What is HRIS

What Is HRIS? How Human Resource Management Systems Help Businesses

HR departments have a LOT to do. They do more than hire and fire employees; according to Advance Systems, Inc., a provider of workforce management solutions, “If your human resource department is overwhelmed or does not have the resources they need to perform their jobs, your entire company suffers. That’s why it’s important not only to staff your HR department correctly, but also give them the tools they need to be efficient and productive.”

And thus we turn our attention to human resources information systems (HRIS). (HRIS also goes by the name of core HR systems.) HRISs provide a single, centralized view of employee data, for the express purpose of making that data available to complete HR processes. In recent years, comprehensive HR solutions have spawned several iterations; there’s the aforementioned HRIS, as well as human capital management (HCM), and human resources management systems (HRMS).

The short and sweet distinctions between those three types of suites are:

  • HRIS is a database that keeps track of employee data for the purposes of streamlining payroll, bookkeeping, applicant tracking and performance review purposes. HRIS software can be customized according to business needs.
  • HCM adds onto HRIS functionality with talent management capabilities, including salary planning, analytics and impactful onboarding training. The emphasis is on “human capital” — these systems focus on making recruitment and retainment of employees more effective.
  • HRMS adds even more to the combined HRIS and HCM capabilities, by roping in time and labor management as well as providing the ability to customize more granularly to enterprise business needs. And usually, HRMSs facilitate employees managing their own potential at their company.

In 2016, Bersin by Deloitte examined the disruptions in HR technology they predicted for 2017. A few of the disruptions highlighted in the linked article included: pulse surveys and company culture assessment tools are becoming more and more important, tools now exist to automate performance management, and talent recruitment solutions need a massive overhaul to keep up with the brave new world of hiring processes.

The first step to making sure those businesses can keep up with those predicted disruptions? By implementing an effective HRIS. This article outlines a few of the many ways businesses can benefit from deploying an HRIS.

Common features of HRISs

  • Recruiting/applicant tracking system
  • Benefits administration and management
  • Employee and staff training
  • Self-service employee portal
  • Generates HR reports for employee reviews

One-stop shop

HRISs are a one-stop-shop of employee information. Because they bundle in different functionalities of human resource departments — payroll and benefits administration, for example — they simplify overall people management skills. Many HRIS users happily say that they have been able to transition into (almost) paperless environments.

An example HRIS where this is seen is BambooHR, which simplifies and automates operational HR tasks, freeing up HR professionals’ time to focus more on strategies and outcomes rather than tracking and monitoring applicants and employees. With BambooHR, HR professionals can keep up with competitive job markets and lower the learning curve of employee onboarding. HR managers can also better handle and approve time-off requests, accurately track employee information in the company database, and gain strategic HR insights and reduce decision-making bottlenecks.

Additionally, with BambooHR, companies can make performance management functionality more meaningful. BambooHR’s specific HRIS software centralizes and better wrangles employee data. The HRIS solution can be used in businesses of any size, but it most benefits small businesses because of its ability to centralize, store, and automate employee data.

Kristen B., a user of BambooHR, explained that prior to implementing the solution, she and other managers struggled with keeping documentation in one place. She wrote in a BambooHR review: “Do your research with other HRIS vendors. Some of them offer an all-in-one solution that doesn’t necessarily mean an all-in-one solution. I was able to customize the entire set up [resulting in] efficiency.”


Product highlight: BambooHR
BambooHR What Is HRIS

Product Name: BambooHR
Category: HR Management Suites
G2 Crowd Star Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars
Total Reviews: 206


HRIS easily centralizes HR needs

We touched upon the capability of HRISs to centralize HR needs, but the topic is worth a deeper look. An ideal HRIS provides an intuitive way to customize workflows, manage electronic employee files and integrate with supporting HR tools. (Some users, however, were disappointed when they discovered they had to integrate with third-party modules, as that meant the solutions were robust standalone products.)

Namely is an all-in-one HR platform that helps mid-size businesses create a flexible, centralized employee database, maintain and update org charts, easily configure time off tracking and automate approvals for salary changes and promotions. Namely also provides a unique, social media-like interface for the platform’s employee profiles; ideally, this promotes better engagement amongst employees using the solution. The company also offers Managed Services, which helps smaller companies implement the tool.

Neil S., a user of Namely, wrote in a Namely review that: “Namely offers a completely centralised HRIS platform, which is essential for multi-location businesses. We run operations in Canada, the U.S. and Europe, so we placed a lot of emphasis on making sure our HRIS could provide a consistent experience to all our employees. This goes a long way to making all employees feel part of the same company, irrespective of their location … As a centralised HR department, we needed a single pane of glass view across the business, and Namely provides that. We have access to comprehensive reporting [and] real-time information on key HR and business metrics.”


Product highlight: Namely
Namely What Is HRIS

Product Name: Namely
Category: Core HR
G2 Crowd Star Rating: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Total Reviews: 69


These tools ramp up businesses’ efficiency and effectiveness

Many HRISs offer self-service functionality, which helps ease some of the burden of employee engagement off of HR professionals. One of the aspects that an HRIS works on is the simplification of managing employee performance and feedback. With an effective HRIS, businesses can monitor and analyze all human capital management elements.

SuccessFactors helps business streamline HR processes, master talent recruitment and employee retention, train their existing workforce and integrate with other HR-relevant solutions. The platform is a comprehensive one, its suite made up of the following functionalities: core HR and payroll, time and attendance, recruiting and onboarding, learning and development, performance and compensation, and HR analytics and workforce planning. Those functionalities can be mixed and matched to fit the requirements of any business that implements the platform. SuccessFactors’s HRIS is called Employee Central, and it is focused on promoting visibility within an organization’s entire workforce, translating strategy into operational success and maximizing employee engagement.

Susan Z., a user of SuccessFactors, explained in a SuccessFactors review that: “In general, the user interface of SuccessFactors systems are very intuitive and user friendly. Especially [within] the performance management, succession planning, and talent calibration modules.”


Product highlight: SuccessFactors
SuccessFactors What Is HRIS

Product Name: SuccessFactors
Category: HR Management Suites
G2 Crowd Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Total Reviews: 162


HRIS benefits small businesses

There’s a reason why small and mid-size businesses turn to HRISs to optimize their human resources processes. Why turn to exorbitantly priced HR solutions that won’t necessarily integrate with or complement each other? By bundling in various HR functionalities, HR professionals and departments of smaller companies can provide the same level of benefits and compliance that employees of larger companies have.

Justworks streamlines the back office functionalities of small and mid-sized organizations. The platform bundles its benefits with PEO (Professional Employer Organizations) compliance standards. Justworks’ HRIS solution centralizes PTO management, employee onboarding, employee documentation and payroll automation. Businesses can also customize Justworks’ feature offerings to best support the size, industry and geographic location of their organization.

In a Justworks review, user Rachel G. said that with their company’s HRIS, “which integrates and streamlines most HR functions into one place, and ensures we stay compliant with all relevant federal & state employment laws, [we are] able to offer better benefits to our employees that would be otherwise unavailable to a small business.”


Product highlight: Justworks
Justworks What Is HRIS

Product Name: Justworks
Category: Core HR
G2 Crowd Star Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars
Total Reviews: 45


The tools work and scale with existing HR processes

The recognized benefits of HRIS solutions include: digital management of employee files, easing open enrollment, and a unified database that facilitates the jobs of HR professionals. Therefore, it wouldn’t make sense of businesses to turn to HRIS solutions that don’t work with the existing HR processes already in place. It’s good, then, that HRIS tools are built to supplement and scale with them.

UltiPro unifies HR, payroll, and talent management into an effective employee management platform. UltiPro even offers predictive analytics tools and pulse surveys so that businesses can go beyond the traditional HR route and build a “person-centered lifecycle” approach towards HR management. UltiPro takes on people management with its HRMS/HRIS system, building and storing comprehensive employee profiles for the benefit of the HR team’s reporting, planning, and scheduling functionalities.

Colleen J. M., a user of UltiPro, explained in an UltiPro review: “Implementation is a BEAST for any HRIS platform but UltiPro lays out the roadmap for you. Make sure you dedicate enough time and resources to setting up your system so that when you go live you have a thoughtful system that solves your business needs.”


Product highlight: UltiPro
UltiPro What Is HRIS

Product Name: UltiPro
Category: Core HR
G2 Crowd Star Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars
Total Reviews: 557


The features and capacities mentioned above are just a few examples of what an HRIS can do for businesses. Different tools will exhibit additional or more customizable features. Users should weigh the pros and cons of what an all-in-one HRIS solution can do before deciding on one that advertises itself as such, rather than an HMS or HCM.

Beyond HRIS

An HRIS isn't the only HR solution that can benefit your business. Check out five types of HR tools for growing companies here.

* Please note: Reviews have been edited for spelling and grammar.