HRIS Applications - Employee Self Service

Employee self-serviceDoes Your Company Need an Employee Self Service (ESS) system?

Many of the HRIS applications on the market today offer Internet-based ESS options. But do you need one, and how can they be helpful?

Typical Employee Self Service Features

Employee Self Service (ESS) applications have gained in popularity over the last several years. In a nutshell, these HR applications are Internet-based products that allow employees to view and/or edit information related to their HR employee file. Employees may be able to update their emergency contact information and personal contact information, or even change their address when necessary.

A number of the self-service applications also include Benefits Open Enrollment. Employees often like this arrangement because they’re in charge of their own data and Human Resources (HR) professionals like it because it cuts down on their input workload.

Another, often unmentioned, benefit of ESS is manager self-service. In many of these applications, managers and supervisors are able to view data on both direct and indirect reports. So instead of having to contact HR they can simply look up online the data they need about an employee. The benefits of an ESS program can be tremendous – but not to every type of organization.


It stands to reason that white-collar organizations are going to have a higher percentage of employees with Internet access in their homes than blue-collar organizations do (though this is certainly not always the case). Before investing in an online HR management software self service product, it’s a good idea to find out what percentage of your employees will be able to access the product from their homes. Even if the percentage is small that does not necessarily mean you should not invest in an ESS product; I have seen and helped a number of companies set up kiosks in break rooms or cafeterias where the employees can access the self service features. But the overall usefulness of such a system to your employees is definitely an important consideration.

How Technical Are Your Employees?

Once again, this is a call you need to make before investing in an HRIS applicaton with an ESS product. If most of your employees are not very technical, they may be reluctant to use the product or your HR staff might have to answer so many questions that the system doesn’t actually end up saving time and effort.

Manager Self Service

Some of the applications listed on price the self-service products per user. Regardless of the technical capabilities of the employees, it may be a good idea to put a product in place for supervisors, managers, and executive staff.


The most common concern I see from HR professionals regarding ESS systems is a reluctance to have employees making changes to their data. There are system features that can help eliminate this concern. For example, you are usually able to select which fields they can and cannot view and which fields they can and cannot edit. Obviously, you would not want Jane Doe changing her pay rate, but you may be okay with her changing her cell phone number. Some systems also include workflow features in which employee-made changes do not take effect in the HR application until a supervisor approves them. Another common worry is that an unscrupulous employee might make unnecessary changes to another employee’s information. This is always a risk, so such concerns must be weighed against the other benefits that this type of product offers.

Finally, even if your organization doesn’t need a self service option today, it might very well in the future. For that reason alone, it may be a good idea to select an HRMS with this capability.


About the Author

Clay Scroggin worked in the Human Resource and Payroll Software Industry for more than fifteen years. During that time, Clay and those who worked with him, assisted hundreds of HR professionals with their HR software needs. In 2007, Clay began working on, a site dedicated to assisting HR professionals with their search, selection, implementation and use of HR systems. The site contains several tools to assist HR professionals with their software research including an HRIS Selector Tool and a HR Software Blog.

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