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Determining the True ROI When Investing in New HCM Systems

HCM ROI

Your decision to implement a new HRIS system may or may not factor-in a potential return on investment (ROI). Some systems are necessary regardless of cost (i.e., Payroll). Others (talent management, for instance) may require some level of financial justification.

Then there are some systems that clearly demonstrate a solid ROI. One obvious example is replacing a manual time and attendance collection process with an automated one. Automated T&A systems dramatically reduce time collection and processing hours (thereby reducing FTE’s), and reduce errors down to almost 0%. Not to mention stricter adherence to payroll policies.

Take the following example:

  • 500 employee company with an average $45,000 annual salary = $22,500,000 annual payroll
  • According to the American Payroll Association automating T&A can save a minimum of 1% of payroll = $225,000 annual savings
  • A typical SaaS-based T&A system (clocks, software, services, etc.) for a 500 employee firm will generally cost <$100,000 annually for a top-name system
  • That equates to a virtually instant ROI ($100K annual investment to save $225K annual payroll expense)

One caveat is the inclusion of hard dollar savings (i.e., less paper used) vs. soft dollar savings (i.e., FTE time). Why aren’t FTE savings a hard dollar benefit? Because payroll departments rarely cut headcounts, even if they can. More often than not, underutilized FTE resources are reallocated to other responsibilities.  But the overall benefits are still obvious.

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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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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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Determining the ROI on HR Business Systems – or Not

By | HR Technology | Leave a comment
HR Systems ROI

Return on Investment (aka ROI) implies at some future point you get your money back after the investment is made. There is an initial financial investment, and an eventual “return” of those dollars (and then some, hopefully) down the road.

Depending on the system being implemented, calculating your potential ROI can be simple math or a much more complex process. Are there truly hard-dollar quantifiable savings — elimination of paper records and storage, staffing cuts, etc? Or are the savings more in the soft-dollar category, such as time saved or greater employee satisfaction? Probably, with HR systems, it will be a combination of both.

 

Calculating the Total Cost of Ownership

First you have the task of attempting to accurately quantify the numbers. How much does all that paper actually cost? And did the staff cuts force new overtime pay for the remaining employees, cutting FTEs with little to no drop in overall payroll expense? Did employee satisfaction improvements result in measurable productivity gains and/or lower turnover? Can you even determine that?

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How to Green Up Your Workspace

Have you ever noticed that you feel different when surrounded by nature or when there are plants nearby? New research conducted by the University of Exeter shows that employees are happier and up to 15 percent more productive in work environments with plants than in environments without any greenery.

Green Is Good for Productivity

Academics from the University of Exeter, the University of Queensland, Australia, and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands carried out a long-term experiment comparing employees in two large commercial offices in the UK and the Netherlands. They monitored one office with plants and one without plants and measured employees’ perceptions of air quality, workplace satisfaction, concentration and productivity levels. The results show significant increases in all three areas of employee perception in the work environment with plants and a 15 percent increase in productivity. Researchers believe that the plants help employees to be more physically, cognitively and emotionally involved in their work.

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The Importance of ROI When Evaluating Ancillary Business Systems


There is a general category of software based business systems that is considered mission critical to most organizations. Very few companies can operate without a general ledger package, a payroll system (or service), HRIS system, as well as industry specific systems for time and billing, manufacturing, distribution, etc. Final selection of these applications (often through an RFP process) is generally based on a combination of factors such as required functionality, ease of use, integration with other internal systems, and cost. Ultimately, regardless of whether these systems can actually save time and/or money, the business needs them and choices are made.

Where ROI (Return on Investment) analysis starts to become a greater factor in product selection is when internal business units (such as HR) are seeking out ancillary systems, sometimes referred to as “bolt-on” solutions. Examples are Data Warehouses, HR Recruiting systems, Performance Review systems, Case/ticket Management, etc. Products in this category may not be viewed as mission critical to the entire organization, but rather are considered more business critical — important primarily to the specific business group seeking the solution. In other words, the company would not shut down without them, although business operations could likely be greatly improved with them.

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Managing Human Resources Service Level Agreements (SLA)

By | Compliance | Leave a comment

With the advent of productive office automation systems in HR, management now has the tools to create, track, and effectively adhere to standards of service delivered to their employees.  Modern HR systems for time and attendance automation, case management, talent management, and more all provide the ability to set unambiguous SLAs and analyze actual HR performance results.

So what is the best process for defining specific SLA standards for specific tasks and functions?  Some tasks, such as handling FMLA requests or payroll errors, are likely already defined by the government or your current company policies.  But since newer, more comprehensive computer systems provide the ability to be much more granular in task management automation, service levels for many other discrete tasks may now have to be developed and agreed to.

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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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3 Design Tips to Increase Office Productivity

There are some office configurations that are simply more conducive to productivity than others. A 2013 survey of 42,000 office workers by the University of Sydney found that open-plan spaces — those that have employees seated in large spaces without walls separating them — lower office productivity and morale. Researchers concluded the lack of privacy, personal space and perpetual noise were the biggest factors in lowering productivity.

These results contradicted the industry-accepted idea of open-plan spaces benefiting work environments. They also showed that the layout of your office can make all the difference between a distracted staff and one that is content and comfortable, and thus productive. Here are three additional ideas to help create an environment that boosts morale and subsequently, productivity. …Read More

The ROI of HR Case Management

Implementing automated HR Case Management/HR Help Desk can save you money. This post will show you how to calculate that savings.

If you have a traditional manual HR call center with no automation you already have efficiencies in handling the incoming queries compared with a traditional HR staffing system. But you still face the challenges of providing accurate and consistent information, as well as the problem of managing the call center and staffing it with HR professionals. The bottom line is that many of the challenges inherent in a manual process tend to remain, while the biggest potential for reducing costs through an automated system are not leveraged.

Upgrading your call center with an automated HR help desk will help you address these problems and lower operating costs.

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Secure HR Case Management

By | Compliance | Leave a comment
Secure HR Case Management

The last thing you need is for employees to distrust HR. It can happen when you don’t have a system in place to route confidential cases, such as harassment or manager dispute cases, to strictly authorized personnel. It can also happen when you use a manual system that fails to ensure that you’re compliant with HIPAA, PHI, PII, and safe harbor regulations. There can be fines of up to $250,000 for violations (and imprisonment of up to 10 years for knowingly abusing or misusing an individual’s health information). …Read More

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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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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HR Help Desk Analytics: A Webinar Showing Real Use of Big Data and KPIs

HelpDesk Analytics Webinar

Discover how Human Resources Help Desk analytics can transform your organization. On June 3rd LBi Software will host a webinar demonstrating the power of HR Help Desk Analytics and Big Data.

The benefits of implementing an HR Help Desk and Employee Self Service Knowledge Base solution are many, including fewer calls into HR, consistent adherence to corporate business policies, greater employee satisfaction, and more.

However, a robust, well-designed and mature solution can provide even greater value through powerful analytics.

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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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Ensure Data Security and Strengthen Policies with HR Case Management

By | Compliance | Leave a comment

We live and conduct business in an increasingly litigious society. We all know that. At the same time, businesses are increasingly in the crosshairs of various state and federal agencies responsible for enforcing everything from fair hiring practices to safety in the workplace.

An HR help desk is the antithesis of the old way of responding to government audits and legal action. Then, managers and administrators had to almost manually piece together disconnected sources and chains of communication related to a grievance – emails, phone messages, printed forms and other sources.

An automated HR help desk, by comparison, offers an audit trail for every case, including all of its related documents and communications. A quality system also has the level of security to ensure privacy and confidentiality in the HR environment.

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Last Year’s Business Blunders and How to Learn From Them This Year

Whether 2013 was your most successful year yet or one you would like to forget, it should be seen as a learning opportunity for 2014. As a small business owner and captain of your own ship, it’s natural to make mistakes, but with the right tools, you can easily avoid common pitfalls and blunders like sloppy record keeping and spending too much time on social media.

1. Filing Messy Last Minute Taxes

If your 2013 taxes are proving to be complicated and cumbersome because you left everything to the last minute, take a few steps to make tax time easier in 2014. Third party Payroll Services organize all of your payroll records throughout the year. Instead of slogging through a year’s worth of records and manually transferring numbers, just click a few times, and your payroll software will download the relevant numbers and forms to your tax software.

Combine a program like this with an organizational app like Shoeboxed, which allows you to easily file receipts and track expenses. This app ensures that you never miss a write-off, and it has the power to effectively lower your tax burden. With the right tools in place, filing taxes in April 2015 should be a breeze.

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Key Performance Indicators Enhance HR Help Desk Value

The benefits of implementing an HR Help Desk and Employee Self Service Knowledge Base solution are many, including fewer calls into HR, consistent adherence to corporate policies, greater employee satisfaction, and many more. However, a robust, well-designed and mature solution can provide even greater value through powerful analytics that use key performance indicators. Key performance indicators, or KPI’s, define factors HR needs to benchmark and monitor.

Traditional HR systems do not track patterns of employee morale issues, the impact of personnel disputes on overall performance, management style inconsistencies, and other, often subliminal, employee related problems that can negatively affect corporate productivity.

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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 Get Actionable Analytics from Big Data

Today’s business systems create mountains of data. HR systems are no exception. Nor is the HR organization immune from leadership’s growing demand to mine that data and transform it into analytics that can help drive business decisions.

In his May 2011 review of a weeklong conference, Impact 2011: Building the Borderless Workplace, Josh Bersin wrote, “I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the focus on HR measurement, metrics and analytics throughout the conference.”

In fact, developing and applying measurement strategies that “ensure efficiency, effectiveness and business alignment” is among the 10 best practices of “high-impact HR organizations,” according to research by Bersin & Associates (now Bersin by Deloitte). These HR organizations provide data that illustrates “clear connections between the efforts of both the HR function and individual people.”

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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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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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What Is a Company’s Most Valuable Asset? Its Employees

Recently I closed one of the biggest contracts of my career. The last key piece that sold it was “our employees”. During one of the sales meetings the prospect’s CFO said something profound – “after all, it is not so much about choosing Company A over Company B as it is with being comfortable with the people from Company A”. The CFO liked the team that presented the solution but he wanted to be assured that the team that will execute it was just as good. So I sent him the name and bio of everyone who would be assigned to the project. We then followed that up with an in-person presentation of all the team members. The next day we got the contract.

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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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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?

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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.

Employee Social Networking and Corporate HR

Do employers have the right, whether legally or ethically, to monitor the private social network sites of their employees?  Certainly employers may legitimately have full access to public-facing pages, such as an employee’s public profile on Facebook or LinkedIn, but what about sites that permit users to configure viewer access rights?  In these cases, to ensure full uncensored access, employers must either be “friended” by the employee (or some similar method depending on the service) or be provided with their user name and personal password.

These legal and ethical questions will be debated elsewhere, but the question here for employers is how much value is actually derived from this information, and how it is relevant to the employee’s performance or professional relationships within the organization.  Modern HR systems, such as LBi’s HR Help Desk, provide links to employee public social network pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and others.  How HR actually uses the information may vary greatly from company to company.

Positive employee relations are critical to the success of most businesses.  Logically, a deeper understanding of employees actions outside of work can only help HR effectively manage workers within the organization.  Questions such as “is the employee seeking new employment” or “is the employee bad-mouthing his/her job or the company” are fair and reasonable to ask, and answers can often be found on social networking sites.  Also concerns about unruly public behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, and other issues that can create negative workplace behavior are typically discernible on these sites as well.  Employees are entitled to their privacy, but HR operations within corporations have the fiduciary duty to ensure employees are conducting themselves professionally and responsibly within the terms of their employment.

Behind the New Look for LBi Software

LBi Software offers all the advantages of a large firm, with the additional benefits of being smaller. We have the agility to move faster and provide truly personalized client service.

Because our small size is a huge asset, we capitalized on it in our new logo. The honeycomb shape and the skill needed in its construction perfectly reflect our own character – team-oriented, tenacious, hardworking and small.

Our new color scheme further separates us from others in our industry. We steered away from the traditional blues and grays and instead chose a palette of a dark, rich red and a light blue – colors that reflect the vibrancy of LBi Software.

True to our commitment to efficiency and focus, we streamlined our website and our product menu. We similarly renamed our solutions for HR case management and time and attendance tracking to speak directly to what these products are and clearly define what they do. We want anyone visiting us on the Internet to enjoy a precisely engineered experience. We are proud to have a brand that highlights LBi Software’s tremendous strength, determination and agility. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

HR Tech Recap: Happy Prize Winners and Kudos for the "New" HR HelpDesk

HR Tech 2012 was an unmitigated success for LBi Software – from the crowd-pleasing Peel and Reveal game to the hugely positive reaction to HR HelpDesk’s new look and features.

Our top Peel and Reveal winners were amazed at the value of their prizes that included Kindle Fires, Kindles, Apple TVs, iPod Nanos and sets of earphones. Among the other 340 gifts we gave away were brief bags, tech traps, 8GB flash drives and water bottles.

Attendees were just as impressed by the unique value of LBi HR HelpDesk. No wonder, really: Nearly every attendee we spoke with either did not have a case management help desk in place or was using an IT-based solution as an HR help desk. Visitors who said they are using an IT solution were keenly aware of the advantages of LBi HR HelpDesk, particularly its HR-specific workflow and its ability to keep information confidential and secure.

With only two other vendors of HR case management solutions at the show, LBi Software stood out among the crowd. We were delighted that so many interested visitors asked questions about functions of LBi HR HelpDesk that correlated very closely with its new features. This validated that LBi HR HelpDesk is well positioned to become a formidable player in the market.

LBi Software employees and clients were constantly kept in the loop about action at the show through a steady stream of posts via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Social Networking and HR

How social networks can extend the reach of the Human Resources Department

Anyone who thinks online social networking sites are just a passing fad needs to consider a few cold hard statistics. Facebook alone claims over 800 million users worldwide. That’s more than twice the total US population! It also happens to be more than the combined populations of France, Italy, Germany, UK, Ireland, Russia, Spain, Belgium, Greece, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Canada, Mexico, Switzerland, Austria, and Australia! Add in LinkedIn users, Twitter users, and users of other social networking sites, one can readily conclude that this is not a fad but rather a powerful and growing phenomenon.

It’s not unreasonable to assume that a majority of employees in any one company are already utilizing one or more sites to interact with their friends, family and coworkers. However, HR departments have yet to really integrate their current resources (such as employee portals and knowledgebase services) with websites like Facebook and others. Frankly, in recent years, most businesses have only attempted (some successfully) to tap into the vast marketing power of social networking sites.

Since your employees are already communicating with each other (and their peers in other businesses) via these services, why not embrace the movement and expand the capabilities internally? LinkedIn, for instance, is the #1 website for recruiters and headhunters. Facebook is best known for creating and promoting communities of people with like interests. Aren’t recruiting and building a sense of community key functions of HR departments? One of the reasons for Japan’s economic growth was that corporations recognized the importance of treating employees like family and as integral members of the organization. More workers in Japan than in any other country spend their entire careers with the same company. As any business executive knows, tenure equates to productivity, while high employee turnover can be very unproductive.

Human Resource departments most likely already have the business and personal email addresses of every current and many former employees. By tying employees’ Facebook and LinkedIn (or other services) accounts into the corporate account, the business can instantly create an environment for building relationships with employees, encouraging feedback, and ultimately fostering new and creative ideas that will make the company stronger and more competitive – not to mention drawing the interest of potential new employees and customers.

Though there are many online social networking sites, clearly Facebook and LinkedIn are the largest and most popular with business users. However, they have significant differences and are not mutually exclusive. Any business could (and arguably should) maintain accounts on both sites. LinkedIn is geared mainly towards business professionals desiring to share their work experience with others, in addition to maintaining memberships in specialized user groups. As mentioned earlier, LinkedIn is the #1 internet destination for recruiters seeking qualified candidates for open jobs. LinkedIn users typically list their entire work history and core business strengths online. Users have an open profile which anyone can see, and generally a more detailed profile available to their approved connections. LinkedIn supports “Three Degrees of Separation”:

1st Degree – Your Connections
Two Degrees away – Friends of friends, each connected to one of your connections
Three Degrees away – Reach these users through a friend and one of their friends

It is easy to see how this can exponentially expand your reach.

Facebook is much more of a true “social” network. Users have profiles, which include both personal and professional interests. They can post pictures, videos, and other material for their “friends” to see. In Facebook, users can also show their approval of a specific post by “liking” the post. Facebook integrates with other services such as Foursquare.com to allow users to track their friends’ current locations, favorite restaurants, etc.

Understanding the features and differences between these services will help HR departments expand their services into the online social networking world. Corporate HR departments embracing social networking services can take a page from the Japanese philosophy in business,believing that “the sum is greater than the parts”. They can quickly begin to realize significant dividends in their investment, since the employees are already online and individually taking advantage of the services. Employees will be happier, more engaged in the overall business, and will truly feel they are a valuable member of the corporate community.

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.

New and Improved LBi Software Headquarters

LBi Software is pleased to announce that it has completed a renovation of its headquarters at 7600 Jericho Turnpike in Woodbury, NY. In addition, LBi has extended the lease for seven more years.

The renovations included:

  • New kitchens
  • A new media conference room
  • New Data Center with dedicated 24k BTU air conditioning unit and 3+ hour battery back up for all equipment
  • New carpeting, flooring, lighting, wall coverings and window dressings throughout the 8000 square feet of offices

Our employees are enjoying the newly updated and pristine work environment that also includes artwork and a photo wall of past and present LBi employees and clients. If you haven’t visited us in a while, stop by for a tour!

Employee Self-Service in the Application Portfolio

The technology explosion over the last decade brought us new and innovative ways to use the internet in our daily lives. The technological changes have conditioned people of all walks of life to the online environment as a resource for shopping, banking, job hunting and more. Online applications are now considered to be required for businesses to reach their customers and to support their employees.

Employee Self-Service (ESS) applications represent another step forward in the evolving internet-based services providing employees with access to information and company communications. Self-service programs can be executed over the Internet or a company’s Intranet.
ESS Features

Browser-based and integrated to the company HR applications, ESS provides 24/7 access to employees regardless of where they are, through the Internet or the company Intranet. This access allows for the verification of personal data and the updating of data as changes occur in the employee’s personal and professional life. The end result is data with a higher degree of accuracy and data that is current. ESS portals can be used to access personal and contact information, view paychecks, enroll and change benefit selections and more. Additional links added to the ESS provide access to 401K providers and to company communications and handbooks.

ESS systems offer features that meet the needs of the business, employee and industry with many functions seemingly appearing in several products. Internet-based payroll solutions, for example, facilitate cost savings by allowing companies to reduce resources needed to support the payroll function. Following are some of the features supported on ESS Portals:

Personal Data and Payroll: Review and updates of personal information is one form of self-service which allows employees to view and edit their own personal information. Companies can give their employees permission to review and make changes to their personal data (name, address, etc.), W-4 elections, and voluntary deductions, as well as view their payroll stubs and W-2s. Changes are then reflected in the appropriate HCM systems and the employee database reflects more timely and accurate information. Payroll information can consist of a mix of current information and payroll history.

Benefit Enrollment: The employee maintains information on plan participation and keeps track of benefits plans, performs cost plan analysis, budgetary projections, and tracks/reviews outside carrier reports. Benefits Open Enrollment gives employees the ability to check available benefit plan information and make enrollment changes. The company can provide the benefits manual online to help the employee understand the benefit selection process and options.

Time and Attendance Tracking: Electronic time sheets can dramatically improve payroll efficiency by allowing employees to enter and track their own work hours, paid time off and sick time. This is especially useful for companies with multiple worksites, a widely distributed sales force, employees who telecommute, or contract workers on location at other companies. With Time and Attendance Tracking using ESS electronic time sheets, employees enter their hours and worksite (if applicable) according to company defined categories. Then, they forward the sheet electronically to their supervisor who can approve it online. Electronic time sheets can improve accuracy and reduce handling time by 50% to 75%.
ESS Benefits and Savings

ESS can save time and resources associated with updating and maintaining employee data and company materials for employees such as handbooks and benefit announcements. For example, updating the employee handbook online eliminates the printing and distribution costs associated with a hardcopy manual. On the employee side, the information can now be updated in a more timely manner without utilizing HR resources. This is a win/win for both the company and the employee as the data is more current and the employee has convenient access without going through the HR department.

Self-service has great potential to support the decision-making process by allowing employees to perform “what if” scenarios to test decisions before implementing them. Employees can be given access to tools to try out various strategies for insurance coverage, benefits contributions, and other financial planning, which eliminates the need to request the information from HR or payroll.
ESS Long-term Benefits

When properly implemented, ESS solutions provide a positive impact for employees and employers alike. Employees appreciate the convenience and ability to control personal data, which can ultimately affect performance and retention. Within the payroll department, self-service eliminates paper shuffling and removes tasks that can be handled more efficiently by others. Communications to employees can be done via the portal, eliminating printing and distribution of hardcopy announcements and manuals. Finally, storing information electronically is cheaper than filing paper documents in cabinets.

As the technology becomes more affordable and the number of self-service features increases, ESS solutions will find greater acceptance in the business world. Employees will become increasingly more comfortable with online systems to make changes, get information and manage their own data. Whatever system you chose to run your business, ESS can be integrated to provide timely data and services to your entire staff.