HR Systems purveyors long ago realized that, like “point of sale data capture”, the best and most logical way to have accurate data in a system was to have data maintenance occur at the point of the event, and owned by the person who was most knowledgeable of the event. The result was the introduction of Employee Self Service or ESS. In the 1990’s, when leading HRMS vendors were a bit slow in offering extensive ESS, niche providers like Edify (later acquired by Workscape) stepped in with ESS Toolkits which extended the core HR system’s capabilities in this area. Then, with PSFT release 8.0 in 2000, the HRMS market leader in the U.S. (at that time) significantly expanded its set of ESS transactions from roughly 20 to over 100, and made that enhancement one of the cornerstones of marketing that release.
Over the last 10 years, the concept and capability set of ESS has largely remained the same; i.e., fairly tactical self-updating capabilities around personal information such as changing an address or emergency contact, adding a dependent or beneficiary, changing payroll exemptions, adding new education or training information, etc. One interesting advance on the ESS front during this time was the embedding of role-based and personalized content, aimed at offering decision-support and coaching for managers, and content support for employees; e.g., informing them of their benefits enrollment options while enrolling. This was in fact the core offering of Enwisen, now part of Lawson.
More recently, core HR / HRMS solution providers have added the ability for employees to update their career interests, hobbies and other involvements outside work. This latter type of information obviously gives people-managers and organizations overall a much better opportunity to really connect with (needed to truly leverage) their human assets.
The continuing evolution and even future vision of ESS came up in my conversations yesterday with two prominent Talent Management suite vendors: SuccessFactors – in relation to their Employee Central offering for core HR functionality, and PeopleclickAuthoria. In fact, when Charles Jones — the Chairman and CEO of Peopleclick Authoria — uses phrases like “the system of record is fast-becoming the individual”, and “productivity is now all about total awareness and collaboration”, you know there’s a sea change going on relative to what core HR means, who owns it and the new way of defining ESS. Note: Silkroad Technology is also very much in the mix here with their HeartBeat offering.
With respect to redefining ESS, and whatever suitable replacement term someone comes up with, just think about the phrase above — “total awareness and collaboration” – and think of all of the events, knowledge and forums for collaboration that relate to employees that are part of the value they bring to the organization and their fellow employees. Those events, pieces of knowledge and collaborations are the future of ESS.
Principal Analyst, People Systems