To be honest, Andrew takes a fairly centrist approach saying that you have to know your employee base to understand what drives them. He also applies the 80/20 rule saying that most people (average performers) don't seek out information and thus need the direct contact by their supervisor. I'll agree with this in low-tech sectors. However, in organizations that have highly sophisticated employee groups such as technology, biotech, professional services... a far higher degree of employees are highly compensated and have more sophistication in terms of data access. So Andrew is correct if we are talking about an assembly manufacturing plant, but perhaps not a biotech research firm. (Andrew - did I just say exactly the same thing you said? lol)
In these more sophisticated employee populations, I subscribe to the idea that the employer has to communicate the brand multi-directionally. The most effective is through self service and the intranet. In fact, I believe direct verbal management communications are highly ineffective in these settings. This is due to the idea that communications become unstable and inconsistent. The role and beauty of web communications is that it's delivered EXACTLY the way you planned.
This brings us to article 2. This is an HR.com article you need to log in for, but it talks about the role of self service and HR service delivery. I've hilighted a few passages
The latest HR Service Delivery Survey done by Towers Perrin suggests that “…employee self-service is nearly a universal fact in corporate America today”, and while manager self-service lags behind a bit, it “is poised for robust growth.” In addition, the survey suggests that in many cases, self-service “is becoming the only option.” A specific measure cited in the survey suggests that “In 2005, nearly two-thirds (60%) of the companies surveyed expect to provide a Web-only option for annual benefits enrollment.”
This newer and more widely accepted model for HR Service Delivery provides more direct and timelier access to users, which allows HR Departments to become more efficient, timelier and more consistent in their delivery of information, data, and transaction processing. Information can pass smoothly to those who need it and HR related transactions can proceed in an orderly approval process anytime, virtually anyplace without the necessity for one-on-one engagement. Moreover, when HR deploys web solutions for its service delivery, it shows its ability to leverage technology on par with the rest of the organization.