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Do You Really Need a Human Resources Information System?

Human resource management encompasses a wide range of HR tasks, from employee benefits administration to leave of absence tracking. A human resources information system, or HRIS, is a piece of software that stores employee records in a central database and provides tools for managing and automating HR processes.

Small businesses and HR professionals can use HRIS software to store HR data and aid in decision-making. Since many HR functions fall under the HRIS umbrella, you’ll need to confirm that the HR software you choose has all of the modules you need.

Here’s what you need to know about HRIS software, and how you can use a human resources information system to streamline and automate your workflows.

What Is a Human Resources Information System?

A human resources information system (HRIS) is a multi-part software solution used to store employee information, standardize company practices, and aid in compliance and recordkeeping. An HRIS is usually a cloud-based system, allowing your HR team (and other employees) to access HR information when and where they need it.

It can store basic employee data such as names and addresses, as well as sensitive data such as visa information and Social Security numbers. By digitizing HR tasks in your HRIS, you can minimize the risks associated with handling physical paperwork, including storage and security concerns, and the likelihood of human error.

You can also use an HRIS for additional aspects of workforce management, including absence management and employee training.


The terms HRIS (human resources information system) and HRMS (human resources management system) are used to refer to similar pieces of software. You may see the acronym HCM (human capital management) used in the same context too.

Is there any difference between these types of HR systems? That depends on who you ask. At one point, an HRIS was mostly used for administrative tasks. An HRMS added on additional features such as payroll management and time tracking, while an HCM focuses on tools such as onboarding and performance management.

In other words, an HRIS helps with data management, an HRMS with automation and workflow management, and an HCM with people management.

But these days, there’s enough overlap between the three terms that you can’t easily tell which features a piece of software offers from the acronym alone. Some types of HRIS include modules that were historically part of an HRMS, and vice-versa.

You may need to check and see which specific features a service provider offers in order to find the right HRIS solution for your needs.

3 Key Features to Look for in an HRIS

Human resources information system: entrepreneur writing on a piece of paper

The exact features that you need in an HRIS will depend on which processes your HR department wants to streamline. Here are three key HRIS features to look out for:

Recruiting and Talent Management

A comprehensive HRIS system can assist with every aspect of the hiring process, from reviewing resumes to onboarding new hires. One module to look out for is an applicant tracking system (ATS) which can process resumes, match jobs with candidates, and even schedule interviews with potential employees.

More advanced tools include workforce planning and succession planning, which can help you prepare for upcoming departures and keep key roles filled.

Leave of Absence Management

A key feature of any HRIS is that it can handle multiple types of leave, from paid time off to medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Your HR department needs to be able to quickly field leave requests, track each employee’s remaining leave balance, and collect any necessary documentation or medical certifications.

By digitizing this process using a HRIS, you can protect employees’ privacy and ensure that you meet your obligations under state and federal employment law.

Performance Management

Performance management refers to all of the processes you have in place to improve employee performance, from productivity tracking to performance reviews. Your HR management platform should be able to handle performance improvement plans, corrective action plans, and other aspects of employee management.

A comprehensive HRIS can help you get new employees up to speed, while also tracking team-level performance metrics to identify recurring issues.

What Are the Benefits of an HRIS?

Small businesses may not have a need for a complete HRIS, but as you reach a certain size, it becomes more and more difficult to meet your HR needs with basic systems like calendars and spreadsheets. Here are three benefits of using an HRIS:

Saves Time and Money

Although pricing can vary from one service provider to the next, an HRIS can save you time and money by eliminating manual tasks and speeding up time-intensive processes. An HRIS won’t take the place of trained HR professionals. Rather, it allows them to do their jobs more quickly and focus on more complex tasks and responsibilities.

Eliminates Data Silos

Data silos occur when different teams store information in incompatible formats, so it isn’t easy to share information across your organization. By using a centralized HRIS, each department doesn’t have to maintain its own set of employee records, and HR data can be put to use in multiple areas without having to re-assemble it.

Assists With Decision-Making

Another benefit to a centralized system is the ability to use data to inform high-level decision-making. Your HRIS system should include reporting tools that allow you to track employee performance, absences, leave balances, and more. These metrics provide insights you can use in talent management and workforce planning.

HRIS Best Practices

Using an HRIS can provide many benefits to your organization, but it’s important to choose the right system and roll it out effectively. Follow these best practices when implementing a new human resources information system or module:

1. Provide Training

An HR management system is only effective if your team knows how to use it. Even if your HR department has experience using some components of your HRIS, they may not be familiar with all of its modules.

Before choosing an HRIS, check in with the people who will be using it to ensure it has all of the features they need. When you roll it out, provide appropriate training so they can make the most of everything it has to offer.

2. Ensure Compliance

Your HRIS can be a key resource in breaking down data silos. But some silos should be maintained, such as storing FMLA medical records in separate personnel files. If you’ll be storing sensitive employee records, or need to comply with regulations like HIPAA, focus on data privacy and security when choosing an HRIS.

Set clear guidelines around data access so that sensitive employee data isn’t available to all employees, but only to the HR professionals who need it.

3. Empower Employees

Finally, your HCIS should contain a self-service portal so that employees don’t have to go through your HR department every time they need to update their information. An employee self-service portal makes it possible for employees to fill out documents, request a leave of absence, upload medical records, and more.

Not only does this reduce your HR workload, it can improve the employee experience by giving employees more control over their documentation.

Build Your Own HRIS Using Pulpstream

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A human resources information system (HRIS) is a software solution that’s used to store employee data and perform key HR functions. An HRIS can handle leave management, performance management, applicant tracking, and other HR functions. HRIS solutions work best when they’re cloud based and provide an employee self-service portal.

Pulpstream is a cloud-based SaaS platform that allows HR professionals to streamline HR tasks without having to write a single line of code. Use our drag-and-drop interface to create customized workflows that save time and reduce human error by automating key tasks and eliminating unnecessary paperwork.

From leave management to claims management, Pulpstream can help you meet all of your HR needs. Request a free demo today to see how it works!