Putting the Power in the Hands of Your Employees – Self-Service Leave Request Forms
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For many modern corporate intranets, employee self-service portals are key to improving productivity and employee engagement. In enabling employees to manage their benefits, submit expense claims or leave requests and access training and payroll information, it takes much of the daily task load off HR, allowing them to focus on more strategic initiatives.
There is a host of software solutions available that provide organizations with a platform for employee self-service. These vary widely and target specific industries, size of company and functionality requirements. They may be part of a larger HRIS (Human Resources Information System) software platform with deep integrations into other line of business applications.
Even if your organization has not invested in one of these platforms or you're looking to digitize specific forms on an ad hoc basis, there are processes that can be automated fairly easily. One such process that we have developed is around an employee leave request form with approval workflow.
We initially developed our Leave Request form several years ago, and it has evolved over time as we developed similar solutions for clients and incorporated features that were specific requirements of theirs. The idea is that an employee goes to the self-serve area of the corporate intranet and submits the request which generates an email notification to their direct manager. The manager clicks to approve or reject the request, and the employee is then notified of the outcome.
The form itself is built using Microsoft Forms (forms.office.com), part of the Microsoft 365 suite. This is a straight forward application that can be used to create quick surveys, polls and quizzes. Using the ‘keep it simple mantra,’ the form design incorporates lots of white space and very minimal branding. The required questions are also very basic. The employee selects the type of leave they are requesting (vacation, sick leave, personal days etc.), enters the start and end date, total number of business days and optional comments. We could have incorporated a calculator to work out the number of business days, but again opted for simplicity.
Once submitted, the request writes to a SharePoint list in the Self-Service portal and an approval workflow driven by Power Automate (flow.microsoft.com) gets kicked off. The employee's direct manager (as recognized by the organization structure in Active Directory) is sent an email notification that there is a request pending approval. The manager can approve or reject it from within the email or click a link to view the request in the SharePoint list. Another workflow creates an email back to the employee, copying the HR department when the request has been completed.
One thing to note is that with our simple form design, once a request has been submitted, the employee is unable to go back and make changes. If they make an error or change their mind, changes need to be made by the manager at the SharePoint list level.
Within the Self-Service portal, employees can see a quick summary of their vacation allocation for the current year with number of days accrued, approved and remaining. Employees can view details of their pending leave requests, any upcoming approved requests and all historical requests. They can configure and filter the view as they like (list vs. calendar view) or export to Excel.
From a security perspective, employees see only their own leave requests. Managers can also see requests for all employees reporting directly and indirectly to them, and HR has visibility into all requests.
Options for extending the solution include integrating it with the organization's time tracking and/or payroll system. We incorporate Power BI reporting so that data is extracted and displayed in a very visual dashboard. Managers can see at a glance the overall status of leave requests. They can drill down to see how many vacation days are outstanding for the year, trends with sick leave and absences in general for a department or individual employee.
The Employee Leave Request form is a good example of how a simple form can offer a self-service solution for what was traditionally a very paper-based process. It can be as simple as required or extended with integrations into other line of business applications to become a powerful tool. We have found that this automated process streamlines the whole leave request experience - for employees, who can submit requests and be approved with very minimal delay; for their managers who can see at a glance where upcoming and outstanding vacation may potentially impact resourcing; and for HR who no longer need to track requests and field enquiries about allowances.