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What Is Employee Self Service (ESS) In HR Systems?

Want to implement employee self-service and save time on HR admin? Here's why you should consider using an employee self service software.
Published 2 Jun 2020
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Updated 30 Jan 2024
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8min read
The Rising Demand For Employee Self Service

We live in a society that values self-service. From bagging our own groceries to shopping on our phones, we’re used to doing tasks for ourselves in real-time. While supermarket self-service was shunned by customers years ago (and of course, there are still those who hate DIY grocery checkouts), the ability to take on tasks ourselves has now become a prerequisite.

That’s the same case for employee self-service. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly clear that companies which do not offer employee self-service options will suffer for it. Imagine wanting to buy a jumper online and being told to fill out a form and fax it to a salesperson who will process the transaction for you. No deal.

And yet, employees are still asked to follow a similar process daily just to handle the simplest HR tasks. Want to change your bank details? Fill out a form and put it on the HR manager’s desk. When will the changes be made? Please wait 14 business days… It comes as no surprise then that employees are beginning to expect a greater degree of control over their own employment details and HR tasks.

What is employee self-service (ESS)?

Employee self-service (ESS) gives employees direct access to their personal records and details whenever they want it. They may also be able to submit basic requests without the need for a third party. ESS features can include allowing employees to:

  • Change their contact details;
  • Update their banking information;
  • Check in on their employee benefits;
  • Submit a request for leave or overtime payment;
  • Make a claim for expenses; and
  • Get an overall view of their absence history and leave balance.

Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS), like Employment Hero, have brought ESS functionality to a wide range of organisations and businesses.

How do employee self-service systems work?

They usually work by providing users (in this case, employees) access to an employee self-service portal where they can change their details or submit requests to a HR team or manager.

Self-service can be as simple as a Google form for one-off requests, but to really get the benefits of ESS, you’re best to take advantage of the top software available. Effective HR software usually offers employee self-service features as part of a larger people management system. This way, both employees and those managing the portal have their own personalised view. In Employment Hero, every user has their own profile.

HR managers and business leaders will get a slightly different view in Employment Hero in comparison to other employees in the business. For general employees, they won’t have the option to manage HR tasks but they’ll be able to change information that directly applies to them, and submit requests to their managers.

What are the common features of employee self-service systems?

There are lots of potential features to include in employee self-service software. According to our data, apart from easier access to their own information, employees would like to be able to fill out timesheets digitally and set their own pay date. Here are the top answers from our data:

  • 63% would like the ability to check annual leave, sick leave and payslips online at any time
  • 47% would like to change pay and super details online at any time
  • 35% would like to fill out and send timesheets easily online at any time

There’s plenty more features to include too. Let’s look at how some self-service portals work in practice, using Employment Hero as an example.

Changing personal details

In the Employment Hero system, each user has their own profile, where they can upload a picture of themselves, add their personal contact information and get an overview of all their details. This can be changed at any time, so if you’ve snapped a particularly flattering selfie over the weekend, you can update your photo in seconds!

A personal profile on Employment Hero
A personal profile on Employment Hero

As you can see on the left of the overview panel, there’s an entire menu in Employment Hero that includes ESS features and non-customisable details added by HR professionals. One of the ESS options is the ‘Personal Details’ section, where employees can update their own personal data such as their preferred name, address, gender identity and more.

Updating your personal details on Employment Hero
Updating your personal details on Employment Hero

There’s also a tab in there for emergency contacts – crucial information that HR professionals need to have, and one that can be easily updated by the employee.

Updating your emergency contact details on Employment Hero
Updating your emergency contact details on Employment Hero

Changing pay and bank details

Everyone wants to be paid correctly. By handing the control of bank details to your employees, you leave it to them to ensure their bank details are accurate. This makes things much easier for your employee too – for example, if they choose to change their bank, they don’t have to send multiple emails and requests to change their details at work. They can simply log in and update it themselves real quick.

Editing bank details in Employment Hero
Editing bank details in Employment Hero

In Employment Hero, we also include a section where employees can update their superannuation details, pension deductions, KiwiSaver contributions or a similar equivalent in their country. This makes it easier for whoever is running payroll, as they can easily find the HR data they need to make the correct deduction or changes.

Finally, an effective employee self-service portal will give employees access to all their payslips so far. This isn’t just useful for their records, but payslips are often required for a variety of things, such as home rental applications and mortgages. HR teams can save a lot of time by making them available in the portal for easy access, rather than manually sending payslips to individual employees on request.

Stored payslips on Employment Hero
Stored payslips on Employment Hero

Submitting leave requests and checking your available balance

Without a system in place, managing leave requests can be a nightmare for HR teams. They might find themselves searching for email conversations, or inundated with a variety of requests which need to be directed all over the company. With an employee self-service portal, leave requests can be submitted by the employee and routed directly to their line manager. In turn, the line manager can approve the request or decline it with reason. Check out what a leave request form looks like in Employment Hero below.

A leave request form on Employment Hero
A leave request form on Employment Hero

As you’ll see from this screenshot, there’s also a visible ‘Leave Balance’ in the corner, showing employees how much leave they have available to take. This is a useful feature for employees, particularly if they’re new or unsure of how much leave they have left for the year.

Submitting expenses

Nobody likes to be waiting on expenses, so having a central portal that can take in requests and ensure they’re not forgotten is really useful. Employees don’t want to have to chase up requests over email weeks later, when they’re still waiting to be reimbursed.

In Employment Hero, you can submit expense claims in a similar way to how leave is requested. We’ve also included a ‘Status’ column so both employees and HR leaders can quickly assess the progress of a claim.

Submitted expense claims on Employment Hero
Submitted expense claims on Employment Hero

Filling out and submitting timesheets

For many companies, timesheets form the backbone of their payroll so it’s important to get them right. Employee self-service portals with timesheet management options allow employees to submit their own timesheets, filling out the hours they’ve completed. With it all submitted digitally as well, it saves HR teams from any more manual data entry or dreaded printing!

Making a timesheet entry on Employment Hero
Making a timesheet entry on Employment Hero

Benefits of having an employee self-service portal

There are plenty of benefits that come with investing in a self-service HR software. Here’s a few of our favourites…

It saves a lot of time

This is the clearest benefit, and one that you’ll start to see almost immediately after implementing employee self-service portals. With one central system that both HR professionals and employees have direct access to, it’s super easy to ensure requests are managed all in one place.

With employees making smaller, simple changes to their own details or timesheets, it also reduces time spent sending and receiving emails. No need to ask a third party to change your emergency contact or phone number – just do it yourself in five minutes. Now that’s productivity.

Employees get a better experience

Giving employees control over their personal details, leave and timesheets will make everything a lot easier for them to get minor tasks done. It’s also an important way to offer employee autonomy, showing that you trust them to organise themselves. After all, no one likes to feel micromanaged. Introducing ESS isn’t just good for the HR team but a great way to build trust in your company.

There’s opportunities for automation

Introducing employee self-service through HR software often brings with it opportunities for automation. For example, when teaming the software with payroll functions, those bank details updated by an employee can be automatically factored into the next pay run, without any additional work by the person in charge of payroll. Likewise, if a HR team is sending out something by mail company-wide, effective HR software will allow them to easily access the latest addresses company-wide in one go.

Questions are answered before they’re asked

As the source of knowledge for everything employment in a business, HR professionals often have to answer a lot of questions. That’s where a HR software can come in useful, setting up clear and easy processes that most employees can likely navigate themselves without assistance. This is useful for new employees too – no need to ask colleagues or HR teams about where the leave requests are made or how they can view payslips. With everything in one place, there’s only one location to navigate around.

Are there drawbacks to using an employee self-service system?

Like with anything new, there’s a learning curve ahead. However, with a sturdy implementation and rollout plan, it’s easily mitigated.

As much as we’ve said above that ESS should reduce questions for HR teams, those teams should allow for an initial learning period across the company.

Make sure you’re factoring in training sessions for those new to the ESS tool so that they can confidently use the software in the future. Consider recording a training session too so that employees can watch on-demand and refer back to if they get stuck – after all, humans can only remember so much!

Navigating remote working environments with employee self-service

For companies who have a remote work or hybrid work set up, employee self-service is an absolute must-have. In these environments, people are often working asynchronously, which means manually submitting and actioning requests can take a number of days. Giving employees the option to change important details themselves will reduce that time gap and allow for efficient processes, wherever they are.

Find out how employee self-service can transform your business

For HR teams who are under the pump, employee self-service is an absolute game-changer. It acts as a single source of key employee information, and streamlines those daily requests that would normally clog up an inbox. It’s a win-win for employees too, offering them that all-important autonomy, as well as an easy way to change details whenever they like.

Here at Employment Hero, we’ve worked hard to ensure that our employee self-service features are simple to use and as comprehensive as they can be. Reach out to us for a demo today and see how ESS can make a difference for your team.

For more information on choosing the right HR software, check out our guide below.

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Guide to Choosing The Best HR Software

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