Before the advent of desktop (“personal”) computers, many office workers utilized mainframe (“green screen”) terminals to perform their daily computing duties. There was nowhere to surf outside of a few stark business related menu choices. Interestingly though, some of the most common mainframe systems actually included one or more video games. Some were included with the system’s core programs, while others were written by adventurous in-house software support personnel.
These simple games used rudimentary two-color graphics (green and black), if at all. Many were 100% text based. But they were fun for bored or overworked workers who needed a brief distraction from the day to day drudgery of their jobs.
Then came Apple, IBM and others with their new personal desktop computers supporting full color screens (16 colors at first – billions later). Game programmers took full advantage of this new user interface (UI) and started to create more sophisticated and exciting games. Remember Solitaire, PacMan and Space Invaders?
At first these computers were used in businesses to connect to company mainframes via something called terminal services, essentially making the PC a “dumb terminal”.
Micromanaging, by definition, focuses on the smallest details of the manager’s direct reports’ daily activities. Nothing is too insignificant, too mundane, and even too irrelevant to bypass a micromanager’s wrath.
In some industries this may be a good thing — think heart surgeons or NASA engineers. Missing just one small detail can costs lives. 99% accuracy and completeness may be perfectly fine in one business but can spell disaster in another.
What about businesses where perfection is not mission critical? Is micromanaging necessary and even beneficial in a sales organization, for instance? Sales people have performance quotas and other responsibilities such as record keeping, cold calling, etc. Sales managers’ styles vary greatly from being entirely hands-off (the uber-trusting type) all the way to the hyper-controlling style.
Yes, there is a difference. Reports summarize current and past data. KPIs measure degrees of success based on the comparison of summarized data (actual) to forecast. Analytics are typically used to predict future performance.
In other words:
- Reports (metrics) = what happened
- KPI = why it happened
- Analytics = how can we improve
This is an important distinction for HR, because most HR managers and executives are not necessarily technical. You may be requesting the wrong service from your IT resources, wasting valuable time when timing is critical to HR.
It’s cool, it’s fun, it’s the future. But are we ready for it? Or, more appropriately is AI ready for us?
In case you have never heard the term, AI stands for Artificial Intelligence. Essentially, AI refers to teachable computer software applications, or machine learning. The more you use it the smarter it gets. Apple’s Siri and those new smart speakers are good examples of AI’s practical application. Ask Siri “restaurants” and she not only assumes you are asking for restaurant suggestions, but it assumes you are interested mainly in places near your current location and possibly serving your favorite cuisines.
Chatbots are another good example. Have you ever initiated a chat session online only to realize well into the conversation that you are interacting with a computer “bot”, not a live person? “Hello, my name is Andy. How can I assist”? Andy is in fact…an Android.
IBM’s Watson computer is probably one of the most well-known and comprehensive examples of AI in a real world application. First used in the healthcare industry (not including its debut on the game show Jeopardy) and spreading rapidly into many other markets, Watson is a shining example of AI at its best. A lot of power for IBM’s nearly $2B investment.
HR Admins already know the importance of a robust help desk solution being central to developing a comprehensive shared services program. HR Help Desk manages all employee interactions with HR from onboarding through off-boarding. HR Help Desk uncovers patterns of issues that can impact overall employee performance and productivity, by identifying even subtle warning signs. Ongoing harassment complaints, manager disputes, departmental unrest, and other critical issues come to light in help desk reporting and analytics.
So what is different in the higher education industry? College and university campuses not only support hundreds and even thousands of employees, those employees interact closely with student populations in numbers that far exceed the employee base. Even a small university with just a few thousand employees can have 3-5 times as many students on campus. And those students on work-study are also technically employees of the institution.
Other businesses may engage closely with the public (i.e., the retail sector), but none can compare with higher education when it comes to potential personnel issues and complaints. Students frequently bond with their professors, and professors often develop closer relationships with special needs students or especially higher performing students. The same holds true with students and coaches. If those relationships sour, accusations can occur unexpectedly, and be quite serious in nature. HR must be prepared to intervene immediately to assess the situation and document all of the details and supporting materials in order to minimize the negative impact on the institution.
Your decision to implement a new HRIS system may or may not factor-in a potential return on investment (ROI). Some systems are necessary regardless of cost (i.e., Payroll). Others (talent management, for instance) may require some level of financial justification.
Then there are some systems that clearly demonstrate a solid ROI. One obvious example is replacing a manual time and attendance collection process with an automated one. Automated T&A systems dramatically reduce time collection and processing hours (thereby reducing FTE’s), and reduce errors down to almost 0%. Not to mention stricter adherence to payroll policies.
Take the following example:
- 500 employee company with an average $45,000 annual salary = $22,500,000 annual payroll
- According to the American Payroll Association automating T&A can save a minimum of 1% of payroll = $225,000 annual savings
- A typical SaaS-based T&A system (clocks, software, services, etc.) for a 500 employee firm will generally cost <$100,000 annually for a top-name system
- That equates to a virtually instant ROI ($100K annual investment to save $225K annual payroll expense)
One caveat is the inclusion of hard dollar savings (i.e., less paper used) vs. soft dollar savings (i.e., FTE time). Why aren’t FTE savings a hard dollar benefit? Because payroll departments rarely cut headcounts, even if they can. More often than not, underutilized FTE resources are reallocated to other responsibilities. But the overall benefits are still obvious.
Service Level Agreements (SLA) are the means for tracking and managing response times to resolve employee issues, measured against corporate commitment times (performance guarantees).
For instance, HR may guarantee a 24-hour (one day) response to a paycheck or harassment issue, but as many as 5 days to process a tuition reimbursement request. In many government regulated industries and unionized organizations, businesses may be required by law or contract to provide response guarantees, while other businesses may offer guarantees simply as a courtesy and for good will.
There is no better tool to manage SLAs than your HR Help Desk — assuming you have one. Administrators set up general (broad) case categories and specific subcategories within each category, then assign SLA periods to each subcategory. From there, the system takes over and automatically tracks SLA performance in detailed reports.
So far, so good. But, how robust is the Help Desk SLA configuration engine? Are your rules simple or complex? Do you measure SLA periods in hours or days? Do weekends count towards the SLA time? What about holidays or any other special days? Do they count? Are the rules different for different locations or employee classifications?
Utilizing an HR Help Desk in large organizations is unquestionably critical to the company’s success. A typical 5,000 employee business generates on average 30,000 HR cases per year, with issues ranging from simple PTO requests up to sexual harassment complaints and other legal-related complaints.
Case volumes in the tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands can be analyzed to find patterns of issues that HR must recognize and address before they hit critical mass and begin to negatively impact the business’s operations.
However, companies with, for instance, 500 employees may only create as few as 3,000 annual cases, or about 12 cases daily. From an administrative point of view, numbers that small can easily be tracked in Excel spreadsheets, without the need for a formal help desk solution.
So why consider an HR specific case management system for your small business? The answer lies in 3 acronyms – HIPAA, PHI, and PII. Small businesses are not immune from lawsuits filed due to breaches of private employee data. HIPAA violations can cause fines in excess of $1M per incident – regardless of company size. In today’s litigious society, workers are often likely to sue, even for small HR related infractions, if their contingency-paid lawyer thinks they have a case.
Whereas a larger organization may have the resources to fend off frivolous lawsuits, one bad case could put a small company out of business.
A well-designed HR Help Desk tracks all employee-to-HR interactions, and maintains that data in a secure and HIPAA-compliant system. From initial complaint through case resolution, necessary confidentiality is guaranteed. Unauthorized eyes will not have access to sensitive case data, documents, phone records, etc. …Read More
Many businesses occasionally (or even frequently) require the services of part-time and/or specialty contract workers. Workloads may be seasonable. New projects require talent that is not currently available on staff. The business cannot find qualified permanent employees. Whatever the reason, sometimes the company must hire 1099 workers.
1099 workers generally consume fewer HR resources because they are provided with fewer benefits, and they are paid without tax and other deductions. Generally they are not entitled to holiday pay, or any PTO pay. However, their hourly rate (or fixed base pay) is usually higher than their coworkers performing the same or similar tasks.
Here-in lies the potential problem. What if the 1099 “employee” actually works full-time and truly functions essentially as a full-time employee, particularly if the worker has been with the organization for many months, or even longer?
IT help systems and customer relationship management (CRM) systems have much in common with HR case management solutions. However, what distinguishes the finest HR-specific systems from the rest is the ability to virtually (and often literally) hide confidential tickets from all but specific authorized users.
The level of confidentiality needed in generic CRM systems simply does not demand a true lockdown of sensitive cases required by HR. Without this capability, HR would be at risk of breaking HIPAA and other regulations.
Defining what is confidential, and the degree of confidentiality, should start with the employee’s new case entry. By defining general levels of confidentiality in case categories (e.g., “Disputes”) and subcategories (e.g., “sexual harassment issues”), the employee can select a specific topic and therefore indicate the need for privacy in the matter. Proper workflow setup ensures that not only will the case be routed strictly to the authorized specialist(s), but only that person or persons can even view the case. Unauthorized eyes won’t even know the case exists, whether in reports or by conducting a case search.
HR Help Desk systems are not payroll systems, though discussion of confidential payroll information may likely be collected during the course of managing an employee ticket request. The same holds true with healthcare data, personal credit data, and more. Certainly your HR Help Desk is not a financial system, benefit provider system, or any other system that is designed to collect and manage discreet types of personal information.
In some ways, the HR Help Desk system is more akin to email – with one key differentiator – data security. Your unsecure corporate email system collects and stores virtually any and all types of data, much of it potentially highly confidential in nature. HR Help Desks can and do collect that same information. The danger with email is that emails can easily be forwarded and/or copied to unauthorized eyes.
There is literally no feature in email systems designed to prevent confidential information from being sent to anyone. If you know their address, you can send anything to anyone without restrictions. Corporate policies may be in place to control email flow, but that is no guarantee that violations will not occur, whether inadvertently or intentionally.
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.
As you are evaluating new HR Help Desk solutions (or really any business software system), one primary consideration is always the software and hardware platform. SaaS? Hosted? In-house? “Which is better for my business”?
The choices are actually more varied than you might expect. Some vendors may offer only one option, while others such as LBi offer many choices.
As I have stated in previous blog posts, your system selection process should first evaluate if the system functionality substantially meets your requirements, and the vendor has a proven record of high quality support. Once that has been determined, then platform and architecture should be next in line for consideration. Somewhere in there is price — and we will get to that shortly.
Let’s walk through the most common deployment options, and their perceived pros and cons: …Read More
Many would say never, ever. What about the employee engagement factor? Much has been written about the benefits of employee engagement to the organization. It is widely accepted that increased communication between employees and management improves overall performance. Whether the communications involve grievances, general working environment, work-life balance, or general topics, getting employees active and involved with the business is proven to benefit all.
Let’s face the facts; business is most certainly going to be impacted one way or another by the upcoming presidential election. Never has the country been so divided in terms of the direction the US will take over the next 4+ years.
So what could be more stimulating in the workplace these days than a lively discussion of politics? Not a drop-down dragged-out battle between hardline ideologues, but rather a civil (if that is at all possible) conversation and debate about the current and future state of our country. To paraphrase a common statement, as the country goes, so goes the business.
Everything from health insurance reform to global trade to taxes to immigration impacts virtually every business in one way or another. And considering the vast differences in policy between the major presidential candidates, now more than ever it is important for the workforce to come together and weigh the potential impact on the business, and by extension our own personal lives.
Employees often forget that HR works for the company, not them. HR has an obligation to keep personal employee information confidential, but there are limits, often not clearly spelled out in employee handbooks and other HR policy documents.
If an employee has personal “issues”, i.e., serious illness, legal problems, divorce, moving out of town, etc., that may potentially impact their performance at work, then HR can and will inform management of the problem. They have every right to know if employee performance may suffer due to personal circumstances.
HIPAA regulations are clearly written regarding release or sharing of an individual’s health information. But HIPAA does not cover 100% of situations where there is sharing of such material. For instance, one HIPAA provision states:
“The Privacy Rule excludes from protected health information employment records that a covered entity maintains in its capacity as an employer…”
One could read into this that anything you share with HR can go into your employee record, and therefore be exempt from HIPAA compliance.
I have written several blogs on HR system security and confidentiality, and how to secure your systems against intruders. But what are some of the most common methods that hackers use to actually breach your applications? The more you know about your “enemy” the better you will be prepared to guard against their attacks.
Probably the most common breach involves hackers’ access to valid user names and passwords. Often they can discern user-name conventions such as first letter of first name plus last name, for instance “bsmith” or “mjones”. Then they start running through common passwords (usually using software to rapid-fire login attempts) until one really works.
Often, legitimate users will be careless with their password, using the same password for every application log-in, or even leaving the password written on paper in their desk. It would be nice to trust your coworkers, but unfortunately seemingly good people can do bad things.
As the world tries to become more and more politically correct (PC culture), it is time to ponder the evolution of some key changes in terminologies in the English lexicon. During World War I, soldiers who experienced the stress of combat were “shell shocked”. By WWII the expression had evolved into “battle fatigue”. In recent years the preferred designation became “Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome”, and has settled currently on “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder”, or simply PTSD. After all, a disorder sounds less grim than a syndrome, right, even though they are essentially interchangeable? But nuance matters in language.
However, these changes reflected more about what was actually happening to soldiers and less about political correctness. After all, who wouldn’t be shocked by bombs going off all around us? Thankfully this is one experience most of us will never have. But to honor the bravery of men and women in battle, “battle fatigue” better reflected what was actually happening physically. They faced danger up until the point of ultimate fatigue.
By the Vietnam War, psychologists further understood that stress was a more fitting diagnosis, referred to now as a post-traumatic syndrome or disorder.
Most businesses today don’t think twice about communicating internally via email with employees. Though much attention is given these days to the consequences from a legal standpoint of deleting and archiving email records, little thought is given to the ramifications of email content that seemingly has nothing to do with risks to business operations.
Emails that suggest inappropriate or even possible illegal activity are often quietly scrubbed. Emails to HR, which may include HIPAA or other confidential information, are virtually ignored from a legal standpoint.
Which is the higher risk to an organization? Exposure of potentially nefarious business activity or a HIPAA violation? Well that depends. How does a $1.5M penalty plus prison time for a serious HIPAA violation sound?
The single most critical difference between LBi HR Help Desk and more generic IT help desk systems is the concept of confidentiality. Any help desk solution can automatically route tickets to a specific individual or group based on company workflow rules. Generic systems may also be able to prevent unauthorized eyes from opening and editing particular cases.
LBi HR Help Desk goes a step further and literally hides any confidential cases from the view of unauthorized users. In other words, confidential cases will not show up on any user’s search results, filtered lists or reports unless they are assigned the case (or are the case owner’s manager). It is like the case doesn’t even exist to unassigned users.
In LBi’s hosted environment, even IT doesn’t have access to the entire database (unless explicitly approved by HR).
In this season of presidential debates, one thing is not debatable: the undeniable importance and value of your workforce to the organization’s success. The political players debate each other, they debate the other party, and occasionally (through calculated flip-flopping) they actually debate themselves. Not to mention the debater’s best friend — spin doctoring. In the end, sometimes it appears their primary interest is in themselves (getting elected), and less about “We the People”, their constituents.
Politicians (as we are learning from all-to-many debates) have the luxury on the debate stage to pronounce unambiguously that their “new and innovative policies” are beneficial to the full electorate. After all, as several candidates have pointed out, some candidates have actually never run anything, though they are competing for the most important leadership role on the planet.
Much has been said (here and in many other articles) about cyber security risks, and the measures LBi Software and other companies are taking to prevent system data breaches. We talk about data encryption at rest, filed level encryption, VPN tunnels, malware/virus protection, intrusion detection services, two factor authentication, secure coding principles and more, but breaches can still happen.
More focus is needed on the most common reasons for breaches and what you, the client, can do to minimize them. Let’s face it; the chances of a hacker cracking the data encryption code that most databases use is roughly equivalent to winning the Powerball lottery. It could happen – after all we saw three lucky winners last week (though it took billions of tickets sold since the last jackpot winner) – but it just isn’t going to happen that way. That is why the Federal Government is currently pressing technology companies to assist in cracking encryption codes used by the bad guys in their communications with other bad guys. Even the Fed cannot crack those codes alone.
One of the most frequent questions from LBi’s HR Help Desk clients is when to purge and archive older help desk records. Our answer is simple and straight forward — never. Each employee’s complete case history reveals a lot about that employee’s disposition in the company. Changes in productivity, temperament, company loyalty, and more can occur over periods ranging from weeks to months to years. LBi HR Help Desk captures that valuable information. Having that data live and available for analysis presents a tremendous benefit to HR management.
Since individual case records are very small in size (less than 10K plus attachments, if any), the help desk database for a 10,000 employee organization might not even break 3-5 Gigs after a full 5 years in production. Considering the standard LBi hosting configuration includes arrays of 300 Gig drives (and unlimited in the Cloud), that same company could easily store well in excess of 20+ years live data, with no loss of performance.
Often, our prospective clients express concern about data privacy, suggesting that aged records (let’s say case records >5 years old) are better (read safer and more secure) archived outside of the live system, and accessible strictly to limited users. LBi HR Help Desk can accommodate that request, but we ask why. Our hosted systems provide the highest level of data security possible, with layer after layer of security designed to manage the most confidential data. We are HIPAA and SSAE16 Type II certified, Safe Harbor certified, including multiple additional certifications and industry compliances. And user defined security levels provide our clients with the ability to restrict access to data based on your policies and rules.
Return on Investment (aka ROI) implies at some future point you get your money back after the investment is made. There is an initial financial investment, and an eventual “return” of those dollars (and then some, hopefully) down the road.
Depending on the system being implemented, calculating your potential ROI can be simple math or a much more complex process. Are there truly hard-dollar quantifiable savings — elimination of paper records and storage, staffing cuts, etc? Or are the savings more in the soft-dollar category, such as time saved or greater employee satisfaction? Probably, with HR systems, it will be a combination of both.
Calculating the Total Cost of Ownership
First you have the task of attempting to accurately quantify the numbers. How much does all that paper actually cost? And did the staff cuts force new overtime pay for the remaining employees, cutting FTEs with little to no drop in overall payroll expense? Did employee satisfaction improvements result in measurable productivity gains and/or lower turnover? Can you even determine that?
Literally (not virtually) 100% of LBi HR Help Desk clients require connectivity to their internal HR system (or application), and often to other systems as well, such as Payroll, Talent Management, data analytics systems and others. These connections may range from real or near-real time, to hourly, daily, or even less frequently.
Connectivity (we will discuss integration vs. interface shortly) can be one directional or bidirectional, depending on the client requirements. Therefore, it is critical for HR to carefully plan which systems need to be connected, and to what level.
Vendors will primarily use the term “integration” generically when discussing data connectivity; but what is the difference between integration and interface? And why should you care? You should care because different connectivity methods require differing skill sets and timeframes. If your IT staff is short-handed you may run past deadlines and deployment goals, not to mention presenting ongoing support concerns.
Many corporate HR departments are enjoying the benefits of a robust HR Help Desk. Critical to HR is the ability to track every employee request or issue, while maintaining a comprehensive permanent record of each and every case. Equally critical is the means to provide consistent and accurate responses, and compliance with company SLA terms. HR Help Desk systems are designed specifically to provide those services and more.
Other systems, such as Talent Management applications, provide tools to ensure the smoothest recruiting, onboarding, training and development possible, as well as managing the full lifecycle of the employee’s tenure with the organization.
So what happens when the unthinkable occurs and an employee decides to leave? Especially a valued employee. While the wheels are already turning rapidly for the employees planned exit, unfortunately “rolling stones gather no moss”, as they say.
Why are cloud computing and SaaS (Software as a Service) so often used interchangeably – incorrectly? Well, clearly, most assume a SaaS offering is in the cloud due to its inherent low cost. But that is not true; a SaaS application could reside on a fixed or virtual server. Likewise, cloud computing should not imply SaaS: any application, including single tenant apps, can be hosted in the cloud.
Vendors and service providers put their own spin on SaaS and the cloud to suit their needs, which makes it even more difficult to understand the differences.
Regardless of what software and hosting they use, all HR leaders share one thing in common: They want to be sure their HR applications can deliver three mission-critical objectives — privacy, security, and confidentiality.
In HR case management, here’s how those three important objectives are defined and achieved:
- Confidentiality — Cases are accessible depending on their category or type of case and on rules set up by the organization. Confidentiality is meant to protect the case because of its assumed sensitivity or for legal reasons, and also to protect the identity of the employee and others involved. Examples include claims of sexual harassment, employee theft, and complaints about managers.
- Privacy — Cases are accessible only by authorized users based on the type of case and, largely, on the desires of the employee. For example, an employee may have a general HR question and want the response to be kept private. HR may not consider the topic one that demands confidentiality. LBi HR HelpDesk ensures privacy between the employee and HR by letting employees determine how they receive their responses during the handling of their case — email, in-person or directly by phone, for example.
- Security — Security is all about protecting data and information, and it’s delivered in various ways:
- LBi HR HelpDesk Enterprise, for example, uses a single-tenant model with hosting on its dedicated server option including a dedicated hardware firewall. In our SaaS multi-tenant model (Pro and ProPlus) the data is stored in separate schemas divided by client so that “records are not co-mingled”.
- Data is “encrypted at rest” to increase security. Data at rest is any data that’s not moving over a network or temporarily residing in computer memory to be read or updated (an HR case form that an employee has downloaded, for example). Encrypting data at rest requires password-based access if the server is ever unplugged and rebooted — or accessed by an unauthorized user.
- Key PII (personal identifiable information) data fields such as Social Security Number or Bank Account info are further encrypted at the field level.
- LBi HR HelpDesk Enterprise hosting offers “intrusion detection” at the server level that’s physically monitored around the clock.
- The LBi HR HelpDesk application (and all our applications) are designed and developed using the secure coding principles from the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP).
One of the most important functions of the HR department is to respond to employee issues and requests in a timely manner. Certainly, different case types have different priorities. For instance, a manager dispute would always take precedence over a tuition reimbursement request.
But other factors may also weigh in on Service Level Agreement (SLA) policies. Multi-national or multi-regional organizations may have to contend with differing local laws and regulations. Companies with union employees may have different requirements for non-union employees, or even different unions. Not to mention hourly vs. salaried worker policies.
SLA tracking gets even more complicated when dealing with varying time zones. What does an 8 business hour response time mean to a worker in California when the corporate HR department is in New Jersey? Whose 8 hour day does the SLA refer to? In many cases, this can be cleared up by well written policy and procedure documents. However, it may not be that simple, again when dealing with the likes of unions and government regulations.
At LBi, virtually 100% of the systems we develop and support maintain at least some level of private and confidential employee information. Along with the essentials of Social Security Number, date of birth, home address, etc., our systems may also contain work background information, personal health information and other personally identifiable data as well. Therefore, it goes without saying that our clients require the highest level of data confidentiality possible, since a data breach can be costly and inconvenient at best and financially devastating at worst.
Whether our systems are hosted by LBi or deployed on the client’s internal servers, data protection and security is always the #1 concern. During the project stage, critical questions are asked about the vendor’s security measures as well as the data security processes of the hosting provider — not to mention confidentiality features built into the actual system.
The following is a purely subjective list of the top HCM and HR leaders and bloggers to follow on Twitter. We’ve found that they all have a true passion for Human Resources. Our list stops at 185, but there are really many more. The names can also be found on List.ly. It’s in no particular order, other than alphabetically by first name. We apologize if we left anyone off. Please add any HR influencers in the comments and we will add them to the list.
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.
There is a general category of software based business systems that is considered mission critical to most organizations. Very few companies can operate without a general ledger package, a payroll system (or service), HRIS system, as well as industry specific systems for time and billing, manufacturing, distribution, etc. Final selection of these applications (often through an RFP process) is generally based on a combination of factors such as required functionality, ease of use, integration with other internal systems, and cost. Ultimately, regardless of whether these systems can actually save time and/or money, the business needs them and choices are made.
Where ROI (Return on Investment) analysis starts to become a greater factor in product selection is when internal business units (such as HR) are seeking out ancillary systems, sometimes referred to as “bolt-on” solutions. Examples are Data Warehouses, HR Recruiting systems, Performance Review systems, Case/ticket Management, etc. Products in this category may not be viewed as mission critical to the entire organization, but rather are considered more business critical — important primarily to the specific business group seeking the solution. In other words, the company would not shut down without them, although business operations could likely be greatly improved with them.
With the advent of productive office automation systems in HR, management now has the tools to create, track, and effectively adhere to standards of service delivered to their employees. Modern HR systems for time and attendance automation, case management, talent management, and more all provide the ability to set unambiguous SLAs and analyze actual HR performance results.
So what is the best process for defining specific SLA standards for specific tasks and functions? Some tasks, such as handling FMLA requests or payroll errors, are likely already defined by the government or your current company policies. But since newer, more comprehensive computer systems provide the ability to be much more granular in task management automation, service levels for many other discrete tasks may now have to be developed and agreed to.
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.
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
Guests at our HR Tech booth had fun playing Plinko for a guaranteed prize (vibration speakers, ear buds, USBs, water bottles…) and a chance at four Chromebooks and four Kindles.
The hottest prize at the booth was the vibration speaker — a cool gadget that magnifies the sound of your smartphone via vibration (no bluetooth); we had a lot of fun giving those demonstrations.
Our booth theme was HR HelpDesk Rated “E” for Everyone – HR HelpDesk, our innovative Case Management software, comes in four versions for organizations of varying sizes.
The E also stands for:
- Employee Engagement
- Efficient Case Management
- Easy Sign up – no credit card required for free trials
- Encompassing Pricing
- And any other “E” word our marketing people could come up with.
We also generated some buzz on twitter at #EforEveryone.
Implementing automated HR Case Management/HR Help Desk can save you money. This post will show you how to calculate that savings.
If you have a traditional manual HR call center with no automation you already have efficiencies in handling the incoming queries compared with a traditional HR staffing system. But you still face the challenges of providing accurate and consistent information, as well as the problem of managing the call center and staffing it with HR professionals. The bottom line is that many of the challenges inherent in a manual process tend to remain, while the biggest potential for reducing costs through an automated system are not leveraged.
Upgrading your call center with an automated HR help desk will help you address these problems and lower operating costs.
The last thing you need is for employees to distrust HR. It can happen when you don’t have a system in place to route confidential cases, such as harassment or manager dispute cases, to strictly authorized personnel. It can also happen when you use a manual system that fails to ensure that you’re compliant with HIPAA, PHI, PII, and safe harbor regulations. There can be fines of up to $250,000 for violations (and imprisonment of up to 10 years for knowingly abusing or misusing an individual’s health information). …Read More
We live in the self-service era — self-serve check-out lines, pay at the pump, YouTube do it yourself videos… I just fixed my mountain bike by watching a YouTube video on how to adjust the disc brakes. It is just faster to do it ourselves. I didn’t have to drop my bike off at the shop and waste any time. Also, there is a bit of a self-esteem lift involved when you fix it yourself. Recently I fixed my garage door opener by ordering a $10 part and watching a YouTube video. (Although when I started it I did not realize the video was “1 of 5” and it would take me 8 hours to do it. But time management will be saved for another blog post.) The key was even though I wasted a tremendous amount of time, I felt good that I had fixed the door by myself.
An HR Knowledge Base can contain all types of employee information — benefits guide, code of conduct, policy information, PC FAQs… It is more than just an online Employee Handbook. The key to a knowledge base is the information that allows the employee to easily find answers to their questions. So properly indexing the knowledge base is essential. The knowledge base should have search engines that allow an individual to type in a question. It is much more than an FAQ.
A good knowledge base and supporting tools can empower your employees to find the answers to their questions themselves. This both saves HR time and engages your workforce.
The combination of case management and self-service technology gives employees the power to answer their own questions and take care of many of their own HR and benefits tasks at a time of their choosing and from their own desks — or even from home. Employees are increasingly expecting their online interactions at work to be as easy and personalized as their online consumer experiences. Online workplace applications — including HR programs — are now considered table stakes for businesses of all sizes to reach and support their employees.
This means that by implementing these solutions, the company is also giving time and resources back to HR. Fewer HR hours need to be allocated to answering employee questions and managing routine paperwork. And that means more time and resources to focus on strategic business tasks and planning.
Studies show that the right self-service system, like that in LBi HR HelpDesk Pro and ProPlus, can accurately address and resolve 80 percent of all employee inquiries. This is particularly significant for SMB organizations that are still operating with a traditional HR department and a manual case management system or resolution process.
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?
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.
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.
We’re not here to say HR technology has ignored the small and midsize business market. If we did, we’d be cut to ribbons in a heartbeat. A Google search I just did for “HR technology for SMB” returned 29.7 million results. HR technology vendors have targeted the SMB user with cloud-based software to handle everything from recruiting and onboarding to performance management, time and attendance, career development and compensation.
Until now, however, no one has offered the SMB market a fully featured HR case management solution the way SMB companies really want to buy software — which means going beyond offering Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). That’s become table stakes.
Doing more for SMB buyers starts with offering free trials, just as SMB users expect from all kinds of other SaaS products. So LBi is offering LBi HR HelpDesk to the SMB market with free trials — including a free-forever trial for companies with fewer than 100 employees on the system.
Life is full of sad realities. One is that the SMB market has been vastly underserved by the HR technology industry. There’s one very simple reason: Despite the glut of cloud-based HR software, HR technology vendors have until now largely failed to sell products the way small and midsize businesses want to buy them. (For the record, we’re talking about companies with 2,000 or fewer employees.)
For starters, the HR technology industry has traditionally failed to let the SMB user “try it before you buy it.” They certainly haven’t wooed the SMB buyer with free trials like they offer to the enterprise customer. We concede that until now, we at LBi Software have been as guilty of this as our competitors, especially when it comes to our flagship solution, the HR case manager and call-tracking workflow system, LBi HR HelpDesk.
That’s a shame. HR leaders in the SMB market until now have never been given the opportunity to determine, without pressure or hassle, whether an HR technology solution could really benefit them (assuming, of course, other motivating factors also fall into place — factors like pricing and having an easy purchasing process).
Call us crazy, but we think HR buyers in the SMB (small and midsize business) market have been overlooked for too long. We believe HR technology vendors — including LBi — have failed to sell products the way SMB users want to buy them.
We think we’ve set things right.
LBi Software is proud to offer the SMB buyer HR HelpDesk, a fully featured yet affordable HR case management and call-tracking workflow solution. Of course, the powerful and robust enterprise edition of LBi HR HelpDesk is a highly configurable system that offers complete integration with HR, ERP, and email systems; advanced document management; options for on-premise hosting and licensing, or hosting on a dedicated server (for maximum security); single-sign on; corporate branding, and more.
But now we’re giving HR leaders in organizations with up to 2,000 employees the opportunity to launch a cloud-based version of LBi HR HelpDesk as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and start using it right away. And we’re doing that in a way that’s hassle-free — consumer-friendly access with no obligation to buy and a simple, one-step purchasing process.
The following is a purely subjective list of the HCM Analysts to follow on Twitter. The list contains research analysts and firms that cover HR and HCM Technology. It can also be found on Twitter and List.ly. The list is in a random order. We apologize if we left anyone off. Please add analysts in the comments and we will add them to the list.
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.
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.
Is work-life balance a myth? No, it just has different meaning and implications for different cultures. In the United States there is a trend towards encouraging employees to find a healthy medium between work hours and personal time. There is a widely held belief here that a happy employee is a productive employee. In some industries, employees are required to take all of their allotted paid time off. Others sometimes discourage long vacations greater than one week at a time. But today we are recognized as the most productive nation on Earth, though that belief is rapidly changing.
What about other countries and cultures? Certainly workers in China, South Korea, Japan and India, as well as other countries, are considered very productive. However, in those cultures generally work comes first, and sometimes to the exclusion of family and personal life. Disconcerting stories such as those coming from the Chinese factory Foxconn, are all too common. At Foxconn, employees often work seven days a week, eat in common cafeterias, and live in crowded dorms, though they rarely complain. On the contrary, many employees there are proud to work hard and strive for a solid middle class existence, which otherwise might be unattainable.
In these cultures, children are taught from an early age that hard work and personal achievement is the root of success and happiness. Anything less is considered shaming to the family. In school, “A” is the new “B”. Nothing less than “A+” is acceptable. Just look at the winners in the annual Intel Science and Siemens Competitions. They are consistently represented by a disproportionately large number of foreign born or first generation American students, often from Asian and Indian countries. It is truly hard to argue with success.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.”
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.
Recent research from British law firm EMW paints a distressing picture of employee data theft. EMW found that cloud computing makes it easier for employees to take enterprise data when they leave, and that court cases over theft of business information increased 56 percent from 2011 to 2012. Adopting “bring your own device”, or BYOD, in your business can leave you vulnerable to employee data theft when staff move on. Accept this, then take steps to minimize your risk.
What’s at Stake if an Employee Walks
When an employee leaves, he carries with him knowledge of your products, services and workflow. Employee laptops and phones will have enterprise and client emails, strategic information, work documents and other data. Since employees may leave for a variety of reasons, every policy should take this into account. Employees who transfer to another office or take a medical leave may need to keep business information, while those who resign, are laid off, or are fired should not keep data.
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.”
The following is a purely subjective list of the top Human Resources Influencers and Bloggers to follow on Twitter. There are really so many – we wanted to keep the list at 100 but it stretched to 131. The list can also be found on Twitter and List.ly. It’s in no particular order, other than alphabetically by first name. We apologize if we left anyone off. Please add any influencers in the comments and we will add them to the list.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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:
- Training and Development
- Succession Planning
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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:
- Disengagement among U.S. workers is at its highest level since the company began conducting its twice-yearly study six years ago.
- Just over 1 in 3 employees feel that direct managers and supervisors are “most responsible” for engaging employees.
- 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
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
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.
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.
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.”
Image source: The Ink and Pixel Club
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
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
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
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.”
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:
- 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’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
The Year End process can be a complicated, highly visible one. LBi has created guidelines to smoothly manage this daunting process.
In a company’s Human Resources and Payroll area, there are a number of particularly time consuming processes that occur at the end of each year. These Year End processes are critical and can include:
- Imputed Income calculations
- Deferred Income processing
- Applying tax updates
- End of year bonuses
- Merit increases
- First payroll of the new year
- W2s and 1099s
- State Filings
Typically a team is created to manage the process. LBi has managed this process for several clients and has come up with a project methodology that helps the process run smoothly.
The first step in this methodology is the creation of a checklist. The Year End (YE) process begins by establishing task schedules and priorities. This enables the team to understand both the scope and the scheduling of events and is an essential first step in YE planning and project management. The checklist is used throughout the YE process to ensure that no critical steps are overlooked. After verification by the project stakeholders, the completed checklist is then used to build the Year End Calendar.
The YE Calendar of events expands the tasks in the checklist and incorporates dates and responsibilities. It is then used as a template for complete documentation.
The next step is to perform the required legal and regulatory changes as published by PeopleSoft or other HCM system, or requested by the company, to keep everything in compliance. These items are then added to the Checklist and Calendar.
The final step is to create a comprehensive inventory of all processes, customizations and ad-hoc reports. We identify all special queries required for “data cleanup” and balance adjustments. It is critical to include these ad-hoc reports and processes and productionalize them, as they are typically needed each year. We then assemble all the documentation and testing plans and results for SOX compliance and audit readiness.
There are four key steps in LBi’s Year End methodology:
1. Year End Checklist
2. Year End Calendar
3. Regulatory Updates
By following these steps, the seemingly daunting Year End process becomes a manageable project.
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.
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.