Self-service HR: 7 ways to drive adoption

Lizzie Buxton

Written By Doug Crane, Operations Director, Succeed

16th August 2019

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HR self-service can be a true win-win – empowering employees and freeing up HR professionals to focus on adding value. But first, you need to drive adoption…

Today, every HR system supports some degree of self-service and process automation and that’s a great step forward.

When employees can serve themselves, they stay more productive;  they can get answers faster and even take on responsibility for their personal data, saving your HR team from maintaining the data themselves and freeing up the time they would have spent handling those enquiries. Instead HR teams can focus on analysing and managing staff retention and performance, creating succession plans and developing new initiatives. The things that actually add strategic value to the business.

And yet… too often, self-service HR has an image problem. Rather than celebrating the fact that employees no longer have to spend time chasing an overworked HR team to get a copy of their last payslip, some will say, ‘HR are just getting me to do their job for them’.

So, how do you set the scene for your self-service initiative to be well-received? How do you drive adoption? And measure success?

Based on my experience of helping companies to implement self-service technologies, here are seven principles to follow:

  1. Give people a good reason to use the system (and use it regularly)

There are some HR processes that every employee cares about. For example, the process of booking time off, or getting their time-sheets in.

If you can integrate these processes into your self-service system, you’ll automatically give people a great reason to log on time and time again – whether it’s to check their holiday entitlement or make sure their hours are recorded.

Once everyone’s using HR self-service to manage such an essential part of their work lives, they’re more likely to use them for other enquiries and requests – especially if you gently alert them to other self-service tools that are available, each time they log in.

  1. Put someone in charge of delivering on the business case

Any good business case for self-service HR will look at the speed and accuracy of existing HR processes and estimate the improvements you’re set to see. It’ll also include your estimated ROI.

It’s all too easy for these projections to be forgotten once the case has been made, and approval won. But if you’re going to drive adoption effectively, they need to stay centre stage. The easiest way is to make an individual accountable for realising the benefits set out in the business case and reporting regularly to the board.

  1. Measure everyone’s efforts

Whoever takes ultimate responsibility for realising self-service’s ROI, has to consider company-wide approach. That means setting department-level targets, and measuring performance against them.

You might measure your HR team on the number of transactions that could be served by self-service that they continue to process. You might measure managers on how many members of their team have used the self-service system in the last month.

The latter lets you to create usage ‘heat maps’ – celebrating departments that show strong adoption and encouraging healthy competition between different business areas.

  1. Foster the right culture

Measuring performance will help to embed HR self-service in your culture, but for cultural change to really take hold, it must be driven from the top down.

That means making sure your most senior members of staff lead by example, without exception..

Self-service initiatives fail when an HR admin says, ‘Dave, you know you should really be doing this yourself – but seeing as it’s you…’

  1. Create a champions network – and involve them from the start

You’ll want to create a robust network of champions for your self-service initiative – with at least one in every business department.

Your champions will:

  • Contribute to initial requirement gathering and design workshops
  • Form your primary user-group when piloting the services
  • Act as a first line of support after launch, helping people who would otherwise have picked up the phone to HR
  • Help train their colleagues on the self-service system, demonstrating how to use each functionality

Why get your champions involved so early on? As end-users, they can offer invaluable input to service design. What’s more, having been on the whole journey – and even helped to steer at key moments – they’ll be more deeply invested in the project, and keen to see it succeed.

  1. Keep on training, and keep it relevant

Training should be timely, starting with your champions, and continuing as a permanent part of your onboarding process for new hires.

Where possible, training should also use genuine workplace scenarios to bring the benefits of self-service to life.

For example, you could provide a dry list of instructions regarding when, why and how your employees should check their personal details. Or, you could tell the story of Jenny – who’s just moved house and realises she needs to update her employee record when a payslip is sent to her old address. (You could even highlight the extra work her oversight creates for your payroll team.)

  1. Communicate – before and after go-live

To maximise day-one adoption, you need to create a real sense of anticipation. So start communicating early.

One simple strategy is to start a countdown 12 weeks before launch, teasing that a new service is coming. Then, follow up six, four, two weeks before, teasing the functionality, benefits and building interest.

Be sure to give people a reason to log in on launch day, and then keep communicating regularly about the service for the first couple of weeks. Consider offering small financial incentives to get people using the system regularly (for example, a £20 voucher for the 1,000th log-in gives you an extra opportunity to send out an announcement email with a reminder to get involved).

It’s all about keeping the new system on people’s radars, while being careful not to bore them.

Helping your organisation embrace HR self-service

Adopt these principles and they should help you with your organisation’s own HR self-service adoption drive.


Doug Crane is the Operations Director at Succeed, part of the AdviserPlus group.

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