employee self-service

What is ESS?

Employee self-service, or ESS, is an available feature with most modern HRIS. ESS allows employees to take care of many different human resources-related and job-related tasks that would otherwise need to be completed by human resources personnel or management. Employee self-service can help many companies save labor hours and increase efficiency. However, the option may not be right for every company.

ESS is a self-service portal is a part of the software that all of your employees have access to, not just HR professionals. Employees can access their payroll, schedules,  and benefits information, make updates to their own details, and more. But why is this such an important part of your HRIS?

Evolving corporate cultures require that HR systems evolve, too. While this may seem to be a no brainer, it has taken a long time for HR systems to evolve from the piecemeal manual process that was used for decades. With the introduction of self-service HRIS, the landscape of HR is now making fast strides toward a more logical and efficient system.

Common Features of ESS

Most employee self-service systems allow employees to change personal information such as an address, contact information, and banking information – though approval may be needed. Some ESS systems also allow employees to view scheduling and payroll information. Even the most rudimentary self-service systems generally allow employees to submit time-off requests and allow managers to approve these requests.

If there are any issues that employees are not authorized to directly change using ESS, some HRIS allow employees to correspond electronically with the human resources department. This allows employees to send messages outside of regular office hours, which saves time and hassle for both employees and human resources professionals.

Benefits Open Enrollment

Some companies find benefits in using ESS to allow employees to make changes for the benefit of information during open enrollment or when life changes have occurred. Many employees prefer this method, as it allows them to control their own information. This method also allows more time for researching different benefit options without the time pressures that may be present when working with human resource professionals.

Human resources professionals, managers, and employers typically enjoy open enrollment self-service options. Labor time is saved for all parties and the disruption that open enrollment presents to many companies is avoided. Depending on the HRIS and the insurance company, the process of applying may also be simpler and the information provided may be more thorough due to the interactive format.

Determine Whether to Adopt ESS

Large companies in virtually any industry can benefit from employee self-service. Small and medium companies in certain industries may also benefit from ESS. Before investing in the software to enable self-service options, however, companies should weigh the pros and cons and conduct both internal and external research.

Making Self-Service HRIS Work

Self-service HRIS can transform the HR system of a company, but it is necessary for human resources managers and the managers of other departments to work together to make employee utilization as common and widespread as possible. Employees should be trained to use the system as part of the standard job training process. Managers should ensure that employees feel as comfortable using the self-service HRIS as performing any other aspect of the job prior to the completion of training.

Benefits of ESS

When ESS has been successfully implemented, a company may see immediate increases in productivity and efficiency. Managers and human resources personnel may save labor hours and frustration on a daily basis when not faced with working through scheduling issues, time-off requests, and open enrollment questions. Employees may be able to access scheduling and other information from home, which saves employees time and can boost feelings of empowerment.

Additionally, entry errors and other mistakes may be avoided by allowing employees to enter their own information. If recruiting and onboarding are available through the HRIS and directly tie into the self-service portal, entry errors can be prevented as early as the application phase. By eliminating the need for double entry and allowing employees to evaluate their own information, the chances of inaccurate information may be greatly decreased.

Accommodating Alterations in Employee Expectations with Self Service

Employees are no longer content to have a “middle man” that speaks for them. As companies grow, however, it can be difficult for each voice to be heard. Self-service HRIS is now making it easier for employees to be heard directly by the relevant departments, helping companies to meet employee expectations.

More Streamlined Systems

Once upon a time, all HR data had to be entered into the system by an individual that was trained specifically to do so. Information about payroll was often done by another department or possibly a third party, and other revenue information was the responsibility of yet another department or entity. Self-service HRIS is helping to streamline all of these processes by linking these systems together and making the information accessible by those who need it.

Accessible Anywhere at Any Time

Another benefit of a self-service portal is that it’s typically cloud-based. Employees can access the portal from anywhere, whether that’s from home, on a mobile device, or in another office building. No one has to wait until they’re next in the main office to log into the self-service portal.

In addition, your employees can access their information at any time. They don’t have to wait for work hours or for a member of your HR staff to be available. Employees can get their questions answered or update their information as soon as they need to.

Reduction of Errors

Along with making data entry and transfer faster and more efficient, self-service HRIS is also helping to eliminate errors. Human error has always been a major factor when information is entered manually. Self-service HRIS virtually eliminates errors in data transfer and makes it much easier for human resources managers to spot errors in employee or applicant information that has been recently added.

Improving HR Functionality

The functionality of human resources departments can be greatly improved with the addition of a self-service HRIS. HR managers can completely focus on issues that require a human touch. HR managers’ time is no longer taken up with data entry or researching simple inquiries for employees.

Reduced HR Workload

A huge advantage of making some HR processes self-service is that it reduces the workload of your HR staff. HR departments are notoriously busy, so anything that employees can do for themselves instead helps a lot. Self-service portals allow employees to view their own schedules, check payroll, clock in and out, adjust timesheets, update benefits, change their personal information, and more.

Without an HRIS, all of this would require employees to ask your HR staff. These are day-to-day tasks that would quickly eat up a lot of HR time, especially with a lot of employees. This will free up a lot of time for your HR staff to manage the bigger picture and more important tasks.

More Employee Empowerment

Self-service HRIS allows employees to access and make changes to their own personal information. Some of the information that employees can access or make changes to on self-service HRIS from any computer with internet includes:

  • Sick leave hours
  • Vacation hours
  • Pay rate information
  • Performance appraisals
  • Information about HR inquiries or reports
  • Requests for paid leave
  • Address and personal information changes

Having direct access to and more control over their information improves employee satisfaction and engagement. They can also see information about opportunities for training and advancement, which will give them more control over their own careers. More engaged employees tend to be more loyal to their company as well as more productive. Many may seek out opportunities to improve themselves and their skills, making them more valuable employees and helping to reduce employee turnover.

Easier Self Service Compliance and Auditing

With the ease of data entry and the improved efficiency of HR functions, data has become easier to audit. This has improved data integrity, ensuring greater compliance with both company policies and existing legislature.

Drawbacks of ESS

The biggest drawback to investing in ESS options is the required amount of time taken to ensure that each employee understands how to use the system. The rollout process can cost a company huge amounts of time and money, thereby taking these resources away from regular operations. ESS must also be used frequently by employees in order for a company to see a benefit from adopting the system.

If employees do not completely understand how to use ESS options, it can create communication gaps. In addition, some employees may attempt to use the new system while others use older systems and manual processes as workarounds, which result in even more hindrances to processes. If a company decides to utilize self-service options for common HR tasks, it is important to make sure that all personnel is on the same page and is ready for the transition before moving forward.

Database of HR Documents

Self-service portals also have access to a cloud-based database of all HR-related documents. These can include training materials, HR policies, and more. Employees can access these from anywhere at any time whenever they need them. If an employee is out of the office but needs more information about company travel policies and reimbursement, they can access that without involving HR.

The available benefits options can also be included in the database so that employees can examine different benefits plans long before open enrollment occurs.

Internal Research

Before purchasing and implementing ESS, employers should find out how frequently employees anticipate using the system. While there may be a certain amount of reluctance to conform to new systems in any workplace, certain factors may hinder employees’ ability to use the system. This, in turn, affects the amount of ROI that the company can expect to see. Doing internal research may also help a company to determine which HRIS would be best.

If most employees do not have internet access at home, purchasing an HRIS that has an emphasis on mobile access can be a waste. It may be possible to purchase kiosks so employees can access the system in-house. Nevertheless, this will dramatically change the expectations for the system and the way that it must be rolled out. If the company is not in the technical field and most employees do not identify as tech-savvy, ESS may not be right for the company.

External Research

Companies should conduct external research to compare HRIS pricing for budget purposes and to figure out the intricacies of implementing an ESS system from several different vendors. Companies may also benefit from doing research to find out how ESS implementation has affected similar companies in the same industry. A vendor matching company may be invaluable when it comes to investigating these factors as it can provide expert advice regarding selection and implementation.

Using ESS to its Full Potential

Self-service portals can increase employee autonomy, making employees feel empowered and saving managers and HR professionals time. Self-service options may take time to set up, but the time spent can be worth it if it helps to improve engagement with the system and streamline the way your team communicates.

Introduce Self-Service Early

Some HRIS software allows you to set up onboarding through self-service portals. Introducing self-service at this early stage will make it a part of life for new employees, especially if they must use the software for more tasks immediately after onboarding. Allowing employees to acclimate themselves to the company using this option encourages them to take charge of their own career within your company and helps foster user adoption.

Consistently Encourage Employees to Use Self-Service

Some companies offer self-service options but still take written time-off requests and don’t mind if employees call HR to change their information. While these can remain available options, encouraging employees to use self-service features whenever possible will save time and help your company get the highest return from the investment in the functionality.

Offer a Wide Range of Self-Service Options

Self-service portals should be rich with options. Some offerings within self-service portals include schedules, time off requests, pay history, social feeds, peer-to-peer messaging, company information libraries, benefits, and personal information change requests. By offering as many of these options as possible, you increase the value of self-service for your employees and encourage them to be even more autonomous.

Make It Social

Social media is fun to use, so employees may be drawn to this option if you offer it. Using company social feeds can help bring your team together and make it easier to communicate companywide news instantly. It may also encourage brainstorming and collaboration.

Assign Tasks within Self Service

If it makes sense for your company, you may wish to assign job tasks within self-service portals. This is an easy way for you to keep track of employees’ accomplishments while allowing them to view and update their own progress. Simply delegating and holding employees accountable may not be reasonable, however, make sure it’s possible for two-way communication so that employees feel free to ask questions and request assistance.

Make Sure the System is Up to Par

While you can offer many options and use self-service portals in many ways, none of it will be worth the effort if the system is lagging or is frustrating for employees to use. Test drive the system so that you can see exactly what employees will experience and fix glitches as soon as possible. If your system is outdated or requires too much work to update, it may be worth it to invest in new software.

Self-Service: Not Just for Employees

When HRIS self-service is brought up, it is usually thought of as an option that is available to employees. Employee self-service generally gets all of the attention because it takes time to ease the workforce into adoption and can make some groundbreaking changes.

However, manager self-service is available wherever employee self-service is and can really make some organizational improvements if it is used to its highest potential. The following are a few ways that managers can use HRIS self-service to improve the company and make their jobs easier.

Share and Highlight Company Policies

Whenever a policy change occurs, it can be tough to alert all employees using manual methods. Handouts are generally more likely to get thrown away than read. With self-service, sharing policy changes – or even simply highlighting existing policies that are relevant to recent occurrences – is as simple as cutting and pasting text into a message and sharing via the HRIS.

Use Messaging Options for Feedback

Frequent feedback is a rising star in the HR world, with many publications extolling the virtues of weekly, monthly, or even more frequent feedback (increased productivity, improved employee satisfaction, etc). Messaging options available through HRIS can make it easy for managers to interact with employees in an instant when there is feedback to provide.

Post Schedules on Public Forums or Employee Portals

Posting schedules on public forums that are available to all managers and employees or in self-service portals can save managers time while allowing employees to see schedules instantly and re-check as needed. Being able to make schedules available online can reduce errors, no-call-no-shows, and overall absences. If online scheduling is available through manager self-service, this option can add to HRIS value.

Utilize Time-Off Request Workflow Options

Time-off requests may seem to be easy to handle from an outside perspective, but can actually become rather troublesome at times. Hand-written time-off requests may become lost or may be tough to read. Scheduling in time-off requests and figuring out employee PTO balances adds extra complexity.

Manager self-service may make time-off requests much easier to handle by keeping the requests electronic and organized in one place. If scheduling software is integrated with self-service, time off requests can be checked for feasibility in an instant and denied, approved, or passed on to other departments for approval. The status of the request can be communicated to the employee every step of the way.

Become More Aware of HR Matters

HR matters like training, employee compensation, and turnover concerns affect the way that employees work for managers, so being able to find out information about these issues through self-service can help managers to better control the workforce. Having the ability to pass workflows (like merit increase requests) along to HR using the HRIS can also relieve bottlenecks and save time.

In order to facilitate adoption and encourage managers to take advantage of the opportunities that self-service options offer, it is important to drum up enthusiasm and carefully manage the change. Taking the same care with promoting manager self-service options as with employee self-service options can help your company to get the most from your HRIS.

Could HRIS Self-Service Reduce Scheduling Issues?

When time-off requests are submitted manually and employees have to retrieve their schedules from a piece of paper that is in the workplace, the potential for errors and conflicts is high. Employees may write their schedules down wrong or fail to see changes made after the schedule is released. Time-off requests may also be missed or improperly communicated, leading to dissent.

Introducing self-service options that allow employees to see their schedules and request time off may help to streamline processes and reduce scheduling issues. This may be as beneficial to management and employers as it is to employees.

Increase Schedule Accountability

When employees can easily retrieve their schedules from any mobile device, it can help to increase accountability and reduce the potential for errors. Employees cannot say that the schedule has been changed or that they wrote down the wrong days or times. Employees are both accountable for their own schedules and empowered to retrieve the information at will.

Streamline Time-off Request Processes

Time off processes can be messy when they are handled using paper and scheduling books. Requests may be lost, managers or HR professionals may forget to put requests in, and approvals or denials for requests may not be communicated in a timely manner. Using self-service for time off requests allows employees and managers to interact over a request in seconds from any location and severely decreases the likelihood that the request will be overlooked.

Simplify Schedule Release Days

When schedules are released using the manual method, employees often swarm to the schedule board or book. This can distract employees from their work, decreasing productivity. Releasing schedules using the HRIS self-service allows employees to access their schedules on their own time, reducing the disturbance during work hours.

Improve Communications about Scheduling

There are likely to be changes to the schedule sometimes when employees call out or when unforeseen emergencies happen. If the HRIS self-service portal allows instant messaging, this option can help to speed communication up when these events occur. After effective communications, managers can also alter the schedule in the system immediately to reduce confusion and ensure that all shifts are covered adequately.

Track Absences and Attendance

Depending on the type of workplace, it may be possible to use self-service portals for attendance and absence tracking. This may be particularly helpful if some or all of the employees work from remote locations. Allowing employees to “clock in,” track hours, and report absences using a self-service portal can make payroll and compliance reporting easier and can further empower employees.

If necessary, information entered through self-service portals may also be saved and used to assess and back up rewards, performance reviews, and discipline. Having the scheduling and attendance information all in one place can make it easy to identify a pattern of absences or pinpoint which employees are providing the best customer service or performing the best. Using HRIS self-service for schedule distribution, communication, and tracking can improve the scheduling process in many ways.

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Authored by: Dave Rietsema