New Electronic HR Tools Are Hitting Their Stride
The marketplace for electronic human resources solutions has been so fragmented and confusing that it barely has a name.
Fortunately, after years of trial and error, it appears that eHR is starting to hit its stride. The eHR tools out there are helping educate, bring efficiency to benefits processes, encourage intelligent utilization of benefit programs and cover legal compliances.
All these goalsfrom the practical to the idealcan be achieved today with the right systems in place.
If your organization has been burned in the past, you owe it to yourself to understand what has been happening in the world of eHR and where the opportunities are today.
Administration First. The initial generation of eHR products planted its roots nearly 10 years ago in large companies, first with software installed on employees computers and eventually through the Internet.
It was instinctual triage for consultants and software providers to focus on an HR departments most acute pain: benefits enrollment. The first systems were squarely aimed at automating the enrollment process in part because HR would be able to find the budget for a solution that simplified their lives.
In retrospect, the enrollment solutions tended to be oversold on their value and therefore underperformed due to unrealistic expectations. Why? For all of the great back-end processing, all the employee saw was a glorified enrollment form delivered on a computer screen. The promise of “employee self-service” was yet to be realized. Because the emphasis was originally placed on high-priced administrative products, mid-sized and smaller employers were left out of the benefits technology game.
The Communication Gap. Selecting benefits electronically was a fine place to start, but the most essential need still was neglected by technology providers.
Employees actually have to understand their benefit programs to make smart choices. It would seem logical that communication should have been the foundation of an eHR strategy before enrollment tools were laid on top.
In the early days, perhaps paper sufficed. Only the bigger employers could justify the cost of the small army of writers, programmers, web designers and account managers needed to slap brochures up onto Web pages. Maybe that was the problemwe now know that communicating benefits effectively through an Internet portal is different from paper. We had to transition from wordy paper-based communications to the Internets bullet-point style.
A cultural shift also was required. Today people are much more receptive to being sent to a Web site for information. Only a few years ago, it was anathema for certain employers to shirk their personal, “drop by our office” approach for the “go get it yourself” approach. Much like ATMs have now become a readily accepted alternative to bank tellers, employees have come to prefer 24/7 access to eHR portals.
Early Limitations. A notorious flaw of the early eHR products was the cumbersome, labor-intensive implementation of these products.
Often consultants were called into the mix to link the practical business requirements to the technical programming side. Employers were not empowered with the knowledge or tools to control or effectively manage the process. Every little change involved overblown consultative exercises with commensurately high fees. Its a good thing the economy was going strong.