The days when we were able to sit comfortably in our car at the gas station while a friendly attendant filled our vehicle up and gave the windscreen a quick clean are long gone. These days, we are used to managing our own affairs. There are numerous examples in our daily lives in which we make use of a self-service offer: at the supermarket, the bank, with energy companies and insurance companies, or even at the breakfast buffet in our favorite café.
Self-services are also making inroads into the business environment, as employee portals, for example. These platforms, which are mostly web-based, make data, information and documents available to employees, allowing them to access and manage these directly via the Employee Self-Service (ESS) portal without having to contact HR. There are several ways of making content available via self-services, for example:
- Employee master data
- Leave requests
- Salary statements
- Employment references
- Company guidelines
- Insurance documents, etc.
Do all companies really need an employee portal, though? To help you decide, these are the arguments in favor of a self-service portal as well as the issues to consider before its implementation.
Pros: The advantages of employee portals
Time and cost savings
While inquiries on topics that relate to HR, such as salary statements, changes of address data or leave requests would normally lead to the HR department and are often associated with long waiting times, with a self-service portal, the matter can be settled in a few clicks. By allowing employees to download their own documents, the processes are noticeably shortened and waiting or mailing times are eliminated. This saves both employees and HR managers valuable time which they can use on their core tasks instead.
User accounts for systems that employees only use occasionally can also be partially eliminated, as the required documents can be made available directly via the portal.
Another advantage of employee portals is the transparency created by the digital mapping of processes. If an employee triggers a work-flow via the self-service platform, by submitting a leave request for example, it is possible to see exactly where the request is in the approval process and when the employee is able to expect a response. This saves unnecessary inquiries, which leads to more time on both sides.
Better quality of data
With an EES portal, the employee has full control over their data. If there are changes to their master data, such as a new address or account details, they can make the adjustments quickly and easily. In this way, the topicality of the data is optimized, after all everyone knows their own data the best. Employees can also manage their own training courses via the self-service offering.
Cumbersome, lengthy processes can have a negative effect on staff motivation, especially when it comes to administrative tasks that don’t advance your own work. With the introduction of employee self-services, companies take an important step towards digitalization, and present themselves as modern employers. This can have a noticeable impact on employee retention: after all, digital processes are a must, especially for the younger generation of employees, who are also known as digital natives!
In an era of increased levels of remote work, employee portals have a key advantage: They enable maximum flexibility – regardless of where and when employees work, they can access and manage the information which is relevant to them via the web-based ESS portal (Employee Self Services Portal). When employees are at different locations or do not work at the same time, inconvenient waiting times and dispatch times are eliminated.
Self-services offered via an app can be used even more flexibly. These can be used on any end-device, so that even those employees who do not have a computer workstation can access them on their personal smart-phone. This once again increases the employee satisfaction.
Cons – things to be taken into account with employee portals
Functionality and accessibility
For an employee portal to be a success, it has to function flawlessly. Software which fails to run smoothly, a lack of key features or poor platform accessibility invariably jeopardize the success of the ESS solution, because no one likes to work with poor-quality software.
Good preparation and thorough selection of the solution will take the wind out of this argument. Assess which specific functions the employee portal should offer and which software is best able to implement them. To map out all the information that is relevant to employees and to ensure that processes run smoothly and on a continuously digital basis, a seamless connection to relevant third-party systems is necessary.
Straightforward implementation and the option of a single sign-on are also important requirements.
In the area of HR in particular, there are large amounts of sensitive data: Salary statements, employment contracts, certificates of incapacity for work and employee master data.
If you decide to use a self-service portal for your employees, the security of this personal data must also be taken into consideration. With the right software, however, this is not a problem: Precise access concepts map the data protection requirements and clearly determine who can access which content.
As with any new form of software, user acceptance should not be underestimated when it comes to an employee portal. One of the most common reasons why the introduction of new software solutions fails is that users simply fail to accept the software and do not use it. The investment would therefore be pointless.
To prevent this from happening, the corresponding software should be chosen carefully. A solution that actually adds value by making employees’ jobs easier has great potential to be adopted quickly by users. Therefore, if the aforementioned functionalities are covered, the benefits quickly become clear. User-friendliness also plays an important role. The self-service solution must be self-explanatory so that employees use it and do not choose the tried-and-tested approach through the HR department instead. A visually-appealing user interface that fits harmoniously into the corporate image also contributes to a rapid acceptance.
As everything that is new is generally viewed with a healthy level of skepticism at first, employees should be made aware of the plans to introduce a self-service portal at an early stage. This means that they have enough time to get used to the concept, and may even be able to contribute their own ideas.
Self-service portals – a benefit for the HR department and employees
Employee portals can therefore save valuable time through digital processes, provide flexibility, and strengthen employee loyalty. This benefits both HR managers and employees, and ultimately the entire company, as it frees up resources that can be used for important strategic tasks, for instance.
To ensure that certain issues do not have a detrimental effect, it is important to make a thorough selection of the appropriate software on the basis of your own criteria.