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Mark White


Business Development Director

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How to present your case for self-service technology to the board


Transversal recently hosted its annual HR Knowledge Summit in London. Attended by over 50 senior HR decision makers from across the public, retail and financial services sectors, the event provided delegates with the opportunity to hear about the importance of internal knowledge solutions in HR, directly from Transversal customers and other HR professionals. Lively discussion identified the barriers facing the profession when it comes to adopting the latest HR internal knowledge technology.

By the end of the event it was clear that regardless of company size, structure or geography, HR departments were all up against similar internal issues when it came to ‘selling’ the value of knowledge and self-service technology. So what emerged as the overriding issues? 

Thanks to our increasingly connected world, employees have come to expect the same level of service on a company intranet as they would on any other brand website – viewing themselves as customers of the HR department.

But with Martin Riley from Atos Consulting reminding us that HR departments are still largely expected to operate at no more than 1% of business revenue, how are HR professionals expected to align the need for such a high level of internal service with the objectives of the overall business?

1. By gaining early buy in from the board

"Implementation of AskHR worked well for us because we received buy in from the corporate leadership team from the offset”. Dawn Bradshaw, head of HR and learning at Norwich City Council

By a show of hands on the day, we identified that of the 50 HR executives in the room all but three felt that the board/senior executives did not fully understand the role of the HR function in their organisation, with a similarly high percentage admitting they found it difficult to approach the board with new ideas and practices like self-service technology – particularly when these incurred an upfront cost.

With businesses increasingly pushing HR to spend more time on complex employee matters and strategic development and less time on basic, every day administration, they are clearly making their own case for self-service, so how can HR decision makers capitalise on this to gain buy in from the board pre, during and post implementation?

To do so, they need to anticipate exactly what information – or ‘evidence’ to quote Justin Williams, head of shared services at Tesco Bank – the board will find vital during each of these stages and ensure that they get the initial set up correct to be able to serve up this information accordingly. What, for example, is the upfront cost of the knowledge solution? What timeline will you be following? How will the solution save time for employees and the HR department and how will you measure this? What will the long-term benefits for the business be? And how can ROI be calculated following the install?

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. Why not try positioning those numbers to your board, alongside detailed suggestions of the proactive activity you could be completing instead – always a good starting point.                                                                                   

2. By correctly positioning the intranet internally as an evolving solution

The system should be launched as a ‘developing tool’ that knowledge can be added to over time – AskHR does not need to be launched as a fully functioning tool”. Dawn Bradshaw

During the summit, it became apparent to us that there was a disconnect amongst HR decision makers and their businesses when it came to the difference between the set-up and the completion time for internal knowledge systems. While set up time will obviously vary from one organisation to the next depending on its size and structure, HR departments need to carefully set the expectation internally that the solution will be launched as a ‘work in progress’ knowledgebase that can be built up over time – ‘completion’ as such is not an end goal. An example time frame discussed was that of Tesco Bank, which is seeing positive results already, six weeks into the set up.

A successful launch is not about ensuring that every piece of information is available on the intranet but ensuring the information for the most frequently asked questions is available straightaway, with the understanding that more will follow.  By building in this expectation from the offset, the HR team can cut themselves some slack to work with employees – following the launch – to identify and fill in gaps in the knowledge.  

3. By preventing information overload

“HR portals seem to grow in an organic and often uncontrolled way and if there is not enough governance and updating resource in place, they tend to sprawl outwards like cities clogged full of traffic – the problem is not that there is not enough information but rather too much.” Alistair Bevan, digital content and online HR coordinator at Direct Line

Once implemented, self-service technologies should be doing most of the work for you – collecting up all the information that was previously scattered around the organisation and acting, to quote Alistair Bevan once more, as a "brand new shiny monorail system in a city clogged up with traffic".

But with so much information being thrown into the system, setting up an effective feedback loop with employees is the real key to success. As employees were identified as the main ‘knowledge asset’ and the best advocates of self-service technology in any organisation it’s important that HR teams use them as a resource to build out the knowledgebase – but do so correctly with a clear information flow process in place.

If the information can’t be accessed on the system, then get employees to close the loop by flagging the information gap. Once you have checked that their question cannot indeed be answered online then ask them to raise a ticket to the service desk.


Answering employee questions will always be an important part of the HR function – and we recognise that some queries will by nature require personal service. But as we were repeatedly told throughout the event, HR departments are under increasing pressure and we want to make sure they are setting themselves up for success by taking unnecessary pressure away from HR staff.

Helping employees to help themselves is a perfect win-win scenario for HR departments who want to free-up time to become more strategic and to focus on the complex issues. When used properly, self-service technology is cost effective, fast, convenient, consistent and available 24/7, and can be used by HR departments to offers employees the same level of self-service functionality as they would receive as a customer on a major brand website. The result, according to our satisfied customers, is improved employee engagement and HR departments that are able to operate much more efficiently. 

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Mark White

Business Development Director

Read more from Mark White