How the ESS Trend Reformed Everyone's Approach in HR

With trends in HR as with in other industries, there’s always many trends that come and go. Currently in HR, the hype is around the latest digital capabilities in the market. With the rise of technologies such as AI in HR, many HR leaders are looking to integrate such technology into their arsenal to improve their business function.

While these trends present an exciting future of innovative solutions to long standing HR challenges, they can also be frustrating for HR leaders. With each new wave of trends and solutions, there is an added responsibility that is placed on HR leaders to evaluate and examine whether such tools are useful to achieving their goal or whether it is something that can be passed.

Examining HR trends

Borrowing from Simon Sinek’s idea of the ‘Golden Circle’, we can classify HR as such.

golden circle simon sinek

HR exists primarily for the purpose of improving the business performance. The way it does this, is through people management. The fundamental practices of HR comes in many forms, depending on the scope of responsibilities the business places on it’s HR function. What is manifested out of these practices are the trends within the HR industry.

In reality, whether a trend catches on to become a mainstream practice is really determined by the climate within the industry itself. From the market availability of the solution, to the cost and psychological readiness of the people during that period, all these factors determine whether or not a trend within HR sticks.

Knowing that, the purpose of this article is to examine a successful trend within HR which has caught on to become a mainstream practice. From there, to derive insights of the HR industry, such as its pain points and how HR can better manage people to improve overall business performance.

 

Employee self service in HR

A while back, employee self service (ESS) systems or HR portals were a major trend in HR. It’s essentially a HR solution that opens up a portal for the employees, allowing them to make minor record changes or requests such as legal names, home address, and apply for leave. ESS is designed to facilitate the human resources department, by shifting the burden, and making the task of updating necessary information more simple and efficient. ESS systems also help prevent problems that might crop up due to unprocessed updates and also provide employees more clarity.

ESS and HR portals first appeared in early 1990s. Early adopters of employee self service systems included large global corporations such as Pfizer, Dell and Hewlett-Packard. By 2015, with the rise of cloud technology, adoption of ESS systems was at 90% and became characteristic of global businesses worldwide.

According to an study by Cedar for early adopters of ESS, the main drivers for HR portals as such are

  • improved service (98%)
  • better information access (90%)
  • reduced costs (85%)
  • streamlined processes (70%)
  • and strategic HR (80%)

When rating the adoption of such ESS, only 10% of participants from Asia Pacific region rated it as “Less than successful”, with even smaller percentages for other regions.

Cedar survey ESS systems

 

What made it stick?

Aside from the more obvious benefits of ESS systems and HR portals, such as reduced cost, improved HR productivity and efficiency, and compliance and error reductions, there are other features of ESS which made it successful in business.

As a platform, HR portals delivered a consumer grade experience to the employees. An experience that many were accustomed to getting in their day to day interaction with the internet, making the adoption process an easy one for employees. With ESS, for the first time, was employee experience so strategically laid out and perceived as a strategy to improving business performance. Thinking not only from the standpoint of the HR user or the business function but also of the staff.

While ESS systems were designed to shift the burden off HR teams giving employees the access to make updates and small changes, what resulted from this was greater than a mere transfer of responsibility. What ESS systems demonstrated time and time again was the increased sense of control on the part of the employees, which studies have discovered to be beneficial in the workplace.

A study by AIS found that employee’s perception of control in the workplace had an inverse correlation with levels of job stress. Scientific studies have also shown that most individuals had an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases when they were subjected to high demands with little control. Whereas, in the same scenario, when individuals perceived that they were in control, some may thrive in demanding situations.

 

Identifying the underlying need in HR

The success of employee self service points to something greater than the need for a HR system that handles minor administrative tasks. The rise of employee self service systems points to a greater movement within HR, which is the need for HR to appeal internally in their quest to improve business performance through people management.

By making information more accessible to employees, HR teams were in fact empowering the people and communicating a sense of trust from the company. What ESS systems presented was not only the tangible value of an HR portal, but also the intangible value of employee satisfaction through a greater sense of perceived trust, clarity, and control.

Looking at the success of ESS systems and the integration of HR portals as such, what we can learn is the importance of HR in appealing to employees in their approach. For a solution to work effectively, it needs to present value to the right audience, and in the case of HR the right audience should not only be the business itself but the people within the business. For HR leaders and businesses looking to implement a new HR solution, a good rule of thumb is to really consider the employee experience and not just the potential benefits it may bring to the business.


While it’s exciting times for HR, the way of the future is not an easy one. Start streamlining your HR function with Links HR outsourcing services. Links International is an industry leader in innovative HR outsourcing, offering services from payroll outsourcing, visa application,Employer of Record (EOR)/ PEO to recruitment and more! Get in touch with us today for more information on how we can help elevate your HR function.

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Links International

Links International

Links International is an award-winning industry leader in innovative human resources outsourcing in Asia. Links was established in 1999 and has offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Zhuhai, Macau, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and Australia.

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