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Micah Fairchild Is DIY Right for You? Weighing Employee Self-Service Solutions

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 By Micah Fairchild

Employee Self Service Software Lowering Costs While Improving Service

Human resources can be both an organization's biggest asset and its biggest expense—one of the main reasons industry verbiage now includes "human capital". Because of this unique designation, the department charged with overseeing human capital operations (HR) is increasingly being seen as executive rather than administrative; and a profit center rather than a cost center. Central to this movement has been an effort aimed at putting the administration of HR data into the hands of those closest to it via employee self-service (ESS) applications.

Comprised of historically labor-intensive (and now largely automated) transactions, employee self-service systems seek to reduce the amount of routine data queries, requests, and transactions made directly to HR staff by leveraging employee empowerment and direct data access. Interestingly enough, though it's been an industry focal point for several years, according to the 2011 Bersin & Associates report The Future of Employee Self-Service, employee self-service software capabilities have largely remained unchanged—staying focused on operational record-keeping functions and administrative tasks like benefits and payroll. That being said, the administrative make-up of employee self-service systems invariably leads to strategic organizational gains by default due to the value-added functions that HR staff are now freed up to pursue—shedding light onto "core" human resource functions and their importance. In fact, Core HR Systems (according to an Aberdeen Group report) found that "automation of core HR functions is the top strategic action pursued by all organizations."

Self Service Background

According to the Hunter Group's Human Resources Self-Service Survey, the leading applications for employee, manager, and strategic self service in use today are:

Employee Self Service (ESS)
Manager Self Service (MSS)
Strategic MSS
  • Data updates
  • Benefit queries
  • Retirement inquiries
  • Licence/certification updates
  • Timesheets
  • Timesheet approvals
  • Headcount reports
  • Employee change actions (e.g. transfers)
  • Expense management
  • Leave work-ups
  • Job requisitions
  • Compensation actions
  • Performance management
  • Employee training and development

Still, according to Gartner analyst James Holincheck, the focus is on Employee Self Service systems right now is with increases in Manager Self Service and strategic MSS coming quickly. "Most companies start with ESS, then move to basic MSS and finally evolve to strategic MSS", says Holincheck. Even so, with less time spent in "administration mode", HR staff can instead focus on strategic work on retention efforts, engagement initiatives and other high-level organizational solutions.

Self Service Benefits

Those companies that utilize Employee Self Service software solutions know full well the tactical and strategic benefits of empowering employees through ESS, but additional success stories aren't difficult to find. For example, International Paper Co. went from an HR-to-staff ratio of l-to-80 to a ratio of l-to-126 after their Employee Self Service implementation. Similarly, the Hunter Group's research, HR Survey, found that organizations with effective Employee Self Service implementations reported ratios of 1:151 compared with non-ESS company ratios of 1:99. Employee Self Service solutions also keep information free-flowing, and 2011 research by Aberdeen (Time and Attendance Strategies: Beyond Compliance and Payroll Accuracy) even found that "self-service access to timesheets improves employee engagement and accuracy". In turn, an organization using Employee Self Service (or Management Self Service) will find the business impact benefits of a reduced time-per-transaction turnaround cycle, cost-per-transaction reduction, and reduced query-per-staff for HR, thereby clearly demonstrating the efficiency and cost effectiveness of self-service writ large.

Self Service Bottom Line

With an outlook of 91% utilization rate (of companies surveyed) by 2013 according to CedarCrestone's 2010 HR Systems Survey, it's clear that organizations comprehend the benefits of Employee Self Service systems. Yet a 2009 report by the Aberdeen Group's Jason Saba found that many organizations are unsure about ROI, and are looking to see what additional potential exists on the horizon; to see what possibilities may exist to leverage their self-service investments. As such, though Employee Self Service software has the ability to transform an HR system from mediocre repository to strategic tool, most organizations have invested in transactional HR self-service applications, while the "greater opportunities lie with more-strategic HR self-service applications and communication services", says James Holincheck in the report HR Self-Service Applications Defined.

That being said, as Gartner reports, many larger companies are utilizing multi-tier models (as seen above) for Human Resource service delivery, focusing on phased rollouts to eventual Strategic Management Self Service software solutions. Just remember that actual structure matters less than the necessity to have the user experience reflect what the user needs. Guides, 3rd-party information hubs, communication solutions, wikis, etc., can all be used to provide and promote the user and system experience that is needed; ensuring that the system is adopted quickly and successfully. End

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Employee self-service systems seek to reduce the amount of routine data queries, requests, and transactions made directly to HR staff by leveraging employee empowerment and direct data access—and the benefits are compelling, including reduced transaction cycle times, cost per transaction and query per staff.


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