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3.1 from 34 votes

Workbrain - Employee Relationship Management (ERM)

Date: May 1 2001

Employee Relationship Management (ERM)

The words "and retention" follow recruitment in HR writing more and more often of late. This, of course, is at it should be. Numerous years ago, organizations learned that their bottom line would benefit more by focusing on retaining good customers than by concentrating all their energies on recruiting new ones. About this time, CRM (customer relationship management) was born and eCRM followed in the 90´s with the advent of the World Wide Web and corporate intranets and extranets.

As human resource departments make the leap to accountability (in the financial sense of the word) acronyms like ROI and perhaps even ELV (employee lifetime value) will become more familiar.  As with eCRM, a rush of vendors are stepping up with software solutions to make the task easier -- only this time it´s called ERM (employee relationship management) and the Web is its natural medium.

More companies are beginning to see the benefits of Web and intranet technologies for human resources management systems. Within virtually every major organization employees have access to Internet and intranet. This provides the opportunity to connect staff to HRM solutions from their desktops. Enlightened companies are making everything from internal postings to vacation schedules, performance reviews, training and career planning information available. Many are doing this through in-house or vendor-supplied employee portals.

There´s more behind these initiatives than trying to find clear measurements to demonstrate ROI in HR. A lot has been said and written about people being a company´s most valuable asset. Intuitively this is both true and false. Any company trading in ideas and knowledge will have payroll as its largest expense and owe most of its success to the fruits of its employees´ minds. That doesn´t necessarily mean that their employees are their most valuable assets per se because they don´t own employees, and if they operate like most companies, they probably don´t even own their employees´ loyalty in any significant measure.

This is the reason many CEOs can repeat the cliché about employees being their most valuable asset but not commit to the concept in practical and concrete ways. According to a Walker Research and Hudson Institute national study, only three in ten employees feel an obligation to stay with their current employers.

Rather than use this as an excuse to do nothing, employers should look at what creates loyalty in employees and what motivates them. There will always be footloose individuals that need to hop between jobs and employers but the majority are motivated to stay by fair compensation & benefits, personal growth and advancement opportunities, some measure of job security, and being treated as a valuable and respected part of the organization.

People want to feel valued. Employers have to develop better ways to listen to and communicate with their staff on a group and on-to-one basis. They have to nurture the organization by building personal relationships with every employee. Web-based employee managementsystems may be the most practical way of doing so in large, complex organizations.

As for metrics, in 2001, most large corporations still have little idea of the value and expense of their human resources activities. Things like rate and cost of turnover, true costs and benefits of training, and real recruiting costs can be measured but seldom are. Companies that determine how expensive it is to lose 15-25% of their staff each year might react like they do when they analyze customer turnover-with shock. Like CRM (customer relationship management) solutions for customers, ERM solutions help build better quality relationships with employees. As a bonus, these efforts complement CRM initiatives by producing happier, more loyal employees who treat their customers better as a result.

The Solutions:

Today´s ERM solutions and employee portals offer anytime, anywhere access for employers and employees. They give staff access to their own HR information such as attendance records, work schedules, vacation days, sick time, pay, incentives, performance evaluations, feedback, employee referral programs and rewards and incentives. Some solutions incorporate employee self-service modules for training, career development and internal job searches.

Employers gain a tool that can track a variety of metrics including numbers currently employed, active employees, those on long-term disability, trends in attendance, compensation, turnover, recruiting costs, performance of recruiters, workforce planning/forecasting. and benefits administration.The tools also enable employers to learn more about their employees likes and dislikes so that they can tailor their benefits programs accordingly and develop individual relationships with each member of their staff.

One such ERM tool is Workbrain, a new solution that has attracted North American clientele and is poised for expansion into Europe.


Workbrain started operations in 1999. It has offices in Atlanta, Boston, and Toronto. Their product is composed of four integrated applications that work with your existing ERP solutions. Workbrain is working with diverse clients such as British Airways, The Tennessee Valley Authority and Russell Corporation (America´s largest supplier of athletic apparel). In January of this year, the privately-owned company secured $12 million in financing from NB Capital Venture Partners of Canada and will soon announce another major investor in the company.

Workbrain operates on your intranet, and through wireless devices and web-enabled kiosks. Through four integrated applications, your staff is able to connect anywhere, anytime to a range of services including scheduling, testing, training, and management of their personal records. They can also use the ´Workbrain Community´ application to request cash advances, participate in employee auctions, post and read messages on bulletin boards and access group discounts (such as travel deals, home computers, etc.).

Through the ´Workbrain Analytics´ application, employers use the tools to study trends, plan schedules and analyze productivity, attendance and performance.  Staff can get involved in scheduling as well through the ´Workforce Interactive´ application, which lets them to bid for jobs, trade shifts and request vacation through a secure and private interface. Workbrain´s interfaces also allow employees to track the progress of their requests anytime they wish. Using their mobile phones or devices, they can even interact with the system remotely.

The ´Workbrain Workforce Management´ application makes it possible for employers to build personalized relationships with employees that can boost morale and productivity. When combined with information gathered from employees´ interactions with the system, this tool reveals their preferences and unique needs which makes it possible to construct tailored benefit plans.

Workbrain comes with an application toolkit that enables you or Workbrain to build applications customized to your needs. Workbrain´s current customers, an airline, a utility and a textile company, have diverse needs that have been met through custom application development. As Workbrain´s client list expands, look for functionality that includes internal recruitment, expanded self-service training and additional certification; development of Workbrain is driven mainly by the needs of its active customers.

Target Customers:

Workbrain has positioned its solution for use by companies with 5000 plus employees. Because the tools can be custom built, organizations in any industry are potential users. Workbrain offers an end to end solution, unlike many of its competitors who are focused on one or a few aspects of ERM. As such their solution is probably more expensive than less comprehensive packages and it is best leveraged by a large organization.


Workbrain is an installed, licensed solution as opposed to being offered through an application service provider model. Because Workbrain´s clients are large, they tend to prefer the control and security benefits of having the software on their own servers.

Of course this means the installation takes more time and is costlier. To get Workbrain up and running in your organization, it will take, on average, about three months. This will ensure that the system is configured to your preferences and that any custom applications you might require are built and tested.

Workbrain also operates ´Workbrain University´ in Atlanta, GA. This facility ensures that you receive the necessary instruction in how to manage the service to its full potential.

Customer Service:

Workbrain has various support packages available but all clients have access to ongoing support for system optimization, database maintenance and product updates/new releases through a private extranet.

Workbrain also offers its customers web-based and telephone support.


Workbrain did not wish to reveal this information, however, you can reach their sales department at 1-888-219-9993.


Workbrain believes that its competition comes from various vendors that supply pieces of the service it offers. There are companies that build employee portals and those that offer benefits administration or concentrate on scheduling and attendance. The disadvantage of partial solutions may be stale and or infrequently visited information and features and a failure to build sufficient interest among your staff.

With its end-to-end solutions and highly customizable platform, Workbrain feels it will appeal to large employers looking for total solutions. It believes that the current features, which concentrate on "high frequency and high volume" interactions will attract employees to the tools on a very regular basis. For instance, employees with current customers use the tools to access benefits, trade shifts with other workers, and book vacations among other things. Workbrain feels these transactions are common enough to generate ongoing interest in and use of the solutions thus allowing employers to gradually build community through their ERM system.

Selected other providers include:


Employee Relationship Management is an idea whose time has come. The benefits are so obvious that some companies will not install a customer relationship management solution before they have an ERM solution.

Employees are like customers in many ways, their loyalty and satisfaction is a prerequisite for most knowledge-based organizations´ success. Full ERM solutions offer data capture, storage, and analysis that can make an HR department´s objectives truly measurable and which might help HR prove its value to the organization using language that is understood in corporate boardrooms.

Workbrain has developed a service that is evolving as it expands its customer base. I don´t imagine that it´s inexpensive, but for a tool that promises to build employee loyalty, increase productivity, give you solid reporting, and grow to match your increasing needs, you should expect to pay accordingly.

I am no expert in ERM but I believe the value in having a web and wireless enabled system with the functions and features currently provided by Workbrain is obvious.

I was attracted to the ERM concept primarily as a retention tool. Upon review of Workbrain´s offering, I am not disappointed. The solution is empowering and practical, it should convey a message to your staff that you take their needs seriously and value their time and input. Most importantly it should continually provide the feedback and metrics you need to make your organization superior with respect to servicing your employees - thereby building loyalty and improving retention rates.

Contact Information:

3440 Preston Ridge Road
Suite 300
Alpharetta, GA
Phone (678) 713-6014
Fax (678) 713-6020

250 Ferrand Drive
Suite 601
Toronto, Ontario
M3C 3G8
Phone (416) 421-6700
Fax (416) 421-8440

25 Burlington Mall Road, Suite 300
Burlington, MA
Phone (781) 270-0631
Fax (781) 270-0638





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