Choosing a Human Resources Information System (HRIS)

HR professional working at computer

by Adam Coleman, CEO of Lahinch-based HR software solutions provider HRLocker

Hybrid and remote working is pretty much the norm, especially in progressive workplaces. Add rapidly escalating digital transformation to the mix, and organisations relying on paper-based or legacy IT systems run the risk of being left behind when it comes to people management.

Yet, overseeing and supporting your workforce from afar can be tricky. Engagement levels and employee experience can both suffer, especially when onboarding new talent. The solution? A Human Resources Information System (HRIS) allows you and your workers to pay attention to what’s important.

But knowing the ins and outs of these systems, and choosing the right software to meet your company’s requirements, can leave you struggling to know where to begin. So, let’s look at precisely what you need to know.

What is an HRIS?

 An HRIS – or Human Resources Information System – is an all-in-one HR tech solution that effectively manages people within organisations of all sizes. It streamlines processes and procedures so that any employee in any location can access the software. An HRIS helps to keep your teams engaged, improves communication, and manages employee data in a secure, centralised system.

Key differences between HRIS, HRMS, and HCM

There are a lot of acronyms to take in, but it’s essential to know the differences and understand what each means.

HRMS – Often used interchangeably, a Human Resource Management System is very similar to an HRIS. The key difference is that HRMS was more commonly used in the past, while HRIS is most widely used today due to technological advances. Instead of ‘management system’, the term ‘information system’ is now more widely recognised.

HCM – HCM, or Human Capital Management, is a more encompassing term for HR management practices. Nowadays, it includes both strategy and the modern tech we see from HRMS or HRIS.

Why is a Human Resource Information System important?

HR policies and procedures can become fragmented when split between people in different locations. Lack of communication, increased staffing costs, and alternative approaches to the same tasks can lead to a broken system – and potentially broken employees.

For staff without easily accessible HR software, the same queries and issues are raised time and time again – often over email threads that are lost or simply ignored. And there’s nothing worse than losing stellar talent over a poor HR process.

We also need to think about security. Sensitive data and information is HR’s bread and butter. Without a confidential and secure system in place and information being passed back and forth between team members, it’s only a matter of time before a data leak. The cost of which is too high for many small businesses to bear.

Different types of HRIS

Yes, there are different types of HRIS – and no, not all HRIS do what you might require. Here are four types of HRIS:

  1. Comprehensive – As the name might suggest, a comprehensive HRIS is a complete package. This system encompasses everything you might need from HR software, including employee data management, files, clock-in and clock-out features, performance management, and hiring and onboarding reporting.
  2. Tactical – A tactical HRIS allows you to concentrate more on allocating resources by analysing data effectively to make those all-important business decisions, including recruitment, training and development.
  3. Operational – An operational system allows you to focus on internal employee data rather than recruitment. You can review the demographic statistics of your current workforce, see diversity and inclusion data, and spot patterns in employee turnover.
  4. Strategic – If you want to achieve specific goals through an HRIS, then strategic is the way to go. You can focus on growing your workforce or hiring for new roles, helping shape your company to match your mission.

The benefits of an HRIS

Easily manage remote and contract workers – If you’re considering expanding your organisation but are limited in talent or by budget, a flexible and remote offering can help attract those essential team members. The logistics behind this and outsourcing or using a bank of contracted workers might feel daunting.

One of the key benefits of an HRIS is that you can easily manage remote workers, hybrid workers, contractors, and full-time employees in one central location.

Streamline complicated processes – HR is a vital business function – it’s also a delicate job. Finding the balance between managing and engaging with employees without being overbearing is tough. Without specifically trained personnel or an efficient system, the whole process falls apart, leaving employees unhappy and the company at risk.

By streamlining the process with an HRIS, absolutely everything HR-related is kept in one place, and team members feel confident they’re being looked after – and listened to.

Facilitates seamless growth – Change is often a constant, and it can be tough to implement solutions that fit your needs today and tomorrow. This is especially true for smaller companies with tighter resources.

Your organisation can grow seamlessly with an HRIS that manages everything, from different tax codes to identification documents. All at an affordable, pre-set price.

Increases employee retention – Nothing is more frustrating than having to rehire for the same roles over and over again. It’s expensive for you and demoralising for the rest of your team.

An HRIS can actively increase employee retention and engagement, creating a straightforward onboarding process and accessible ongoing communication with team members.

Limits paperwork – HR tech has developed over the years, making many departments completely paperless.

With an efficient HRIS, you can manage holiday requests, performance reviews, and contractual changes all within one central system. Admin time is slashed, so staff can get on with more important, business-critical tasks like recruitment or payroll.

Frees up time for more valuable HR workManual processing of day-to-day requests and updates creates a disproportionate burden on HR staff. It’s also demoralising for HR teams to spend most of their time on mundane tasks.

HRIS self-service portals, as the name suggests, free up HR staff to work on more valuable and fulfilling well-being and experience-focused objectives as employees can fill out forms, make simple requests and instantly get the answers to frequently asked questions themselves.

Essential features of an HRIS 

Whatever you need your HRIS software to do for your organisation, there are some key features you should consider.

Timesheets and clock-in – Whether it’s ensuring a project is profitable or keeping track of employee capacity, timesheets can be a great resource. But if managed ineffectively, they frustrate team members and create masses of admin work for your HR department.

Your HRIS should allow you to configure timesheets to work precisely how you need them to and let you export data easily without manually finding what you’re searching for.

Performance management – Organising your team’s performance reviews and undertaking them is great – but keeping a log of that information safe and secure isn’t always a given. Performance management is another feature you should look out for when considering HRIS software.

You can attach relevant files to employee records and sync your calendar to alert managers when their team’s reviews are coming up. Automation here allows your HR function to run seamlessly.

Reporting and analytics – Whether you’re compiling a report for a board meeting or reviewing data to ensure employee happiness, having robust reporting and analytics features within your HRIS software is essential.

From being able to export timesheets to providing employees with holiday allowance updates, having information to hand without having to crawl through manually saves time, money, and a lot of energy.

Leave management – Annual leave is essential for a happy and productive workforce. A system that allows staff to book and track holiday time without long approval processes easily creates a stress-free environment and helps managers oversee who is off and when.

Applicant tracking system – Hiring is a tricky part of any business. You want to get it right the first time – but a lengthy and unorganised applicant process can scupper your efforts. With an entire recruitment management system, you can effectively manage the recruiting process in one location – and then successfully onboard that team member in the same HRIS.

Self-service portals – Many HR operations are repetitive and run-of-the-mill, yet HR staff spend ages answering the same questions and completing the same tasks repeatedly. Self-service functions, like leave requests and personal information management, not only remove this burden from HR staff but also free up line managers and increase individual autonomy.

Whatever you want, a modern HRIS is an affordable alternative to costly piecemeal tools, old IT programmes and manual processing. They are secure, speedy, and seamless solutions to all HR challenges and an investment you won’t regret.