Donna Nelson Discusses Leveraging HR Case Management for Next Generation HR Service Delivery

Last month, we sponsored IPQC’s HR Shared Services and Outsourcing Summit held in Orlando, FL. It’s one of a handful of conferences available that focuses primarily on HR service delivery and HR shared services. This year, HR leaders from Google, Novo Nordisk, Johnson & Johnson, eBay and more got together to share their stories and exchange best practices. Along with fantastic networking, attendees participated in pre-conference workshops and session tracks geared toward helping HR professionals set up or improve their shared services environments.


Donna Nelson, formerly Head of HR Shared Services at Ann Taylor and now a consultant for HR Shared Services strategy and deployment, gave a presentation on leveraging case management data to become a more strategic player in your organization. Her presentation garnered a ton of interest at the Summit, and I thought Donna would certainly be able to provide some insight to our readers searching for a business case for implementing an HR Help Desk solution or looking for a strategy to gain more value from their existing tool. Luckily Donna agreed to answer a few questions to expand on her presentation a bit. Here’s what she had to say:


Emily Lewis: With today’s application of case management solutions, do you feel HR Shared Services Centers that do not implement case management tools are at a major disadvantage? Please explain.


Donna Nelson: Now more than ever, HR is being asked to be a business partner to help organizations make money or save money. Part of that, is understanding their business beyond just time-to-hire or how many I-9s they’re processing, but really understand the drivers behind what’s happening in their business so they can take on the Strategic Partner role.


Case Management helps HR understand what’s happening in the company at the employee level, and they can report on it – it’s no longer anecdotal. They can also triangulate and use information, such as case management data, employee engagement data, and turnover data, to really build a good business case on actionable planning. So if they see hotspots – areas where managers are not performing well or where legislation is not being appropriately managed – they can then go back to those areas and put a plan in place to fix it, which ultimately will save the company money. Case management allows HR leaders to capture the data needed to identify those trends and hotspots.


EL: In the ‘Lessons Learned’ section of your presentation, you discuss how all required data for a case should NOT reside on the initial input screen. Why is this important?


DN: Tier 1 used to act as a triage for all things case management, but things have changed considerably. Cases very often go directly to Tier 2 or they are handled by an in-house generalist, so having so much information be required in the initial input screen is redundant and slows down HR Service Delivery.


Given how cases are handled today, less is more on the input screen. You really need just enough information to manage and route the case appropriately and nothing more.


Reporting is also something that is a little bit scary because everything today is discoverable. For example, if you were to input information related to demographics in your case fields or notes, it could place you at risk if used inappropriately. Or if the person managing the case offers commentary or a personal view of the situation, that could put your organization at risk and slow down the service delivery process.


So I recommend being very concise on what you present on that input page (going with a less is more approach) and then pulling the data you need for reporting purposes in automatically without displaying it in the case screen.


EL: Could you provide us with a use case, in which HR Case Management was used on a future projection basis and explain the impact on the organization?


DN: I worked for a legacy company, where the average employee tenure was 30 years. Many of the mangers across all business units of the organization were “homegrown managers” or employees that had been promoted from within. This was great, except many of them didn’t necessarily get all the training they needed to be effective managers in today’s workplace – with the changes in legislation, etc.


The company’s litigation and settlement costs related to employment issues were astronomical, and there was a lot of anecdotal discussion within HR and in the Executive Suite about what was causing some of the problems but no concrete data. The company’s approach to handling complaints and issues regarding problematic managers was to settle it and move on.


However, when Case Management was implemented, it gave a very clear picture of what and where the problems were occurring. The problematic managers couldn’t then debate the facts. HR could then approach those managers, show them the data, put in place an actionable improvement plan and then monitor the change in the number of cases related to them.


So that’s exactly what we did. There were managers who were retrained and followed the improvement plan, and the number of cases related to them dropped. And there were managers who were retrained and did not show improvement or a decrease in the number of cases related to them, and that was an opportunity to move those managers out of the organization.


As a result, the litigation and settlement costs went way down. So the executive suite could truly see the value of HR and the impact of using a case management tool.


EL: As HR Case Management systems start to moving more towards self-service, do you think this will eliminate or drastically reduce the Tiered structure in HR SSCs or could even possibly eliminate the need for HR SSCs altogether? Please explain.


DN: Yes, there’s definitely been a shift in the way employees and people in general view self-service. Self-service used to be cumbersome and annoying and seemed to mostly be used to keep people from talking to a person. Today, technology has become much more intuitive and easy to use and from a cultural perspective we’re a lot more used to using it.


People like having the flexibility to answer their own questions on their own time, so as self-service gets even better and easier to use, I think more people will use it, which I think will eventually eliminate the need for a Tier One group in the HR SSC.


However, I don’t think self-service will completely replace HR SSCs in the foreseeable because there is nothing more personal to people than their pay, their benefits and many of the other personal issues HR handles, such as leave of absences when people become ill or have someone ill in the family. Those situations can be very stressful and employees at that point usually want to talk to a person. So I still think there’s going to be a need for HR to have a presence in those situations that are deeply personal.


EL: How would you recommend HR SSCs establish their report requirements?

DN: The reporting is the most critical function of a case management tool. And when you purchase a case management tool, your number one priority should be establishing how you’re going to use it for reporting because that’s where you’re going to get the value and be able to show ROI for the solution.


To get great reporting, you need to have a conversation with your business partners and find out what keeps them up at night and what problems they need to solve. Don’t talk about data, don’t ask what they want to see in a report, just listen to the problems they’re trying to solve. You’ll hear things like, “I really think we have managers with too much control and HR-related issues are falling through the cracks, but I don’t have the right data to address this with our peer groups.”


In listening to your business partners pain points, you’ll begin to see trends, and you can then take that information back to your HR Case Management provider and say, “The data I need to capture needs to deliver reporting for X issue.” Your provider should be able to say, “Given what you would like to report on, here are the data elements we need to capture.” And then your decision is just whether you want to display it or not.


It’s an outside-in approach. Start with figuring out what your business partners need and then build reporting around it, rather than deciding what you’re going to report on internally and then pushing that information out and trying to convince your business partners to care about it.


EL: Any other advice for our readers?


DN: Do just a little bit of homework about your wants and needs before you bring in third-party providers and know that reporting is the piece that’s going to take you to that next level of becoming a strategic business partner within the organization. So look for a provider that not only has a product that offers robust reporting, but also has the expertise to set up your system to deliver that data you need to solve problems.

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