What is employee self service (ESS)?

Employee self service (ESS) is technology that allows employees to handle a number of human-resources and administrative tasks on their own.

Effective companies are built on dedicated, talented workforces. But supporting those workforces takes significant administration. Human resources departments in particular face a constantly growing need for improved efficiency and accuracy. Addressing payroll benefits, dealing with large amounts of essential-yet-time-consuming paperwork, and managing employee data tend to monopolise a HR department's time, preventing them from becoming true strategic assets to their companies.

Employee self service is designed to alleviate much of this burden, digitising and automating important tasks. At the same time, ESS gives employees more direct control over their own data.

Generally, ESS is available to employees through their company’s intranet or portal. These online employee engagement platforms provide easy access to searchable knowledge bases and interactive web applications—often combining automated systems and advanced user support options. Some employee portals also include

forums or social-media style discussion tools where employees can come together to discuss issues, answer each other’s questions, and workshop possible solutions to problems.

As previously mentioned, ESS is a solution to issues faced both by HR departments and the workforces they serve. On the one hand, ESS makes HR’s job easier and more effective. On the other, it gives employees improved visibility and a greater say into how their HR data is managed. As part of larger employee engagement strategies, these factors help streamline the entire HR process and improve the employee experience, creating a more efficient, productive, and cost effective organisation.

ESS is not designed to take the place of an experienced HR team; it exists to free HR from certain repetitive tasks and to allow employees direct access to HR information and functionality. This creates a number of advantages for the ESS-enhanced organisation:

  • Reduced costs
    Traditionally, the majority of HR time has been spent answering employee questions and processing employee information. ESS takes many of these responsibilities off the HR-department’s plate. As well as allowing HR to become more of a strategic partner and allowing them to focus on other important tasks, it also reduces the need to hire and train additional HR representatives.
  • Improved time-off management
    Effective ESS systems automate many aspects of the time-off request approval process. Employees can work within the system to track paid time-off hours and submit requests, which are then automatically sent through the proper approval channels. Additionally, managers can use ESS to track sick days, identify time-trends, and improve how they plan for employee absences.
  • More accurate expense management
    ESS streamlines the expense-report process, with simplified employee access to automated approval and reimbursement. The employee portal can also allow employees to manage expenses from any internet-enabled device, for effective expense management, even while travelling.
  • Easier benefits management
    ESS allows authorised users to track and monitor all relevant employee benefit information. This includes coverage details, payment history, and employer and employee contributions, while also providing a central location where employees can review statements, track eligibility and participation, and enrol in benefit programmes.
  • Increased employee autonomy
    Personalised employee portals and other ESS solutions put employees in control. Empowering and convenient, ESS creates an engaged, informed workforce that is capable of taking greater responsibility for their own HR management.
  • Better compliance
    Companies that fail to follow EEO, FMLA, OSHA, and other government laws and regulations face steep penalties. Employee self service platforms ensure accuracy and accountability in compliance reporting. They may also be capable of automating reports, placing compliance information in the correct format, and informing users about any legislative updates.
  • Clearer access to information
    With a single, central database for HR information, employees on all levels will know exactly where to go to find answers to questions, approved procedures, and vital documents.
  • Reliable analytics
    ESS systems track and collect large amounts of usage data. Built-in analytics programs allow managers to evaluate the effectiveness of campaigns and initiatives, and to incorporate reliable HR insights into future decisions.
Benefits of Employee Self Service

ESS is a broad category of HR management, with many different kinds of systems serving a range of industries. Even so, the most effective systems tend to share certain functions, including the following:

Employee content publishing and delivery

Organisations can use ESS systems to create, schedule, and share important content to departments and employees through multiple channels. This includes mass emails, announcements, links, and other content for distribution to the workforce. Recipients can be filtered based on a variety of criteria, such as job title and location.

Employee responsibilities and tasks

To-do pages within an ESS show, at a glance, all of the tasks currently assigned to any specific employee. This includes the conditions that must be met for the task to be marked as completed. Employees can arrange and organise their upcoming tasks, and apply filters to show specific tasks.

Employee requests

Employees and managers can easily see open requests, review past requests, and check up on the status of specific current requests, all from a single page.

Knowledge base

An employee knowledge base is a searchable database of useful, HR-relevant information. Employees can quickly find answers to common questions, as well as get links to important tools, forms etc.

Organisational information

With an ESS organisation chart, employees can see the structure of their company, including employees, job titles, responsibilities, and more.

Employee live chat

Live-chat options in the ESS platform allow employees to interact with live support agents in real time. Employees simply select a conversation topic from a list of provided categories.

Employee Forums

Links to employee forums give employees a place within the ESS system where they can interact, engage, collaborate, and workshop solutions to problems.

Generally, the most effective ESS systems come from third-party vendors. These vendors provide resources and guidance to ensure that their client businesses have everything they need to get the most out of their ESS solutions. That said, there are ways that organisations can improve the effectiveness of their self-service solutions. When implementing ESS, consider the following best practices:

  • Strive for relevance
    A major component of most employee self service systems is the knowledge base. But what information should an organisation’s knowledge base include? Obviously, this will differ from company to company and industry to industry, which is why it is vital that businesses take an active hand in securing the most relevant and accurate information possible. Building off of the most common employee requests and queries, and expanding to include search-engine analytics data about relevant searches, organisations can ensure that their knowledge base information is useful and comprehensive.
  • Focus on ease of use
    Self service portals should be comprehensive and informative, but all of the information in the world won’t do employees much good if they can’t navigate it. Much like customers, employees and other internal users expect a pleasant, low-effort experience while using products. An effective ESS places that experience at the forefront, by including intuitive design, easy-to-use search functions, and visually represented data.
  • Optimise the ESS for mobile use
    ESS should not be confined to the office. Employees appreciate the freedom to manage their data while on the move, with mobile-optimised self service. This is especially important when working with a remote workforce. With a dedicated mobile app or browser-based access that offers full functionality and usability even on smaller touch screens, employees can access vital information and perform essential tasks, anytime and from anywhere.
  • Integrate case-management features
    Finding answers to questions is an essential part of ESS, but it is only a part. Take things further, by including case-management functionality. Automating employee requests, providing essential guidance and next steps, and including reliable support options all help ensure that employees get the support they need, when they need it, and without having to go into a separate system.

ServiceNow Employee Center provides a single unified portal for multi-department service delivery, enabling customers to easily scale their service solutions across IT and HR to find information, get help, and request the services they need. With enhanced capabilities, Employee Center can expand the portal experience from service delivery to employee communication and engagement with tools like content publishing and campaigns, content experiences, and employee communities.

With built-in live chat and virtual agent options, detailed knowledge-base structure, task management, case management, and more, ServiceNow Employee Center goes beyond the traditional self-service portal. And with full, cloud-based mobile optimisation, ServiceNow empowers employees to take a more active role in their HR and IT management, no matter where they are.

Learn more about Employee Center from ServiceNow, and see how the right self service solutions can improve your business.

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