Employee self-service is a web-based tool that allows employees to retrieve information and perform specific transactions from a central portal. In many organizations, this portal is used to deliver HR, payroll and benefits information.
Over the years, ESS has blossomed into a global phenomenon, and is currently leveraged by large, midsized and small employers.
Where did this come from?
Employee self-service first appeared in the late 1990s. According to the Cedar 2000 Human Resources Self-Service Survey, by 2000, only approximately 15 percent of organizations had adopted ESS. (Companies such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Pfizer were among the few companies that had implemented the innovation at that time.)
ESS was initially adopted mainly for its ability to benefit managers, rather than employees, and its lower administrative costs. However, the solution ended up proving advantageous to managers, employees and organizations as a whole.
By 2005, around 50 percent of surveyed organizations were using ESS, and by 2014, that number had risen to more than 90 percent.
The key features
ESS portals vary by design. However, even the most rudimentary systems typically let employees:
- Change their personal data, such as address, contact information and direct deposit information.
- View scheduling and timekeeping data.
- Change tax withholding information.
- Access pay stubs.
- Change benefit elections.
- Submit PTO requests.
- Volunteer for shifts.
The major benefits
When employees have an HR or payroll concern, it’s generally related to their paychecks, benefits or work hours. With ESS, employees can obtain much of this information on their own, typically from any device. All they have to do is log in to the portal and make the request or view the information. This is much quicker than having to call or email their manager, who would then need to contact HR or payroll.
With an ESS system, managers can approve or reject employees’ requests in real time. As a result, employees see faster response times, managers spend less time solving issues, and the HR and payroll teams have more time to focus on important duties.
Employee self-service can also minimize data entry errors. For instance, when employees enter their benefit elections online, the information flows to the HR and payroll departments, eliminating the need for double entry.
There’s also a big empowerment payoff: Companies can get more value out of their employees by giving them a greater sense of autonomy and responsibility. This is accomplished by helping them become more proactive, rather than always relying on you for assistance. Ultimately, employee empowerment improves accountability, job satisfaction and problem resolution.
An ESS system is inherently built to empower. By allowing employees to self-manage HR and payroll transactions, you’re indicating that you trust them to make their own decisions. And from this trust, empowerment is born.