Among the promises of a human resources information system (HRIS) is its ability to empower employees to manage their own HR activities electronically. From updating personal information to keeping up with paid time off to increasing 401(k) contributions, employees can log into the employee self-service portal and manage their own HR experience. When employees do these tasks themselves, that means HR personnel don’t have to. This frees up time and resources for other HR duties.

But for a company to reap all of these benefits, employees must actually use the self-service portal. If you build it, they might come—or they might not. Brenda Rowan, XMI’s director of implementation and HRIS, offers five tips for getting employees to use your HRIS:

1. Choose the Right Tech

Don’t be swayed by price when shopping for an HRIS. To ensure employees will use the HRIS, it needs to be intuitive and user friendly but also secure enough to protect their sensitive information.

Employees of companies that use XMI’s human resources outsourcing or PEO services have access to a single sign-on portal, meaning one password gets employees access to all of their HR functions. It’s also mobile-enabled, which means they can access it on their phones, which is particularly important, considering 91% of Americans age 18-49 own a smartphone, according to the latest numbers from Pew Research Center.

Another key consideration is training. And Rowan says less is more when it comes to how likely an employee is to use new tech. “You want to make sure the software is so easy that you don’t need training,” she says.

2. Provide Support

That said, not all employees boast the same level of tech savviness. No matter how intuitive and easy to use the software is, some employees will need help. Reduce their frustration by having help desk resources available if needed. These could include brief video tutorials, FAQs or a number they can call for customer support.

3. Explain the Value

When it comes to using new tech, the bottom line question is usually, “What’s in it for me?” The same goes for employees using a new HRIS. Helping employees understand what’s in it for them and the value for the company can go a long way toward increasing utilization rates. “Let employees know that they can have access to this information at their fingertips, whether they’re at the car dealership waiting to be approved for a loan or renting a new apartment and need proof of income,” Rowan says. “That beats the old way of having to keep up with a paper trail or making requests to your HR department and then waiting for them to be fulfilled.”

4. Raise Awareness

Emails, posters and regular reminders about the self-service portal and what it can do help keep this tool top of mind for employees. And don’t just tout it around enrollment season. Send regular updates, maybe with a helpful hint or two, to keep utilization high.

5. Post Info There (And Only There)

A surefire way to make sure employees use the HRIS portal? Rowan suggests filling it with content that employees will want to read. “Using it as a messaging tool is a great way to leverage the technology and increase utilization,” she says. So what kind of content belongs on an employee portal? As you ramp up utilization, stay away from anything truly key to business operations. For now, consider posting details about upcoming events or a clue to a company-wide treasure hunt.

Which brings us to our bonus tip: Make it fun. While there’s not much room for collaboration in something as personal as accessing sensitive employment information, there’s still an opportunity for teamwork. Reward the department with the highest log-in rate or the one that completed enrollment first. “Recognizing good behavior is always a good thing,” Rowan says. “And if it also helps encourage employees to use the portal, then it’s a win-win for everyone.”

Want to take the guesswork out of finding the right HRIS for your company? By partnering with XMI on human resources outsourcing or PEO services, your employees will have access to a modern HR self-service experience they’ll want to use. For more information, call 615-248-9255 or email


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