HR must still convince the board of the business case for shifting the
burden of routine admin online, writes Sue Weekes
HR practitioners overwhelmingly believe that self-service HR can improve
levels of service and cut costs, but many still cite the lack of board-level
buy-in as the biggest barrier to adoption, according to a survey by Webster
In addition to 43 per cent bemoaning reticence on the part of the board when
it comes to self-service, almost 40 per cent of the respondents to HR
self-service, the practitioners view, highlight an inability to build a
business case for it themselves.
"HR has got to work harder to explain the business case," says
Mark Geary, a co-founder of Webster Buchanan Research. "To start with,
there are hard, tangible cost-savings that come from automating administrative
tasks. And while the softer benefits are harder to quantify, many are in areas
senior managers can identify with – such as providing up-to-date management
information, improving employee productivity through better information access,
and enjoying better two-way communications."
Web-based self-service has rapidly climbed up the HR agenda and has been
much talked about on the conference and seminar circuit for the past five years
Typically, such a system will allow employees to carry out a range of
transactions, from booking holiday and inputting expenses, to selecting
flexible benefits via a web-based portal.
The research, carried out by Webster Buchanan in association with
Peoplesoft’s HR leadership programme, is designed to establish what is really
happening on the ground, and to find the key drivers behind the adoption, as
well as the major barriers to it and the practical issues relating to its
More than half of the survey respondents already provide employees with
electronic access to HR or payroll systems, or plan to do so this year.
Thirty-five per cent are planning to do so in the long-term.
The research shows that improving employee productivity is the most common
perceived benefit of web-based self-service HR, with just over 90 per cent of
respondents saying they believe the ability to improve productivity through
giving individuals better access to information is ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’
Nearly 85 per cent consider reducing HR costs as important and just under 74
per cent think the same about redeploying or cutting HR administrative staff.
When it came to cost factors of implementing the system, the initial licence
fee of the application is still a major consideration, but there is evidence
that HR is looking at such a project more broadly, also citing pre- and post-implementation
services and infrastructures as important.
Among the bigger companies surveyed with a UK turnover of £1bn plus, 95.5
per cent consider infrastructure as either the most or ‘somewhat’ important
priority when making a buying decision. Perhaps surprisingly, only one in five
see training in the use of the portal as important.
Less surprising is the fact there is still some resistance to self-service
within HR itself, with 34 per cent stating this as a barrier to adoption.
"This is inevitable, as self-service changes the way HR operates. The
reality is that not every HR employee is going to be able to make the
transition from administrator to value service provider," says Geary.
But overall, the research points to HR being positive about the concept of
web-based self-service, and if the function can impress the benefits upon the
board, it is a huge step towards HR professionals being freed to take a more
"No-one’s pretending the argument’s easy because it is a combination of
hard and soft benefits. And implementing self-service can be a sizeable
undertaking," says Geary.
"HR practitioners have to box clever and play to their unique
circumstances. In companies where HR is represented on the board and human
capital management is a core business philosophy, the list of arguments in
favour of self-service is impressive. If the CEO only thinks of employees in
the context of the monthly wage bill, then it’s down to the cost-savings. Most
will be somewhere in the middle."
Complimentary copies of the report can be downloaded at www.websterb.com or
from Peoplesoft’s www.leadersinHR.org