A quick sum will tell you that if you employ 50 people and each person books holidays six or seven times a year (and rings you several times to ask how many days they have left),it will cost your organisation (in time lost) about two working weeks. What’s more, as it is usually done during working hours, in effect you’re paying your employees to book their holidays.
With this unpalatable fact in mind, add the delays inherent in a paper or email-based system, and the overheads associated with manually updating and reconciling records centrally; you can see it’s a pretty inefficient way to do things. And we haven’t even discussed the errors that can be introduced when a large batch of requests accumulates on one person’s desk for processing.
So, what’s the alternative? The best way to manage holiday requests is with a system that serves all parties. In the jargon of HR software, this is called Employee Self Service (ESS). Using a robust, centrally-managed ESS system, individual employees and line-managers can register and process requests, while HR has control over how much they can access or change. Individuals have secure access to records quickly, at any time of the day. Recording and updating information within an ESS can be done via a PC, tablet or mobile phone, from their desk, or from home; from anywhere in fact.
There’s often great reluctance on the part of management to hand responsibility for something as simple as holiday bookings to their members of staff. They feel that somehow records won’t be maintained accurately or kept up-to-date and this in turn will cause more problems. The opposite is actually true. The person who knows most about a holiday request and will take the greatest care in recording its details is the employee themselves. Once submitted, an ESS system will then automatically present each request to line-managers or central HR to review and authorise.
An Employee Self Service system will not only help you with the management and authorisation of holidays and absence, it will also mean that each employee can keep their own contact and bank details up-to-date, submit expense claims and timesheets or contribute to appraisals using an on-line form. Once again, the ESS manages the routing of information and where necessary, others involved in the processes are notified by e-mail. Such a system is ideal for distributing forms and policies, employee handbooks and other HR and company documentation. So depending on the organisation’s needs, the savings associated with automating holiday bookings can also be gained in 4 or 5 other areas.
It is also possible to grant secure access to full HR records via an Employee Self Service system. Once again, it often goes against every instinct of an HR manager to do this, but provided it is done in a secure and controlled way, everyone benefits: individual employees, line-managers, the whole team. The people who have an interest in particular records are in fact the best people to look after them. With that privilege goes lots of time-saving and ultimately cost reduction.
One more benefit that is often under-estimated is that employees and line-managers feel empowered once given authority to handle their own HR requests and related records. Giving them access to easy-to-understand, well-presented information and trusting them to update these details removes the irritation and frustration associated with out-of-date, inefficient and unnecessary paper-based bureaucracy.
Is Employee Self Service too good to be true? No, absolutely not. But Employee Self Service will undoubtedly save time and money by greatly reducing those two weeks of unnecessary administration, minimising other overheads, improving communication and making HR processes easy, straightforward and efficient for everyone.
Matt Steel-Jessop is Managing Director of P&A Software, provider of bespoke and cloud-based HR management systems.
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