Why self-service portals can increase employee satisfaction

Turning Payroll Data into Gold: Making Smarter Decisions with Payroll and HR Reporting

What do employees really want?

Autonomy matters to employees—and self-service portals are the quickest way to give them what they want.

It is true that employees want more control and autonomy. But that doesn’t always or only mean giving perks like a four-day week or allowing them to work from coffee shops. Did you know that self-service portals can consistently improve workplace loyalty and satisfaction by giving employees more control over their work affairs?

Reconfiguring the work environment

The business world is currently in a tug-of-war. Employers are trying to get employees back to how things operated before the pandemic years. Yet, employees have been exposed to a higher degree of autonomy. Concepts like work-life balance have shifted from fanciful management ideas to practical realities for workers. No wonder employers encounter a lot of resistance from their people when trying to reconfigure remote working and flexible hours.

This begs the questions; what really makes employees content, and even happy, with their workplaces? There are many possible answers, yet as the battle over work hours and locations shows, autonomy is often the best.

Tamarin Duncan, Head of HR at PaySpace tells us; “Autonomy is very important in a business. Foremost, it makes sense because it’s more efficient. A business where everything is slow, manual, and micro-managed does not perform well. And it makes a lot of sense for employees, both because it shows the degree you trust and respect them, and they also have the space to arrange their professional lives.”

The connection between autonomy and happiness is not just anecdotal. A 2022 Journal of Positive Psychology study measured which activities make people happier. They discovered that the type of activity mattered far less than whether the people could do it at their own volition. The fine line between ‘have to’ and ‘want to’ has an outsized impact on personal and professional happiness.

Autonomy and self-service

If we only do what we want, we’d likely be happier (at least for a short while). But that isn’t autonomy. According to those researchers, genuine autonomy is the sense of wanting to take action instead of being coerced into action.

It’s surprising where this dynamic appears. For example, consider a management culture that bullies employees into long hours and unrealistic expectations. But we can easily overlook the more subtle inconveniencies.

Let’s consider a scenario: How easy is it for an employee when they want to apply for leave? They might willingly apply for leave but then feel aggrieved by having to fill in a pile of paperwork and manually coordinate schedules. Another example is how easy it is to get a payslip. Again, the desire for the payslip is a choice, but relying on overworked and stressed HR staff to deliver the slip promptly—this might not be coercive, but it sure doesn’t feel like the employee’s choice.

Duncan says we should also consider: “Everyone has access to technology. They are used to convenience and getting what they need when they need it. These expectations don’t take a back seat when they enter the workplace. It’s the opposite: they often judge their business tools and processes by that standard, and they become frustrated and annoyed when things fall short.”

 Easy ways to create self-service

Employee autonomy and happiness may not mean remote working and similar gestures. In many work environments—factories, mines, retailers, to name a few—they are impractical or only serve a small part of the workforce.

But if we consider that technology has increased expectations of autonomy and focus on creating universal self-services for employees, then every business can contribute significantly to satisfaction and happiness. The examples of leave and payslips are apt examples of this synergy.

At PaySpace one of our most popular services is a WhatsApp bot that engages with leave processes and payroll services on behalf of the employee. Employees don’t need a laptop or even an email address. They just jump onto the app, chat to the bot, and get what they need. In one move, they get self-service to important business services, and they enjoy the same technological autonomy they experience with other services.

Other examples are also starting to emerge. Most recently, generative artificial intelligence is helping employees access business knowledge and data analysis through plain-language interactions. Another example that is becoming more popular at large organisations is employee super-apps that combine multiple self-service and information features into one application.

Concepts like these represent ways to bring autonomy more readily and reliably into a business.

“You can’t do this stuff on yesterday’s technology infrastructure. The best self-service tools for employees and customers are powered by cloud-native platforms. Otherwise, it becomes far too complicated and expensive to do things like integration and automation, or to design forms and interfaces without relying constantly on IT teams. Meanwhile, the best cloud platforms have these features built-in and ready to deploy, at a fraction of the cost of trying to do it all yourself.” – Tamarin Duncan, Head of HR at PaySpace

Research shows us that autonomy is the most significant ingredient for employee happiness. The digital age has given people the satisfaction of self-service and now businesses can harness both forces together through modern cloud-native business platforms.

Some of your employees might still want to work remotely, and yes, a few will never like their jobs. But for the vast majority, a few self-service portals in the right places can be the difference between just showing up and wanting to excel.