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Mark White


Business Development Director

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Encouraging HR resource best practice – five tips to self-service success


We recently conducted research into the current state of employee service in the UK’s HR departments and discovered some worrying results when it came to the additional strain being put on an already stretched resource.

According to our research, HR decision makers are spending more than a third of their day on average – that’s up to 12 working weeks each year – handling routine calls and emails from employees, listing staffing, benefits and employee relationships as the top three information requests. Faced with such a barrage of queries, the majority say they find it difficult to juggle these while handling other tasks, and that this is restricting their departments’ ability to be more strategic.

Sound familiar? Well what would you think if I told you that almost half of these routine calls and emails to HR departments could have been answered using information already stored on the company intranet? Or how about that employees are only accessing these portals once every four weeks? It is pretty clear to me, and hopefully to you too, that there is a disconnect between employees and the available HR resources.

But is it that people don’t understand the self-service options offered through the intranet? Or is there some other reason that they are unwilling to make use of it?

When I am trying to explain self-service technology to people I often use a restaurant analogy. At restaurants you have two choices for getting your meal – either a waiter comes and takes your order then acts as the go-between between you and the chef, or the restaurant lays out a buffet which you can help yourself to. In the end you get access to exactly the same food but guess which of these options typically is not only cheaper but takes less time and uses fewer resources? Exactly.

When used properly, self-service technology is cost effective, fast, convenient, consistent and importantly – in our increasingly globalized world – available 24/7. So how can you set up your self-service intranet to get the best possible buy-in from employees? And how do you keep them coming back time and time again?

I have laid out my top tips for self-service success below…

Invest in initial promotion then keep it going

I would recommend kicking off any self-service system implementation with a series of open days/training sessions aimed at giving staff the opportunity to hear about the immediate benefits of the system, before they are asked to use it. Emphasise not only the time and effort the system will save them but also the knock-on effect this will have on the wider organization, allowing the HR department to spend more time on staff development and helping improve the business in general.

It is equally important to keep this internal promotion going beyond launch. Practice what you preach by using the system to make key announcements and by linking any informational emails back to the relevant help page on the site. Cut off repeat calls to HR by taking the opportunity to direct employees to where that information can be found on the system and make sure to thank people for changing their approach – gratitude goes a long way!

Enable everywhere access

Our research showed that two in every five organizations felt increased mobility has resulted in an upsurge in employee emails to HR departments. With more and more of your workforce working remotely or on the go, you need to make sure that you are extending access to the portal via mobiles, rather than relying upon employees to only have issues whilst in the office. You should also make sure to mark clearly on the opening intranet page where the HR portal is and give contextual help on the page where necessary.

Use intuitive search functions to answer questions first time

The English language is a complex beast and one that is evolving on a daily basis. Even within your organization there will be certain phrases and words that are unique to the company and location. Consequently, it is highly important that you set up your search function to recognize what we would call ‘natural language’ queries. You will only have one shot to get it right with employees so unless you offer up the right result for their query (no matter how they phrase it) first time round, you risk them never returning. 

In my experience it also pays to make suggestions of the type of queries employees could search, show what is trending (especially helpful for seasonal questions) and offer up conversational answers that steer clear of HR jargon.

Keep your information up to date

Managing the content on your intranet should be viewed as an ongoing process. The HR professionals we spoke to admitted only reviewing the material on their intranet once every five months on average – which isn’t much at all when you consider the phenomenal pace of change in today’s businesses. Perhaps because of this, only two in five respondents stated they were happy with the information provided by their current portal.

To counteract this you need to be paying particular attention to the feedback you are getting from the system (most asked questions, etc.) and filling in any gaps that this identifies. Measure the success of the service by asking employees to rate the responses and set up quarterly review dates to give your content a much needed refresh.


Answering employee questions will always be an important part of the HR function – and we recognize that some queries will by nature require personal service. However, if HR departments can get their intranet right, they allow themselves more time to concentrate on strategic development rather than basic, every day administration.

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Mark White

Business Development Director

Read more from Mark White

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