cfactor’s Cary Schuler Discusses the Next Generation of Employee Self Service

As many of you know, we recently released the eBook 5 Essentials for Making HR Service Delivery Look & Feel Effortless with cfactor, one of our partners. The ebook offers insight from five HR experts on how to build an HR service delivery model that improves efficiency, lowers costs, and gives HR professionals the tools they need to be a strategic player within their organizations. In it, employee portal and self service expert Cary Schuler, CEO of cfactor, discusses the importance of real-time access to essential information to ensure your self service portal is accomplishing its objectives.


Since effective employee self service is such a huge component efficient and cost-effective HR service delivery, I asked Cary to expand on some of the concepts he discusses in the eBook. Check out our conversation below:



Emily Lewis: Unification is a theme you talk about in the eBook. Creating a unified gateway for employees can pose challenging for companies who already have various systems in place, what is your advice to help overcome some common hurdles?


Cary Schuler: As part of my day job, I regularly get to speak with HR practitioners from a wide range of companies operating in vastly different industries. A technology challenge that routinely comes to the forefront is: “How do I deliver a unified, highly adopted employee technology environment?” Often companies have made significant investments in technology but they are disappointed in the level of adoption – their employees don’t use it much. Why? Often, it is too complicated/fragmented – too many URLs, user Ids, passwords etc. Employees are not sure what system does what. Employees are busy. For the HR system to be valuable, it must simplify their lives – not add to the complexity.


When companies look to improve the employee experience and drive new efficiencies by upgrading their HR Tech environment, they are often presented with the daunting proposition of an expensive, “rip-and-replace” project. This usually entails an expensive price tag, lots of risk and significant delays in getting to the strategic ROI desired by the senior leadership.


However, this is another way. Advances in Internet technologies and integration methods now make it possible to effectively link and extend disparate HR technologies within one consolidated web-based environment. By deploying a unified employee gateway that delivers the right information, analytics, metrics, processes, consultation from within one consolidated web-based environment – 1 URL, 1 set of login credentials, regardless of what role, location or type of employee (i.e. permanent or contingent). When you leverage this unified environment, you can deliver the essentials an employee needs, such as access to self-service tools (i.e. pay statements, income verification letters, schedules etc.), company communications, key performance metrics, employee social networks and real-time collaboration.


One of the most common barriers to change is in actually understanding what cost savings are associated with unification and usually there is some debunking of myths that you have to replace all of your systems to find something that works. If you take an inventory of what systems/processes are already working and note the gaps in functionality that you need that’s a good start. Ask a few questions of your people in different roles and locations to find out just how accessibility is affecting productivity, how much time is spent manually porting data from one system and cross-referencing or re-entering it into another. And build a business case for unification from that.


If you take a closer look at how well-used the systems are, that can also be a good indicator of whether or not people are able to leverage what is being provided for them. It could also mean that the process or system itself is not as effective as needed, and you probably need to examine that carefully as well. When you can attribute a value to the lost productivity and related to accessibility issues, it can be very powerful in identifying the need to adopt a unification platform.



EL: Something else that you underscore is the importance of providing “next generation” self service. Can you describe what qualities to look for in this level of self service?


CS: I think there can be a misperception that self service is just a means to updating the payroll system, and that’s sort of where it ends. That’s really not the case. When I hear the phrase “next generation” I inherently think of Star Trek – blame it on my youth watching science fi on T.V. In the case of self service, it’s really not that far out there, however there are a few key factors to look for.


First, it should automate the process from end-to-end, not just partially. If approvals are involved at various levels of a process, those should automatically be routed to the person in the role who is required to review and approve that step – right from the beginning to the end, until its ultimate completion and recording in the appropriate system of record. Potential limitations such as multi-language support, security by role, operating jurisdictions, etc., those should not stand in the way of self service. Rather, they should be accounted for in the solution.


It should also take into consideration the org structure, so an individual’s view of anything – whether it is sensitive data, a process or simply a message that is being communicated – is determined by their role at the moment they log into the system. It should have enough built-in intelligence to determine that if it is a manager logging in, they will need access to their direct reports, perhaps tailored views of employee metrics, etc. The technology should not dictate the process.


Finally, what really defines ‘next generation’ is leveraging the latest tools to embed even more intelligence and support into a process. When you can provide support by means of user-generated forum posts, FAQ’s, access to the right experts at the exact point in time that you need it, without ever having to leave the process you are completing, that is truly ‘next generation.’



EL: The idea of “expert infused” HR service delivery seems very futuristic compared to where a number of organizations are currently. What advice do you have for HR leaders who want to champion this new approach to their senior leadership?


CS: When you consider that organizations are at many different stages in maturity in their adoption of technology and their overall approach to HR service delivery, that’s true, the concept does probably appear futuristic. In reality, this type of thing is happening all around us in our personal lives – whether through our mobile gadgets and the apps that we have in our hand-held devices, or through online sharing and social media sites like LinkedIn – we tend to take for granted that the information or people that we need are only a click or a text away. I think if HR leaders can look at it from that perspective, it becomes more of a question of when do we look at adopting this type of system versus if. For those HR leaders who want to introduce this type of approach in their organizations, I would suggest starting with a look at their current state. Start to understand how much time, effort and frustration is behind current methods. Look at the bigger picture – in 3 years’ time, does it still look “futuristic” or will it be generally accepted as “the way” HR is doing things?



EL: In your experience, is there a threshold of in-house expertise needed to adopt this type of approach to HR technology, or can anyone consider it? 


CS: That’s a great question – one I have heard many times before. In short, when done right, advanced technology of any kind should be easier, not harder to adopt. HR systems need to embrace the “consumerization of IT” concept. Instead of the traditional complex, “back-office” type of application, HR tech should be designed to deliver “web-familiar” experiences: an easy-to-use, web interface that doesn’t require extensive training to figure out how to use it. Our philosophy is that enterprise applications need to take more queues for the consumer world. Why can’t HR systems be designed to deliver an easy-to-use web layout that is also visually interesting and dynamic – effectively leveraging the best technology has to offer – rich interactive media, social media, real-time collaboration, easy-to-use processes/automation?



EL: Finally, we all know the adage “If you build it, they will come” is a myth. How can HR technology itself support greater adoption, and ultimately a more successful implementation? 


CS: When you have the ability to use the technology itself to support greater adoption, I think that’s when you really have an ROI-generating system of engagement. Nobody will opt to use a technology that provides little or no value. When you initially implement the solution, communications and change management plays a critical role in getting the word out and letting everyone know what it is and why it is important. Underlying that, the solution needs to deliver on the promise of efficiency and engagement – it’s a means to getting work done faster, without headaches. It’s important to provide a measure of interactivity and opportunities for employees to really engage with each other, connect with the company and other employees on a deeper level. When all of that comes together, and continues to evolve – and thrive – then it is a success.



You can hear more from Cary and other ebook contributors on April 24th in the HCI webinar How to Run HR Shared Services like a Thriving Business, sponsored in partnership with cfactor. Register Now. And if you have not yet downloaded 5 Essentials for Making HR Service Delivery Look and Feel Effortless, you can download your complimentary copy here.


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