HR Mavericks

Eddy’s HR Mavericks Encyclopedia

Employee Self-Service (ESS)

Are you losing time every day due to employee interruptions and mundane data entry? An employee self-service system can help. Read on to learn how you can reclaim hours a day.

What Is Employee Self-Service (ESS)?

Employee self-service (ESS) is software offered by human capital management (HCM) vendors like Eddy that allows employees to manage their own data, such as phone numbers, mailing addresses, tax withholdings, etc. ESS also allows employees to view HR-related items such as benefit enrollment, end-of-year tax documents, and paystubs. Because it is cloud-based, the information is available at any time from anywhere. ESS systems may include or combine Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), which compile applicant data, and HRIS (HR Information Systems), which store and track employee data.

How Is Employee Self-Service (ESS) Helpful for HR and Employees?

ESS is extremely useful for HR and employees alike. It adds transparency and access to as many HR processes as you like, from hiring to compensation and benefits.

How ESS Is Helpful for Employees

ESS empowers employees to view and update their data in one place at any time.
  • Employee portal. Each employee can sign into an individualized dashboard, increasing belonging, autonomy, and access to their own data.
  • Company communications. The portal becomes an avenue of communicating important dates and changes throughout the company.
  • Employee handbook. ESS allows for easy access to your organization's policies. Publishing it in a central venue also permits seamless updates; no more printing out and distributing hard copies of modified policies.
  • Tax forms. Tas forms are also available on the ESS. Given that the system is cloud-based, these items can always be made available to employees to complete or modify.
  • PTO accrual and balances. Employees can submit leave requests and see paid time off balances at any time.
  • Benefit review. ESS provides access to benefit enrollment data so employees can review them any time, anywhere.
  • Benefit changes. Employees are able to report benefits changes such as a qualifying life event (e.g., birth of child) quickly and easily.

How ESS Is Helpful for HR

We'll explore specific features such as recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and benefits below. General advantages ESS offers to HR include:
  • Data storage. Imagine no more bulky files and file cabinets that take up space and threaten the security of your data. ESS is a great tool for securely storing confidential records, policies, benefits information, and other company resources that can be accessible anytime from one location.
  • Efficiency. By reducing mundane administrative tasks, ESS enables HR to focus more on strategic initiatives that contribute to your organization’s success.
  • Communication. As mentioned above, an ESS provides a centralized communication portal, again increasing efficiency and the power of messaging. Messages may easily be sent to all employees or specific subgroups.

Common Employee Self-Service (ESS) Features

ESS technology provides an array of services—too many to name—but there are a few commonly used features such as onboarding, benefits administration, and time and attendance.

Time and Attendance

ESS streamlines payroll through its time and attendance module. With time and attendance, actual hours worked, overtime hours, paid leave balances, etc., are calculated electronically, ensuring that employees are paid correctly and on time. In addition, you can set rules within the ESS—for example, alerting managers when employees are approaching overtime or missed clock-in/out punches.


ESS automates benefits administration. With this feature, employees can enroll, view summary plan descriptions, update beneficiaries, etc.


ESS programs come preprogrammed with commonly used reports. Depending on the software you choose, you may be able to create custom reports. Imagine having these and other pieces of information available at the push of a button.
  • Benefit enrollment censuses
  • Employee and dependent demographic information
  • Compliance reports such as EEOC data
  • Payroll reports such as hours worked, overtime, and taxes
  • Affordable Care Act (ACA) reporting


ESS simplifies the onboarding process for both employer and employee. This module walks your newly hired or transferred employee through a series of processes that you predefine. Employees can complete new-hire documentation by providing mailing addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, and emergency contacts. Other items that can be included are I-9 verification and financial institutions' account numbers for direct deposit of compensation.

Applicant Tracking

The Applicant Tracking System (ATS) feature creates a more streamlined hiring process for your candidates. It allows you to manage hiring and recruiting practices, complete tasks more efficiently, ensure compliance, and communicate with candidates frequently and easily. An ATS manages your recruitment process end-to-end, from candidate sourcing to hire.

Best Practices for Implementing Employee Self-Service (ESS)

Best practices are procedures commonly accepted as being the most effective and efficient way to produce positive results. Below are a few examples of best practices organizations should adopt when implementing an ESS.


A discovery phase allows you to analyze the processes you currently have, your needs, and where you'd like to go. The discovery conversation is the initial conversation with both you and the vendor you are considering. These conversations help the provider to understand your organization’s needs and the challenges you face. Discovery helps you identify must-have and would-like-to-have features and learn about system costs and maintenance. Below are a few questions to ask yourself prior to the conversation.
  1. What is working well?
  2. What are our deficiencies?
  3. What is our budget?
  4. Who are the users and what do they need?

Change Management

Change is difficult for many, and it's why we recommend creating a change management strategy as part of your ESS implementation. To be successful in this transition, you must consider how implementing a new system will impact your organization’s processes, current systems (e.g., general ledger), and employees. By putting a change management process in place, you're better equipped to plan, test, and train staff.

Data Migration

Implementing a new ESS requires moving data from one system to another. Your software vendor will primarily complete the process; however, your role is to collect and review the data. It’s important to determine what information you’d like to migrate. Then review that data for any inaccuracies—for example, missing employee addresses—prior to migration. A clean import provides better data integrity.


It’s imperative that you train your staff on how to use the new system. Training is an opportunity to grow your team’s knowledge, share a uniform message, and identify expectations. Keep your employees excited about and engaged with the new product.

The Challenges of Employee Self-Service (ESS)

There are a few challenges associated with the ESS, such as resistance to change and cost, that could impact your organization.


Consider how this change will impact your employees. Employees' reactions to such change can be caused by fear of the unknown; some may feel the need to hold onto what they’re familiar with and resist anything new. Have strategies in place to support and engage everyone.


Implementing a new ESS costs money. How much depends on your organization’s needs. Many ESS vendors charge a per-employee per-month (PEPM) cost. Some charge set-up fees (also known as implementation costs), consulting (primarily throughout setup), and support fees associated with continued support after implementation. Training may be part of the package or it may be an added cost.
Wendy N. Kelly, MSHRM, PHR, SHRM-CP

Wendy N. Kelly, MSHRM, PHR, SHRM-CP

Wendy is an HR professional with over 10 years of HR experience in education and health care, both in the private and non-profit sector. She is the owner of KHRServices, a full service HR management agency. She is also SHRM and HRCI certified, serves as a HRCI Ambassador, and voted 2021 Most Inclusive HR Influencer.
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Frequently asked questions
Other Related Terms
Absence Management
Active Listening
Change Management
Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
Employee Background Check
Employee Discipline
Executive Search Firm
HR Communities
Human Resources Manager
Maternity Leave
Paternity Leave
People Strategy
Percentile Ranks
Sabbatical Leave
Sick Leave
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