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Employee Self-Service Portals Get More Dynamic Each Year

BY: Jessica Stollfuss, CPP | 05/30/18

Employee self-service (ESS) was once thought of as a system that allows employees to access and change the information provided to and received from an employer. Over the past decade, however, it has evolved into a portal that allows employees—and even potential employees—to own their information. By owning their information, employees have a stake in confirming the information is accurate.

ESS portals allow employees to complete transactions such as updates to personal data, onboarding processes, benefits enrollment and/or changes, employee training, performance management, time and attendance, and access to employee handbooks, policies, and other organizational information.

ESS portals are tools employees use to access their information as well as to make certain transactions from a central online site or gateway. By allowing employees to manage their information through a portal, information for the human resources (HR) department is consolidated and costs decline. As a result, companies find greater employee satisfaction. By reducing the administrative burden, HR professionals are able to spend more time on strategic efforts that align with the organization’s goals.

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Self-Service Evolution

Over the past two decades, ESS portals have become extremely dynamic by offering more personal, interactive, and multidimensional services. These include sites that allow HR departments to create, manage, and edit content without the assistance of IT departments, offer identity management systems that display content tailored to the users’ specific attributes, and feature single sign-on functions that allow employees to access content from third-party vendors without the need for additional passwords. This has come with some downfalls, including limited technical knowledge by HR staff and employees, lack of seamless third-party access, portals that are not user-friendly, and outdated information.

Make It Personal

As self-service portals progress, employees are looking for more personalization, engagement, and search technologies than ever before. Personalization has become a tool that many employees are looking to as a catering tool to their individual situations. For example, portals can assist employees through the decision-making process by comparing benefit plans, understanding insurance, estimating medical costs, and assessing retirement income. Many employers are also beginning to use web-based technology as a communication tool on many platforms.

Help for Human Resources

In today’s world, there is a need to cut costs or expand or improve services. Organizations that use tools such as ESS are proving to outperform organizations that do not. Simply automating human resources (HR) processes no longer gives companies a competitive advantage. Instead, companies must utilize resources outside of the normal scope. HR managers need to be able to apply existing HR knowledge and skills and apply the appropriate technology. As employees become more knowledgeable in technology themselves, HR leaders must perform at the same level to provide a positive user experience.

The use of ESS portals is alleviating a lot of the administrative burden within HR departments. Employees are able to update their personal data, enter time worked, print out their pay statements, enroll in benefit plans, and schedule vacation. One tool that is becoming popular within the portal is recruiting. Applicants are able to apply directly through the portal and check the status of the application process as well as be notified of any other open positions.

Onboarding is also beginning to utilize self-service portals through virtual orientation. As employers look to streamline the onboarding process, employees are looking for a stronger, more effective way to become successful in their jobs. A strong virtual onboarding process can allow organizations to:

  • Make employees feel more welcome through tracking and monitoring new hires in the onboarding process. Employees are then finding that they are more excited to start their new careers.
  • Eliminate paperwork and improve accuracy by increasing the number of paperless activities.
  • Personalize an online tour for new hires and include streaming video.
  • Strengthen the new hire community by offering to connect employees virtually.
  • Automate transactions for uniforms, parking passes, computers, email addresses, and security badges.
  • Assist new hires in selecting health insurance and other benefit plan choices.
  • Have employees electronically sign acknowledgements for policies and compliance requirements.

Open enrollment seems to be a particularly challenging time for employers. By allowing employees to make their own selections and simulate calculations, most of the administrative burden on HR departments is streamlined. After open enrollment, through an ESS platform, many systems allow for integration feeds into other systems, such as a payroll system, to ensure that all information is accurate and up-to-date. This helps to make the open enrollment process more seamless.

Investing in Employees

Companies are now offering financial training and other e-learning options to their employees. This can help ensure employees are assessing their own financial situations and developing a plan of continuous improvement based on their priorities in areas such as college tuition or retirement. Employers are investing in ESS financial portals that allow employees to make the best investment choices to reach their financial goals. These organizations are also using ESS portals to encourage employees to adopt more beneficial and positive health behaviors. Some ESS portals highlight health management and disease prevention programs.

E-training has also become a popular tool among organizations. Because many employers employ a virtual workforce, investing in a portal that allows training helps employers reach a broader audience in developing their employees.

Performance management is another area where employers are investing heavily. When employees are able to complete self-evaluations, set goals, and receive information about training and development opportunities, there is an increase in employee satisfaction and engagement.

Time management solutions are one of the more common and used functions of ESS portals across the board. Employees are able to punch in and out from any location, check the status of their hours, view their work schedules, schedule vacation and personal time, and review their benefits. This has proven to be beneficial to HR and payroll departments in alleviating some of the administrative burden and assist managers with reducing the time spent reviewing and approving time sheets.

Making Things Easier

The most popular benefit that comes with implementing an ESS portal is reduced costs for employers. By having more streamlined processes, communications with third parties become more simplified and efficient. Integrating this information with other systems allows companies to cross-check their information for accuracy. Information sharing and meeting tracking become more efficient and easier to use for organizations that have multiple locations. Employee morale is boosted, which results in a positive company culture. Vendors can automate processes for stock management, pension administration, health and safety management, talent management, and succession planning, resulting in fewer limits on human resource information system (HRIS) functionality.

“The desire of most HR leaders no longer is just to count heads but rather to truly understand what employees are made of, identify their best recruiting sources, determine what current skill sets look like, assess people’s potential for promotion, and more,” said Jason Averbrook, CEO of Knowledge Infusion, a Minneapolis-based HR consulting firm. “The worlds of core HRIS and talent management systems are blending and blurring and in the next few years will be seen as one and the same.”

As the future of self-service continues to grow, organizations need to seek out results that can provide a positive work culture. Some of the steps they can take are to define the objectives for the portal they are seeking; create a governance structure with clearly defined roles, processes, and standards; personalize the portal; verify that it is in compliance with federal and state laws; and keep it up to date. As a Ceridian article states, “In the end, self-service helps employees and managers build a more self-sufficient work environment… [And] a self-sufficient work environment is more productive for employers.”


Jessica Stollfuss, CPP, is Payroll Manager for Alliance Laundry Systems.