The Benefits of Self-Service HR Management

Updated: September 17, 2007

Issue

Is your company still in the weeds dealing with basic HR administrative tasks like filing travel expenses or enrolling in health insurance or 401(k) benefits plans? Today's technology landscape offers a breadth of HRIS (Human Resource Information Systems) solutions, sometimes called HRMS (Human Resource Management Systems), most of which offer self-service capabilities that allow employees to handle many HR tasks themselves.

Self-service HR modules or employee portals have come to the fore over the last few years thanks to the ubiquity of the Web. With Internet access now a staple within companies and at most employees' homes, companies are switching to HR systems that not only automate many traditional processes, but also allow workers to file time and expense reports, enroll in benefits plans, manage their own personnel information, even participate in online employee reviews, all at their convenience. HR managers (and managers across other functional departments) also stand to benefit from such systems. Instead of digging out an employee's paper file, which might require physically connecting with an HR official, company managers with the appropriate security clearance can reference all information about an employee online from a single system, including personal information and job history.

Analysis

The principal driver for implementing an employee HR portal at most companies, small and large, is cost. Experts say reduced administrative costs, including the need for fewer HR personnel to handle administrative tasks, is a big motivator for companies to adopt HR portals. "By and large, the promise of self service that an HR portal can offer looks to be in the area of cost reduction," said Matthew Brown, principal analyst at Forrester Research.

According to a 2006 Forrester Employee Benefits News Survey, 40 percent of the 800 senior HR executives surveyed cited cost reduction as one of the more critical drivers behind their implementation of an employee self-service portal. The top features these portals offer, based on the Forrester survey results, are benefit summary descriptions (81 percent), employee benefit enrollment modification (68 percent), personnel information administration (65 percent), pension or 401(k) tools (54 percent), employee time reporting tools (39 percent) and pretax spending account management (29 percent). Of those surveyed, 77 percent cited employee convenience as a benefit from the portal, 55 percent said cost, resource or maintenance reductions were achieved, and 41 percent reported improved employee satisfaction.

Brown, however, remains skeptical about an HR portal's ability to improve employee productivity. "The company gets rid of the head count associated with HR administrative tasks, but the employees are then asked to absorb the burden of doing those tasks themselves," Brown said. "The question becomes, when are employees engaging in these activities — during the work day? Or are they encroaching on their own personal time on weekends or at night? My guess is it's the latter."

Nevertheless, self-service capabilities are fast becoming a staple of HRIS software. Leading providers, including Kronos, Kaba Workforce Solutions, SAP, Oracle Corporation , ADP Employease and The Ultimate Software Group , among others, offer self-service capabilities as a core function of their HRMS platforms.

At pharmaceuticals maker Sciele Pharma, offering self-service features as part of HR functions is an employee expectation, given the average age of its workforce. "This is the Internet generation — people expect to have this kind of information at their fingertips," said Mark Banks, Sciele's vice president of human resources. "If someone has a baby, they can put it into the system. They don't have to fill out paperwork and fill out forms. It's ease-of-use."

Next Steps

For more information on HRIS systems, check out our Buyer's Checklist: HRIS. Also, be sure to visit the HR Resource Center for in-depth research, community-contributed content and advice from Focus Experts on HR issues.

Featured Research
  • 10 Reasons to Invest in Video Conferencing

    Have you been on the fence about implementing a video conferencing solution for your business? Not quite sure if your employees will utilize it or are concerned about the costs being too high? The modern workforce is adapting and evolving with more and more employees working remotely, it is essential that they have the tools to be able to communicate effectively. more

  • Checklist for Setting Up an In-House Contact Center

    As customer service continues to become the most important competitor differentiator, can you honestly state that your business ranks among the best in your industry? 93% of organizations expect that contact volume will either remain constant or increase over the next two years. It is absolutely essential that you have a contact center that has been set up for success. more

  • 2017 Business Intelligence Trends

    It's long been thought that business intelligence (BI) could only be utilized by highly trained analysts and was therefore unattainable for most businesses. However, advancements in BI have made it so that everyone can utilize BI solutions to help shape business decisions and drive companies bottom lines. more

  • Your Phone System and Your Bottom Line

    Businesses have been using phones to drive increases to their bottom lines for almost a century now. Telephony, much like the rest of the business world, has seen drastic changes with the increase in technological advancement. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP), has enabled companies to connect with consumers at levels that have been seen as unheard of before. And trust us when we say this, it is doing wonders for the bottom line. more

  • How to Scale a Contact Center in 2017

    Are you on the fence about scaling your contact center and not sure how or whether or not now is the time? Studies have shown that 93% of executives expect that contact volume will remain constant or increase within the next two years. This means that now more than ever is the time to begin scaling and we are here to help. more