3 ways enterprise service management can streamline email communication

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The following is an opinion article by Doron Youngerwood, the director of marketing at SysAid, an IT services management company.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, employees could just swing by the HR office to get a response to an unanswered email. But since everyone has been working from home since mid-March, it isn’t as easy to follow up on those unanswered questions. In semi-remote companies that oscillate between reopening and reclosing, there is no shortage of inbound email. Inboxes, spreadsheets, and post-it notes can’t keep up.

However, one department is used to providing service remotely: IT. Though often underappreciated, IT has sophisticated ticketing systems that convert emails, instant messages and forms into tickets that enter a shared feed and are automatically routed to the right person. IT reps address these tickets based on their urgency and order of arrival. The person who submitted the ticket can view its status, including what IT has done so far and when a resolution can be expected.

When companies repurpose these IT service management solutions for HR, facilities and other departments, it’s called enterprise service management. A survey by SysAid, finds that about two-third of organizations either have an ESM strategy or plan to develop one. HR is the most popular non-IT department for ESM deployments, according to a survey by HDI, an IT training and certification company.

If an HR department wants to end those “Hey, did you get my email?” messages, ESM is the way to go. To be clear, ESM doesn’t replace HR systems that store data — it complements those systems by organizing the service dimension of HR.

Here are some specific ways ESM addresses HR workflows that bog down email inboxes.

1. The Basics
The bread and butter HR requests can be aggregated, streamlined, and even automated in an ESM system such as SysAid’s Service Center. This can include things like vacation or volunteering day requests, parental leave, training programs, or workstation upgrades.

Normally, these come through email, where there’s no oversight. Once they’re diverted to an ESM system, you can address them just like a good IT department would: quickly, digitally, and transparently.

Just as importantly, ESM systems can collect data about how frequent and time-consuming different requests are. For example, if HR is being bombarded for requests to take online skills courses, ESM data can shed light on whether it’s time to offer an online education platform. HR can then automate the ESM system to direct employees who request training to the new education platform, eliminating the need to address requests one by one.
2. Onboarding
Let’s say an HR department must complete these steps to bring an employee onboard:

  • Welcome email with instructions on where and when to be on day one
  • Provision of a parking pass, RFID badge, and a laptop
  • Creation of accounts for email, performance management, and department-specific software
  • Orientation on employee benefits and company culture
  • Introduction to manager and team
  • Enrollment into health insurance and retirement savings programs

The HR rep would mark completion of each step inside the ESM platform, which is viewable by the entire HR team — an important feature if the HR rep in charge of this onboarding becomes sick or takes vacation. Steps like creating users accounts, usually handled by IT, can be completely automated - freeing up significant time. That way, HR just clicks a button to have the accounts opened. The enrollment for health insurance and retirement could be offered through an employee self-service portal that records when enrollment is complete or notifies HR if it isn’t done by a certain date.
3. COVID-19 monitoring
It’s impractical for HR departments to call or email every employee about their COVID-19 exposure. The better option is to have an ESM workflow that collects the information and alerts HR when necessary.

For example, a form could arrive in employee inboxes daily and ask them to answer a few questions. Are you working from home or the office? Do you have a fever, cough, or shortness of breath? Have you been in close contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days? This check-in would take seconds.

Then, the ESM system could act automatically depending on the response. For example, if someone is at the office and reports having symptoms, the ESM solution could automatically lock their account and notify their manager and HR. Then, they can coordinate to send the employee home, perform contact tracing, and tap in facilities to disinfect their work area. The solution could also automatically lock the accounts of any employee who forgets to check in.