Ascentis Workforce Management Glossary

One of my biggest undertakings with Ascentis has been compiling a workforce management glossary, a series of SEO-optimized definitions of key WFM terms. The company saw a significant boost in SEO traffic once this glossary went live, and again as entries were expanded and revised. Here is the entry for “Employee Self-Service.”

Employee Self-Service (ESS)

Empowering your employees has been a hot topic in human resources circles in recent years. The notion of a workforce being just another item in an employer’s toolbox has long been obsolete. Today’s employer-employee relationship is built on mutual trust and respect, and that includes giving your employees more power and autonomy over their own work life. For many businesses, setting up an easy to use employee self-service portal has been an excellent way to empower workers while keeping time and attendance functions operating smoothly.

What is employee self-service?

Employee self-service (ESS) describes any software or technology-based solution that allows employees to access, explore, and adjust human resources functions on their own, without needing to go through a supervisor or HR representative. Most modern human resource information systems (HRIS) include some manner of self-service options that empower employees to take care of basic workforce management functions that might previously have been handled by a company’s HR department. Some common employee self-service functions include:

  • Viewing employee schedules
  • Submitting requests for vacation, sick leave, and other paid time-off requests
  • Downloading pay stubs
  • Switching shifts with other employees
  • Enrolling in employee benefits programs
  • Sending feedback to supervisors
  • Submitting timesheets
  • Updating personal information
  • Making changes and corrections to schedules and time and attendance forms
  • Making changes to W-4 tax filing information
  • Accessing W-2 tax forms

How does an employee self-service portal benefit employers?

By introducing a self-service portal to help empower employees, your organization can streamline a great number of your regular human resources and time and attendance functions. Employee self-service tools can assist with operations including:


ESS systems reduce the time your payroll team spends tracking down information and improves the overall accuracy and timeliness of payments.


A self-service portal that lets employees clock in and out from their computer or mobile device cuts down on time-consuming HR data entry and boosts accuracy in your time and attendance recordkeeping.


Letting employees view and adjust their own schedules via an ESS portal or mobile app takes some of the workload off of your HR team, empowers employees to take charge of their own shift management, and fosters communication across your workforce.

Leave management

Allowing workers to submit paid time-off requests for vacation, sick days, and other leave requirements makes time management simpler and helps ensure compliance with Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regulations.

Data analytics

An automated employee self-service portal generates a wealth of useful and easily searchable data related to time and attendance, scheduling, leave management, and other key functions that can help you set policies, streamline operations, and make decisions about hiring and recruiting.

Regulatory compliance

Depending where your organization does business, your HR team needs to keep on top of dozens of federal, state, and local laws governing workforce management. Employee self-service tools help to mitigate the risk of noncompliance by creating more accurate records of areas like time-off requests that fall under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), overtime hours governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), local rules related to health and safety, various union requirements, and more.

How does an employee self-service portal benefit employees?

Self-service options have a number of time- and money-saving benefits for employers, and they offer just as many benefits to employees. By putting more control directly in the hands of your workforce, your business can foster a more engaged, accurate, and energized work environment.

Employee engagement

By putting more of your employees’ daily work activities in their control with self-service tools, your organization can help to empower employees, boost engagement, and possibly even reduce turnover rates.

Schedule management

For an employer with multiple locations, a variety of shifts, or a variety of part-time and full-time employees, freelance hires, and contract workers, schedule management can be very confusing and prone to human error. Letting employees view and adjust their own schedules reduces the chance of costly mistakes and helps improve accuracy.

Time-off management

Keeping track of vacation time, sick leave, FMLA leave, and other time-off requests is a big job, and trying to manage it by hand is a recipe for unnecessary mistakes. Employee self-service tools that let workers submit and manage their own time-off requests takes some of the burden off of human resources staff, allowing them to focus on more pressing needs.

Learning management

On-the-job training is an important element of any workplace that hopes to improve employee retention rates. By providing self-service enrollment in training, certification, and learning management programs, a business gives employees the power to advance their careers and improve the organization’s overall quality of work.

Accurate reporting

Human error costs employers millions of dollars every year. By putting functions like timekeeping, schedule management, and leave management in the hands of the employees who will be most impacted by them, an organization can cut down on costly mistakes and reduce the workload for human resources staff.

Mobile apps

For workers in fields like construction, agriculture, transport, and healthcare, sitting down to a computer is not always the easiest option. Providing a dedicated mobile app that handles most of your workforce management functions allows employees to stay in control of their work life no matter their location.

How do mobile apps contribute to employee self-service?

Even in industries where remote work is not a regular option, mobile apps for smartphones and tablets are playing an increasingly important role in employee self service options. A mobile self-service app allows any employee using an Android or Apple iOS device to access key functions of your workforce management system from any location. A few key ways a dedicated mobile app can improve your WFM efforts include:

Manage time and attendance

A good mobile dashboard can accommodate most of the same core time and attendance functions that a desktop dashboard can. With a mobile time and attendance app, employees can easily:

  • View balances and paychecks
  • Submit time-off requests
  • Pick up and switch shifts

At the same time, managers can use mobile tools to:

  • Track employee locations and GPS coordinates
  • Manage expenses
  • Transfer hours between jobs and departments
  • Approve time off and leave requests

Send push notifications

A mobile workforce management app should allow managers to create custom alerts and notifications that can be pushed automatically to individual employees, specific groups, or the entire organization.

Improve payroll accuracy

By allowing real-time reporting directly from hourly employees in the field, a mobile time tracking app helps cut down on errors and delays, leading to a more accurate and efficient payroll process.

Increase workplace safety

In an era of increased concern about workplace health and safety, a mobile app can help improve employee tracking, alert workers in the event of an outbreak, and make remote work easier for roles where it’s an option. The American workforce has undergone a lot of changes in the online era. Just as workforce management tasks that used to be handled with pen and paper are now fully automated, labor management considerations that were formerly the sole domain of HR and payroll departments can now be managed more accurately and cost-effectively through the use of reliable employee self-service tools.

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