Use Case for a HR System: Focus on Employees Who Focus on Customers
“Focus on the customer” is pretty much established doctrine for running an enterprise. The more market and customer data, the better. How are market segments and demographics doing? What is the state of the delivery issue to Big Customer X – as of today? For many companies, having systems that give near-real-time access to data on crucial customer matters is pretty much the way one does things to stay competitive and efficient.
But who actually executes the “focus on the customer” day to day, even hour to hour? It’s employees – Joan the head of sales, Miguel running the warehouse, Anna running the customer order hotline and Charlie doing maintenance on the production line. When Big Customer X or any other customer asks “where is my stuff” – the company systems know or should know and ring the right bells along the supply chain. But what do we know about those who have to respond when the bells ring? Who are they? Do they have all that they need to get the job done?
Of course, even in an “old school” company, the HR department will have a paper record or an Excel spreadsheet of the people making our top selling product ABC. Is everyone there? Sara, the line supervisor usually knows, but she isn’t picking up her phone. Why? A few more calls determine that she is actually at a seminar that management sent her to. Holger her deputy finally answers, noting that two people called in sick and someone else took leave to care for a sick child. Is the flu season starting? Didn’t anyone see the memo about how flu shots are on the company health plan, when was it, six weeks ago?
Employee issues can affect deliveries and customer service
Meanwhile, some customers may be getting worried because the company doesn’t really know what is going on with those who are supposed to be serving them. Maybe all this is a use case for a HR system for the company that is as up to date and efficient as the supply chain app that just reported that a pallet of product XYZ was loaded at the airport two minutes ago.
Modern HR management systems provide the tools for having this kind of data and rapid decision-making resources also with regard to employees. Moreover, they empower employees to self-manage what they do, just like customers can do with on-line access to orders, order tracking and other issues. They also provide a record of every employee’s “on boarding” (familiarization with company procedures) communications both to and from the employee, his/her in-house training and other matters. With such a system, management would know that with three employees absent from the line making product ABC, there was a risk of missing deliveries and the electronic records showed at least two people on another less busy line that could be moved over.
Situational awareness for solving problems – a use case for a HR system
With employee feedback, management might also have noticed that the health clinic recommended for flu shots kept bad hours for people on certain shifts, so it contacts the health insurance provider for alternatives. In addition to flagging absences, a modern HR system would also show the disposition and availability of all line managers (as well as their employees). Instead of phone-tag with busy and unavailable people, HR could move employees to prevent a slowdown of critical production.
Having solved that, management may next face the problem of expanding production while noting that there was employee turnover on the loading docks where all this product had to be moved. Should one worry if turnover was N % and adding production capacity would simply increase pressure on this group? Some HR systems, that are deployed with several companies in the same industry, will provide comparative statistics. So, N% was a bit above average, but company salaries for the job category were also above average? Why were some people leaving “good jobs”? Research using the HR system in this hypothetical use case for a HR system might reveal a pattern of complaints about loud noise on the loading docks from some fork-lift engines. Replacing the mufflers would probably boost workplace satisfaction and increase productivity. People need to hear themselves think, or maybe have ear protection if there is no other alternative.
HR systems – the modular approach
Certainly, issues like this and others would filter up to management through an old-style HR system, perhaps in annual or even quarterly reviews of employee performance and satisfaction. But does it help to hear from Sam that three people in his department left months ago because of an issue that management was unaware of and he was also tired of dealing with whatever it was? With a self-service HR system, those three employees could still be working had they reported their problem for immediate attention.
“OK, fine”, says the manager with an “old school” HR system with paper and Excel based employee lists and records, “but what will changing it all at once cost? Can our IT people handle it? What will it all cost?”
It is true that some integrated HR systems come all or nothing. Rip out the old and implement a full employee life cycle HR system in one major operation. However, modern HR systems are also often modular, which means they can be built up step by step – onboarding, leave requests, performance evaluations, employee timesheets and so on. The best feature of modular systems is that they are designed to integrate the modules as they come online. So, when everything is in place at the company’s own pace, the HR system works just as well as a “one piece” integrated system that would have come at greater immediate cost and effort by IT staff and others.
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