GM expands scope of employee portal

Socrates allows workers to make human resource transactions, get weather

Multipurpose portal
GM employees can use Socrates to:

  • Get personalized news, weather and stock prices

  • Receive information specific to their facility

  • Make health plan changes

  • Examine pay stubs

  • Access benefits information

  • Schedule conference rooms

  • DETROIT — General Motors this month is rolling out an Internet portal called Socrates to its 180,000 U.S. employees.

    Socrates has existed since 1996 as a company Intranet that salaried employees could use at work. The Internet version is available to all GM hourly and salaried workers who can access Socrates from work or home via a personal computer or AOL TV.

    Socrates — one of the largest employee portals in the world — allows employees to access and manage personal information on things such as pay and health care, which are maintained by GM’s human resources department. Employees also can personalize the site with news stories, weather, stock prices and sports scores on a mySocrates Web page.

    So far, 15,000 employees have access to the site. But the automaker plans to expand during the next three months.

    Socrates will save the company money. For example, the cost of a customer service representative at a GM call center is between $1.50 and $2 for each minute the representative is on the phone. In comparison, the cost of obtaining information or providing transactions on the Web is less than 5 cents per minute.

    “But we didn’t base this project (only) on cost savings,” said Tony Scott, chief technology officer at GM. “This is the natural evolution of e-business, which is not just about GM BuyPower or Covisint or suppliers and dealers. It’s also about collaboration with your employees.”

    What GM is doing with Socrates mirrors what other companies are doing.

    Fifty-seven percent of North American companies responding to a recent survey by professional services firm Cedar said they have a portal strategy, up from 40 percent last year. Cedar, in Baltimore, was a strategy consultant to GM on the portal’s development.

    The companies surveyed reported that the self-service human resources portal cut in half the cost of traditional one-to-one inquiries and the time involved with the transaction.

    Early forms of self-service employee portals focused on cost reductions, said David Link, vice president of the eWorkplace practice at Cedar. Today, he said, companies are more focused on how an employee portal can help attract and retain talented employees.

    GM won’t say how much it is spending on the development of Socrates, but the automaker is subsidizing the cost of employee Internet access through America Online.

    Socrates also will be rolled out to other world regions, said Len Marsico, staff director of the GM media bureau. Regional sites will have the appearance and feel of the U.S. portal, he said.

    GM employees will be able to use regional Socrates in Canada and Mexico, Latin America, Germany, Great Britain and Asia Pacific.

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