What is a Human Resources Information System (HRIS)? The Essential HR Manager Guide

Regardless of how many employees you have, you must manage their working hours, paychecks, time off, and any other data that goes into their HR file. While it may be easy initially, these data add up, mix up, and become a burden. So here is how a human resources information system (HRIS) can save your business and keep you and your employees happy and motivated. 

What Is HRIS?

HRIS represents all digital tools used to manage employee data, from hiring to training to payroll to time off. The HRIS replaced the physical files that required cabinets over cabinets and gathered dust in every office worldwide.

You can think of an HRIS as the sum of spreadsheets and text files one uses to store employee-related data or as dedicated software designed for this purpose. These digital systems feature browse, search, filter, and report functionalities, making HR management tasks more efficient.

Why and When Should Small to Midsize Businesses Get an HRIS?

Managing employee records with standard software and homemade methods may work for businesses with one or two employees. From that point on, you should get an HRIS. The system automates and streamlines HR tasks, avoiding errors and releasing the HR team from repetitive tasks. It also helps the business comply with labor legislation, pay employees on time, and develop a trustworthy work environment.

In addition, an HRIS provides valuable insights into your workforce. It gathers data for analyzing patterns, such as working overtime and absenteeism, measuring HR indicators, and identifying retention rates. Check out the full list of benefits an HRIS brings to your business.

HRIS Benefits

HRIS solutions offers a set of advantages to businesses who decide to switch from the usual sheets to something more dynamic and modern. Let's see what these benefits are: 

  • Better organization – All HR data will be in the same place, safe, and accessible. Searching for a particular employee or record will be easy, quick, and efficient.
  • No data loss – Human error is almost entirely eliminated. HRIS ensures the business’ HR records archive doesn’t miss a file.
  • Automated HR processes – No more repetitive tasks that take hours and lead to mistakes. HR processes are streamlined and efficient, following procedures that optimize your work.
  • Better communication – Because you have the information a click away, you can be more responsive and improve your communication with the staff.
  • Higher transparency levels – HRIS grants employees secure access to their work-related data. For example, they can check their leave balance or see their team’s vacation calendar. These all facilitate better personal and team planning, work relationships, and teamwork.

Types of HRIS Systems

Not all HRIS are the same, and it may seem challenging to navigate through them at first. However, one can find a few types of HRIS, categorized by their object of activity, and use them as guidelines when choosing. Sometimes, you may need more than one type of HRIS, and that’s fine too. Specialized software provides precise functionalities and saves time on workarounds and complex procedures. Here are the main types of HRIS you need to consider:

1. Limited-function HRIS systems

These systems don’t address all the HR processes but rather a particular category, such as leave management, attendance management, payroll, etc. They are easy to use and affordable (sometimes even free) and help you organize a particular aspect of HR management, which may be all you need. Consider them the first step toward more complex HRIS systems and the first sign that your business is on the right path.

One of such online HRIS system with basic functionalities for SMB's is LeaveBoard.

2. Operational HRIS systems

These systems address standard HR processes, such as managing employee records, payroll, time tracking, and leave management. They cover more aspects than the limited-function HRIS systems but are limited to daily operations regarding your staff.

3. Tactical HRIS systems

These systems address specific HR processes, such as recruiting, training, and performance management. They focus on onboarding procedures, retention rates, and employee development and are used mainly by large businesses with a continuous flow of employees.

4. Strategic HRIS systems

These systems focus on the business goals and process employee data for higher-level analytics, such as budgets, competition analysis, and marketing purposes. They predict trends and spot patterns, providing valuable data for talent management, workforce planning, and other strategic operations.

5. Comprehensive HRIS systems

These systems address everything related to HR management, from basic operations to strategic ones. They are used by large businesses and corporations to manage their workforce and maintain high levels of performance and productivity.

According to Gartners, Magic Quadrant for Cloud HCM Suites for 1,000+ Employee Enterprises, Orcle, Workday, Ceridian, and SAP have been selected as leaders. (Source)

HRIS Elements

Regardless of whether you choose regular digital tools, limited-functions HRIS systems, or comprehensive HRIS systems, they should provide the following elements:

1. Core HR tools 

These are tools for managing essential HR processes, such as employee records management, contracts, employee manuals, and so on. They also help you be compliant with labor legislation.

2. Payroll tools

These tools manage monthly paychecks, process taxes, and generate accountancy reports.

3. Benefits management

If your business provides benefits alongside the monthly paycheck, you need an HRIS to manage them, especially if you choose an e-commerce business model where employees can select the benefits they prefer.

4. Time and attendance tracking

These tools manage attendance, working hours, overtime, part-time, and hourly-based schedules. They also track time off, whether paid leave, public holidays, sick days, or any other type of absence.

5. Training tools

If you provide training sessions to your employees, you need an HRIS to store their training data, such as certifications, qualification courses, future training, skills, etc. Usually, with the training tools, you address the ares of improvement of your employees.

6. Reporting tools

All employee data you gather is useless unless you process it and transform it into analytics and statistics. Reporting tools help you spot patterns, predict trends, manage budgets, and improve recruiting.

Features of HRIS Software

HRIS software provides one or more main HRIS elements depending on their type. For example, a limited-functions HRIS may include only one element, such as time and attendance tracking. But usually, you’ll find that HRIS software is more complex than that and has at least time and attendance tracking, payroll, core HR, and reporting tools.

Another good-to-have feature is employee self-service. It grants employees secure access to their HR records, allows them to request time off, check their leave balance easily, and receive notifications whenever something changes.

In addition, you may want web-based HRIS software that provides access from any location or device and helps you manage remote teams. Usually, a mobile app is all you need to stay in touch with your staff and monitor their data.

You can also consider other features of HRIS software, such as integration functionalities with tools you already use (e.g., calendars, collaborative tools, etc.), recruitment and training tools, communication channels (e.g., chats), and benefits management.

How do you choose and implement the right HRIS?

Moving from one HRIS to another may take a lot of work, so choose and implement the right one from the beginning. To determine what’s best for you, consider the following aspects:

  • How many employees do you have?
  • How big is your budget for HRIS software?
  • How much do you expect your company to grow in the future (e.g., how many employees do you wish to have five years from now)?
  • How do your employees work (e.g., standard hours, part-time, flexible hours, remote work, international workforce, etc.)?
  • What the organization's culture says (e.g., empower employees but provide employee self-service)?
  • What existing technology do you use (e.g., hardware, software, collaborative tools, etc.)?

Once you’ve clarified what you need and what features the HRIS system should have, you can find the right product and implement it within your business.

Implementing a new HRIS software always starts with a plan to prepare your company for the new addition and find a method to introduce employee data into the system. Assemble a team for this task because it will require collaboration between departments and coordination. The steps of implementing an HRIS system are:

  • Ensure the employees that will use the system have the necessary hardware/software
  • Back up existing employee data
  • Define roles and grant specific access to each role
  • Insert a minimum amount of data and test the system
  • Insert all employee data
  • Assemble an employee testing team and ask for feedback
  • Make necessary corrections, if any
  • Plan a training session for employees and gather feedback
  • Evaluate the HRIS system continually
  • Keep data up to date
  • Implement a maintenance procedure.


An HRIS system is extremely useful for businesses of all sizes. It saves time and energy, avoids mistakes, and helps your business comply with labor legislation. At the same time, it provides transparency and increases the employees’ trust. HRIS systems are beneficial both for the company and the staff. So find one that fits your business requirements and enjoy its benefits.


Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of an HRIS?

The main advantages of an HRIS are increased efficiency, automated HR processes, accurate HR data analytics, improved employee experience, and higher levels of motivation and responsibility. The drawbacks may be increased costs and an initial implementation procedure.

Q: What is an HRIS?

An HRIS is a set of tools for managing employee data and HR processes, from recruiting and training to everyday attendance tracking, payroll, and time off management. It can also include means for strategic employee planning and workforce development.

Q: What is the difference between HRIS, HRMS, and HCM?

An HRMS (Human Resources Management System) is a set of tools for managing employee-related resources, such as time and money. However, payroll and attendance tracking tools are already part of HRIS systems, so that you can consider an HRMS an operational HRIS.

An HCM (Human Capital Management) provides advanced workforce management tools, such as talent management, performance management, employee planning, and strategic operations. You can consider it a combination of a tactical and a strategic HRIS system, one of the most complex HRIS types.

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