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Benefits of Employee Self-Service and How It Can Increase HR Efficiency

An effective employee self-service (ESS) tool is one change that may help HR teams focus on more critical aspects of the business.
An employee viewing self service information on her mobile device

If your HR team spends a considerable amount of their workday responding to routine employee requests or inquiries around payroll, benefits, and personal information updates, consider how this could be impacting time and resources. Compound this with the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and HR professionals may be overburdened with tasks that can dilute their focus on strategic planning.

The adoption of an effective employee self-service (ESS) tool is one change that may help HR teams focus on more critical aspects of the business. An ESS tool may also gain widespread acceptance among employees – both offsite and on-premise workers – who have increasingly come to prefer online access to information such as frequently asked questions and benefits and enrollment forms. Workplaces in general may rely more on technology as they determine how to get operations “back to normal” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent Paychex snap poll of business owners found that many respondents see technology playing a key role in aiding in recovery from the effects of the pandemic, with one in three saying they plan to rely more on technology after reopening, aiming to communicate and collaborate more effectively (45%), along with improve recordkeeping (34%), among other goals.

What is an employee self-service system?

An employee self-service system is an online portal, accessible on any internet-connected device, that enables employees to perform a variety of HR-related tasks on their own, without needing to file paperwork with or even contact HR. Depending on the ESS system, employees may be able to elect benefits and add dependents, review their performance evaluations, enroll in online training classes, and produce reports detailing company contributions to their 401(k) plan.

Many ESS providers also offer detailed analytics of employees’ use of the portal, with information on the most- and least-used tools that can help decision makers evaluate the technology’s adoption and effectiveness.

What are the benefits of employee self-service for employers?

The efficiency of employee self-service can be advantageous for HR departments and the business as a whole, and include a better allocation of resources, faster and more efficient service, and cost savings.

Improved resource allocation

Rather than spending time dealing with administrative processes and communicating redundant information, HR professionals can use more time and resources toward adding insight and expertise to company management. In fact, the 2019 Paychex Pulse of HR Survey revealed that HR leaders view their role as a strategic partner more frequently than that of an administrator. Self-service technology can help in furthering HR’s impact on the business.

Faster service

An ESS portal allows employees to make changes quickly and update personal information such as their home address without the need to reach out to HR. Changes can be confirmed on-screen once they are input and received. Employee communications can also be quickly disseminated online to ensure prompt delivery. In the wake of the coronavirus – when workers may be evaluating their benefits or reconsidering their withholding due to financial challenges – expediting such tasks is a win-win: an employee self-service portal option saves HR teams time while giving staff convenience and control.

Employee engagement

Employee engagement levels can have a direct impact on turnover and the company’s bottom line. By empowering employees with 24/7 access to their company and personal information, you can help boost the level that employees are actively engaging with the company — which may positively impact retention and productivity levels. Enabling them to complete tasks without the additional burden of multiple phone calls and paperwork can reinforce a positive outlook on the business.

Cost savings

Using self-service technology may save money on paper and postage for communications that are not required to be delivered in hard-copy form, reducing administrative costs associated with fewer incoming inquiries.

What are the benefits of employee self-service for employees?

A self-service tool can be especially helpful for organizations with offsite and remote workforces, where it might be harder to access resources and information. Giving your workers a way to serve their needs and stay informed, regardless of their physical location, can help them feel confident and successful on the job.

How employee self-service can increase efficiency

An effective ESS portal can help your company reduce the workload for HR staff to otherwise intake, process, and complete numerous administrative tasks. What’s more, many working individuals have come to expect self-service options to help them manage their compensation and benefits options. With an ESS system, employees typically have the ability to:

  • Access online pay slips;
  • View and print federal and state withholding forms;
  • View and update bank account information for direct deposit;
  • Confirm employer-initiated employment status, rate of pay, or other changes;
  • Update personal information such as address, phone number, and educational experience;
  • View federal, state, or local tax withholding information;
  • Access online training materials and other career advancement resources; and
  • Adjust benefits.                                          

An ESS system is also an effective way to make a great impression to new hires, as it can house new-employee information such as answers to basic questions around pay dates and benefits eligibility.

Potential challenges to introducing an employee self-service tool

The convenience of employee self-service may improve worker satisfaction with the company. However, to avoid the perception of disengagement and depersonalization, and to encourage employee participation in automated services, businesses must implement self-service thoughtfully.

While user acceptance and system efficiencies can make the transition to self-service well worth the effort, there are certain initial challenges to consider: 

  • Cost of information technology resources: The initial costs associated with implementation must be planned and budgeted for in advance.
  • Data protection: When private data is housed online, data security is of the utmost importance. Information needs to be protected, and employees must feel confident in the system's ability to safely store their personal data.
  • Areas for improvement: When a system is not designed with the end user in mind, it can become difficult to navigate. Errors can arise when employees are familiarizing themselves with new technology. Education sessions for new users, ongoing quality checks, and additional confirmation of benefits selections can help during the initial stages of a self-service tool’s implementation.

Help employees with the transition to a self-service tool

When rolling out an ESS system, keep in mind that some employees may not immediately adjust to accessing documents and information on their own, and may instead feel more comfortable reaching out to HR. Counteract any hesitation and maximize adoption by providing workers thorough training on the system and stressing the benefits of immediate access to information, as opposed to waiting for another team to respond to an inquiry. Built-in data analytics can also determine who among your workforce is not using the system, or using it incorrectly, and may benefit from additional training. If, after implementation, employees still reach out to HR for information available on the self-service portal, consider sending out reminders and offer as-needed training to keep this capability top-of-mind for employees.

The future of business and the role of self-service technology

In 2019, 84% of HR leaders polled in the Paychex Pulse of HR Survey said that providing self-service options to employees via an application or portal is important to their company’s success. As businesses look toward the future beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the economy, technology is sure to play a critical role in business recovery. Learn more about the benefits of employee self-service, and consider leading HR technologies available on the market today.

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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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