Employee Engagement

What is employee self-service? [Guide]

By Jana Reserva

Apr. 28, 2023


  • Employee self-service (ESS) is technology that allows employees to perform HR tasks on their own such as updating their personal information, viewing pay stubs, and accessing company handbooks.

  • For shift workers, employee self-service goes beyond streamlining HR. It’s also about giving employees the flexibility they need to be productive in and outside of work.

  • A truly effective ESS software is one that’s optimized for daily operations – think access to schedules, reviewable timesheets, vacant shift claiming, and PTO management.

Updating personal information, managing benefits, and filing leave requests —these are all HR tasks that can be delegated to staff through employee self-service (ESS). But what is employee self-service exactly, and why is it important, especially for hourly workforces?

What is employee self-service?

Employee self-service refers to technology that allows employees to complete various administrative tasks related to HR, IT, and operations on their own. 

It’s all about providing a way for staff to easily get admin work done without going through a middleman. Some common tasks done through ESS include updating bank details, accessing employee handbooks and company policies, requesting PTO, managing and enrolling for benefits, editing timesheets, and much more. 

How does employee self-service work?

Employee self-service is usually done through a portal where employees can view and manage their employment details. Sometimes, ESS portals are managed internally via a company’s private intranet. However, most businesses run their ESS portal through HCM software.

In this instance, employees get their own login credentials and profile, where they can then access various things like their schedules, timesheets, benefits, time off, and more. ESS features allow employees to edit this information themselves without having to get HR’s help. 

The benefit of ESS features

Employee self-service goes beyond streamlining HR processes for hourly employees. It’s also about ensuring employees perform at their best each shift. Here are some of the unique benefits of implementing employee self-service:


Flexibility for shift-based workers is not about extra vacation days or working remotely. It’s about knowing their schedules ahead of time so that they can plan their personal life accordingly. 

Self-service gives employees the ability to see their schedules in advance, file leave requests, pick up open shifts, view their timesheets, and access their benefits or wages. All of these are crucial not only for daily operations, but for giving employees the tools they need to plan their lives accordingly outside of work. 


Employee self-service features are typically only possible if your business runs its operations and HR on a single, online system. With all your data in one place, it’s very easy for employees to update whatever information they need. This, in turn, streamlines things like onboarding, leave management, and timesheet approvals.

Employee self-service features also improve your response time to unexpected absences. Mobile features like shift swapping and shift bidding enable employees to schedule themselves whenever call-outs or no-shows occur.

Finally, communication is also another thing that ESS simplifies for hourly workers. It eliminates the lengthy back-and-forth communication that often plagues fast-paced work environments. Whether it’s a question about their schedules or a clarification about their timesheets, ESS speeds up the correspondence. 

Reduced administrative burden

At its core, self-service functionality really just makes life easier for managers and HR. By offloading basic admin work to employees, managers can spend more time on the things that matter. 

Employee onboarding, for instance, is an area where employee self-service features come in handy. DIY onboarding checklists reduce HR’s time spent on paperwork and data entry by allowing employees to fill in their own information and upload required documents. At the same time, new hires can also access the employee handbook and other relevant company policies as they integrate into the organization.

HR can use the time saved to focus on things like strategic initiatives and skills development programs. At the same time, frontline managers can spend more time on the floor and coaching their teams. 

Webinar: How to Track Skills Development for Hourly Staff

Increased team morale

Employees tend to be more satisfied with their work when a strong employee self-service system is in place. They feel that they’re trusted enough to do specific HR tasks on their own and that the organization values their time. 

Implementing a self-service system signals to employees that management trusts them; this inherently makes employees feel more valued. When things like timesheets, schedules, and PTO details are readily available for them to access, it leaves no room for ambiguity or miscommunication. Employees can rest assured that everything is in the system, and they can refer back to this information if need be. 

Challenges with implementing employee self-service

Implementing employee self-service in an organization can be challenging. Here are some of the hurdles organizations typically come across when trying to implement ESS in their organization:


Resistance to change is a common challenge for organizations trying to implement employee self-service systems for their staff. Some employees may feel like learning the new platform is time-consuming and may prefer the traditional hands-off approach.

Training time

There’s a learning curve to using employee self-service systems, which can affect how receptive employees will be to the new system. It becomes more challenging when you have multiple platforms that employees need to learn. For example, you have one portal for scheduling and another for onboarding and benefits. Employees may perceive this as additional work and struggle to juggle multiple accounts.


Deploying an employee self-service system is not a one-time thing. It’s an iterative process. More than building an easy-to-do-business model, it also needs updated information. 

Think of it as a knowledge base or portal for your employees. Any update on policies, employee handbook, or standard operating procedures must be reflected in the system, which requires regular evaluation and upkeep. 

Analyzing adoption

Getting an employee self-service system up and running is just half the battle. The other half is monitoring how the employees are actually using it.

Analyzing how the system is used is vital to understanding your return on investment. By monitoring adoption and use, you’ll discover how staff engage with the system, what works well with it, and what features need to be improved.

Improving employee self-service for hourly workers

Employee self-service is only effective when it’s implemented correctly. Here are some best practices to realize its ROI for hourly workers. 

Prioritize ease of use

An employee self-service system is only as good as its interface. People tend to gravitate toward systems that are easy to use and low on time commitment. Don’t adopt a dated system with a clunky UI – it will only make employees’ jobs harder. 

Keep it all-in-one

For shift-based workforces, it’s important to have all self-service functionality housed in a single platform. If you can, only subject your employees to creating a single account for everything they need since it’s often confusing for employees to manage different portals.

Make it mobile

Employee self-service platforms are more effective when they’re app-based. Shift workers can’t be bothered logging into a communal desktop to do things like check their schedule or submit timesheets – they should have 24/7 access to whatever they need right from their phone.

Get user feedback

Ask your employees what they think about the system, and act on their feedback. A system may seem good on paper, but nothing beats real-time insight from the people who use it. 

Gather feedback from your employees, validate it, and then see how you can improve your ESS. Remember that implementing it is an iterative process. It should be consistently updated to maximize employee efficiency and satisfaction.  

Finding the right employee self-service software

The best employee self-service system is one that’s optimized not only for HR admin work, but for daily operations. 

At Workforce.com, we’re all about shift workers. That’s why we believe ESS needs to go beyond viewing and updating personal information. For shift-based teams, it needs to be dynamic enough to streamline scheduling changes, timesheet approvals, and much more.

Screenshot of an ESS portal on a phone
Workforce.com’s Employee Self-Service app makes it easier for staff to manage their information.

Workforce.com has a specialized employee self-service platform that allows them to view personal details, access contracts, view time off balances, check schedules, approve timesheets, and bid for shifts, all in a single platform.

Learn more about how Workforce.com’s employee self-service software helps hourly workforces around the globe. Book a call with us today. 


Jana Reserva is a content manager for Workforce.com.

Schedule, engage, and pay your staff in one system with Workforce.com.