Like many human resource (HR) departments, the staff at, a New York City-based seller of domain names and website tools, finds itself stretched thin sometimes. With 300-plus employees worldwide, has only two HR employees in New York in addition to two additional HR staffers in Canada.

Amazingly, the department manages to find time for long-range planning, performance management, and analysis of in-house salary trends. How? It has a secret weapon: self-service HR software.

The HR software keeps track of the company’s benefits and compensation data, allowing employees to view the status of their accrued leave, make time-off requests, or make necessary changes to their contact or benefits information -- all without phone calls or emails to HR personnel. And allowing employees to key in the information themselves online helps boost productivity, too. There are no more forms to fill out in triplicate.

Self-service HR now an essential app

Self-service HR has become so invaluable that a Forrester Research report in September termed it “an essential core application” for businesses. “Virtually any company with more than 100 employees should have an automated system in place,” the report continued. The report noted the benefits to mid-size firms including, efficiency, cost savings, ease in complying with regulations, and managing legal exposure.

Some firms say they have quickly realized return-on-investment in labor savings alone. “Self-service is a tremendous help, because it frees up our time,” says Steve Riccobono,’s HR manager. “It truly helps get us away from the administrative parts of the job.”

Riccobono’s office uses Allixium West’s SelfSource product. Depending on the number of users, the SelfSource system can cost from $1,000-$10,000, according to Auxillium West’s Loy Oppus.

Like, a growing number of small- to medium-sized businesses are turning to HR self-service technologies. The options for businesses include either self-service software, such as applications offered by Auxillium West, Sage Software, and other software manufacturers, or online application service providers, such as Benefit Express.

From payroll services to hiring to COBRA

Many of these services now offer desktop accessibility for everything from basic payroll services and benefits management to hiring and performance appraisal services. ADP’s Employease features “Life Event Wizards” that walk employees through such changes as those accompanying a move or the addition or loss of a dependent or spouse.

“Our employees like the fact they can print their own paycheck stubs, or print off the last six months of pay records if they are applying for a loan,” notes Amie Stout, assistant vice president for HR at Independent Bank Corp., of Ionia, Mich. And because employees update their own information, “this keeps our files clean and up to date,” she says.

Stout’s office uses Sage Abra’s HRMS. While pricing varies according to the number of users, a 300-employee company might pay $12,000 for Sage’s product, according to Sage spokeswoman Cynthia Sutton.

But if employees input the data, could they conceivably alter their compensation or benefit information? Spy on another employee’s personnel file? No, say providers, who point out those self-service applications include security features to protect against employees making unauthorized changes or accessing another employee’s personal data.

Add-on “modules” for services like SelfServe or Sage’s Abra include training, recruiting, and COBRA continuation healthcare software after an employee has left the company. The COBRA tool allows companies to keep track of former employee requests to extend their workplace-offered health coverage with ease. “COBRA is terribly time-consuming,” notes Riccobono. With SelfSource, the company doesn't have to outsource COBRA. "That's a real cost savings."

The only downside to self-service HR, it would seem, is the initial data entry associated with introducing it, says’s Riccobono. “The initial data load can be tiresome," he says, "but it’s so worth it.”