace performance and up its strategic game, download our white paper “Stay Competitive: Use Your HR Help Desk to Drive and Measure Employee Engagement.”

Image source: Ecribouille

Assessing Attitudes Toward Employee Benefits with an HR Help Desk

If you’re in a competitive industry (and who isn’t today?), you need to know with confidence that your organization’s benefits and compensation plans are helping you find top talent and retain your best performers. But with the increasing complexity of plan designs, and with the rapidly changing demographics of the workforce, how do you gain the level of insight you need to know if your benefits are, in fact, hitting their marks?

Even more important, how can you get that awareness before your top people become disengaged? How can you proactively suggest revisions to your organization’s plan designs? And how can you do all of that with staff reductions in HR that continue to linger even as the economy begins to recover?

Employees’ attitudes toward their benefits usually only get serious consideration when annual enrollment looms near, or during exit interviews. As for how employees feel about their salary and compensation, those attitudes are usually assessed only during formal salary surveys or, again, in exit interviews. Neither option is optimal.

A fully featured, automated HR case management system like the LBi HR HelpDesk can give you continuous, real-time insight into how your employees feel about their benefits and their compensation packages. It can capture and categorize inquiries about everything from medical plan reimbursements, to changes in pay rates, to concerns about beneficiary coverage. And it can guide HR decision-makers through case management best practices to be able to better support your organization’s strategic initiatives.

LBi HR HelpDesk, for example, creates a centralized, continuously updated knowledge base that’s integrated with case management; you can share information across HR and your business units. The obvious benefit is that inquiries are resolved consistently and efficiently. The less obvious but equally significant advantage is gaining information to help make forward-looking HR decisions.

LBi HR HelpDesk gives you insight into problems with insurance carriers and benefits claims, flexible spending accounts (FSAs), and more. You can learn how easy or difficult it is for employees to change personal information or coverage. You can also evaluate their use of, or employee concerns over, workers’ compensation and other workplace-benefits issues.

The bottom line is that the LBi HR HelpDesk offers powerful benefits and compensation reporting and analytics that give a complete historical view of the interaction between HR and employees. This can identify what’s working, what’s not, and where you can suggest changes.

Risk Reduction and the LBi HR HelpDesk

Corporate life is full of risks of all shapes and sizes. The playing field is riddled with hazards that range from employee lawsuits stemming from a manager’s misconduct to federal sanctions and fines for failing to comply with the reporting guidelines of Sarbanes-Oxley.

LBi HR HelpDesk can mitigate risk for the organization across these areas and more. For starters, the system creates a complete and accurate audit trail of all communications between an employee and HR. Managers and administrators no longer need to go in after the fact and manually recreate timelines or piece together communications from disconnected sources related to a grievance.

Other features of LBi HR HelpDesk that reduce risk and protect the reputation of the organization include:

  • Recording all inquiries and related communications throughout the history of each case
  • Storing all documents and communications related to a case in one place
  • Providing confidentiality for involved employees and security of all communications and documents

Recent enhancements to LBi HR HelpDesk further help reduce corporate risk. Version 5.0, released in December, tracks communications beyond just the employee initiating a case and the HR representative handling it. Dialogues can also be tracked between the HR representative and whomever he or she reaches out to for advice or support on the case.

This functionality gives HR a full picture, at a glance, of all communications related to any individual case. This can be a significant benefit when a case is put in the spotlight or may become part of a legal action.

The variety and detail of ad hoc reports that users can create in LBi HR HelpDesk (expanded in Version 5.0) can also help lessen risk by giving HR greater insight into the flow of cases, the time required to resolve cases, areas in the organization that have had a higher-than-average rate of grievances, and other standards that can identify potential areas for improvement or action before they escalate.

At the end of the day, users of LBi HR HelpDesk can leverage myriad features that give insight across the breadth of HR processes and throughout the organization to help minimize the risk of litigation, noncompliance and oversights.

Digging for Treasure in the HR Data Mines

We dig, dig, dig, the whole day through
To dig, dig, dig is what we like to do
It ain’t no trick to get rich quick
If you dig, dig, dig with a shovel or a pick

So sang the dwarfs in the 1937 Disney classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Sneezy and the guys happily dug every day where “a million diamonds shine.” HR has a very similar opportunity today.

HR leaders can tap into a rich mine of shiny jewels, uncovering wonderful nuggets of revealing data anytime, every day. All HR needs is a fully featured HR case management system — aka an HR help desk — that includes robust metrics, flexible reporting options and a dashboard that yields easy-to-access reports.

In fact, an automated HR help desk is a double-win for HR. First, it contains valuable data that can help HR play a more strategic role in any organization. Then, if you’ve done your homework, your case management system will include the necessary tools to help you turn that data into actionable analytics.

One might say that LBi HR HelpDesk, for example, is a gold mine that comes complete with all the equipment HR needs to dig deep and transform that data into insights that will help drive business decisions.

That, in fact, is exactly what HR is being asked to do a lot more of today. And as with many things in life, the good stuff lies beneath the surface; the most valuable HR data is often not the easiest to capture.

In the words of Naomi Bloom, managing partner at Bloom & Wallace, a consulting firm specializing in the application of HR technology: “When it comes to metrics, the easiest to do are very rarely the most valuable!”

We’re biased, of course. But LBi HR HelpDesk does the heavy lifting for you. It allows HR to efficiently and systematically collect data and evaluate what it means. It helps you get down-to-earth, business-aligned insight to make suggestions for changes in policies and processes to improve productivity and performance.

If you’d like to learn other ways an automated HR help desk can help HR up its game, see our white paper “Five Top HR Challenges and How an Automated HR Case Management Solution Can Beat Them .”

Who knows? You, too, may uncover “a thousand rubies, sometimes more.”

Heigh-ho. Heigh-ho.

Image source: The Ink and Pixel Club

It’s Alchemical: HR Data Is Transformed Into a Higher-performing Workforce

Today’s HR systems are capable of creating mountains of data, which begs the question: What are you supposed to do with all of it? What should you do with the tsunami of facts and figures, streams of employee records, and seemingly bottomless online file cabinets filled with digital documentation of every transaction between employees and HR?

The C-suite knows what it wants you to do. It wants HR to transform all of that data into something else entirely — into analytics that will help improve performance.

What is HR? Magical? It can be.

Robert Heinlein, the prolific and influential author (Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and many more) said, “One man’s ‘magic’ is another man’s engineering.”

We totally agree with Heinlein, but we look at it from the other side of the prism. We believe one person’s engineering is another person’s magic.

The precision engineering that goes into developing a high-quality, fully featured HR case management system makes magic for HR. An HR help desk that has robust analytics, flexible reporting, the ability to create a knowledge base on the fly, and the capability to serve up actionable analyses from an executive dashboard can, in fact, magically transform HR data into analytics that can lead to higher workplace performance.

That’s not only what the C-suite wants; it’s exactly what top-flight HR organizations have begun doing. Research from Bersin by Deloitte finds that one of the 10 best practices of “high-impact HR organizations” is that they develop and apply measurement strategies that “ensure efficiency, effectiveness, and business alignment, [and illustrate] clear connections between the efforts of both the HR function and individual people.”

For example, LBi HR HelpDesk can pool all of its data into a data warehouse or “data mart” — a virtual repository of employee concerns and grievances across the company. This data allows executives to quantify the degree to which various employee issues are affecting productivity and performance. For example, a drop in production in a specific region, business unit, or even under a single manager can be correlated back to an increase in labor-related disputes handled by HR related to that region, business unit, or manager.

To learn more about how an automated HR help desk can help HR transform data into better workplace performance and up its strategic game, download our white paper “Stay Competitive: Use Your HR Help Desk to Drive and Measure Employee Engagement.”

Image source: The Globe and Mail

Riddle Us This: How Is an Automated HR Help Desk Like the Federal Budget Sequester?

The answer: Just by implementing it, you’ll cut your costs.

Unlike the budget sequester, however, an automated HR case management system is highly unlikely to stir debate over whether you should have taken a different path.

One proven advantage of a fully featured, automated HR case management system is that it will reduce HR department expenses. Period.

At the very least, quality HR help desks let HR quickly and easily centralize and manage huge amounts of information from various systems across the organization. (The new term for this in the digital age, by the way, is “information curation.”) A system with the right features can then take that information and, on the fly, create a searchable, automated knowledge base. Information delivery across the entire organization suddenly becomes a whole lot more consistent. Front-line employees and managers can go directly to the knowledge base to find answers about everything from safety policies to their medical insurance benefits.

The benefit is obvious: greater and more efficient HR service delivery, which means lower HR costs.

Industry research, in fact, says that an effectively deployed HR help desk can reduce unnecessary calls to HR by as much as 75 percent. HR Management magazine has cited a Gartner report that says HR organizations spend as much as 80 percent of their time dealing with administrative duties and questions from employees and managers. With an automated HR help desk, HR team members have more time to spend on work that is more strategic, and fewer HR team members are needed to field employee calls.

In addition, how about the savings you gain if your HR help desk offers automated, online access for employees anytime, from nearly any Internet browser, and on almost any device? The least expensive way to deliver HR service is electronically, such as through web self-service, email, and online chat.

If all of that is true (and all of it is), riddle us this: Why, according to the Shared Services Institute in 2010, had only 56 percent of large organizations deployed an automated case management system? Why had only 40 percent implemented an automated knowledge base as part of their HR services system? And why are the most resource-intensive communication channels — such as telephone calls to HR and call centers — still the preferred methods for HR service interaction?

It doesn’t need to be that way.

To learn more about how an automated HR help desk can help HR reduce costs and up its game, download our white paper “Five Top HR Challenges and How an Automated HR Case Management Solution Can Beat Them.”

Image source: Bill Hood

An Employee on Autopilot: A Potentially Costly Frenemy

If you don’t know the term, a “frenemy” is the friend whose words or actions hurt you, regardless of whether you believe that’s their intention. A frenemy is the friend you ought to get rid of, but don’t. Why? Because as the Urban Dictionary puts it, “they’re nice, they’re good … you’ve had good times with them … they’re good people that you can count on to bring you down again sometime in the near future.”

Sound like some of your employees? Do you think they’re not hurting you every day? Maybe you think that because they’re not consistently underperforming or causing you grief, they’re not steadily eroding your bottom line. They are. They’re hurting the company through their own middling performance and because of their impact on colleagues.

In its trailblazing research, The Gallup Organization identifies three groups of employees: engaged, not engaged and actively disengaged. We’d argue that a frenemy is already actively disengaged. Because with employee engagement, as in life, there truly is no middle ground. As Anakin Skywalker says to Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, “If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy.”

That includes the employee who’s on autopilot, the employee who’s along for the ride. That person, plain and simple, is a step away from becoming an “actively disengaged” employee.

And the damage wrought by a disengaged employee is staggering.

Curt Coffman, co-author of the Gallup-research-fueled books First, Break All the Rules and Follow This Path, describes the “actively disengaged” employee as a “CAVE dweller.” It’s an acronym for “consistently against virtually everything.” Coffman has written that, “Every day, actively disengaged employees tear down what their engaged co-workers are building.”

How much does that cost you?

Gallup research estimates that disengaged employees are costing the American economy as much as $350 billion a year in lost productivity. The organization’s most recent figures say 16 percent of the U.S. workforce is actively disengaged. That means slightly more than three of every 20 employees on your payroll are, at best, impeding the good of your engaged employees.

More to the point, Gallup says disengaged employees:

  • Take more sick days and are tardy more often
  • Undermine the work that more-engaged employees perform
  • Cost each employer $3,400 to $10,000 in annual salary
  • Miss deadlines and achieve poor sales

Indirectly, the cost of disengaged employees includes:

  • Higher customer complaints, because disengaged employees become frustrated more easily and pass their cynicism and negativity to customers
  • Turnover costs to train new employees when disengaged workers quit or influence colleagues to leave

Our last post shed light on three super-significant factors for influencing employee engagement in today’s shifting economy (trust, values and a purpose-driven mission) and where to look to discover employee dissatisfaction and concerns. The same solution — an automated HR help desk — can be leveraged to discover who your frenemies are, identify their concerns and recommend changes in policies, processes and management procedures.

You may not be able to turn a frenemy into an engaged employee. But you can point the ship in the right direction to keep other employees from becoming disengaged.
Image source: Roving Coach International

Employee Engagement — Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back in the Water

For a while, it seemed that American business was federally required to include something about employee engagement in every single human resources and talent management conference or publication. Then the recession hit.

Employee engagement took a back seat to nearly every other aspect of trying to navigate a successful business and do more with less. HR and its related operations were no exception. Then the economy began to recover — however slowly and unevenly — and employee engagement roared back as a hot topic.

Except now, the dialogue around employee engagement is more pointed and we have a lot more research to inform the conversation. What we’re all learning as  a result is that most of what we assumed about what drives employee engagement was simply wrong.

For starters, didn’t we think that as the economy improved, employee engagement would rise? Wrong. In late 2011, an AON Hewitt poll of 5,700 global employers found that engagement levels through the third quarter of 2011 were about the same as the year before and were actually lower than in 2009 and 2008.

The report prompted one writer on staffing and recruiting trends to comment: “Unless employers change course and start listening to their employees, they may see a drop in productivity or increased absenteeism and turnover.”

Indeed.

But what do you listen to? How do you listen to your employees? These are the questions that are driving the new discussions around employee engagement.

Consider more recent research that included an empirical study of observations from 36,000 employees in 18 countries. This study identified three common denominators that, as the final report said, “give rise to a highly inspired group of super-engaged employees.” Those are, quite simply:

  • Trust
  • Values
  • A purpose-driven mission

We’d argue that those three factors should take any HR leader back to the same kind of questions we asked just a paragraph or two above. Where can you look to learn if your employees trust their managers and the company? How can you know if they respect and are aligned with the company’s values? What data exists to tell you if they feel they and the company are purpose-driven?

Look at it another way: Where can you look to see if employees are mistrustful, disagree with the company’s values or don’t feel they have a purpose-driven mission? The answer may be right in front of you. It may be in the tools and technology that HR has its disposal today, such as an automated HR help desk.

Think about it.

An HR case management system should be able to provide you with a wealth of insight into what employees are feeling and what they see as wrong with the company — from a complaint about a manager to a problem with the retirement savings plan. And a quality help desk will gather that information for you to mine while maintaining employees’ privacy and confidentiality.

Research shows employee engagement matters. Research also shows we know less than we thought about what that means. You can use all of the help you can get to help move the needle at your organization.

Image source: LRN ‘The How Report’

Recognition: We Don’t Chase It, but We Surely Appreciate It

We’re pretty sure that in Lincoln, the new blockbuster movie about the sixteenth president of the United States, actor Daniel Day-Lewis never voices these words of wisdom attributed to Honest Abe: “Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.”

That’s LBi in a nutshell. We’re passionate about our work, dedicated to our vision and committed to our clients. We strive to be worthy of recognition. But receiving recognition is not why we do what we do.

On the other hand, like most any other business, when recognition comes our way, we’ll accept it — particularly when it comes from a source we respect. So on Valentine’s Day, we were happy to see we were featured in a post by Robin Schooling, SPHR, on her blog, HR Schoolhouse.

Schooling’s the vice president of human resources for the Louisiana Lottery Corp., an influential blogger and a social media expert. She’s also very involved in SHRM at the state and national levels. Her Feb. 14 post, Your HR Help for When They’re Joined at the Hip, speaks directly to one of the fundamental benefits of LBi HR HelpDesk. As Schooling writes, it gives HR powerful tools for “managing employee relations and service issues on a grand scale.”


Schooling’s post talks about the time she was in corporate HR and got a call from a frantic hiring manager. Five of the manager’s employees had just walked into her office, handed over individual letters of resignation, and “turned on their collective heels and walked out the door.”

As Schooling says, LBi HR HelpDesk has the power to help HR detect employee concerns and discontent before they can escalate and affect performance to that level.

“What are the trends?” Schooling asks in her post. “Are there potential looming issues that may arise based on what’s going on? That is what HR practitioners need to analyze.”

It precisely defines a key benefit of LBi HR HelpDesk. And we’ll gladly accept recognition for that.

The Benefits of Automating Time and Attendance for White Collar Businesses

Time and Attendance automation not only benefits hourly workforces, but white collar environments, as well.

The benefits of automating time and attendance processing in businesses with hourly employees are obvious and many. From guaranteeing accurate calculations to reducing time theft to eliminating paper records, time accounting systems like LBi Time and Attendance are proven to reduce overall payroll expenses by as much as 8%, according to studies by the American Payroll Association (APA).

However, there is a misconception that such systems are far less beneficial when managing payroll processing in organizations with primarily exempt employees. Exempt employees don’t punch a clock and generally are not mandated to work a standard 8 hour daily schedule. Indeed, many exempt employees work far more hours for the same pay. Therefore, payroll processing for these employees is primarily based on tracking exceptions, such as managing vacation and sick time. So where are the potential savings to be realized? Hard and soft dollar savings are certainly there.

In companies with larger workforces, timesheets are typically collected, reviewed and approved by department managers prior to being sent to the payroll department for final processing. The department head is frequently responsible for timesheet accuracy, while Payroll simply aggregates and transmits the data to the payroll system. Even with checks and balances in place it is entirely possible that errors (both unintentional and otherwise) can occur, potentially resulting in the company paying for unearned time off or time not actually worked.

For instance, managers are not always consistent in their employee time management responsibilities. One manager might be lenient in permitting employees to come in very late or leave early, or even record an unearned day off as a worked day. Other managers are known to “robo-sign” time sheets, simply trusting their employees without checking accuracy. Even though exempt employees are permitted more flexibility in managing their schedules than hourly employees, abuses can and do occur, and can cost the organization significantly if not checked. In some organizations these inconsistencies can lead to costly Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) disputes.

Another issue is the complexity in tracking Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policies. Employees seeking FMLA leave must have worked at least a certain number of hours in the previous 12 months in order to be eligible for this time off. If not tracked properly, companies could potentially provide employees with unearned FMLA time, which costs the organization in lost productivity. Additionally, the paperwork involved in processing the request (and subsequent return of the employee) must be managed properly or the organization could face costly legal problems. Comprehensive time and attendance systems can manage the entire FMLA process, ensuring employees receive the time off they are entitled to and all paperwork is processed according to the law.

In project oriented companies, workforce management systems can increase project/task reporting accuracy while speeding up data entry and processing. These systems can ensure that employees can only report time on projects for which they are assigned, and tasks that are applicable to the specific project, minimizing the need to make corrections later. This data can be integrated with both the company’s payroll and project management systems to eliminate manual keypunching.

Typical time and attendance system deployments in organizations with exempt employees include time collection devices (i.e., badge and biometric clocks), primarily used to track workers that are on premises and therefore officially working for the day. “On Premises” reporting helps companies identify employees that are physically in the building if an emergency occurs, and can prevent legal problems if an employee claims a work related injury while not actually on-site. Additionally, though the actual in/out “punches” are not used for payroll processing, they are certainly beneficial when tracking patterns of attendance. Just by knowing the company is tracking this time, employees are encouraged to be on time consistently.

Unquestionably, automating time and attendance in ANY company will ultimately increase payroll accuracy, speed up processing, and minimize abuse, while vastly improving reporting, analytics and records keeping. Finally, employees will know that they are responsible for their performance under the watchful eyes of the company. In the end, both parties will benefit through greater productivity and cost savings.

HR Case Management Enhances Talent Management

One of the hottest HCM business solutions today is Talent Management. At the 2011 HR Technology Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas Talent Management vendors outnumbered all other HCM vendor categories. Talent Management (TM) systems are designed to help companies manage the full life cycle of employees, from recruitment to onboarding to employee development to offboarding.

Unfortunately, what these powerful systems generally don’t do well is monitor individual employee satisfaction and general contentment during their tenure with the organization. Yes, the better systems manage performance and track employee growth; but what about confidential issues, employee disputes, embarrassing harassment situations, and other matters important to the employee but not on the radar of TM software?

Professionally and expeditiously managing these all-important events is in the dominion of the HR department, who may handle these cases very well individually while not necessarily recognizing potential patterns of employee issues. This is particularly true when specific HR representatives manage the help desk calls for specific locations. For instance, one company division or location prides itself on high employee retention while another similar facility struggles to keep the best workers. But what is the difference in these two similar business operations? They use the same talent management solution, the same HR system, and abide by the same HR policies. Additionally, management at the struggling location may not be able to pinpoint specific problems that are causing a higher degree of turnover.

So where does the answer lie? The answer can frequently be found in the history of employee interactions with HR personnel. However, without a system for collecting, archiving, retrieving and analyzing these interactions, it is virtually impossible to detect patterns of issues systemic within the organization that may lead to larger problems. Repeated questions about available Paid Time Off (PTO) days, dissatisfaction with company insurance plans, management disputes, work environment issues, and other potential red-flag cases cannot be uncovered by reviewing any individual employee record. Businesses need comprehensive HR Case Management software designed to filter through large databases of cases to recognize these patterns and understand the possible ramifications.

There are underlying common-themed personnel issues within an organization which can often directly suggest causes for more apparent concerns, such as employee retention problems, excess absences, or dips in productivity. Discovering those issues quickly and determining the potential consequences requires the right business solution – one that may not be found in even the best Talent Management systems. However, armed with the right information, management can put policies and procedures in place to mitigate problems before they become systemic. Automated Case Management Systems are designed to gather the right data points and provide exactly that type of powerful analysis.

When HR Help Desk / Case Management is incorporated into a comprehensive Talent Management strategy, the organization truly then provides the full lifecycle support for incoming employees, ultimately contributing to measurable performance gains. And the good news is the best Case Management systems, such as LBi HR HelpDesk, are designed to work seamlessly with both your HRIS software as well as the leading Talent Management applications.

In conclusion, for organizations planning to deploy end to end Talent Management systems, it would be prudent to evaluate the addition of an HR Help Desk / Case Management component to your solution map. Implementing an automated Case Management system will truly contribute to your project goals and add significant personnel performance benefits.

Keeping the Human Factor in Automated HR Helpdesk

Providing employees with choices while keeping their confidentiality

Consider the evolution of terms referring to the traditional HR department. Initially there was the “Personnel Department”, which simply referenced employees as people. Next came “Human Resources”, further defining employees, albeit subtly, as business assets. The current term in vogue is “Human Capital Management”, essentially redefining people as revenue and profit generating business assets.

Unfortunately, though this transition of terms more accurately describes the role of employees in organizations today, it also tends to take the “personal” out of “personnel”. HR software business solutions have the potential to further reduce the close interaction between employees and HR staff. Just as interactive voice response systems virtually eliminate the need for customer contact with live support agents, so can automated HR support systems.

Automated HR Help Desk solutions are designed to minimize direct 1:1 personal contact with HR, which is both good and bad.

  • Good – saves money, time, and frees up HR for other tasks.
  • Bad – less personal contact with HR, potentially risking employee satisfaction issues.

However, solutions like LBi HR HelpDesk include a feature that allows employees to request their case resolution via phone, in person, email, etc., which provides the ability to create cases online but receive a response in person or other preferred level of contact. LBi HR HelpDesk also includes features that allow cases to be marked confidential and have them routed to specific representatives trained to handle special cases. Providing the ability to discretely submit a potentially embarrassing case such as a manager dispute or harassment accusation specifically to authorized senior HR personnel, and have the resolution process equally as discrete, truly supports the “Human Factor” in automated systems.

In organizations lacking an automated Help Desk system, employees are generally forced to make initial contact with one or more HR representatives whom ultimately may need to escalate their case to senior or properly trained personnel. This added level of contact risks employee privacy. Sometimes, just physically walking into the HR office can raise unwanted questions and curiosity among company staff.

In many help desk cases, such as simple PTO requests or tuition reimbursement questions, automated systems will speed responses to the employee, thereby saving valuable HR personnel time. Less unnecessary burden on the HR staff again supports the “Human Factor”.

The bottom line is the best automated systems provide employees with the greatest personal choice in selecting their preferred method of contact with HR, ultimately increasing employee satisfaction while providing the confidential interaction with HR that they deserve. From HR’s point of view, valuable administrative staff time is freed up to manage more strategic tasks. Not only is the “Human Factor” alive and well in the best Automated Help Desk solutions, it is the primary purpose for deploying such business systems. Systems such as LBi HR HelpDesk increase employee satisfaction and improve overall HR operations, ultimately driving improved performance within the whole organization.

Analyzing HR Helpdesk Traffic to Identify Corporate Policy Needs

Identifying potential critical HR issues to effectively manage your workforce

The corporate HR function has gone through many changes with the adoption of new technologies and ERP software solutions. The influx of high tech solutions has created a virtual HR environment and has enabled companies to build databases of company and employee data. While data mining is new to the HR environment, the practice of data mining has been successfully employed in more traditional corporate areas for trending business activities and fine tuning business processes. With the adoption of Automated HR Helpdesk solutions, the opportunity to fine tune the HR function through data mining and the analysis of helpdesk data has arrived.

HR Helpdesk Overview
The Automated HR helpdesk solutions available in the marketplace, like LBi HR HelpDesk, extend the access and reach of HR by utilizing existing technologies to create a virtual HR environment. Employees can enter the system through the corporate portal and perform a variety of tasks including:

  • Searching HR guides
  • Reviewing common problem databases
  • Submitting questions and problems to HR
  • Checking status on open questions
  • Checking on resolved issues

Employee queries can be resolved by a generalist or routed to a specialist as required. The employee also has the option of searching within the helpdesk databases for answers and similar situations raised by other employees. The HR helpdesk software is fully integrated to the HR systems, and utilizes corporate systems such as e-mail and voice systems to communicate in a secure environment.

LBi HR HelpDesk will also perform automatic escalations of unresolved cases and will maintain a complete case history for each employee.

Data Analysis of Helpdesk Traffic
Data Mining is relatively new in the data analysis field but is readily gaining acceptance in the world of business analytics. It allows for the analysis of data to extract patterns from a larger set of data. With data mining techniques we can go beyond the tracking of policy and guideline concerns and search for patterns showing repeated issues with specific employees or managers. Companies can find patterns that would not have become apparent in a manual system.

Confusing Policies
Analysis of the accumulated data from the HR helpdesk activity can help to highlight trends and patterns where employees experience difficulty in understanding policies or in understanding how benefits are applied. Armed with this new information, the company can then decide on how to address the issue, clarify the policies and avoid the confusion going forward.

These techniques combined with the helpdesk data can help assess the impact of new or modified company processes such as implementing Six Sigma or lean manufacturing disciplines. While employees may not report concerns to their line managers, there may be patterns in the data that can lead back to these changes. Stress felt by employees can be both a satisfaction issue and a retention problem for the company.

Harassment Concerns
According to the EEOC, there were over 32,000 reported incidents of workplace harassment which cost businesses $98,500,000 in settlement costs. Data Mining of helpdesk data can highlight potential issues, provide direction in seeking appropriate solutions, and assist in the timely response to these situations. Additionally, Data Mining can help evaluate corporate policies and their impact on specific employee demographics. For instance, are men complaining more than women about specific policies? Is there a prevalence of religious issues?

Employee Satisfaction
Employee satisfaction can be gauged from data in helpdesk surveys and through data patterns revealed in the analysis. A good helpdesk solution will provide for employee surveys to gauge the effectiveness of the helpdesk and the HR process.

Summary and Conclusion
Helpdesk solutions, like LBi HR HelpDesk, extend the reach and accessibility of the HR department. Additionally, the data accumulated and stored can be used as a basis for highlighting potential problems and concerns. Analyzing the data and the trending of employees’ queries and concerns can highlight corporate policies that are confusing, complex or poorly written.

Reviewing the volume of queries by area and drilling down into specific issues can help identify potential problems and address these issues to reduce the traffic into the HR helpdesk. Issues that are identified can then be reviewed by management and may be addressed with a clarifying memo, additional training or other actions as required.

With time and experience in leveraging the available data, correlating information from the various HR systems with other critical Key Performance Indicators (i.e. corporate revenue/profitability performance, customer satisfaction, employee retention and turnover), becomes a viable possibility.

In the end, there is a true relationship between performance in every discrete area of any organization, from Finance to HR to Manufacturing to Sales, etc. Employee performance in any one business unit may ultimately impact performance in every other department. A comprehensive HR Help Desk solution with intelligent analytics capability will help identify potential critical issues in each department and become the centerpiece of a total solution to effectively managing your workforce.

Cloud Computing and LBi Software

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Cloud Computing is a general term used for delivering hosted services over the Internet. What’s different about Cloud service as compared to traditional hosting is that it is sold on demand, typically by the minute or the hour; it is elastic — a user can have as much or as little of a service as they want at any given time; and the service is fully managed by the provider. A Cloud can be private or public. A public Cloud sells services to anyone on the Internet. A private (virtual private) Cloud is a proprietary network or a data center that supplies hosted services to a limited number of people. When a service provider uses public Cloud resources to create their private Cloud, the result is called a virtual private Cloud. Whatever type used, the goal of Cloud computing is to provide easy, scalable access to computing resources and IT services.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a collection of various hosted network services. LBi uses two of the services offered – Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3).

EC2 is a web service that provides resizable computing capacity in the Cloud. It is designed to make web-scale computing easier for developers. LBi uses EC2 to host all of its websites, as well as several applications. EC2 allows you to run virtual servers (called instances) in the Cloud. You can run as many servers as you want and Amazon invoices based on hours of use and bandwidth. LBi has also used EC2 to load test versions of its products. For example, LBi HR HelpDesk was installed on one instance and a load testing program was run on another instance. The benefit of using EC2 is that it provides more bandwidth and processing power than running the test in LBi’s offices. An additional benefit of hosting something in the Cloud is that the website/data is now stored out of the office in a backed-up/redundant environment. This helps to prevent the catastrophic loss of data from something such as a fire in the company’s data center.

In addition to EC2, LBi also utilizes S3. This service is essentially a virtual hard drive in the sky. S3 is used to back up our EC2 databases every 3 hours, and files are backed up from S3 back to LBi as an additional safeguard.

Almost two years ago, we began all our hosting through EC2. This was done after a successful, issue-free, year long test using EC2 to host our corporate and Appraisal Application sites. By using these services, we can be sure our sites are secure, resilient and reliable. We can also ensure that they provide us with the ability to scale our applications to any size business, small or massive. LBi also uses cloud computing for demonstrating our applications. Using cloud computing, the application is available for prospects to evaluate at their convenience.

LBi also utilizes EC2 to deliver its SaaS (Software as a Service) Cloud option. As of 2010, LBi Software began to deliver its HR HelpDesk and Time and Attendance products as SaaS. LBi Software offers two SaaS hosting options: 1. Dedicated Server Environment (hosted on a physical dedicated server) and 2. Cloud Computing Environment (utilizing Amazons EC2).

Sites LBi is hosting on EC2

Site/Application Description URL Appraisal Application Appraisal application that LBi developed for a local real estate appraisal company N/A Dutch Property Management LBi designed and hosts Dutch Property Management’s corporate site www.dutchpropertymanagement.com LBi HR HelpDesk LBi’s HR Case Management and help desk product. LBi hosts its SaaS Cloud offering on EC2 N/A LBi Time and Attendance LBi’s time and attendance tracking product. LBi hosts its SaaS Cloud offering on EC2 N/A LBi Software Corporate Site LBi’s corporate brochureware site including a download portal for downloading patches and demos www.LBiSoftware.com LBi Technical Support Website for LBi’s PC and Network support offering www.lbitechsupport.com Richard Security LBi designed and hosts Richard Security’s Corporate Site www.richardsecurity.com Suntec Forest Homeowners Website LBi designed and hosts Suntec Forest Homeowners bulletin board site www.suntecforestcondo.com

In order to safeguard our clients’ material LBi has a process of maintaining redundant backups. The disaster recovery server for all these sites is located at LBi. The database for each site is real-time replicated from EC2 to LBi’s Disaster Recovery server. The Disaster Recovery server is in turn backed up every night. In addition, the entire hosted site is backed up every three hours (increased to 1 hour for critical apps) from EC2 to S3. This process insures that no data is ever lost.

Today, firms require hosting companies to have generator backup, redundant ISPs and in many cases co-locations. When a site is down there is a potential loss of revenue. Through the use of Cloud Computing, smaller companies such as LBi Software can offer its customers this type of premium hosting at a lower cost. For example, one weekend this past July an air conditioner malfunctioned, spiking the temperature in LBi’s Corporate Server room. Technicians had to bring down the servers in the room for six hours. Since all hosting was in the cloud there was no disruption of service to any of LBi’s clients.

The Benefits of Extract, Transform and Load (ETL)

The value of enterprise business intelligence is greatly enhanced when information from various sources is combined in a meaningful way.

What is ETL?
ETL, or Extract, Transform and Load, eases the combination of heterogeneous sources into a unified central repository. Usually this repository is a data warehouse or mart which will support enterprise business intelligence.

Extract – read data from multiple source systems into a single format. This process extracts the data from each native system and saves it to one target location. That source data may be any number of database formats, flat files, or document repositories. Usually, the goal is to extract the entire unmodified source system data, though certain checks and filters may be performed here to ensure the data meets an expected layout or to selectively remove data (e.g. potentially confidential information).

Transform – in this step, the data from the various systems is made consistent and linked. Some of the key operations here are:

  • Standardization – data is mapped to a consistent set of lookup values (e.g. US, USA, United States and blank/null – all mapped to the standard ISO country code)
  • Cleansing – perform validity checks and either remove or modify problem data
  • Surrogate keys – new key values applied to similar data from different source systems prevent key collisions in the future and provide a cross reference across these systems
  • Transposing – organizes data to optimize reporting. Many source systems are optimized for transactional performance but the warehouse will be primarily used for reporting. Often this involves denormalizing and re-organizing into a dimensional model.

Load – the transformed data is now written out to a warehouse/mart. The load process will usually preserve prior data. In some instances existing warehouse data is never removed, just marked as inactive. This provides full auditing and supports historical reporting.

ETL Tools
There are a number of commercial and open source ETL tools available to assist in any ETL process. Some of the prominent ones are:

  • Business Objects Data Integrator
  • Informatica PowerCenter
  • IBM InfoSphere DataStage
  • Oracle Warehouse Builder / Data Integrator
  • Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services
  • Pentaho Data Integration (Open Source)
  • Jasper ETL (Open Source)

These tools provide a number of functions to facilitate the ETL workflow. The variety of source data types are handled automatically. A transformation engine makes it easy to create reusable scripts to handle the data mapping. Scheduling and error handling are also built in.

It is particularly advantageous to use an ETL tool in the following situations:

  • When there are many source systems to be integrated
  • When source systems are in different formats
  • When this process needs to be run repeatedly (e.g. daily, hourly, real time)
  • To take advantage of pre-built warehouses/marts. Many of these exist for popular platforms such as PeopleSoft, SAP, JD Edwards.

There are also times where the overhead and cost of setting up an ETL tool might not make sense. In these situations some combination of stored procedures, custom coding and off the shelf packages may make more sense. Scenarios of this type include:

  • One time conversion of data
  • A limited number of source systems that share key identifiers

Sample Workflow

As illustrated here, a typical ETL workflow will move the data through a few distinct phases. This allows each phase to be better defined and eases troubleshooting.

Source > Extract > Stage – this phase extracts all the appropriate data from each source system. The extract copies only data that has changed in the source system since its last run. The stage library contains all source information in a similar structure to how it appears in the source systems. All extracted information will remain in stage until it is successfully processed by the transform.

Stage > Transform > Warehouse – the data from stage is transformed into a warehouse. In this example this step includes some of the base transformations as well as the load of data into a single warehouse. In this phase, surrogate keys are added where needed, lookup value mappings are applied and related information from multiple source systems is combined into a single structure. Any errors encountered here are reported and the problem data remains in stage until corrected. No information is removed from the warehouse and all data there is tagged with effective, update and end timestamps.

Warehouse > Load > Mart – the current effective date from the warehouse is loaded to the mart to support analysis. While this is the final load of the process, this step also includes a transform of the data to an optimized dimensional form for reporting and analysis.

Business intelligence in the enterprise is greatly enhanced by unified data. ETL can be an important tool when combining heterogeneous sources into one cohesive central repository.

Easing the Pain of the Year End Project

The Year End process can be a complicated, highly visible one. LBi has created guidelines to smoothly manage this daunting process.

In a company’s Human Resources and Payroll area, there are a number of particularly time consuming processes that occur at the end of each year. These Year End processes are critical and can include:

  • Imputed Income calculations
  • Deferred Income processing
  • Applying tax updates
  • End of year bonuses
  • Merit increases
  • First payroll of the new year
  • W2s and 1099s
  • State Filings

Typically a team is created to manage the process. LBi has managed this process for several clients and has come up with a project methodology that helps the process run smoothly.

The first step in this methodology is the creation of a checklist. The Year End (YE) process begins by establishing task schedules and priorities. This enables the team to understand both the scope and the scheduling of events and is an essential first step in YE planning and project management. The checklist is used throughout the YE process to ensure that no critical steps are overlooked. After verification by the project stakeholders, the completed checklist is then used to build the Year End Calendar.

The YE Calendar of events expands the tasks in the checklist and incorporates dates and responsibilities. It is then used as a template for complete documentation.

The next step is to perform the required legal and regulatory changes as published by PeopleSoft or other HCM system, or requested by the company, to keep everything in compliance. These items are then added to the Checklist and Calendar.

The final step is to create a comprehensive inventory of all processes, customizations and ad-hoc reports. We identify all special queries required for “data cleanup” and balance adjustments. It is critical to include these ad-hoc reports and processes and productionalize them, as they are typically needed each year. We then assemble all the documentation and testing plans and results for SOX compliance and audit readiness.

There are four key steps in LBi’s Year End methodology:
1. Year End Checklist
2. Year End Calendar
3. Regulatory Updates
4. Inventory

By following these steps, the seemingly daunting Year End process becomes a manageable project.