HR Information Systems or Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) are computer programs used by HR professionals to better organise the data and processes associated with managing employees and to support managerial decision-making.
HRIS technologies first appeared in the 1960s initially running on large mainframe computers. Today, the majority of HR information systems are delivered online as Software as a Service (or SaaS HRIS) and hosted in Cloud-computing environments. HRIS dramatically improve the ability of human resources management teams to support the wider business.
HR information systems help organisations work more productively, reducing administrative overheads by centralising and digitising critical HR data and automating processes. They support legislative compliance, enable better-informed decision-making and help ensure key tasks aren’t overlooked.
The best HRIS also improve company-wide engagement and collaboration through easy-to-use manager and employee self-service. This simultaneously improves data accuracy and employee satisfaction, allowing employees and managers to take control of the information that matters most to them – such as requesting time off, updating personal information or checking on team performance.
How to select the best HR Information System
Choosing an HR Information System can feel a little overwhelming. There are hundreds of HRIS to pick from and, superficially at least, many of them appear to support the same human resources management processes and offer the same features.
A useful way of framing your search considering the target markets of HRIS vendors.
The most obvious HRIS grouping is by organisation size. While there is some overlap, most suppliers primarily focus on just one market:
Large enterprise HRIS solutions, such as Workday and Oracle, are often part of a wider ERP solution and are aimed at organisations with tens of thousands of employees. They usually require extensive customisation and/or configuration and are expensive, often requiring many months and considerable time and money to implement.
Mid-market HRIS, like Cezanne HR, are targeted at the needs of mid-sized organisations and focus entirely on supporting human resource management. They frequently offer a similar depth and breadth of HR functionality as enterprise HRIS solutions, but may not be quite as configurable. They are, however, quicker to implement, easier to configure and significantly less expensive than enterprise alternatives.
Small business solutions (typically for 5 – 100 employees) reflect the simpler requirements of these organisations. They cover the key HR processes but don’t have the same sophistication or flexibility as the mid-market solutions.
Some organisations have special requirements from their HR technology. Perhaps because of the way they are organised or the way that work takes place.
For example, HRIS for the public sector generally needs to support pay spines and grades; manufacturing or retail organisations may need HR information systems that manage multiple shift patterns; financial organisations have specific compliance requirements.
The majority of HR information systems have been developed to reflect the legislative requirements of a single country. While they may be accessible from other countries, a UK HRIS may not ‘work’ in the USA or Australia, unless it’s been developed from the very start as a global HR information system.
Alongside language and legislative considerations, every country has different ways of working and expectations of their HR systems, including the processes the system needs to support and how data is protected.
The technology platform you select is important as it can have a huge impact on both the cost of the implementation and how easy it is to manage going forward.
A cloud-enabled HR information system describes an older system that has been designed to run across the internet. These systems support the same HR processes as modern Cloud-native HRIS solutions, but are typically more time-consuming to implement and more expensive to maintain.
Cloud-native HRIS are built on a multi-tenanted architecture that is easier and more cost-effective to develop and maintain than older platforms. This is usually reflected in lower fees, faster deployments and easier updates, often delivered automatically and for no cost.