What is employee self-service? Benefits + tips to implement (2024)

What is employee self-service?

Employee self-service (ESS) is a set of tools that enable employees to access HR- and IT-related information independently. Typically, this includes an internal help desk, a knowledge base, and self-service portals.

HR and IT teams carry a lot of responsibilities. They help organize training, manage payroll, ensure compliance, maintain critical business systems, and keep the ship together. According to the Zendesk Employee Experience Trends Report 2024, 84 percent of businesses see the employee experience as a critical business priority, so it’s clear why nearly half of businesses are investing in new employee service tools in 2024.

One such tool is employee self-service (ESS), which helps eliminate repetitive HR and IT requests and reduce the burden on those teams by enabling employees to resolve issues themselves. In this guide, we’ll cover what ESS does, how it benefits employee experience (EX), and how you can smoothly implement it into your business.

More in this guide:

  • How does employee self-service work?
  • Benefits of employee self-service
  • Tips for implementing employee self-service
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Build an AI-powered employee self-service strategy with Zendesk

How does employee self-service work?

With employee self-service, employers create tools (primarily self-service portals and knowledge bases) that make HR and IT tasks and knowledge easy for employees to access themselves. Employers must develop an internal strategy to refresh content and keep ESS updated to reap its benefits. Today, AI is critical in helping companies build, maintain, and scale their ESS tools.

With ESS, employees can access information about their employee benefits, request PTO, contact IT, and perform other essential functions independently. This helps deflect HR and IT tickets so teams can work efficiently.

Employee self-service doesn’t eliminate the need for an HR or IT department—it enhances their productivity to enhance your EX. It creates a single source of truth for important information, fosters an environment with simpler workflows, reduces tickets for HR and IT, and improves employee engagement.

Benefits of employee self-service

What is employee self-service? Benefits + tips to implement (1)

Employee self-service portals can benefit the entire company. From improving employee satisfaction to reducing internal support costs, below are the main advantages of ESS.

Enhances employee satisfaction

If employees are left waiting for a response from IT, their projects can get delayed for hours or even days. Employee self-service provides 24/7 support so team members don’t get stuck waiting for help, leading to a more positive EX.

According to the Zendesk Employee Experience Trends Report 2024, over 80 percent of EX leaders agree that implementing self-service tools, such as a knowledge base, leads to a significant increase in employee satisfaction.

Reduces strain on HR and IT teams

Employee self-service answers employees’ top questions to deflect tickets from HR and IT. Employees can browse a knowledge base for solutions rather than taking up a spot in the ticket queue. AI can also proactively suggest relevant articles to employees when submitting a ticket form. Together, these processes alleviate the burden on IT and HR and improve team productivity.

Streamlines access to key information

Sharing information is a key EX principle that builds trust and employee loyalty. An internal help desk and knowledge base create a single place where employees can access everything they need.

For instance, if someone forgets the next enrollment period or how many vacation days they have left, they can check it all in one place with ESS. Employees don’t need to wait for HR to have a spare minute to give them information because they’ll be able to find it easily themselves.

Lowers support costs

Employee self-service cuts down support costs by reducing the resources HR and IT need to do their jobs while also boosting agent productivity. Because employee self-service enables employees to resolve their own issues, HR and IT departments don’t need to add team members to manage increasing workloads.

What is employee self-service? Benefits + tips to implement (2)

Empower employees with a better ESS experience

See how EX software provides your employees with the ESS tools they need.

Tips for implementing employee self-service

What is employee self-service? Benefits + tips to implement (3)

Any time you introduce a new system, you should think carefully about how to implement it. These tips will help ensure a smooth transition to employee self-service for better employee experience management.

Use AI to inform self-service resources

AI tools can facilitate employee self-service in various ways. For example, AI can help teams identify the best topic opportunities by flagging common questions employees ask your internal teams.

Additionally, generative AI tools, such as Zendesk AI, can help writers create full articles from a few bullet points and edit their tone to ensure everything aligns with your brand voice.

Choose the right software

Take the time to survey employees about what the ideal employee self-service experience looks like to them. The best way to ensure success is to tap into EX journey mapping data and find software with features that fit into employees’ existing workflows so they want to use it. In general, prioritize ease of use, a low total cost of ownership, and valuable features for a successful employee self-service integration.

Define roles, responsibilities, and publishing processes

The key to creating an effective knowledge base is to plan the content effectively. Assign roles to team members so they know exactly who is responsible for writing the content, reviewing it, publishing it, and updating it as needed.

Zendesk AI can make the content creation process easier by turning a few bullet points into a complete article to help your content team be more productive. Our software also has approval and publishing workflows, which allow you to designate content editing and publishing permissions across your team and assign article updates. This keeps everyone on the same page and aligned on the knowledge base content strategy.

Refresh knowledge base content as needed

Knowledge base software helps your team establish a content calendar to track which topics are covered and when articles are published. As your company, employees’ needs, or the industry evolves, content will likely need to be updated or archived. AI can help content teams spot opportunities to refresh knowledge so resources are always up to date.

For example, Zendesk Content Cues identifies your top-performing and underperforming help center articles. This helps you ensure frequently viewed content is accurate and allows you to improve or remove articles that are no longer relevant.

Create employee self-service tutorials

We’re all creatures of habit. Whenever you implement new software or processes, people may struggle. Create tutorials for how to use new employee self-service features. For example, ask someone to record a screen share of them performing various functions or explaining how to navigate the portal. Add these to your knowledge base so employees can reference them.

Integrate bots with your ESS program

Bots are a valuable feature that simplifies employee self-service. They can answer common questions automatically and suggest relevant articles when employees reach out for help, lowering ticket volume for internal teams. With Zendesk, for example, you can create workflows for your bots so they know how to respond to inquiries or when to connect your employees with an HR or IT agent.

Answer employees’ concerns

It’s always important to ask for employee feedback and address questions about new ESS processes. In addition to tutorials, look for a tool with omnichannel support so employees can easily troubleshoot or ask questions while familiarizing themselves with new workflows. You can also employ an employee engagement survey to evaluate their thoughts about the ESS process and resources.

Remember—ESS isn’t meant to replace HR or IT departments, so you should still make it easy for employees to contact these teams for help when self-service can’t resolve their issues.

Frequently asked questions

The primary purpose of an employee self-service portal is to provide 24/7 employee support and help your IT and HR teams manage ticket volume. It does so by hosting support articles that address questions related to paid time off, payroll, employee benefits, training, troubleshooting IT issues, and more.

While there are many benefits of employee self-service, it may be challenging to provide effective self-service if you select a solution that is difficult to use and maintain. Additionally, not every employee issue is appropriate for self-service. To combat these challenges, prioritize choosing employee self-service software that is easy to use and supports both self-service and live agent support.

Employee self-service systems are secure if you choose the right tool that meets proper security standards. However, you should educate employees about basic cybersecurity and safety precautions to prevent human error-related security issues.

Build an AI-powered employee self-service strategy with Zendesk

The software you choose is one of the most important factors to implementing employee self-service effectively. Make the most of your ESS with Zendesk and create easy-to-navigate knowledge bases, leverage AI to develop and update content, and build automated workflows. Our software empowers your teams to resolve employees’ concerns faster to create a better employee experience.

What is employee self-service? Benefits + tips to implement (2024)
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