5 Tasks, 5 Systems: The Sad Reality of Employee Self-Service

By Mike Raia Posted December 14, 2016


The Sad Scenario

Imagine for a moment that you're a salesperson at a large corporation. You have a few tasks to perform today and you finally got a moment to focus.

Task 1: Request some marketing collateral for an upcoming trade show you're attending.

You email your field marketing rep and let her know you need 200 company overview brochures for the San Antonio conference. A few hours later she emails you a Collateral Request form in Word that you need to complete and "send back." You open the form in Word, spend 20 minutes messing around with it (do I check the box or type an "X"?) You then save the form with a different name to your desktop and email it back, assuming that with a month until the show you'll get everything in time.

Task 2: Request vacation time for next year.

You like to plan ahead so you plan to submit your vacation time for next year in advance. You're pretty sure that's done through the payroll system so you dig up your password and log in (after realizing you had updated it a few months ago, and are forced to reset your password). Once in the system, you find the area for submitting vacation requests. It's a bit awkward to use but you're able to submit a request.

Task 3: Submit your most recent expense report.

Your work travel is done for the month so you want to submit your expenses a little early. As per the usual process, you open the spreadsheet you used last time, replace all the information, re-save it with a different name and send it off to Matt in Finance because even though he's not the right person to handle expenses, he never complains and passes it along to whoever is supposed to handle it. Unfortunately, you get a vacation message back from Matt. Now you're not sure who to send it to so you look up "finance" in the Outlook directory and send it to the general mailbox.

Task 4: Request a new office chair.

You learned last week at the mandatory in-house ergonomic seminar that anyone with chronic back issues can order an ergo-friendly chair to replace their current chair. A high school football injury makes you a candidate. You try to find the printed request form they passed out at the seminar but you can't find it. You ask around the office and finally just take a copy off the bulletin board. Once it's filled out you drop it off on Louise's desk in HR because it seemed like an HR initiative.

Task 5: Get someone in IT to fix your browser issue.

You get back to your desk and are finally ready to get to work. You go to log into the CRM system but you keep getting bounced out. You're not sure if it's your password or your browser. After a few more fruitless attempts, you decide to submit an IT support ticket. You ask around if anyone knows how to submit a support ticket but realize everyone is out at lunch. "Wow, it's Noon?" you say to yourself. You call the front desk and get the URL for the support site. A few minutes later your support ticket is entered and you head to lunch.

It Gets Worse

While this sounds like a rotten way to spend a morning, it's unfortunately only half the story.  Of those five requests, only two of them will be handled appropriately. The vacation request and the IT request. While getting to the request form was a little difficult, at least they were both tied to request handling systems (albeit separate systems) that will route the information to the right people expediently.

However, the other three are like spinning a roulette wheel:

  • Did he fill the collateral request form out properly or is it going to be sent back with questions? Did he send it to the right person in Marketing or is it going to get forwarded to someone else who can fulfill it? How long will that process take?
  • Does Finance monitor their general email box? If so, who does it and how often? Will they simply reply and tell the sales rep to send it somewhere else? Or that they've updated the Expense form and he needs to fill it out again and, by the way, he's missing a few dates?
  • Is the HR person annoyed that he left the form on her chair because 1) the forms are supposed to go to Operations, not HR and 2) she handles recruiting and this isn't even close to her job description? Will she simply put it to the side planning to drop it off next time she has to go over to operations (which isn't very often)?

It Gets Much, Much Better

Rather than sending employees in five different directions, we'd recommend investing in a Request Management system:

  • Centralize all requests in a single, user-friendly enterprise-wide Employee Self-Service Portal. Regardless of the department or functional need, give employees one, easy-to-remember, URL to accomplish all tasks (request.company.com for instance).
  • Break up requests by department so employees can easily navigate to the proper request and provide a search tool in case they're not sure.
  • Build consistent, intuitive forms that ask for just the information needed to fulfill the request. Use dropdowns, checkboxes, and picklists to ensure standard information is provided whenever possible.
  • Map out all processes in their entirety and take the opportunity to remove redundant steps. Create approval matrices that allow for backup approvers/fulfillers based on availability.
  • Configure alerts for both the person requesting and request/approval handlers. This will ensure expedient request handling.
  • Allow the person requesting to track progress to prevent repeated emails or phone calls to check status.
  • Integrate request workflows with existing systems to prevent re-work.
  • Make sure the system displays well on all screens, from phones to large-screen monitors so employees can use the system wherever they are.
  • Use SSO (single sign-on) to reduce the number of logins employees have to remember.

Investing in a request management system will pay off in efficiency, productivity, accuracy and employee satisfaction.

Mike Raia

Marketing the world's best workflow automation software and drinking way too much coffee. https://about.me/mikeraia

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