Employee Self-Service (ESS)

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What is Employee Self-Service (ESS)

Employee self-service is a functionality of an HR platform that enables employees to access and update their HR information.


This includes their personal, contact, and payment information, but also access to other relevant company documents and policies. For example, employees can access the company’s PTO policy and submit a request for time off, review their timesheets, and choose a benefits package.

How Does Employee Self-Service Work?

While the term itself might sound technical or even abstract to some people, employee self-service is actually super intuitive. To understand what ESS is in practice, think of it in terms of access to information using the HR tool. It essentially means that all employees within the company have their own user accounts on the HR platform with permissions based on their role.

In other words, every member of the organization can log in using their credentials and use the HR tool to access relevant documents and information, as well as submit requests. Everything is done through the platform, and the bulk of admin tasks are automated, which eliminates the need for manual data entry and ensures everyone is on the same page.

Benefits of ESS

Many benefits can stem from giving your employees the opportunity to leverage your HR platform to access the information they need and submit requests to the HR department and their managers.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the key benefits of ESS:

  • Saving time: HR platforms with ESS dramatically ease the burden on your HR department. There’s no need for manual or duplicate data entry, and every request is automatically logged, so your HR has more time to dedicate to other business-critical tasks.
  • Reducing costs: ESS also greatly reduces the HR department’s workload by automating the bulk of administrative tasks. As a result, you can afford to have fewer people in your HR department, reducing the overall employment costs.
  • Engaging the employees: Employees will feel more engaged when they have the option to quickly and easily access all relevant company documents, review policies, update their information, and submit requests directly through the platform. This boosts overall job satisfaction and reduces churn rates.
  • Streamlining time off requests: With ESS, every employee will be able to see how many days off they have left at any given moment. They’ll also be able to submit time off requests for approval by their managers, see the approved vacation days of other team members, and plan their time off accordingly.
  • Automating benefits enrollment: Allowing employees to review all the available benefits packages and enroll in the one that best suits them saves you a ton of time. It also helps you track benefits utilization, so you’ll know if and when you need to update the benefits packages you’re offering or switch vendors.
  • Ensuring the accuracy of information: Giving your employees an easy way to update their personal information ensures that all your employee data remains accurate. It also eliminates the risk of human error, such as an HR clerk forgetting to update the information or relying on an outdated version of a spreadsheet.
  • Streamlining time tracking and payroll: Most HR platforms with employee self-service allow each team member to clock-in and track their worked hours. When synced with the payroll functionality, this effectively cuts the time required to run payroll in half since you’ll have everyone’s timesheets at your fingertips.

Functionalities of HR Self-Service Software

Employee self-service is just one of many features of a robust HR platform, but it has a multitude of functionalities your business can benefit from, including:

  • Time and attendance tracking: As we mentioned, many ESS HR software allow employees to either manually or automatically track time. Manual time tracking involves tracking each task separately, whereas automatic time tracking logs the amount of time they’ve spent online, from the moment they log into the platform to the moment they sign out for the day.
  • Benefits enrollment: ESS enables employees to go over all the available benefits packages and enroll in the ones that interest them. This level of transparency and flexibility greatly contributes to employees’ job satisfaction. It also makes it much easier to collect the required documentation from employees and track benefits utilization.
  • Leave tracking: With an ESS that lets employees submit time off requests, your managers and department heads will be able to easily track time off, adjust the workload, and reprioritize tasks accordingly.
  • Employee training: An ESS HR platform also facilitates employee training by giving them easy access to all the required training materials, knowledge bases, policies, and other relevant documents.
  • Alerts and notifications: Alerts and notifications ensure that everyone’s in the know, so there’s no way managers are unaware that someone requested a week off due to an illness, for instance. Simultaneously, employees will be reminded to track their time, update their personal and payment information, or review new policies and other crucial documents.

ESS Examples

There are many ways in which your employees can leverage the employee self-service functionality of your company’s HR platform.

For example, they can update their payment information if they change banks or open a new bank account. This ensures they’ll get their paycheck in the correct account, prevents any delays during payroll runs, and alleviates the pressure from your HR department.

Another common reason to use ESS is to review timesheets. This is especially important if you’re working with contractors and freelancers. At any time, they could see their hours worked, ping their superiors if they spot any inaccuracies, and see how many more hours they need to work for the week/month, as per their contract or agreement.

Employees who want to expand their skill sets can also access your knowledge bases to learn more about specific processes or tools your company is using. This would allow them to take initiative, take on additional responsibilities, or become more productive in their current role.

Overall, employee self-service is a crucial aspect of any HR platform, so if you’re considering digitizing your HR, definitely keep this in mind.


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Aleksandar Stevanovic
Software Reviews Expert
Aleksandar Stevanovic
Software Reviews Expert

Aleksandar Stevanovic spent 10 years honing his craft as a freelance content writer. He has a degree in Economics, and extensive experience in software, crypto, and cybersecurity industries. He covers a multitude of topics, writing factual and informative articles, helping individuals better understand the intricacies of the online world. Over the last two years, his research focus shifted more towards tech and software content, as evidenced by his publications on CEX.IO, Business2Community, and Techopedia. He believes in simplifying complex topics and bringing them closer to like-minded individuals. His work is as detail-oriented as it is creative, and is designed to…