What is Employee Self Service?

October 4, 2019 | Aoife Flynn 5 mins read

Employee self-service is a development in HR technology that puts the power in the hands of employees. Administrative tasks, access to information and interactive engagement with benefits and training can all be passed over to the employees to view and amend at their convenience.

Access is often attained through an employee self-service portal, or it is embedded within an existing intranet system. When the trend for ESS began back in the early 2000s, the systems were often poorly integrated and required multiple login details. However, nowadays fully operational employee portals are integrated into wider HR and Payroll software systems.


What can employees do using employee self-service systems?

With employee self-service software, employees are empowered to complete administrative tasks regarding their own information, access employee information as and when they need it and conduct interactive tasks relating to their role or their benefits.


Administrative tasks

A major component in any ESS system is giving employees access to their personal information with the ability to make changes as required. This includes their phone number and other contact information, their emergency contact information and their payroll information. Employees can update the system with changes in the event of a marriage, moving house or switching banks without needing to go through the lengthy process of contacting HR for the amendment to be made.

ESS portals also allow employees to log their own work hours, make amendments to their tax details and track holidays. They will have a real-time view on how much leave they have accrued and when they can take it in line with the needs of the business.


Employee self-service also places the responsibility of logging expenses and business travel data into the system with staff. Employees can access the portal whenever they want. Even completing the administrative tasks outside of office hours if it is convenient for them.


HR information

Employee portals provide a hub where staff members can find all the information, they may need to complete their job successfully and feel engaged with the company.

This includes access to pay stubs and other information regarding their direct deposits. Employees can also find company policies and procedures and employee handbooks. Company news can also be disseminated via ESS platforms. Sharing success stories, company objectives, promotions, and other news items on the portal.

At the brokerage firm CBG Benefits, company policy updates are delivered via the ESS system in the form of audio and presentation slides, keeping staff up to date and engaged.


Interactive information

The third important role of ESS HR software is to provide interactive information that benefits the employee in their roles.

One of the most popular ways in which this is used is in the field of employee benefit schemes. Employees can self-calculate their benefits annually and self-select the most appropriate benefits based on their upcoming life goals, for example, their wedding or saving for kids’ university fees. Often, this will include access to and the ability to amend retirement plans or investment plans. Some systems even provide finance training so that the employee can make smarter decisions independently.

The other area in which ESS systems give employees an interactive experience is through open enrollment onto training. Many systems even allow for the completion of training from the user’s desktop. Providing self-assessment tools such as goal-tracking allows employees to manage their own progression. The latest update to this field is in the area of wellness. Many employers now use their self-service features to better assess their employees’ needs. Surveys and health risk assessments are self-conducted then analyzed.

The final area in which the self-service system operates is recruitment. A self-service portal allows future and current employees to search and apply for jobs, check the status of their job application and register for job alerts.

Once employed, onboarding can also be managed through ESS. Offering virtual orientation and the development of a new hire community, employees guide themselves through their early stages in the company using the portal.

Marriott uses “Voyage”, their ESS onboarding program to bring together new hires across their global enterprise. Requiring just 30-45 minutes of their time, the programme includes leadership speakers and collaborative virtual spaces.


What are the benefits of employee self-service portals?

According to the report Explore the Possibilities, Seize the Moment: 2013 HR Service Delivery and Technology Survey Executive Summary Report by Towers Watson, “HR portal technology is growing in both prevalence and usefulness. More than half of organizations use portals, primarily to enable employee self-service, but also to ensure compliance, communicate policy and increase collaboration within HR.”

Six in 10 businesses report that their portal is quite effective, and 17 percent say it is very effective. It is predicted that satisfaction levels will increase as technology improves, adding more value to the user. So, what are the benefits of employee self-service portals?


For HR professionals

The key benefit for HR professionals adopting an ESS portal is the time saved on completing arduous administrative tasks to maintain the HR information system. This is particularly true of big businesses. With each employee responsible for their own personal data, human resources teams are free to work on more strategic tasks that further business operations as a whole.

Removing this HR task from the team also leads to increased accuracy in record keeping. First, employees are much less likely to make mistakes in the first place. Second, they are much more likely to spot errors in their own information. So, records are more accurate and more up to date.


For employees 

As with HR personnel, managers also notice improved efficiency and time-saving. They are unburdened of having to liaise with employees on matters such as holiday, hours worked and expenses.

Overall, staff efficiency improves because employees have direct access to the information, they need to complete their job to a high standard. All of this data is in one place, drawn from multiple sources, which employees are free to access autonomously. This saves the company time and improves productivity across the board.

The final benefit for employees is in company culture. Employee engagement improves as staff feel that their employer is communicative and flexible. With company news and training disseminated through the ESS system, employees feel more connected to the business as a whole. They, therefore, feel more motivated to perform. This culture shift is noticeable from the moment a new hire is brought on board. With a quick and effective ESS onboarding process, new hires feel more welcome and better equipped to succeed in their new role.


For the business

Of course, all this will reap significant rewards for the business as a whole. Improved efficiency of both HR teams and employees improves productivity and boosts the bottom line. In addition, online training and benefits consultancy reduces travel costs for the business as employees are not required to make the journey to head office to meet face to face.

Going paperless is a much more attainable goal with an ESS system, an ambition that is crucial in the battle against the climate crisis. And audit compliance does not present a challenge as working hours, wages and employee data are more accurate and more up to date thanks to employee direct access.

The support of values such as communication and flexibility that adopting an ESS portal demonstrates improves employee engagement. Employees who are engaged work harder and more efficiently. Productivity improves and talent retention increases.

2012 survey found that for 33.3 percent of HR teams, supporting a global workforce was their companies’ largest challenge. ESS systems are becoming instrumental in the rollout of businesses to new international markets. Onboarding remote employees and keeping them up to speed with company information is more manageable with ESS software.




What are the challenges with ESS software?


There may be some initial challenges when rolling out ESS software or upgrading from legacy systems.

One challenge is the integration of multiple platforms into one convenient space for employees. Perhaps payroll, training, and tax are spread across different providers and programs, it can be an issue to bring these together as a holistic experience for the staff. Especially for small businesses that outsource more of their HR tasks. Indeed, especially in the earlier days of the technology, creating a user-friendly experience without the need for multiple logins and different screens was difficult.

During the rollout phase, another challenge may be the enthusiasm of employees and HR professionals to learn the new system and feel empowered enough to use it. This is particularly prevalent in industries where employees may not be tech-savvy.

Finally, though the system is employee-updated, it will still require maintenance to keep it current and user-friendly. This will include removing former employees, updating policies and handbooks and keeping training fresh and relevant.


How to prepare to switch to ESS?

Avoiding the potential pitfalls of ESS software adoption is in the planning.

Conduct internal research to understand the scope of what you require. Prepare a full training schedule, depending on how tech-savvy your employees present in the internal research. Lay the groundwork with employees by keeping them informed of the changes and the timeline at which they can expect progress to be made. Training should, of course, include a full debrief on the security risks and their role surrounding them.

One or more members of the HR team will need to be briefed and trained to handle the upkeep of the system.



The future of ESS

Where will ESS expand in the near future?

As technology develops, more and more systems are becoming fully integrated, requiring only one password to access data from all sites and vendors. Mobile optimization is also a key focus, with businesses developing mobile apps that allow users to update expenses or travel whilst on the go.

Employee engagement is something every business wants to achieve, and many are looking to their ESS system to install wellness training and information that their staff can access. Much of this will be delivered through video, which experts are touting as a vital format for future ESS setups. Adding to this communicative approach, employers are also building decision support into their benefits and healthcare self-service systems.

Finally, as employees expect their self-service portal to resemble the websites and apps they use at home, personalization will become an essential part of any successful ESS system. The ability to display content related directly to a user’s specific role, status, location or benefits selection will improve engagement and employee satisfaction.

ESS is now offered as part of Global Payroll software, including data input and software uploads, mobile and web-based apps, secure logins and access to pay and tax data. Employees can manage their working hours and holidays and submit their expenses, improving efficiency, productivity and engagement.

For more information on the ESS available on the Payslip Platform contact us today!

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Using Payslip, we can manage all our payrolls across nine in-country vendors on one platform. When the global Covid-19 pandemic arose, it was not an issue from a payroll perspective, and critically getting everyone paid. The Payslip platform enabled continuity for our international payroll service including the fast and seamless implementation of the Payslip Employment Self Service during this time.

Colin Smith

Payroll Manager, LogMeIn

With business and employee growth rates of above 50%, we rely on our vendors to deliver on time, every time. Payslip’s workflow automation, enables Phorest to manage our payroll provider process – data driven, real time and transparent. Payslip saves us time so we can focus on our business growth.

Ana Kelly

International Payroll Manager, Phorest