Edu BlogAugust 1, 2022

Must-have features of an ESS system

Must-have features of an employee self-service (ESS) system

Work environments are becoming increasingly digitalised, especially with many people working remotely following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Not to be excluded from this trend, human resource processes are also following the digital route, which in turn is driving the move towards employee self-service (ESS) systems.

Usually available to employees through the company intranet or a web-based portal, ESS systems are specifically geared to automating important human resource and payroll tasks, thus alleviating the administrative burden for these departments.

Additionally, by enabling employees and managers to interact quickly and easily with the various human resource and finance solutions in their organisation, ESS systems facilitate improved levels of communication and information exchange between employees, managers and the human resources department.

But selecting an employee self-service system is not a five-minute exercise. Although they come with an extensive range of features and functions, not all are necessarily suitable for your organisation. So before you make a decision, it’s important to first identify the core requirements for your business and then choose the features that will best satisfy these requirements.

No one wants to spend money on a host of features that are never used. Consequently, a modular system offers the most cost-effective investment and allows you to start off with the essential features that satisfy your core strategic objectives and then add more as your business needs evolve.

If you have an ESS system with the correct capabilities, the benefits will quickly permeate throughout the organisation. To assist you in your decision-making process, this article discusses some of the most important features and functionality that every employee self-service system should have, which will not only improve productivity and efficiencies in the human resource and payroll departments, but also enhance employee engagement with the organisation and promote a positive working culture.

Functionality such as accessibility, a user-friendly interface and the protection of data contained in the system are critical. Let’s examine each of these in more detail.

Anytime, anywhere any device accessibility

The primary purpose of an ESS system is that staff must be able to take care of their HR-related tasks at their convenience and while on the go. So whether it’s a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone, staff must be able to access the self-service portal from any device that has an internet connection, at any time, and from any location. There’s no point in implementing a self-service system that can only be accessed on company premises via the company desktop computer.

Easy to use

ESS systems empower employees to access and edit their own information. Because they have direct access to their personal data, employees feel more in control which enhances their job satisfaction. But this only happens if the system is intuitive and easy to use. Even if the system offers a myriad of features, if these are cumbersome and complex to use employees will soon become frustrated and lose trust in the system. Consequently, all the potential benefits to the organisation will not be realised.

Data protection

The Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act, which came into effect on 1 July 2020, stipulates how and when someone else’s personal information can be legally processed, and also specifies how that information must be safeguarded and used.

ESS systems are therefore also impacted by the POPI Act. All information that is recorded, stored and made accessible through the self-service portal must comply with the provisions of the Act at all times.

Companies that fail to adhere to these regulations can be liable for a fine up to R10 million, ten years in prison, or both, depending on the seriousness of the offense.

Now let’s take a look at the various features your ESS system should incorporate.

A study conducted by Easy Software, HR Self-Service: HR Department on Their Way to a Digital Future, revealed that the three most frequently used features in an employee self-service system include time and attendance, requests for holiday leave and recording sick leave. Many ESS systems offer a whole lot more, but it’s important to bear in mind that not all of these may be immediately suited to your organisation, as requirements vary from one business to the next.

Employee onboarding

ESS systems play an integral role in making new recruits feel welcome and connected with the organisation, wherever they are located. The new employees can access important documents such as company policies, as well as their employment contract, and review, sign and submit it through the ESS portal.

Personal information

Employees can update their personal information, such as address, contact and banking details on the ESS system. Approval may be required in some instances, depending on how permissions are allocated in the system.

Payroll information

Employees can view and download their payslips and benefits information. Some systems also give employees access to scheduling and payroll information.

Expense management

Expense and business travel claims can also be submitted and approved through the ESS system.

Leave requests

Employees can submit requests for time off for holidays or other types of leave. When sick days are taken, they can upload relevant supporting documentation, such as a doctor’s note, where applicable. Their line manager can quickly approve or deny the leave request, while the employee can check the status of their leave application through the portal.

Employee benefits

Several ESS systems enable employees to manage their insurance plans, as well as provident/pension and medical aid benefits.

Time and attendance

This feature is essential for companies that require their staff to clock in and out each day. Employees can record and keep track of the hours or days they have worked, while the system also tracks accrued time off, including sick leave, holiday leave and any other types of leave taken.

Social media forums

This feature is becoming increasingly popular among ESS systems. Employees can connect with one another digitally and chat about any issues they are experiencing, answer questions and discuss possible solutions to any problems they encounter.

Performance management

ESS systems facilitate more streamlined and effective performance reviews. Employees can complete self-evaluation exercises online, which managers can access at any time and no longer have to sift through paper-based employee files to conduct their reviews.

Employee wellness programmes

Many companies include wellness programmes on their ESS systems as a means to encourage their employees to adopt healthier lifestyles. Wellness surveys can be included on the portal, which employees and answer and submit in their own time. The human resources department can then retrieve and analyse the information, obtain an accurate picture of overall employee health in the organisation, and action accordingly.

Learning and development

Many companies choose to integrate their online training with the ESS system. Employees log in to the required course, complete it and submit the assessment. The system makes it easy for the human resources division to keep track of employees’ progress as well as their performance.

With an extensive array of features to suit all business types, employee self-service systems offer considerable benefits for employees and employers. By giving employees direct control over their information, ESS systems play a pivotal role in creating a positive and vibrant work atmosphere in the organisation, which enhances business competitiveness and ultimately boosts the bottom line.


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