This Briefing Paper explores the business case for investing in employee and manager self-service, from the widely-anticipated efficiency gains for HR functions, line managers and individual employees to the broader business benefits that come from better access to information. It also addresses the challenges organisations face as they attempt to roll out self-service. In particular, it argues that:
While the business case for investing in self-service typically centres on cutting administrative costs and improving process efficiency, the focus is also starting to fall on the broader people management benefits, from improving performance and absence management to broadening access to training. These benefits also include improved information management, impacting everything from operational efficiency to long-term trend analysis.
The argument that automation frees up HR to do more value-added work is borne out by practitioners’ experiences. By reducing the administrative burden on HR, organisations have been able to free up their HR functions to focus on more proactive people management initiatives (see Part Four).
Not all cost savings derived from self-service will drop to the bottom line. For example, introducing self-service may raise the bar in terms of HR service level expectations, so some savings may be consumed in meeting new quality demands.
Self-service capability now extends beyond the HR function, employees and managers to incorporate external stakeholders, including job applicants. The ability to enter job application data online – and ultimately track the progress of applications – is a key differentiator in the race to secure talent.
Self-service capability is also beginning to play an important role in organisations’ ability to introduce flexible working, not least by providing access to central HR systems for remote workers. Tying employees into central systems plays an important part in keeping them connected to the organisation, both in practical terms and perception.
The business case for self-service rests in part on a credible “guarantee” of high user adoption levels, so the rollout plan must focus on the functionality that’s most likely to encourage take-up among employees and managers. As with most HR IT projects, organisations are usually advised to take a phased approach to implementing self-service, piloting projects to secure employee buy-in and focusing first on tackling the biggest pain points and generating the biggest wins.
The cost of self-service will be influenced by a number of factors in addition to the software licence fee, including ease of implementation and ongoing maintenance and support fees.
It’s important to calculate the true cost of ownership when making selection decisions.