Cutting costs with self-service HR

Self-service
HR can empower employees and save HR departments money. Keith Rodgers finds out
how

When
Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) started to roll out an HR
self-service application, it ran into a small but significant confidentiality
issue. Three of its staff were completely set against the idea of their
personal data being accessible online, even though it was only available on a
secure private network, and not over the internet. Faced with their privacy
concerns, the university decided to terminate all access to those individuals’
data files.

Three
people out of an 11,000-strong workforce may not be statistically relevant, but
the concerns they raised certainly were. As more organisations begin to adopt
employee self-service applications, these kinds of cultural issues are likely
to be just as prominent as any technical challenges they may run into.

Approval
processes

Although
uptake of HR self-service has failed to meet initial industry expectations,
there’s a growing awareness in the profession that it offers a means of cutting
costs while also improving levels of efficiency. Using the internet as an
internal communications platform, users can give workers access to a wide range
of HR-related information, from their individual employment records to details
of available training programmes.

In
addition, staff can conduct transactions without the need for HR assistance,
such as signing up for health benefits, while manager approval processes can be
managed electronically. By replacing inefficient manual processes and cutting
down the amount of HR resource required to carry out administrative tasks,
companies may enjoy relatively rapid returns on their IT investments.

Cost
savings

Based
on the West Coast of the US in Portland, Oregon, OHSU launched its self-service
project as the second stage of a broader automation initiative. It had begun by
implementing Oracle’s iRecruitment software to replace its manual recruitment
processes and manage the 40,000 to 50,000 job applications it receives each
year. That process, which is expected to generate annual savings of around
$200,000 per year, gave internal job applicants and those involved in the
hiring process a taste of what internet-based HR applications can offer.  

Employee
benefits online

The
next stage was to implement the basic elements of Oracle’s HR self-service
software package, offering employees the chance to change their names and
addresses and view data such as job titles, supervisors, and salary records.
While it received positive feedback, that type of application has limited
day-to-day relevance. A more ambitious test for the system came with another
phase completed in early August this year, which allows employees to manage
their benefits packages online.

With
medical and dental coverage a hot topic in the US, this new application enables
staff to select cover and add other insurances (such as life and disability)
where necessary. According to Joe Tonn, HR management systems manager at OHSU,
it also lets them do ‘what if?’ scenarios, modelling different combinations of
benefits to meet the total dollar amount offered in their flexible benefits
package.  

Remote
access

Several
further developments are planned. To begin with, the University is working on
security and other IT infrastructure requirements to allow employees to access
the self-service system remotely; something that’s particularly important if a
worker wants to plan their benefits at home with their partner.

It
also hopes to distribute payslips online, although the compensation
complexities associated with 24-hour nursing mean it will have to build much of
that technical capability itself. It is also putting together the business case
to build a central training repository, which will also be accessible from the
self-service application.

As
Tonn says, these issues are not just about technology – each new application
has an impact on individuals’ jobs because so much manual work is automated.

“It’s
such a major shift from having a paper enrolment form to relying on one screen
– [it’s about] getting away from the dependency on paper and having a high
confidence level in the accuracy of the data,” he says.

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