HR Software

What are the Functions of an HRIS system?

January 25, 2023
Brett Ungashick

HRIS is an acronym meaning Human Resources Information System. The HRIS is the primary HR & Payroll solution that companies use to manage and pay their employees. In this article, you'll learn what features are included in an HRIS, the benefits of an HRIS and how to find the right one.

An HRIS (Human Resources Information System) is the most important tool for any HR department. An HRIS is a prerequisite system that allows companies to digitally keep track of their employees, collect employee data and process payroll. Because of the importance of an HRIS, it is crucial that everyone understands what an HRIS can provide to a business.

Below you will find an HRIS features list for a standard Human Resource Information System

If you're curious what is HRIS software, feel free to read this deep dive article: What is HRIS Software

Shopping for an HRIS? Work with an HRIS advisor to streamline your shortlisting, evaluations and selection - for free!

Features of an HRIS

Employee Tracking

The most essential function that an HRIS offers is the ability to track employee data. Common data points that HR departments want to track are employee demographic information (birthdate, gender, hire date, etc.) Other important items to collect and track include: completion of compliance-related documents, employee job title, pay rate and department. And, oftentimes, this module will provide org chart capabilities and e-signature capabilities

One of the crucial features of HRIS software is the ability to drive employee self-service so that employees are able to update their employee data in the HRIS app

Blog: The 10 Best HRIS Systems for Mid-Sized Companies

Time Collection

Another one of the key characteristics of HRIS software is to provide employees with the ability to track their time worked. For hourly employees, this will mean giving them tools to clock-in/clock-out when their day is over. For salaried employees, an HRIS will give them the ability to view their time-off balances and request paid time-off (PTO). More advanced systems will also have the ability to handle scheduling and workforce planning.

Benefits Management & Benefits Enrollment

Many HRIS systems will also include an employee benefits administration module. This module allows employees to enroll in company offered benefits plans such as medical, dental and vision insurance. Employees can make their plan selections in the Human Resources Management System and that data will automatically be converted into payroll deductions that are accurate from a tax standpoint

Learn More: Request a vendor report comparing the leading HRIS options with pricing estimates included

Payroll Processing

Some, but not all, HRIS systems can also process payroll. These systems will gather the employee's pay rate data from the employee tracking module, their time data and their benefits selections, before calculating the employee's gross pay. Additionally, this system will know the employee's location and factor in their tax liabilities too. Employees can also login to this tool to view previous pay stubs and find year-end tax documents.

Blog: Best Payroll Software of 2022

Recruiting & Onboarding

Many Human Resources Information Systems systems can also support the hiring process for companies. If the system includes an applicant tracking system (ATS), then the HRIS will be able to post jobs to 3rd party job boards, organize applicants and track their movement through the various interviewing stages. Once an employee is hired, an HRIS will often offer an onboarding module that can gather new hire data, such as their direct deposit information, and allow the employee to complete new-hire paperwork, such as an I-9 or W-4. Spmetimes this functionality will be classified as 'talent management'.

Other HR Software Features - Performance Reviews, Surveys, Learning

Most HRIS systems can solve for the core HR functions of hiring, tracking and paying employees. Some HRIS systems can also help develop employees. They can often manage the annual performance management process in a standardized manner that alerts managers and employees when it is time to complete their evaluations. Many modern HRIS systems are also capable of administering regular pulse surveys to check-in on employee morale. Some even have the ability to administer compliance trainings or learning courses to upskill employees.

Blog: The Best Payroll Systems to Integrate with NetSuite

Benefits of an HRIS


One of the main reasons that businesses invest in an HRIS is to ensure that they maintain compliance with the state, local and national employment laws that they are subject to. Employment laws are ever-changing but consistently require that employers are tracking employee data to ensure fair hiring and pay practices are observed. The right HRIS system will compile this data for your business and make it easily reportable, so you can satisfy any agencies' request

Fewer Errors

Before HRIS systems became popular, businesses gathered and tracked their employee data manually using paper and file cabinets. This can be effective for data that isn't likely to change (like an employee's birthday), but for data that is very dynamic, such as hours worked this week, a manual process can open businesses up to costly errors. By letting technology do the tracking and calculating work, businesses can ensure that benefits and payroll are accurately paid each pay period.

Employee Experience

As younger generations move into the workforce, technology becomes an expectation. This generation is used to doing everything on their phones without having to interact with other people. This is the same expectation they'll have about onboarding at your company, requesting time off and viewing their pay. If an employee isn't able to complete these actions by themselves, their view of your company will be diminished

Time Savings

The main reason that businesses are investing in their HRIS is so they can free their stakeholders up to work on more strategic projects. Rather than asking the HR team to gather time cards and do manual data entry, a company with a robust, automated HRIS system can have their HR team work on strategic initiatives such as building out an inclusive culture.

How to Find the Right HRIS

Create a Project Plan

Buying a new HRIS is not something that typically happens overnight. Because multiple stakeholders are involved, it can be smart to come up with a project plan before diving into the process. This article will provide an overview of the stages in the buying process and how long each step should take.

Build Your Requirements

One of the first steps in the buying process is to determine what your needs are.  We recommend first focusing on (a) which modules are required and (b) what high-level outcomes you want to realize. For a full HR Software feature list, it can be smart to build out your HRIS requirements checklist.

Shortlist the Right Vendors

Finding the right vendors to shortlist can be the most challenging and time-consuming part of the HRIS evaluation process. Thankfully, our team can provide the expert advice to help you select the best-fit options. Read up on the best HRIS's of 2021 (and who they work best for).

Evaluate Effectively

Getting a shortlist of aligned vendors is important, but you still need to evaluate those finalists with a discerning eye to determine which will be best for your business. Here are 8 Questions to Ask When Evaluating HRIS Vendors

Make the Business Case

Once you've identified the best HRIS vendor for your business, it is important that you are able to articulate that decision to your other stakeholders, so you can get buy-in for the purchase. Making the business case will involve showing the upside from the investment in a new HRIS, as well as showing how thoroughly you've vetted your recommended finalist.

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Brett Ungashick
Brett is the founder of OutSail. He spent the early part of his career selling HR software before switching sides and going to work for the people buying the software.

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