Edu BlogAugust 23, 2022

What’s the difference between ESS and MSS?

What’s the difference between ESS and MSS?

Employee self-service (ESS) has become a huge buzzword in the world of human resources, along with manager self-service (MSS). But what do these two terms mean? What, if any, are the differences between them, and why is it important for your organisation to invest in both systems?

In a world where remote working has become more prevalent in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, companies are increasingly offering self-service portals to employees and their managers so that they can access information relevant to them and reduce the time they spend manually executing tasks.

The primary objective of these intranet or web-based portals is to alleviate the load placed on the human resources department by allowing employers and managers to interact directly with all the human capital solutions in their organisation.

Employee self-service

When it comes to ESS, companies can choose to incorporate into the system those work and HR-related options that are most suitable to the organisation and make these available to employees.

This usually includes, among others, the ability to update personal information, submit leave requests, retrieve salary slips and benefits information, and submit expense claims.

In this way the ESS system helps to enhance efficiency and productivity in the organisation, while promoting a positive work experience among employees.

Manager self-service

While employee self-service focuses on activities that all employees can do, manager self-service, as its name indicates, is specifically geared to manager activities. MSS is designed for mid-level managers. They log in securely to their individual accounts, which gives them immediate access to their employee information and thus enables them to prioritise and complete tasks and functions applicable to their employees.

Just as ESS empowers employees to perform various functions on their own, MSS systems empower managers to make informed decisions related to their employees. Furthermore, they can do so at any time, from any location, using any internet-enabled device.

It is up to the organisation to decide on the number and complexity of human resource tasks to include in the MSS system, but these usually include daily functions such as the authorisation of leave applications and expense claims. Some companies also choose to include onboarding, performance management, the approval of salary increases, promotions and transfers, learning and development, and succession planning.

With all these capabilities at their fingertips, managers become more self-reliant and are able to perform numerous HR tasks without the need for intervention from the human resource and/or payroll departments.

The best of both worlds

Many human resource and payroll software suites include both ESS and MSS solutions as part of the offering, with role-based configuration. This integrated approach ensures that department managers are accessing the same accurate and up-to-date information as the HR department, but that each user is only permitted to access the data they need to complete their tasks.

Many organisations, however, choose to roll out an ESS system first, and then add the MSS component in one or more separate phases, depending on the complexity required.

Like its ESS counterpart, MSS offers numerous benefits, not only for users, but also for the organisation.

This being said, it’s not uncommon for managers to initially express resistance in performing tasks that were previously the sole responsibility of the human resources division, but once they realise the benefits of having quick and easy access to staff information, and how this enhances reporting and facilitates quicker decision-making, they soon get on board.

One of the main benefits of an MSS system is the high degree of autonomy it offers to managers over their teams. Additionally, MSS enables human resource managers to delegate responsibilities to departmental managers while maintaining organisational accountability.

Just as with ESS, MSS promotes a positive employee experience among managers. When used together, ESS and MSS systems can significantly enhance the efficiency of an organisation in numerous ways.

Better time management

Giving managers easy and instantaneous access to real-time data affords them more autonomy and control over administrative tasks. Additionally, the workload on the human resources department is significantly reduced, as queries and repetitive tasks are resolved and completed on the go, enabling HR to focus on work of more strategic value to the organisation.

Improved policy administration

Enhanced collaboration between the HR department and managers makes it easier for HR to enforce company policies and procedures, especially when it comes to conducting employee performance reviews, carrying out disciplinary actions and monitoring employee learning and development requirements.

Depending on their preference, company alerts and team updates are sent directly to employees’ desktop computer, laptop or mobile phone, ensuring that the required action is carried out timeously. Dashboards that facilitate at-a-glance visibility of completed and outstanding tasks for managers ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

Remote employee management

With MSS, managers can connect with their employees from any location, which facilitates a more engaged workforce.


The 21st century business world operates at breakneck speed. Organisations that manage their HR-related information manually are rapidly losing their competitive edge, simply because they are wasting valuable time with laborious, time-consuming processes that leave huge margins for error.

Employee and manager self-service systems, however, automate and streamline HR-related tasks and both play an indispensable role in empowering employees and managers to work more efficiently and accurately, thus ultimately enhancing organisational effectiveness.


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