Six reasons for making the transition from paper to Web-based tool

HR intranets offer a new way to communicate team, corporate goals.

How do you get your employees online? Human resource professionals recognize the need to motivate employees to achieve corporate goals, and technology offers new alternatives for aligning employees with business objectives. The trick is getting employee buy-in.

Keeping employee files — electronic or paper-based does little to motivate, communicate or promote teamwork. But by shifting away from conventional thinking regarding compensation confidentiality, and applying Internet-based technology, great strides to achieving corporate goals can be realized.

While it is no surprise that employees may be adverse to exposing traditionally confidential information such as compensation packages or personal history, there is information that can be posted with great benefit. For instance, posting salaries in a secure intranet removes all doubt for both the individual and the organization about the market value of each employee. It adds a level of accountability for each employee about what he or she should be earning once professional development and career milestones are achieved. When these types of openness are combined with well-defined goals on an intranet-based tool that monitors progress, the results can be extremely positive.

Understandably, managers need to carefully determine what information migrates onto an intranet site. It is important that employees see the information as being more accessible online and, more importantly, that it is relevant. (One caveat: the brakes must be able to be applied whenever necessary and not open the company to legal ramifications such as privacy issues.)

Convincing employees to accept Web-based HR tools requires a careful balance of sensitivity to company culture, and lobbying to change the status quo.
Here are some suggestions to ease the changeover for employees.

1. Communicate a solid case for moving HR online
Why is the change happening? Are there clear, well thought out messages about how this will benefit employees, as well as the HR department or corporation as a whole?

Often the change will improve efficiency and boost employee retention, so explain how this is achieved by moving to an intranet-based HR system. Change is stressful and without clearly defined benefits, it is hard to achieve acceptance.

Some companies are better suited to move onto a Web-based system. For example, if most of the employees are professionals who want to map out career paths, Web-based tools will be perceived as being of greater value than if your company employs mostly “assembly-line” workers whose information needs may be more static.

2. Treat your employees like customers
Find out what information employees want to access via intranet, and what level of security is required, by taking a poll or engaging focus groups. How do they gather HR information today? How many people do they have to approach for this information? Should employees be able to update certain data independently? Would employees feel more motivated if they could access HR information related to the team or division?

Going through formal feedback sessions with employees will help you understand the dynamics in your organization. It will also give employees a stake in the outcome and move them one step closer to accepting a new process. Remember, the cost may outweigh the benefits if employees don’t want the end product.

3. Use the intranet for team building
The intranet provides the perfect opportunity for a company to show how individual performance impacts the division or team, and more widely, the company. Set milestones on every level (individual, team and company) and show how an employee “win” translates into a company “win.”

What reward does the sales and marketing team receive when Elena reaches her sales target? What is the impact on the company when the development department is ready to launch a new product on time? Posting milestones and goals online alerts everyone to a team “win” or, on the flip side, to a lagging performance. Personal accountability is higher because each employee has to answer to his or her team, and the company.

With higher accountability, the odds are that an employee will use the HR online tools to monitor her performance and those of her peers.

4. Give incentives for switching
Aside from recognizing milestones, think about immediate incentives to reward employees who go online.

Set up tutorials for employees who want to learn how to use the new HR tools. These can be half-day sessions followed by a brief quiz. In each session, whoever answers the most questions correctly wins a prize such as a sweatshirt, day off or gift certificate.

5. Be prepared to evolve
Moving an HR system online is a process, not a one-time event. From the beginning, set a goal to revise the HR system based on employee feedback within the next year at a minimum.

As an HR manager, sit down with employees and use the intranet to reinforce its relevancy. Review personal information for accuracy, team information for milestones, and to update the company targets. Gather feedback and criticisms and be prepared to make modifications.

6. Budget for an investment in IT
The more effort put into developing an IT system, the more it will show its value and relevancy. It is been said that developing Web-based systems is akin to programming with one hand behind your back. That’s not to say the investment has to be huge. A company can set up simple, off-the-shelf HR system or customize a software package. But make sure the objectives and requirements have been identified carefully.

Take small steps if necessary. Introduce new HR tools one department at a time or set up a prototype, choosing a small, cohesive team first. Always plan to take small, practical steps and set milestones.

Richard Rosenbaum is president of The RSC Group, a Vancouver-based consulting firm and providers of customized financial information systems. He can be reached at (604) 737-8570 or [email protected].

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