What Is Employee Self Service (ESS)?

What Is Employee Self Service

Thanks to modern technology, we’ve come a long way regarding how HR is practiced. Among the key highlights of the era is HRIS, Human Resources Information System, software that empowers businesses to meet their core HR needs while being efficient and productive.

HRIS doesn’t stop at that, though. It goes a step further to offer employee self-service (ESS), enabling employees to take their human resources-related matters into their own hands without relying on HR personnel or management. Let’s learn more about what ESS has to offer.

What is ESS?

Employee self-service (ESS) is part of the HRIS package, and as its name implies, it’s a self-service portal that all employees of an organization have access to as opposed to just HR employees and personnel.

The main purpose of an employee self-service system is to enable employees to manage their HR-related matters on the spot, saving them time and effort of waiting for human resources individuals to do them on their behalf. Simultaneously, ESS also serves as a time-saving initiative for companies that save labor hours and become more efficient.

Through an ESS, employees usually have access to their payroll and payslips, work schedules, benefits information, the organization’s policies and procedures, and more. For instance, they can directly update their contact information through the portal, and sometimes, they can also request HR letters and similar documents or forms relating to the organization.

ESS has grown to become so vital for today’s organizations because HR has been associated with slow-moving, manual processes that nearly everyone despises for a long time. After decades of that stereotype, ESS now changed the landscape of HR processes, which works for the benefit of all parties involved!

What Does ESS Offer?

While the features of each ESS differ from one to another, depending on the HRIS software used, ESS systems usually share some standard features. For instance, employees can update their personal information (contact information, address, marital status, and similar) at the basic level, which are then forwarded to an HR employee for validation.

On top of that, some ESS systems allow employees to view payroll information, like payslips, salary schedules, salary calculations and information related to overtime, and more. Similarly, company policies and procedures are usually found on an ESS system as well.

Other actions employees can take through ESS systems include submitting annual leave requests, time-off requests, HR letter requests, and sometimes even resignation letters. These forms are then forwarded to either managers or HR personnel (or both), who then make their final decisions regarding the forms they received as they usually would.

Finally, since ESS systems don’t allow employees to access everything, there’ll always be some actions that employees can’t directly implement through the portal. Instead, the HRIS directs the employee to correspond with the human resources department through the interface, again shortening the process.

​​The Benefits of ESS

Nearly all companies in virtually all industries can benefit from having an employee self-service. Yet, since acquiring software with ESS is an investment, it’s best for you to be aware of the different benefits an ESS can provide. Here are the most important ones.

Reduction of Errors

There’s no denying that human beings are prone to error. Still, the issue with HR-related processes is that an error can be costly, both to the organization and the involved employee. For the most part, that’s precisely why human errors have always been a significant contributor to the failure of HR departments.

With an employee self-service, your business will no longer rely on information being entered manually by HR employees. Ultimately, that undoubtedly helps eliminate errors or, at least, reduce them to a great extent.

Plus, it isn’t just data entry that becomes automated. Data transfer, too, is made faster and more efficient, so you’re eliminating any chances of errors in data transfers as well. No longer will a step of the process be missed or skipped out of error. Instead, it’s all automated!

Employee self-services are also really smart, so even if employees make errors while entering their information, your HR managers will easily be able to pinpoint them with the help of the software.

Working Smarter, Not Harder

For decades, HR managers and employees have always been overloaded, overwhelmed, and overworked. Of course, that’s understandable since managing people is always the most challenging part of any organization. But on the bright side, it doesn’t have to be that way.

With an employee self-service, your HR personnel no longer have to work that hard – in fact, ESS reduces their work tremendously. Think of it this way: instead of your HR staff having to do everything for other employees on their behalf, they can now do it themselves!

That’s a lot of time being saved, and at the same time, the work is still getting done. So, instead of employees having to rely on your HR staff to do everything, including time-consuming day-to-day tasks, self-service portals now grant the actual employees the upper hand to manage their own files.

As a result, your HR staff’s time will no longer get eaten up, especially if your organization has 100+ employees or so. Instead, they’ll now have more time on their hands to look at the bigger picture, think more strategically, and invest time in what really matters.

Digital Staff Empowerment

Staff members always love feeling empowered. When you provide them with access to a self-service portal and enable them to take control of their personal data and be transparent with them about their entire work file, they become more satisfied, more productive, and more loyal. No one wants to feel that someone always has to get involved in their business.

You’re probably aware that employees hate having to run to their HR managers for every small request, clarification, or even signature. It improves their morale and motivation when you finally enable employees not to depend on the HR department for everything and get their things done without hassle.

Not to mention, the transparency aspect of this empowerment is also crucial. Since employees have access to company policies, insurance documents, annual tax returns, announcements, and more, they feel they’re on the same page with the management team. That’s significantly important since it establishes a sense of trust and value among employees.

Below are some of the information that employees usually have access to or can make changes to through a self-service HRIS:

  • Data on performance appraisals
  • Requests for annual leaves and paid leaves
  • Requests for unpaid leaves
  • Forms for updating contact information
  • HR forms
  • Company policies and procedures
  • Payroll and salary information
  • Data on vacation balance
  • Data on sick leaves

Remember that more engaged employees tend to be the ones that are most loyal to their company, and when they’re loyal, they’re more productive.

Streamlined & Organized HR Operations

As we were just saying, managing HR processes manually has become a thing of the past, and so is paperwork. Both elements combined used to make HR operations tiring, time-consuming, and overwhelming.

With the addition of employee self-services, your HR department can now access all employee data from one centralized location. That way, all data is more organized, cohesive, easily accessible, and comprehensive.

With that being the case, your HR staff will no longer have to waste a lot of time searching for employee files, paperwork, or even researching answers to their inquiries. Instead, everything will be accessible through the ESS, and they’ll only step in to offer their human touch when it’s actually needed.

So, if you’ve ever witnessed that situation where a particular individual is the only person who knows where a certain file is, or a specific department is the only one with access to particular information, say goodbye to that! Self-service HRIS streamlines those processes, links systems together, and makes data accessible to anyone who needs it.

On that note, it’s also worth mentioning that since all self-service portals are cloud-based, that makes the data and information accessible anywhere and at any given time. That’s a win-win for both employees and HR staff. Whether the portal is accessed at home, from a mobile device, in another office building, or a PC, it’ll function just the same.

Gone are the days when employees had to be physically present in the main office to sign in to a self-service portal or have to head over to the headquarters to meet an HR representative to give them the necessary paperwork to fill in and so on. No one has to wait for anything anymore!

Plus, it’s also very convenient for outside-working hours requests. Sometimes, staff members are too occupied with their work and don’t have time to set apart to attend to their HR needs. Previously, they’d have to wait for your HR staff’s working hours to be able to get their request done. Now, that’s no longer the case – they can submit their requests anytime, anywhere.

Easier Compliance and Auditing

All business owners know how much headache compliance causes to its HR department. But, of course, it’s because non-compliance can lead to operational risks and financial and reputational ones.

In today’s era, since employee self-service enables the ease of data entry and, accordingly, improves HR functions’ efficiency, data has become much more accessible and easier to audit. Plus, that works to improve data integrity as well, so it makes the data easier to audit and ensures greater compliance with company policies and existing legislature.

Improved Security

While it’s true that ESS may seem like an exceedingly accessible option, the reality of the matter is that your organization sets all permissions. Therefore, no one can access something you don’t want them to have access to – you need to permit them, and you can always set passwords and security measures for your different files.

Therefore, ESS provides an incomparable level of data confidentiality and security when it comes to security, especially since the data is also stored online and not subject to the risks of burglary, theft, or conflict of interest matters. Usually, with paperwork, the risks of data theft and its misuse are much higher than they are online.

Plus, if unauthorized users try to access your data, you can always have alerts set up to notify you, and in some cases, you might even be able to track the source of the attempt.

The Possible Drawbacks of ESS

Just like anything else in the world, an employee self-service can also come with its set of drawbacks. They’re not essential to encounter, but they’re worth considering.

High Upfront Cost

This one’s a given – acquiring an ESS isn’t a walk in the park. Sometimes, they can end up costing hefty sums of money. Therefore, you’ll need to incorporate their cost into your budget, and expectedly, it’ll eat away from the budget of other operations functions.

On the bright side, however, the benefits that an ESS brings to your organization certainly make it worth the cost.

The Time Taken to Transition to the System

The rollout process of an ESS can take a lot of time, especially if your employees and HR staff members aren’t precisely tech-savvy and have been relying on manual processes for a long time. In that case, a significant amount of time will be dedicated to acquainting everyone with the ESS and how to use it, which will also require resources.

Communication Gaps

People learn to transition to software systems at different paces – that’s for sure. As is the case with all transition phases, it’s not uncommon for communication gaps to arise as your organization’s employees familiarize themselves with using the software.

In some cases, you’ll find that some employees will still rely on the older systems and methods of processes instead of leveraging the benefits of the ESS, and that’ll certainly cause a communication gap. However, those particular employees should receive specialized training since they’ll likely not be fully aware of using ESS.

Otherwise, the result will only be disruption and hindrances to the process of integrating ESS into your organization. Make it a point always to showcase the benefits of adopting the system to employees to motivate them to use it.

For the ESS to work effectively for the sake of the organization, all employees need to be on the same page and ready to transition to it before moving forward fully. Since we were just talking about the time to transition to the system, this will be a big part of it – the time taken to ensure that each employee can use the system.

Making Self-Service HRIS Work

Now that you’re fully aware of everything that an ESS has to offer, here are a few tips to keep in mind before you invest in an ESS and after you do.

Do Your Internal Research

Before actually purchasing and implementing an ESS, you should do your internal research to anticipate how frequently your employees are likely to use the system. That way, you’ll be able to predict the ROI that’ll result from acquiring the ESS.

For instance, if your employees are all reluctant to conform to a new system, that may impact how often they’ll use it, and in return, may affect your decision to purchase it altogether. Similarly, if most of your employees don’t have home internet, then an HRIS with mobile access may not be necessary for your organization, which can save you on costs.

Therefore, getting an idea of the expectations for the system and the kind of demand it’ll receive will indicate how much you should be willing to pay. Actually, it might ultimately help you determine which particular HRIS would be best for your organization.

Now, Do Your External Research

Now that you’ve done your internal research and have a picture of its expected usage, it’s time to look at what the market has to offer. At this stage, you’ll compare the different HRIS prices in comparison to their features. Of course, since you already know what features you must have in your HRIS and the ones that don’t matter, you’ll be able to narrow down your options.

Also, don’t just focus your research on prices and features. It’s best to spend a lot of time reading about the implementation and integration process of the software into your organization since that’s vital. Plus, you may want to read reviews or case studies from other businesses in your industry about how integrating the ESS in their operations helped (or didn’t help) them.

Finally, it’s needless to say that you shouldn’t just rely on the vendors’ own claims or promises for their software – seek experts’ advice regarding selection and implementation to ensure that you’re getting the best value for your money. After all, HRIS software doesn’t come for free!

Collaboration Is a Must

Once you make up your mind about your ESS of choice, it’s now to put it into action.

For an HRIS ESS to actually transform your HR operations for the better, collective collaboration between the different departments of your organization is a must. For example, the human resources managers must be able to coordinate and align with the managers of the other departments to make sure that all staff members utilize the ESS.

On top of that, as part of any onboarding process or any job training that occurs for new hires, managers should ensure that employees in their respective departments are trained to use the system and feel comfortable using it just as they are doing their day-to-day jobs. Otherwise, the ESS will be of no use if everyone still relies on the HR staff to get things done.

While we’re on that note, it’s worth noting that many HRIS software systems enable you to set up onboarding through self-service portals, so that’s a great way of getting your new hires to get used to the software hands-on right from the beginning. It’ll be part of their experience with your organization rather than something they still have to learn.

Build a Knowledge Base

To help put your employees on the right track when it comes to using your ESS, it’s important to set up a knowledge base with frequently asked questions, tutorials, and even how-to videos to help them navigate the portal on their own with no challenges.

If you don’t, they’ll either quit trying to use it altogether or have to flood your HR department’s emails with questions, which goes against the purpose of empowering employees to be independent. After all, what’s the point in having your HR personnel answer questions all day, and what’s the point of having employees ask in the first place?

Make sure to draft great, well-documented answers to various issues relating to the ESS to make sure it’s easy to use by anyone and everyone.

Consistently Use the Portal to Encourage Employees To Use It

Self-service portal adoption can be one of the most challenging tasks your organization will have to get done. Since you’ll inevitably face some reluctance to use it by several employees, an excellent way to overcome that is to force them into getting used to it.

For example, instead of sending company-wide emails or communicating important messages through broadcast text messages or chat alerts, start making your employees aware of important information through the portal. They definitely won’t want to miss out on any updates, so they’ll start getting used to frequently logging in to the portal.

Moreover, another tip would be to make the ESS social. Some ESS systems enable you to integrate company social feeds into them, so you’ll ensure that the team is brought together in one place, and you’ll be able to communicate company-wide news instantly.

When your employees find that you’re consistently relying on the portal for announcements, updates, and important messages, they’ll start to trust it, and they’ll be encouraged to use it as a go-to for any issues and requests.

Sometimes, the only reason employees are really hesitant about using ESS software is because they feel that it’s a third-party site and that their requests just go into the abyss and aren’t really received or answered by anyone. Therefore, when you use it, you entirely debunk that myth.

Reject the ‘Old Ways’

Remember how we were discussing that some employees will always find a way around things so that they don’t end up using the ESS? The most famous technique is resorting to the old ways of doing things. So, instead of applying for annual leave through the portal, for example, they’ll print the old form you used to use and fill it in and send it over to HR.

While that’s an action you can’t exactly control, you can certainly control your reaction. If your company offers self-service options but still accepts manual processes and old ways of doing things, like written time-off requests or HR office drop-ins with requests, then the ESS will be of no use.

When you constantly make it a point that you’re no longer accepting the old process methods, employees will have no other option but to start acquainting themselves with the ESS. And in return, you’ll guarantee that the ESS is providing your organization with the benefits that it should be in the first place.

Make Sure the System Is Regularly Maintained and Updated

If you want your ESS to be regularly used by your organization’s employees, you must make it usable, right? Suppose the system is lagging, not working, or continuously bugging. In that case, that’ll be a frustrating experience for your employees because it’ll be a waste of their time, and they’ll have no other option but to go back to the old ways of doing things.

To ensure that that doesn’t happen, it’s best to have someone who continuously tests the system regularly. That way, you’ll always be one step ahead of your employees, and you’ll be able to fix glitches as soon as they arise rather than have the employees be the first ones to encounter them.

Also, when your system becomes too outdated, and there’s no hope in updating it, maybe it’s best to invest in new software altogether. Your service portal should be enticing to use, so make sure that it not only functions well but that it’s also attractive, appropriately branded, and customized to your overall business and brand experience.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re looking to introduce employee self-service to your organization or just heard about it and wanted to learn more, you should know that service portal adoption can be a great addition to your organization.

Not only will it free time for your HR department’s employees to focus on the things that matter, but it’ll also empower the rest of your employees and create a business culture and experience that employees will absolutely grow fond of if done right.