Web tools can free up your time for strategic thinking

Typical HR managers are bogged down by administrative tasks that sap their ability to concentrate on more strategic issues. Fortunately, technology — and in particular Web-based employee self-service (ESS) applications — is very good at doing basic tasks so the HR manager doesn’t have to do them.

The latest e-HR technology is taking ESS one step further, to EIPs or employee information portals. This emerging technology is Web-based and delivers information, education, and other services to employees, automatically.

How do e-HR applications help HR managers? The most immediate relief is to be found in automating benefits administration and communication by putting electronic versions of employee handbooks and benefits information on the company intranet. With security safeguards to ensure that internal information stays internal, employees can access the information 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Employees can get answers to their own questions, download or complete forms online, change addresses, or access company information. All of these steps eliminate, or at least reduce, the need for employees to communicate with HR about routine issues. Employees serve themselves and become more independent.

Research by Gartner Group, a market research firm, has shown that by moving communication to the company intranet and implementing self-service, HR managers can free up about 70 per cent of the time they would normally spend doing administrative tasks.

Setting up and managing benefits information on the intranet displaces approximately 80 per cent of the calls to HR, which are informational in nature, according to Logical Design Solutions, Inc., a New York City-based e-business solutions provider.

Cost savings

Companies that install an employee self-service application could see immediate savings over manual methods, according to the global information management consulting firm, The Hunter Group. Their research suggests that the cost of an HR person handling a telephone call is about $10.91 per inquiry; self-service reduces the cost of each inquiry to $5.48 (all figures are $US). Employees contacting an HR representative to change an address costs the company $20.82 each time. With self-service, the cost is slashed to $2.43. When HR representatives facilitate open enrolment, the cost is $77.58 per employee compared with $31.25 when employees use the self-service method.

This is just the hard-dollar savings. Money is also saved by cost avoidance. In the U.S., McKinsey & Company estimates that $140 billion each year is wasted on paper-based communication and transactions.

Using the intranet to post up-to-date benefits information and communication can also reduce the company’s litigation exposure.

Intranet-based benefits information and communication that promote employee self-sufficiency solve most of the administrative workflow obstacles facing HR. This frees up HR to focus on strategy concerning recruitment, retention, training and the organization as a whole.

Recruitment and retention have traditionally been core functions of HR. By building employee loyalty and reducing attrition, HR professionals can help to create a more stable workforce, which saves the company money in recruiting costs.

It has been estimated that the cost to recruit a new employee to replace a lost employee, plus the associated loss in productivity, equates to about six months’ worth of the employee’s salary. For instance, it costs $45,000 to replace an employee earning $30,000. The additional $15,000, which is the value of six months’ salary, is the cost to recruit and train that employee to reach full productivity.

During mergers and acquisitions, an intranet-based ESS or an EIP application is perfect for posting presentations, information, policies, procedures, and benefit news on the intranet. This relieves HR managers of many of the administrative and educational tasks required during a merger or acquisition, and frees them up to address personnel issues and help anxious employees during the transition.

Robert D. Perussina is the chief executive officer of LifeMap Communications, Inc., a California-based company that develops knowledge-based software and portal applications for human resources benefits communications, education, and training. He can be reached at 1-888-862-7733.

ESS/EIP advantages

•Reduces communication and administrative costs.

•Reduces recruiting expenses.

•Provides an opportunity to enhance revenue.

•Reduces litigation exposure.

•Improves employee morale, loyalty and productivity.

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