HR can be a difficult undertaking, and not just for a small business owner who has to deal with it, but also for the HR department of larger corporations. The more employees a company has, the more time consuming it is to handle the administration of insurance, vacation, sick time and other benefits.

In a recent study, a majority (56%) of surveyed companies reported using traditional methods of benefit tracking, like pen and paper or spreadsheets. Only 27% were using commercial HR software. The largest percentage of companies sampled had between 101-250 employees. As most HR professionals know, when your company grows to be that size, it can be nearly impossible to track everyone’s benefits using outdated methods. The harder it is to track, the easier it can be to make an error with someone’s benefits. And nobody – from the employee to the big boss – will be happy if that happens!

So how do you lower your HR costs AND make your employees happier?

Employee self service (ESS) portals for benefits enrollment and tracking can be an ideal solution. ESS portals allow employees to view and manage things like their health insurance, their 401(k) or their PTO without asking an HR employee to handle it for them. The survey showed that some of the benefits of an ESS portal included:

  • “Going Electronic”—HR employees spend an exorbitant amount of time on administrative paperwork. If they are using pen and paper, or even a spreadsheet, that amount of time is quadrupled. Using an electronic system makes sense both for lowering costs and also for allowing the HR staff to focus on bigger issues.
  • Consolidating—As with “going electronic,” using one type of HR software that covers multiple benefits allows HR staff to cut back on the amount of time they spend doing administrative tasks.
  • Improved Tracking—Normally if employees want to view their benefits, they would need to have an HR department member check for them and report back. Using software and an ESS portal allows employees to view that information for themselves without taking up HR’s time.

In another survey, respondents were asked what their top uses for an ESS portal would be and the results included:

  • Insurance Options—The majority of employees who indicated interest in using an ESS portal wanted to be able to choose and enroll in insurance options. Using an ESS portal to do this would again make the HR department’s job much easier.
  • Check PTO—Having an opportunity to view whether they have sick or vacation time available without asking HR would make it easier for employees, such as parents with sick children, to make decisions about taking that time off.
  • Check insurance Info—Employees who have experienced a qualifying life event recently, such as getting married or having a baby, may want to update their insurance plans. An ESS portal makes it easy to do so.

More than half of the respondents in that survey felt that using an ESS portal would save them a significant amount of time when performing administrative HR tasks. They felt that the top three uses – including insurance enrollment, checking PTO and viewing insurance options – were all the most time-consuming tasks and that they should be left to the employee to handle.

Moreover, employees also felt that when given the option to handle their own benefits package through the portal, they were more responsible and were inclined to have less absenteeism.

The survey did ask if any tasks were too complex for an employee and should be left to the HR department to handle. Over 42% said that there weren’t any tasks that an employee couldn’t handle. Overwhelmingly it seems, HR software and an ESS portal are the best option when trying to save money and improve the working conditions of employees.

In the survey, only 49% of respondents said they had access to and had used an ESS portal with their HR software. Others had a portal and didn’t use it, some didn’t have a portal and the remaining respondents weren’t sure if their software had a portal. If all respondents had access t and used an ESS portal, their employers could save a significant amount of time and money.

In conclusion, companies that are looking to improve their HR standards and methods should consider using software with multiple benefit tracking. The software should also have an ESS portal, and the company should provide training to the HR department and employees to allow them to utilize this program correctly. This type of software could benefit companies of any size; however, the larger the company, the more complex the needs are for great benefit tracking.

Have you used an ESS portal in your business? What benefits did you notice? Were there any downsides?