In any company that’s not a one-man band, the human resources (HR) department plays a key role in keeping the place humming. Without hiring, time-tracking, payroll, and compliance, a business simply couldn’t exist.
But when HR processes are largely manual or spread across multiple systems that don’t talk to each other, they can be time-consuming and error-prone.
That’s where an HRIS comes in.
An increasing number of companies are discovering that HRIS is not only convenient but also a critical component of a successful business strategy. They’re also learning that when they want to go global, an HRIS isn’t always their best HR platform.
This guide unravels the intricacies of HRIS and presents an attractive and cost-effective alternative for businesses in the process of internationally expanding.
What is an HRIS?
Let’s take a moment to define the meaning of the term HRIS. What does HRIS stand for?
It stands for human resources information system, a term for software systems that streamline and automate HR processes.
An HRIS is more than just a digital platform. It’s a comprehensive solution that manages all aspects of your workforce. Picture it as an invaluable command center that houses essential data, like employee contact details, job roles, and salary information.
If you’re a business owner or HR professional, understanding and harnessing the power of an HRIS can be game-changing. With this tool at your disposal, you can streamline administrative tasks and manage your human capital with newfound efficiency and effectiveness.
Imagine the convenience of effortlessly tracking attendance, seamlessly administering benefits, and flawlessly processing payroll all from one platform. An HRIS turns this vision into a reality.
The power of eliminating HR admin with an HRIS
Today’s HRIS platforms are intelligent HR solutions that use advanced technology to provide insights and drive efficiencies. They’re powerful tools fit for enterprise-level organizations. But they’re accessible to small and medium-sized businesses, too.
The advent of cloud computing has brought HRIS systems within reach of even the smallest companies. They are an affordable software-as-a-service (SaaS) for HR teams of any size.
Additionally, they grow with you. Most HRIS solutions are scalable, so you can stay with one platform as your business grows.
The benefits of an HRIS are hard to ignore. Whether you’re a startup or an established company, the right HRIS can revolutionize the way you manage your most important asset: your people.
One of the most useful features of an HRIS is its ability to generate detailed reports. These reports are wellsprings of information that can shape your decision-making.
Whether you’re gauging the effectiveness of a recruitment campaign, evaluating the impact of a training program, or analyzing performance appraisal data, an HRIS can provide the information you need.
However, a standard HRIS isn’t always the best option for companies that want to hire abroad and expand internationally, as these systems don’t necessarily include all the functionality you need to employ workers in different countries.
HRIS for international teams
An effective HRIS alternative for companies expanding internationally is a global HR platform like Remote.
A global HR platform is a digital solution that simplifies the process of hiring, managing, and paying employees or contractors in different countries. Most importantly, it ensures compliance with local labor laws, something most HRIS technology is not designed to manage.
This kind of platform is particularly helpful for startups, growing businesses with plans to hire internationally, and multinationals that currently manage payroll and HR with multiple providers.
We’ll come back to the benefits of global employment platforms from time to time as we point out what an HRIS can and can’t do well for internationally expanding businesses.
What’s the difference between HR and an HRIS?
It’s easy to get confused between the terminology of HR and HRIS. Let’s provide some clarity.
HR refers to the department within an organization that oversees all aspects of workforce management, including recruitment, payroll, benefits, performance evaluation, and training.
An HRIS, on the other hand, is a software solution that automates and streamlines HR processes, centralizes employee data, and provides analytical capabilities to support decision-making.
In essence, HR is the function, while an HRIS is a tool that can efficiently execute that function.
What’s the difference between an HRIS, HRMS, and HCM?
These three related acronyms point to different aspects of HR automation technology.
An HRIS is a software solution that manages basic HR administrative tasks, like employee data management and payroll.
A Human Resource Management System (HRMS) adds broader HR management aspects, including recruitment and performance appraisal capability.
Human Capital Management (HCM) software incorporates essential HRIS and HRMS tools but goes even further by offering comprehensive talent management features, like succession planning, career development, and workforce analytics. Think of it as the solution for big-picture focus. An HCM helps you manage the entire employee lifecycle, and it offers basic HR functions.
These three terms are often used interchangeably, and the differences blur as software vendors’ offerings evolve. To keep things clear in this guide, we’ll use HRIS as the overarching term for HR automation systems.
Which system do you need for your business?
With so many different systems on the market, it takes some careful research to figure out which HR technology is best for your company.
But there’s no need to overcomplicate your decision-making when choosing an HR platform. Our best advice is to focus on your HR and business needs. Then, find the system that best matches your unique requirements.
After all, there’s no need for software bloat or overwhelm. The goal is to simplify your tech stack, not add another system on top of what you’ve already put in place or what you plan to purchase down the road to support your company’s goals.
And like we said, if your business is scaling internationally, your best solution is obvious. Remote’s global HR platform is purpose-built to simplify global team management. This can take many international employment hassles off your hands, freeing you up to focus on core business processes instead.
Benefits of HRIS
An HRIS offers important benefits compared to traditional HR practices. Here are some of the most attractive ones:
Efficiency and automation
An HRIS automates many administrative tasks, such as payroll, time and attendance, and benefits management. This significantly reduces manual labor and increases efficiency. It also allows HR professionals to spend more time on strategic activities instead of administrative tasks.
Data management and analytics
In centralizing employee data, an HRIS not only simplifies data management but also enables powerful analytics. HR teams can generate detailed reports and gain insights into labor trends, which can inform strategic decision-making and HR planning.
Maintaining compliance with ever-changing employment laws can be challenging. HRIS simplifies compliance management by automating calculations, tracking the necessary data, and generating reports.
However, the challenge of compliantly hiring and paying employees and contractors in multiple countries is more than what most HRIS systems can handle. If an HRIS can’t manage global employment or payroll, international employers will have to stitch together multiple software platforms or work with different local partners to pay and manage their global teams.
That’s why a dedicated global HR platform like Remote is the best option for any distributed team. Remote acts as a central portal for a company’s national and international employees Remote’s HRIS is purpose-built to simplify the challenges of hiring, paying, and managing a global team.
Remote, for instance, with its extensive expertise in labor requirements in many countries, can manage the complex parts of global HR for your company and guarantee compliance with ever-changing international employment laws.
Most HRIS solutions offer an employee self-service (ESS) portal so workers can manage their personal data, benefits, time off requests, and more. This improves the employee experience and frees up quite a bit of HR’s time.
Integration and scalability
An HRIS can integrate with other systems, such as an enterprise resource planning system (ERP), an accounting software, for seamless data exchange. And as the company grows, your HR software can scale to handle the increased data streams and complex HR processes.
An HRIS can streamline operations, reduce errors, improve decision-making, and free up your HR team’s time, leading to substantial cost savings.
While exact numbers are hard to come by, here’s an example from the HR dimension of recruiting and hiring:
The average cost per hire is nearly $4,700. Some employers say that the true cost is actually three to four times the position’s salary, in no small measure due to the HR labor involved in managing the hiring process.
So, if an HRIS can significantly streamline and track a company’s hiring and onboarding processes, it’s easy to see how smarter recruitment processes that use HR tech can result in cost savings.
In essence, by leveraging technology to streamline labor-intensive processes, an HRIS transforms HR from having a primarily administrative function to a strategic one. And this can contribute in a big way to the organization’s overall success.
When it comes to hiring internationally — something that many HRIS platforms don’t provide solutions for — the difference is even greater because of the costs of setting up a legal entity abroad.
The core functionality of an HRIS
HRIS technologies are designed to cover a range of HR-related functions that will sound familiar to HR staff.
Below are the core components of HRIS technology. But keep in mind that some of the listed functions are more specific for true HRIS functions, and others are more characteristic of HRMS or HCM systems.
An HRIS serves as a central repository for all employee data, from basic contact information to job titles, departments, employment dates, and salary history. It also simplifies time tracking and attendance.
Furthermore, it allows for easy retrieval, updating, and analysis of this data, which supports various HR processes and strategic decision-making. HR administration tools also ensure compliance with labor laws and regulations, which reduces the risk of legal issues arising.
Recruitment and selection
An HRIS can post job vacancies on multiple platforms, track applications, screen candidates based on predefined criteria, and manage interview schedules. Some systems have features for video interviews and applicant scoring, which support a more efficient and effective hiring process.
An HRIS can help reduce time-to-hire, improve the quality of hires, and provide a better candidate experience. It also allows for easy reporting on recruitment metrics.
Training and development
An HRIS supports continuous learning and development. It can track employee skills, identify training needs, and manage training schedules.
Some systems offer e-learning platforms in which employees can access a variety of courses. They can also track progress and performance, which makes it easier to align training initiatives with business objectives.
This essential HRIS function automates the complex process of calculating and distributing employee wages. It considers factors such as hours worked, overtime, deductions, taxes, and benefits. An integrated payroll module can also handle tax filing and reporting.
By streamlining this process, the payroll feature reduces errors, ensures regulatory compliance, saves significant administrative time, and helps maintain employee satisfaction and trust.
As we pointed out, however, when it comes to global payroll, an HRIS that can’t manage global employment or payroll will leave international employers at the mercy of multiple software platforms or local partners to pay and manage their global team. In this case, a global HR platform like Remote is the best option to scale.
An HRIS simplifies the complex task of managing compensation and benefits. It can calculate bonuses and manage benefits enrollment.
An HRIS’s leave management function streamlines the process of managing employee absences. It automates leave request approvals, tracks available leave balances, and ensures adherence to company policies and legal requirements.
This HRIS feature simplifies the process of tracking, reporting, and reimbursing employee expenses. It automates receipt collection, approvals, and reimbursements. This saves time and provides a clear audit trail, enhancing financial accuracy and accountability.
HRIS provides self-service portals in which employees can view and update their personal data, check their pay stubs, request leave, and more. This reduces administrative tasks for HR and empowers employees by letting them easily access their own information.
Reporting and analytics
One of the most powerful components of HRIS is its ability to turn data into insights. HRIS can generate a wide range of reports, from turnover rates to training effectiveness, diversity metrics, and more.
More advanced systems offer predictive analytics; they can forecast future trends, like attrition risk or skill gaps. This helps businesses make data-driven decisions and strategic plans.
The global dimension of HRIS systems
An international HRIS can support multinational corporations with general HR and employee management. But it doesn’t offer critical global HR functionalities.
Global HR management
Managing an international workforce can be challenging due to the many differences in hiring practices and regulations between countries. While HRIS solutions aren’t always equipped to manage these complexities, Remote’s global HR platform is specially designed to handle them with ease.
Here are some of the ways Remote’s global HR platform offers best-in-class solutions:
- Rapid, compliant onboarding and offboarding
- Global benefits plans
- Accurate and compliant payroll for domestic and international employees and contractors
- Equity incentives and employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) management for global teams
An international HRIS should be able to handle multiple currencies for accurate global payroll and benefits management.
Compliance with local laws and regulations
Remote is specifically designed to help HR leaders and users managing compliance with global employment laws. The platform incorporates our internal expertise and the knowledge our team has developed after launching our own local entities right across the world.
Remote manages compliance with different labor laws and regulations across every country where your team members are based so you don’t have to worry about the risk of infractions and penalties.
Time zone management
Coordinating tasks across different time zones can be challenging. A good HRIS can manage time and attendance records accurately despite time zone differences.
An HRIS for international businesses should incorporate features that respect cultural differences, such as varying holiday calendars and work norms.
Global talent management
An international HRIS should be able to facilitate global talent management strategies, including international transfers, expat management, global succession planning, right-to-work permissions, and visas and work permits.
Not all HRIS platforms live up to this task, but the Remote’s comprehensive platfomr has the built-in ability to simplify and manage relocation and mobility issues for a global team with ease.
An international HRIS can consolidate HR data from all regions into one system. This provides a global view of the workforce and assists in strategic decision-making.
Types of HRIS systems
The HRIS landscape is vast and varied, with different types of systems designed to cater to different needs. We’ll explore three key categories: deployment, size and scope, and functionality, and discuss the pros and cons of each.
There are two main ways to install an HRIS: on-premises or cloud-based.
On-premises systems are installed and run on computers within the organization’s premises.
- More control over data and system configuration
- Less dependent on internet connectivity
- Higher upfront costs for hardware and software
- Requires internal IT team for maintenance and troubleshooting
- Less flexibility for remote access or scaling
Cloud-based systems, also known as software as a service (SaaS), are hosted on the vendor’s server and accessed via the internet. This is the preferred deployment method for about 98% of businesses that invest in an HRIS.
- Lower upfront costs; usually subscription-based
- Updates and maintenance are handled by the vendor
- Easily accessible from anywhere
- Depends on reliable Internet connectivity
- Potential concerns about data security, though reputable vendors typically have robust security measures in place
Size and scope
An important distinction in HRIS platforms is whether they are designed for large or small-to-medium-sized businesses.
These are comprehensive systems designed for large corporations with complex HR needs.
- Extensive features and capabilities
- High scalability for growing organizations
- Often customizable to specific business processes
- Can be expensive and require significant time and resources to implement
- May be more complex and have a steeper learning curve
Small business HRIS
These are simpler systems designed for small-to-medium-sized businesses with more straightforward HR needs.
- Usually more affordable and quicker to implement
- User-friendly with less complex features
- May lack advanced features or customization options
- Limited scalability for growing businesses
HRIS functionality can range from integrated systems to specialty systems.
These are all-in-one systems that cover a wide range of HR functions.
- Streamlined data management with a single source of truth
- Usually more cost-effective than purchasing multiple specialized systems
- Seamless interaction between different HR functions
- Some features may not be as robust as specialized systems
- If one part of the system fails, this could disrupt multiple HR functions
These are specialized systems that excel in a specific HR function, such as recruitment or training.
- Often provide superior features and capabilities for their focus area
- Businesses can choose different systems that best meet their needs for each function
- Managing multiple systems can be complex and inefficient
- Data may not seamlessly integrate across different systems
As you can see, there are a lot of options to choose from as you consider the best HR technology for your business.
Key features of an effective HRIS
When evaluating HRIS options for your company, it’s important to look beyond the type of system and consider its specific features. In this section, we’ll delve into six key features that contribute to an effective HRIS.
A user-friendly interface
An HRIS should be easy to use, with intuitive navigation and clear, understandable language that encourages use by HR staff and employees.
- Increases efficiency
- Reduces training time
- Promotes user satisfaction
- Without a user-friendly interface, the system may become underutilized or improperly used, which can lead to inefficiencies and errors.
Data security and privacy
With sensitive employee data at stake, an HRIS must have robust security measures, such as encryption, firewalls, and two-factor authentication. It should also ensure compliance with data privacy laws.
Needless to say, data protection is even more critical for companies going global. Remote has built-in protections that may offer more security in the international arena than off-the-shelf HRIS technologies.
- Protect against data breaches
- Safeguard employee privacy
- Reduce the risk of legal issues arising
- Inadequate data security and privacy measures can expose the company to significant risks, including financial, reputational, and legal consequences.
If your HRIS doesn’t support international expansion, consider going with a global employment platform like Remote instead.
- Allows the system to evolve with the organization, which promises long-term relevance and value
- Lack of customizability and scalability can limit the system’s usefulness and require costly and disruptive system changes in the future.
An HRIS should integrate seamlessly with other business systems, such as accounting or project management software, for efficient data sharing and collaboration across different functions.
- Streamline data management
- Enhance cross-functional collaboration
- Provide a holistic view of business operations
- Without integration capabilities, businesses may face data silos, inefficiencies, and inaccuracies.
With the rise of remote work and on-the-go business, mobile access to HRIS is becoming increasingly important. This allows employees and managers to access information and perform tasks from anywhere, at any time.
- Enhances accessibility
- Promotes employee engagement
- Supports flexible work arrangements
- Without mobile access, the system’s usability and convenience for employees and HR may be limited.
- Analytics and reporting capabilities
An HRIS should provide robust analytics and reporting tools to turn raw data into actionable insights. These could include a variety of pre-built reports, customizable report options, and, ideally, predictive analytics.
- Empower data-driven decision-making
- Enable performance tracking
- Support strategic planning for the business
- Without strong analytics and reporting capabilities, businesses may miss out on valuable insights and strategic opportunities.
While these features are not an exhaustive list, they highlight some key factors to consider when evaluating HRIS and other HR technologies for your business.
Choosing an HRIS platform
Selecting an HRIS is a strategic decision that can significantly impact your organization’s HR function and overall success. Here are some key steps to guide you through the process:
1. Define your needs
Start by clearly identifying your HR needs, goals, and pain points. This could involve consulting with different stakeholders, conducting an HR audit, or benchmarking against industry standards.
Consider both your current needs and future growth plans.
2. Evaluate available options
Research different HRIS systems, keeping in mind the types and features we discussed earlier. Look for reliable sources of information, such as software review sites, industry reports, and peer recommendations.
3. Assess vendor reputation and support
Good vendors don’t just provide software. They offer ongoing support and partnerships. Consider the vendor’s reputation, customer reviews, quality of customer service, and commitment to updates and improvements.
4. Request demos and trials
Seeing the software in action can give you a much better sense of its functionality and usability. So, request demos or trials and use them to test how well the software meets your unique needs.
5. Conduct a cost-benefit analysis
HRIS costs vary greatly across different platforms. One report based on five-year research puts the average at $210 per user per month (users meaning employees with administrative privileges for the software). If the vendor charges per employee per month, expect the cost to range from $1 to $15 per month, depending on the features selected.
As you calculate costs, consider both the direct costs (e.g., purchase or subscription fees, implementation costs, training costs) and the indirect costs (e.g., time spent on implementation, potential disruption to operations).
Weigh these against the expected benefits, such as increased efficiency, improved data accuracy, enhanced decision-making, and greater employee satisfaction.
Implementing an HRIS
After selecting an HRIS, the next step is implementation. This process can be complex and perhaps challenging, but with proper planning and execution, you can minimize disruptions and ensure a smooth transition.
Here are detailed steps for each of the five key stages of HRIS implementation:
1. Planning and preparation
First, define the project scope. You can do this by identifying the HRIS features and functions you’ll be using, the data you’ll need to migrate, and any customizations or integrations that’ll be required.
Also, consider whether you have the necessary internal resources or you’ll need help from the vendor or external consultants.
Assemble a project team that includes representatives from HR, IT, and other relevant departments. You may also need an executive sponsor for high-level support and decision-making.
Then, create a project plan that outlines the tasks, timelines, responsibilities, and required resources. Include milestones for tracking progress and contingencies for managing risks.
2. System configuration
Set up the system settings, including configuring the HRIS according to your organization’s policies, procedures, and workflows. This may involve user roles and permissions, customizing forms and fields, and defining process workflows.
If your HRIS needs to interact with other business systems, set up the necessary integrations and ensure data flows correctly between them.
3. Data migration
Review your existing HR data, correct any errors, and standardize formats to ensure consistency. Determine how data fields in your old system correspond to fields in the new HRIS. This will guide the data transfer process.
Use data import tools or services provided by the vendor to transfer your data to the new HRIS. Validate the data after its import.
4. User training
Develop training materials, such as user guides, cheat sheets, or video tutorials tailored to your specific HRIS setup. Consider different learning styles and needs when presenting the training topics.
Conduct training sessions for different user groups, focusing on the tasks they’ll perform in the HRIS. Provide opportunities for hands-on practice and Q&A sessions.
Offer ongoing support in the form of a help desk or a support system such as a chatbot or internal forum to assist users after the training.
5. Go live
Plan the launch. Decide on a go-live date, and communicate it to all users. Consider a phased go-live, starting with less critical features or a smaller user group.
Monitor the HRIS during and after the go-live. Look for any issues, errors, or user difficulties, and address them promptly.
Measuring your HRIS software’s success
After the HRIS implementation comes the important step of determining whether it’s meeting your organization’s needs and identifying any areas for improvement.
Here are some detailed methods for measuring the success of your HRIS or other HR technology:
User adoption rates
User adoption rates provide a clear measure of how widely and effectively people within the organization use the HRIS.
Low adoption rates might suggest issues with the system’s usability, relevance, or the adequacy of the training provided.
How to measure:
- Track the number of active users or logins, the frequency and duration of the sessions, and the use of the different features.
- Use surveys or feedback forms to gain insights into why people are or aren’t using the HRIS.
One of the main purposes of an HRIS is to improve efficiency by automating tasks, reducing errors, and streamlining workflows.
How to measure:
- Compare key performance metrics, such as the time taken to process payroll, the accuracy of the HR data, and the speed of recruitment processes, before and after the HRIS implementation.
Return on investment
Return on investment (ROI) is a critical financial metric that can help quantify the value delivered by the HRIS. It considers both the costs of the system (e.g., the purchase cost, implementation cost, or training cost) and the benefits it delivers (e.g., time savings, productivity gains, or reduced error rates).
How to measure:
- Calculate the total cost of the HRIS and the monetary value of its benefits over a certain period.
- Use the following formula to calculate the ROI as a percentage: ROI = [ (Benefits – Costs) / Costs ] *100.
An effective HRIS should enhance the employee experience. It should make it easier for employees to access information, manage their data, and interface with HR processes.
How to measure:
- Use surveys or feedback forms to gauge employee satisfaction with the HRIS.
- Ask about the system’s usability, the relevance of its features, and its impact on employees’ HR interactions.
Note that these measures aren’t mutually exclusive — they provide different perspectives on the HRIS system’s functioning that, taken together, can gauge its success.
Consider a balanced mix of quantitative metrics (like adoption rates and ROI) and qualitative feedback (like employee satisfaction) for a comprehensive evaluation.
What are some examples of HRIS software?
There are many HRIS platforms on the market today, each with different features and capabilities. Below are five HRIS software choices that are highly regarded by users for their robust features, user-friendliness, and reliable support.
These examples span the full spectrum of business solutions, especially for domestic HRIS needs. But remember, the “best” HRIS depends on your specific needs and context, and Remote’s purpose-built global HR platform may be more useful for your company if you’re expanding and hiring abroad.
BambooHR is designed for small-to-medium-sized businesses. It offers a user-friendly HRIS with strong features in performance management and employee engagement.
HiBob is praised for its intuitive design that makes it easy to navigate and use for even non-tech-savvy individuals. It offers innovative features that stimulate engagement and maintain company culture, like shoutouts for employee recognition.
Greenhouse is best known for its applicant tracking system (ATS) but has expanded to offer a full suite of HR tools. It’s well-suited for businesses of all sizes. It has strong recruitment and onboarding features that streamline the hiring process and improve the candidate experience.
Oracle HCM Cloud
Oracle HCM offers a full suite of HR functions and is praised for its advanced analytics and automation capabilities. It’s a robust solution for large businesses with complex needs.
Zenefits stands out for its strong benefits administration features and intuitive, mobile-friendly interface. It’s an affordable choice for small-to-medium-sized businesses.
Each of these HRIS technologies has unique strengths. As such, certain solutions may be a better fit for certain types of companies or needs. Therefore, thoroughly evaluate your options before deciding.
And for businesses expanding internationally, make sure you consider Remote HRIS.
A glimpse into the future of HRIS
Like other AI systems in our rapidly changing world, HRIS will continue to evolve and adapt to meet emerging trends and challenges. Here are four key developments we expect will shape the future of HRIS software:
1. Increased use of AI and machine learning
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are already making their mark on HRIS by automating repetitive tasks and providing predictive analytics. As these technologies advance, we expect HRIS to become even more intelligent and proactive.
For example, AI could help identify patterns in employee behavior to predict turnover or suggest learning and development opportunities based on an employee’s career trajectory.
2. Greater emphasis on the employee experience
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of a positive, flexible employee experience and hybrid and remote work environments.
HRIS will play a critical role in facilitating these developments as it becomes more user-centered and adaptive. This might involve more intuitive interfaces, personalized dashboards, or features that support remote work and flexible schedules.
3. Integration within businesses’ ecosystems
HR doesn’t operate in a vacuum. It’s part of a broader business ecosystem. We anticipate greater integration between HRIS and other business systems, including accounting software, customer service management systems, and ERP.
These integrations, which result in more seamless data flows and collaboration across the company, will expand overall business intelligence and significantly impact strategic decision-making.
4. Enhanced data security and privacy
As HRIS software platforms handle increasingly sensitive data, they’ll need to step up their security and privacy measures. This includes not only technical measures, like encryption and two-factor authentication, but also features that support compliance with evolving data privacy regulations.
As these trends unfold, the role of HRIS technology will only become more pivotal. It’s no longer just an administrative tool but a strategic asset that can drive HR transformation and business success.