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Self Service in Absence Management – The 100 Foot View

This week’s blog post is brought to you by Optis’ Business Analyst, David Spring.

As you can imagine, the sunsets over the Rocky Mountains are quite picturesque. Depending upon ones vantage point the view is more gorgeous; oftentimes, the more beautiful, the further from the mountains. In a similar manner, self-service associated with leave of absence benefits and entitlements like disability, workers’ compensation and FMLA are likely experienced differently depending upon the viewpoint of the employee. Those closest to the self-service, the employees going out on leave, don’t necessarily see the self-service mountaintop as beautifully as those in HR or the C-Suite. To increase the gratification of the 100 foot view, organizations need to develop an appropriate company culture.

This corporate culture begins with streamlining the purpose of self-service throughout the entire organization. How can this be done? More often than not, successful vision begins somewhere near the C-Suite. Is it typically related to the bottom line? Yes. For HR, having an accurate count of employees on leave at a given moment of any given day, is oftentimes a great challenge. But, knowing this information and having this data available in an easily measurable manner provides an advantage to HR in terms of measuring goals associated with leave of absence.

Assumedly, your proactive absence management efforts involve establishing monthly, quarterly or annual leave of absence (LOA) rates related to disability, workers’ compensation and FMLA. If HR aligns their absence management efforts with the cost-saving vision of the C-Suite, then the organization will operate more effectively and will probably achieve the desired LOA goals. Ultimately, cost savings are more reachable, when absences are captured through self-service portals because HR will know about the absence in a more timely manner. This opportunity drives better decisions and eventually improves program efficiency.

Additionally, the 100 foot view of self-service needs to change dramatically. It’s this close-up view that often doesn’t see the big picture of the corporate vision. It’s quite likely that employees going out on leave don’t see the self-service portal the same way as HR. HR, rightly so, believes they have implemented a tool to improve the efficiency associated with some type of absence management efforts. The employees going out on leave may see the self-service portal differently. They quite possibly think they now have to perform a function previously completed by HR; in other words, they have to do some of HR’s work for them.

How can this be overcome? Education is the key, but also presentation of the tool will help. As elaborated by Jason Averbook in his book, "HR From Now to Next: Reimaging the Workplace of Tomorrow," one way to present self-service tools differently would be to not call them self-service tools at all. Instead, Averbook suggests considering a name such as "Direct Access." How does this help? It communicates a different message to employees taking a leave of absence. They now have the ability to easily access a corporate communication tool for sharing about an upcoming or current absence. This helps HR accomplish its goals and ultimately helps the company accomplish its corporate vision.

Not convinced the 100 foot view is important? Then, let’s consider the issue of compliance. For FMLA, we know (or should know) that employees must be notified within five business days of a request of leave of the status of their FMLA eligibility. In multiple situations employers have done everything right regarding FMLA administration, except communicate this notice of eligibility within the five business day period. The result, if employee termination is involved, can be detrimental to the employer; a financial loss obviously is not consistent with the C-Suite vision of cost savings.

How can this type of non-compliance be avoided? That’s right; a self-service (direct access) portal. This type of tool will provide multiple benefits. First, an electronic record of the employee’s leave of absence request date will forever be recorded. Secondly, the self-service portal, or associated software, will trigger reminders to properly provide a notice of eligibility to the employee within a timely manner. And, when sent, the date of delivery is also recorded. This type of tool will ensure compliance, which in turn will ensure a better experience from all points of view.

The 100 foot view may not always be considered when implementing new HR strategies or software tools like a self-service portal related to absence management. But, those organizations willing to improve the 100 foot point of view, will ultimately improve the view point of the entire organization; HR and the C-Suite alike.

Interested in learning more about FMLA and employee leave management? Join us for the Blogging4Jobs webinar, The Triple Threat – Your FMLA, Workers’ Comp & Disability Update on February 26. This webinar is free to attend and sponsored by Optis.