Self-Service and the ATM | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Posted On September 20, 2011

Many of today’s shared services organizations like the idea of moving to a self-service environment as it assists them in achieving cost savings and headcount reduction targets. However, when they begin mentioning the term self-service outside the shared services sanctum,  the business lines they support often puts up their hands and say, ”Oh, no you don’t! Don’t take away my generalists! We already have enough work to do; why are you pushing your work back on us?” So, how can shared services organizations overcome this resistance?

Consider likening self-service to use of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). When the ATM was first introduced, the banking die-hards would have none of it. Not go into the bank? Never! Drive or walk up to a machine to get cash? Bah! But when was the last time you drove to your bank, got out of your car, went into the branch, wrote out a check to ”Cash,” and gave it to the bank clerk? Last week? Last month? Last year? A decade ago? Never?

Now think about the convenience of the self-service aspect of an ATM. You can access it whenever and wherever you want to fit your needs. Yes, you have to swipe your card, enter your pin, select the type of transaction you want to perform, etc. But in the end, performing the transaction is simpler, more accurate, and more timely for you.

Self-service in a shared services environment is very similar. Take the HR function. As a manager, think about how much easier it would be to access a system and directly enter in employee performance information, compensation changes, performance ratings, and position changes. Rather than taking the time to type an email, send it to HR, have HR enter it, validate it in the system, and send a note back to HR to fix any errors, you enter the information once. This is much simpler, increases accuracy, and reduces your expended time.

The same goes for employees. How much nicer would it be if you could enter and maintain your personal information directly in the system, rather than manually filling out pages and pages of personal information and submitting it to HR, only to have it entered into the system incorrectly? And, think about the convenience of being able to access your health benefits information after hours if you’re unable to call a service center representative during the day?

So how can you ensure adoption of self-service solutions within your organization? First, consider Gen Y’s expectations, given the changes in workplace demographics. This younger generation of workers, having never lived in a world without the Internet simply expects organizations to be self-service-enabled. Their world of texting and e-mails makes self-service solutions very natural for them. They use social networking more and the phone less. They expect to be able to connect to the tools they need, anywhere and anytime. They expect to have the flexibility to work from home either part-time or full-time. They expect – and in some cases demand – full time 24/7 connectivity and self-service solutions. And in fact, not having this connectivity can actually hurt morale and reduce productivity.

That said, organizations typically have a broad cross-section of age and demographics, making change management critical when implementing these types of solutions. It’s very likely the older generation will need more change management than the younger, although they are becoming more comfortable with self-service solutions as the years wear on (just like the ATM). As an example of effective and innovative change management, one Fortune 500 organization instituted a program wherein younger employees were paired with older ones for training on and assistance with online and self-service solutions. This reduced the demand on HR training resources, decreased training costs, and sped up the change process.

Providing self-service tools and solutions can to create a win-win for an organization. For example, self-service solutions are typically SaaS solutions and can be far cheaper than staffing a call center around the clock, saving precious cash. If the solution is implemented thoughtfully and carefully, the online tools can enable employees to very effectively perform their duties from anywhere and at any time, allowing them to achiever a better work/life balance via increased flexibility, which easily translates into increased morale and productivity. And, if the change management is handled effectively, managers and employees will adopt the tools and never look back, just like we did with the ATM.

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