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The People’s Portal: Of the People and For the People

A couple of weeks ago, my face hurt. Really, really bad. So I went to the doctors office expecting to spend the first half hour of my visit filling out all of the obligatory paperwork. I was surprised to find, then, that gone where the paper forms and instead my data was collected and tracked electronically. My doctor and I spent more time interacting, addressing my problem and coming up with a solution. And as a result it was a much more enriching experience.

It struck me that if the medical industry, which has a history of being a system of records and paper files, can recognize the importance of enabling a more interactive experience between doctor and patient, then HR departments should be able to enable the same between the organization and employees. Less bureaucracy. Less transactions. More engagement. More interactions.

A traditional employee intranet delivers information the organization believes is relevant to employees… it is something created FOR the people. HR portals and systems contains all of the information about your employees… it is created OF the people. It’s not uncommon to find two different intranets that separately serve communication and HR purposes. But, today’s world, what most companies need is a combination of both an employee and HR portal brought into one seamless experience that balances organizational content with HR transactions and systems and delivers both in a more interactive way. A portal that has been created of the people and is for the people: a PEOPLE PORTAL.

A people portal puts employee needs first. It’s not a business solution: it’s a people solution. And a people solution generally has three defining characteristics:: 1) streamlined; 2) distinctive; and 3) personalized.

1. Streamlined Experience

Most companies intend for their intranet to be designed for the people, but when it makes finding information / resources overly complex, when it focuses on transactions rather than interactions, and when it does not recognize your employees as people, then you’ve missed the mark.

At a recent HR summit, I asked attendees if they had single sign on (SSO) for their intranet. Most attendees nodded yes that indeed they did and another attendee even said, “SSO has been around for a while. I think most companies have it now.” OK, maybe so. But to what extent? When I asked this same group if they could change their employee information, view their paycheck, or sign up for a learning course through that same authentication, almost all of the attendees said NO.

The essence of SSO is to seamlessly connect multiple systems to each other through ONE authentication. And as we know, there are a multitude of HR systems: ATS, SAP, PSoft, ESS, MSS, TMS, ADP — it’s a whole alphabet soup that Campbell’s has never seen before. It’s not uncommon to find corporate / employee communications the initial content on an intranet and employees then springboard to separate HR systems and transactions. But if your SSO applies to the core site and doesn’t pass that authentication to your HR systems, then you don’t have an SSO strategy that streamlines employee experience. Employees should be able to enter the intranet portal and manage their health benefits, view their pay, without having to sign in multiple times.

2. Distinctive Delivery

There are two important aspects to distinctive delivery: content and control. Distinctive content on a people portal enables collaboration of information, applications, tools and software. It’s a balance of timely updates regarding corporate and organizational news along with automated HR transactions where possible. Good distinctive content continues to highlight the company as an employer of choice and extends the employee value proposition into the digital world.

Distinctive control puts more power into the hands of the employees to manage their content and data. Traditionally, employee data has always been managed solely by HR. But on nearly every external social networking profile, users have the ability to change their photo, personal data and customize their information. Why then wouldn’t we give employees control over doing the same for their employee profile? HR transactions no longer need to happen in the back office. Rather, they can now happen through the front end via interactive user interfaces.

If you’re scratching your head and thinking that it’s not easy to present HR transactions or data in interactive ways — or, more importantly, why would you want to — don’t feel bad. You’re not alone. Interactive doesn’t always mean flashy or having lots of bling. It can also mean contextual. That is, in order to make content more relevant to employees, content is made contextual as part of the transaction itself.

Figure 1 shows an example of a “Time Off / Vacation” widget on a People Portal. It achieves several goals:

  1. Employee information — up-to-date information on how much time off the employee has used / has available
  2. HR interaction — links to relevant policies regarding time off and access to the HR systems to request time off
  3. Organizational information — news stories on how the company has been recognized for work / life balance

The interactive delivery is that you’re providing organizational information and giving employees the ability to manage their time all within one contextual interface.

3. Personalized and Customized

I would never expect my doctor to introduce himself to me as Dr X and refer to me as Patient 123879. The relationship between a doctor and patient is personal and so too should the relationship between an organization and its employees be. The content, navigation and design should be personalized to the employee: who they are, where they are, and what they do.

Personalized doesn’t just mean that an employee is greeted by name, but it also means that you recognize that employees’ time is valuable by providing role-based access to the information, tools and resources required to be effective employees. Supervisors should immediately see manager systems, international employees should see HR guidelines specific to them or their country, field workers should have quicker access to time reporting tools, and, if you use them, social platforms such as Salesforce should be integrated for your sales & marketing teams.

If you’re still not sure where to start, begin by listening to your employees. Talk to your HR business partners, user experience teams and your HR Help Desk. When employees can’t find information, these groups are the first to hear the complaints.

Second, inventory all of your HRIS and identify all the systems where employees are required to re-authenticate to initiate a transaction. Streamline this experience into ONE authentication wherever possible.

Third, take a look at the employee lifecycle. Not only do employees have distinct needs based on where they are within that lifecycle, but their engagement levels are different as well. Ask yourself if your intranet delivers relevant content and interacts with employees based on where they are within the lifecycle, properly utilizes the high engagement levels and properly addresses the low engagement levels. Then determine HR interaction points and blend it together with organizational content.

And finally, remember: organizational needs and employee needs are complementary goals. And a people portal brings these two together through a streamlined, distinct and personalized interactive experience.

If you don’t believe me, believe my doctor. He knows!

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