Tricks to Get Your "Employee Network" Accepted

Barbara Hodge
Posted: 07/09/2012


Interview with Nadine Hogan, Director, Global HR Operations, Unisys

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Barbara Hodge: Nadine, could you describe the current HR services model at Unisys and your role there?
Nadine Hogan: Yes, of course. I am the director of global HR operations for Unisys, which encompasses supplier management for HR services, HR knowledge and content management, and the implementation of our HR model. We aim to drive consistency on a global basis, working with each of the regions and countries – so, wherever they are at in their journey, we act as a support mechanism for them.

One of the key components of our model is aligning work with the right people – whether this is skill set or location. This means my team is responsible for working with our HR colleagues to determine what the right work "to move" is, and, once that’s been determined, providing program management support.

Barbara Hodge: You’ve just been through a three-year transformation journey for HR services at Unisys. What were the drivers for this change?
Nadine Hogan: As is the case for most companies, we needed to cut our costs pretty significantly. In addition, we had conducted a couple of surveys – with our HR individuals as well as with our business leaders – and found a disconnect, or gap, in terms of what our leadership was looking for, and what our HR team was delivering.

We followed up with some fairly specific analysis on what our people were spending their time on, and we found that some fairly high-paid individuals were actually spending a lot of their time on basic reporting and administrative work. As a result, they did not have enough time to focus on the strategic elements that we had hired them to do, and that the business was actually asking for.

So, to answer your question, the need to cut costs, along with those gaps we identified, led us to the conclusion that we really needed to have a very different HR model designed and implemented. Over the last three years we have moved from a model leveraging highly paid HR generalists, which were aligned with key business units, to more of a multi-tiered approach to HR service delivery –– and really looking to align the right work with the right tiered individuals. Obviously, another component of this is the right location, to really drive the cost element.

Barbara Hodge: So what kind of a service delivery model have you come up with?
Nadine Hogan: We now have a 4-tier approach. Tier zero is the self-service component that we provide to our employees and managers through our PeopleSoft system and a very comprehensive knowledgebase, or as we term it, Employee Network and Managers’ Desk.

This knowledgebase is built on an Saas software developed by Enwisen. We work with them closely to make sure that our content is rich and searchable. And the real key to our model is that employees can – very quickly, at any time they desire – run a search and get answers on any HR questions they might have. If they’re not able to answer the question through the on-line content, they then have the ability to create a ticket, which means the question is sent directly to our HR team.

When that occurs, we move into Tier 1. We have a group of employees – in the United States they’re located in Bismarck, North Dakota, but we also have T1 staff spread across the globe – whose job is to answer the questions that come in through on-line employee network tickets. In fact, the Tier 1 team really wears two hats. The first concerns answering these questions; and the second concerns the actual processing of specific transactions. Now, if any of the questions require greater HR expertise, these are forwarded to the Tier 2 team, which consists of individuals highly skilled in human resources. Some of the questions might require investigation, policy interpretation, or manager counselling, for example.

The T2 team, like T1, wears two hats. In addition to answering escalated questions, they also provide consulting services directly to the business units, to support the units in meeting their goals and objectives.

We have one additional tier: Tier 3. One group of Tier 3 individuals are providing strategic direction to our business units. They work with the leadership teams and are aligned specifically to our business units. So at the T1 and T2 levels, our staff handle questions that come in regardless of the specific business units. But when you get to T3, staff are specifically aligned to the business units, supporting their strategic objectives. The second group of Tier 3 individuals are members of our Centers of Excellence. These teams are responsible for developing policies and programs in areas such as Total Rewards and Talent Management.

Barbara Hodge: When you talk about aligning the T3 with the business units’ strategies, can you explain that? I imagine there’s a higher cost involved with providing this kind of a service -- so how are you measuring the results to the business?
Nadine Hogan: It’s really about meeting the needs of the business units and being recognized as a strategic partner, working in concert with them to achieve their business goals. There isn’t a report that we can run to say we have succeeded. We identify our successes and opportunities through feedback from the business and the results the business achieves.

Yes, T3 is definitely a higher cost resource; the individuals typically have more than ten years of HR experience, and are very knowledgeable about the particular business unit they support. They learn the unique needs of their business units and the challenges being faced. As a result, they are able to participate as a key member of that business unit.

Barbara Hodge: And where do these T3 people sit, Nadine? Are they also in Bismarck, or are they embedded with the business unit?
Nadine Hogan: The only group in Bismarck are T1. Most of our T2 and T3 team in North America sits in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, which is our corporate headquarters. We also have T1, T2, and T3 HR employees located across the globe.

Barbara Hodge: How big are these various teams, Nadine, and how many employees are they servicing?
Nadine Hogan: For T1, we have 7 individuals servicing North American operations – and that means about 7,000 employees. For T2, there are about 22 people that support North America – but they also support the CEOs, and they’re aligned with three main sub-teams: talent management; rewards and benefits; workforce relations. To provide some perspective, Unisys has around 23,000 employees globally.

Barbara Hodge: Can you give me an idea of how many questions are being routed to each of these different tiers, in percentage terms?
Nadine Hogan: For example, in North America, our T1 team received 1,740 tickets created in Q1 of 2011. Of these, 88% were closed at the T1 level. The remaining 12% were closed at the T2 level. Occasionally, a ticket will be escalated to a Tier 3 individual if a policy clarification is required.

Barbara Hodge: So what are the T3 people doing?
Nadine Hogan: They are designing programs, creating policies, and providing strategic leadership and consultation to the executive teams within the business units.

Barbara Hodge: T0 is obviously where you’d like to route most inquiries. Could you share the ratio of ticket generation versus on-line searches? And how are you encouraging employees to use self-service?
Nadine Hogan: We measure how many people are doing searches online, of course. So in North America, in the first quarter of 2011, there were 41,210 online searches for information, and as I said earlier, 1,740 tickets were generated – roughly 4 percent.

Barbara Hodge: How do you plan to move more of the inquiry-resolution to the T0 level?
Nadine Hogan: Our goal is certainly to continue to increase the number of T0 resolutions and there are a number of ways that we are working on this. One is to continue to increase the effectiveness of the online content. For example, something we do on a weekly basis is a ticket review – where representatives from the T1 and the T2 teams get together to review the tickets issued. The group is looking for any common themes to the questions that are coming up. Where these are identified, T0 content is reviewed to ensure it is stated clearly within the Employee Network. Or, if specific content is missing, we discuss whether we need to add that content.

The second thing we are doing to promote online resolution is to make sure that people are aware of the employee network. So, during the on-boarding process, when our new employees start, we make sure that they receive information about our employee network and know that’s where they can get answers to their questions.

Finally - and I think, based on my discussions with a variety of individuals, this is where we differ from some other companies - we do not readily provide the phone number and email address for the service center online. A lot of companies have the contact details right there, easily visible, as you enter the portal. We don’t publish that information. If we provided a phone number from the start, our concern is that employees would not even try to use the online search; they’d just call the service center. And by calling us, they’re not being routed through the employee network, so they’re not being encouraged to do the search online. In our case, an employee has to go through the employee network to raise a ticket ("Ask HR"), and once they’re on that network, they can either choose to create the ticket or they can choose to enter a key word into the search box and find the answer themselves. It makes them take the search option more seriously.

Barbara Hodge: So you are really forcing the issue, aren’t you? By helping your employees learn new online behaviors?
Nadine Hogan: Yes. And once they get onto the network, they have a search box sitting right there, just like on Google or Yahoo. It’s a familiar search media, outside of work, and we’re making it easy for them to use that same search functionality at work, via the employee network.

Now, I will put a caveat in there. Sometimes our staff will have connectivity issues, and in those cases, of course, we provide a more direct route. A number of those 1,740 tickets I mentioned are from new hires who may be having problems navigating the system or getting log-in access to the system. In those cases, we do provide phone numbers and email addresses to get directly to our T1 team. So we are not saying, "regardless of your situation, there’s no way for you to get a phone number"! The other group that has connectivity issues is made of employees who are based on client sites, behind firewalls. In those cases, too, we provide additional ways of contacting the HR team.

The overall goal is to continue to drive that T0 rate up. If T0 doesn’t work effectively, the entire model feels the impact.

Barbara Hodge: Are you finding that new hires account for a high percentage of ticket issuance? And if so, are you trying to change the on-boarding process to eliminate this?
Nadine Hogan: Yes. Our new employees are fairly active users of our T1 team. We are in the process, with the help of Enwisen, of launching a new on-boarding process for North America, which will address many of the questions new hires tend to raise. In fact, we are going live with it next month. It will be a more effective on-boarding journey, as we call it, which will walk new hires through what they need to accomplish in their first day, provide information they need to know their first week, and the specific learning courses developed for them.

Barbara Hodge: You’ve used a lot of software-as-service technology to meet your goals. Can you talk about the types of solutions you’ve identified and deployed?
Nadine Hogan: We did go through an RFP process in selecting the technology, and we selected Enwisen as our partner. At the time, before we launched this new model, we were using SharePoint for our HR knowledgebase. What we determined was that the Enwisen software package was going to be a nice complement to the model that we were implementing. One of the things that we really liked about the package was that it provided a knowledgebase, or HR portal, where we host our information. And we’re able to provide that information in multiple views. So we have an employee view, a manager view, and an HR view. They are very sophisticated tools that filter information to the people that need to see it. So as HR creates new pages on the employee network, we tag who should see what pages. It allows us to be very clear and concise around who can see what – across countries and across roles. The Enwisen software takes it from there. In addition, we purchased our HR ticketing system from Enwisen. It allows our employees to seamlessly create tickets from the employee network and then managed within the ticketing system.

As our on-boarding tool is also an Enwisen product, they all work very nicely together. It means we have one vendor to work with, and one account manager to work with, to pull it all together.

Barbara Hodge: I’d like to ask you how you rolled out this new model across the different locations and business units. What were the challenges that you came across in introducing this new model?
Nadine Hogan: The change elements are a little bit different, country by country, because of the cultural differences as well as the current HR structure within each country. There are obviously change management elements for the employees and managers, but there are change management elements for the HR staff too.

What I find, as I work with HR individuals, is that they like to help people resolve their questions. What we’re actually asking them to do is drive people to the employee network. And sometimes that’s very difficult for the HR staff, because they want to take that question or that challenge directly, and solve it quickly. But today, it’s really about teaching employees how to find these answers on their own. You know the saying, "You can give a person a fish and feed them for a day…or teach a person to fish, and feed them for a lifetime"…just getting the HR individuals to understand the model and be comfortable redirecting people to the employee network as opposed to providing a solution themselves was probably one of the biggest change elements that we faced. And that seemed to be regardless of culture, although it was a little more challenging where we had a high concentration of people in one location. Not only were the employees used to picking up the phone and calling HR directly, they were used to walking over to that person’s desk and asking them a question.

Barbara Hodge: What about the end user themselves? Did you experience pushback?
Nadine Hogan: Certainly there is some push-back, but I do think the fact that the change in the HR model was addressing a corporate need to reduce expenses as well as aligning our services with the business’s needs helped.

Barbara Hodge: How has the HR experience changed I mean from the employee point of view, the manager’s point of view, and from HR staff’s point of view?
Nadine Hogan:
From the employee’s perspective, I think the main change is that they have access to the information 24/7. So there’s a real benefit. If they’re at home, they can log-on to the employee network, and research information they need. They can do this in their own time, not just between 9 am and 5 pm, when HR live resources are available to them. I believe, based on the success of the model, that the benefits of this model far outweigh the challenge of getting used to an on-line resource.

From the manager’s perspective, I think it’s fairly similar. Information is now provided to help them handle specific employee situations. We do still provide one-on-one consultation as tickets are escalated to Tier 2 resources, however.

Going back to the study I mentioned earlier, we found that a lot of our HR resources were spending time running reports for different groups. This involved, "let’s add this field and take out this field," etc. We did a thorough analysis of the reports the HR individuals were working on, and as a result, created some corporate-wide reports that are now available to our managers, on-line. Running the reports is very easy and intuitive. They can even set up the reports so that they are delivered to their personal email box.

Now, if a manager is looking for a report that is not part of the standard offering, there is a "request a report" function directly on-line, where they can describe what information they’re looking for, and then the T1 team can create that report for them. That particular T1 team that creates those reports currently sits in India, so they are able to provide the reports in a fairly quick turnaround time, usually within 24 business hours.

But what this really means is that our HR resources are no longer focused on providing reports, and transactional type activities. They can provide more strategic consulting to the business units.

Barbara Hodge: What advice would you offer to someone about to embark on a similar journey to the one you’ve just been through?
Nadine Hogan: Well, one of the things that I would highly recommend is that they implement in a phased approach, which is what we did. We did not go global all at once. We started with North America, we then moved to Australia and New Zealand; then India; then the United Kingdom… and I think that that proved very effective.

Secondly, the need for a strong project team is critical to a successful implementation. You need a team that has strong project management and change management skills. Going into the project we understood the need for both of these skill sets, but underestimated the number of dedicated resources we would need. As is often said, you can never do enough change management and communication.

It’s important to communicate actively with the employee and manager base, to really help them understand the employee network. I would recommend, before you launch, that you really involve the employees in focus groups to find out what information they are looking for on-line, and what type of questions they have. Share a draft of the framework with them and ask if it makes sense. The key thing to understand is that you’re not developing the network for HR – you’re developing it for your employees.

Another learning refers to the content on the employee network. Even word choice is critical. You need to write with an employee-centric focus, and not in HR-centric language. In HR, we tend to want to provide a lot of information, but if you provide too many words, employees are overwhelmed. So they just go the "Ask HR" route and create a ticket.

Barbara Hodge: So you need to write more succinctly, is that what you’ve come away with?
Nadine Hogan: Yes, I think write more succinctly, write in employee language. You don’t want to write as if HR is teaching employees. When they read the information, they need to be thinking, "Yes, this is answering my question." And I think trying to limit the number of clicks someone has to go through in order to get to the content they’re looking for is important. The more clicks they have to make, the sooner they’ll say, "Okay, this isn’t worth my time and effort," and then a ticket is created or they walk away frustrated. And the more tickets, the more resources we need to support the resolution of those tickets.

Barbara Hodge: Thanks so much for speaking with me today, Nadine.

Attend a free webinar, Creating an Effective HR Portal in SharePoint© , Wednesday, September 28, 2011, 12:00 PM ET, 17:00 PM GMT (BST), 9 AM PST.
Presenters: Barry Maxon, VP, HR Service Delivery Solutions, David Detweiler, Solutions Consultant, Enwisen

Barbara Hodge
Posted: 07/09/2012


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