The Value of Self-Service Features in a Modern HR Platform — for Employees, Managers, and Your Work Culture

Steve Kuhn
July 9, 2021

Organizations looking to optimize their HCM systems have a host of practical necessities to consider — including the overall importance of modern HCM to support their business goals. Research by Korn Ferry found that human capital is 2.33 times more valuable than physical capital, and organizations that improve the discretionary energy of their people see their EBITDA double on average. Modern HCM is a direct driver not only of employee engagement and performance, but ROI.

How can employers boost that “discretionary energy?” One simple strategy is to provide the employee self-service (ESS) and manager self-service (MSS) functions that promote autonomy, encourage mutual transparency, and boost employee and manager experience. In a nutshell, self-service makes work easier, whether it’s managing everything from one’s own job to the whole team. If your HCM system doesn’t include self-service components, you’re not fulfilling its tremendous potential to help your people fulfill their potential. And you’re falling short of what a modern HCM system is capable of, which could put you at a disadvantage in terms of your competitors.

Here’s how self-service works to improve the hallmarks of a modern HCM approach:

Workforce Management

The upheavals and dynamics of the past year, from the shift to remote and hybrid workforces to the blur between work and life challenges, highlighted the importance of workforce management (WFM). SHRM calls WFM one 2021’s trending HR technology investments: 30 percent of respondents in a recent study said they planned to change or re-evaluate their WFM this year— and address flaws and lack of functionality exposed by the pandemic.

To be effective from now on, a WFM system needs to include self-service tools that enable managers and employees to function wherever they are, from administration and scheduling to learning and development. Employees and managers need to be able to complete virtual paperwork; manage and coordinate schedules without having to be on premises; and handle time-off needs or swap shifts safely. In terms of learning and development, self-service enables employees to accomplish goals and seize the opportunity to acquire new skills as it fits into their time, reducing the sense of friction that comes with having to crunch required learning modules (not to mention choose them) in between more pressing responsibilities. And linked to automation and reporting functions, self-service provides streams of meaningful data for managers and HR, creating a continuing picture of the workforce that supports better decision-making going forward.

Employee Experience

It’s a common misconception that employee experience(EX) refers to the face-to-face, on-site, person-to-person interactions and observations an employee has within an organization. But as more interactions and observations take place within a digital environment, the experience of interacting with technology can be just as pivotal.

From an HR tech standpoint, that new reality means that user experience is essentially employee experience — and has just as clear an impact on employee engagement and performance as any other aspect of the employee experience. Often what takes place within the digital sphere of HR and HCM has a profound effect on an employee’s perception of their job, their manager, their team, and their workplace.  

At Criterion, we’re relentlessly calibrating our UX to best fit the shape of the user experience in the new digital workplace. We’re also seeing how many front-of-the-pack employers consider a positive user experience as a key factor the overall experience of their employees. They’re looking to evolving technology to build bridges — between people, between teams — and over come challenges and disruptions, such as the shift to remote and hybrid teams, or the need for safety and social distancing.

The positive impact is felt by managers as well — as the whole workforce turns to a digital ecosystem of functions and interactions to collaborate, communicate, and get their work done. And for both employees and managers, having access to certain HR functions and being able to do them in between a whole host of other tasks and as it fits into their individual work schedules (and their lives) greatly decreases a sense of overwhelm, and improves work-life balance.

Manager Experience

Managers have been the MVPs of the pandemic in so many organizations — and it’s time to acknowledge the complexities of their role. Manager self-service (MSS) helps by providing greater access to information — freeing up time and bandwidth to attend to higher-level tasks. Employee self-service supports managers by reducing the cadence of interruptions, as employees can get fast answers from a chatbot or find resources via a self-service portal.

MSS transforms the manager’s role from reactive — that sense of being barely one step ahead of so many pressing needs — to a proactive one. A Harvard Business Review study found that issues of communication and reporting can leave some managers feeling hamstrung in terms of their virtual effectiveness.  One approach to overcoming that is with technology that enabled their teams, rather than managers needing to continue to control and oversee every task. Further, not having to rely on HR when it comes to accessing data or running a report also reduced that sense of friction between the need and the ability to make key decisions.

MSS can take a variety of forms, to be sure. It may range from simply accessing information on teams and running real-time reports to being able to handle employee issues such as transfers or raises. When designed to provide the most strategic value, MSS also offers people management functionalities —onboarding, engagement, succession, performance and workforce management, and learning and employee development. It enables managers to take a more strategic role by paving the way for faster completion of lower-level tasks. And as with any aspect of HCM, particularly for mid-sized organizations, simplicity and ease of use are critical. The tools need to engage and promote adoption, so everyone can get up to speed quickly.

Improving the Workplace Culture

77% of employees in an O.C. Tanner Institute study reported that their workplace culture will never go back to what it was before the pandemic. To adapt it to the nature of so many workplaces post-pandemic, software and platforms that facilitate better communication and collaboration are going to be key differentiators.

While self-service in and of itself may not seem like a transformative function, what we’ve found at Criterion is that it’s far more than an array of tools that make work easier. It’s also a clear sign of a commitment by the employer to boost the workplace culture, demonstrating a people-centric approach to employees’ time, energy and needs, showing people that they are valued, and that their input and creativity at higher-level tasks are increasingly important.

For so many, self-service is a practical necessity — a means to help balance the demands of work and life. It’s time employers consider self-service in that same light — as strategic ally in people management. Self-service inherently offers opportunities for autonomy, promotes a sense of transparency, and encourages accountability. And by improving employee experience — a critical factor in engagement, it may serve to build the employer brand. And that in turn can increase the chances of successful recruiting and hiring in an increasingly competitive marketplace — where employee reviews (another form of self-service) have become a key factor in a candidate’s decision to apply or pass. For mid-market companies squeezed by both sides, that can give the organization the edge — in engagement, retention, and hiring as well.

Contact us to learn more about Criterion’s simply powerful HCM platform and its range of modern self-service features for your employees and managers.  

Steve Kuhn
Chief Sales Officer
Senior Sales Professional with 20+ years of strong executive experience, selling software solutions and building relationships in Enterprise and Mid-Market.

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