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What is HRIS?

A human resources information system or HRIS helps companies manage and automate core HR processes, like payroll, time tracking, and the administration of employee benefits.

HRIS systems – or human resources information systems – were one of the first commercial software solutions to be developed in the 1980s. Why? HR was then – and remains today – one of the most admin-heavy departments in any organization. Human resource staff are burdened not only with enormous amounts of paperwork and record-keeping, but they are also  the stewards of some of the most precious and vulnerable information about their workforce and applicants. 

 

Technology has certainly evolved a lot since then. Modern HRIS solutions can automate workflows, integrate feedback, and adjust reporting structures – in real time – based on changes in business rules or regulatory compliance. And by delivering consumer-grade user experiences and flexible functionality,  modern HRIS systems are as efficient and user friendly as they are powerful and agile. 

 

The best HRIS software is delivered in cloud, which provides an even wider range of benefits including more data storage, stronger security, and smoother integration with complementary applications such as payroll, applicant tracking, and other HR systems. 

Human resources information system (HRIS) definition

A human resources information system (HRIS) helps companies manage and automate core HR processes. These HR software systems support benefits administration, time and attendance, payroll, and other workflows, as well as the storage of employee data, such as personal, demographic, and compensation information.

What is HRIS? Get all the details in this video.

HCM versus HRIS versus HRMS

HCM is a broad term that encompasses the practices, policies, processes, and software that an organization uses to manage its workforce, from hire to retire. An HCM suite is often referred to as a human resources management system (HRMS), and includes HRIS software.

 

An HRIS uses an employee database to support core HR processes that are more linear and quantitative in nature, like payroll processing or managing time and attendance. In comparison, HRMS refers to a more over-arching software solution that contains an HRIS, but also incorporates more qualitative and complex functionality involved in talent management.

 

For example, an HRIS can help to automate and streamline processes such as employee timekeeping, and when this data is integrated into an HRMS system – the timekeeping data can be analyzed to improve productivity and planning – and in turn – even to help more efficiently automate tasks within the HRIS. 

 

In the diagram below, the overarching term of human experience management (HXM) has also been added because it shows the cultural shift from simply managing employees as a resource to creating a model that puts the employees and their hire-to-retire experience at the core of HR operations. 

 

Knowing which of these software solutions is best for you is not actually as confusing as it may sound. It’s simply a matter of taking an unflinching look at where your company is now, and where you’d like to be in the longer term. And then choosing HR solutions that can serve you today and scale with you tomorrow.  

Diagram showing the relationship between HXM, HCM, HRMS, and HRIS

Diagram showing the relationship between HXM, HCM, HRMS, and HRIS.

What do HR information systems do?

The best cloud-based HRIS solutions support a variety of HR processes and interactions. The technology provides smart automation of workflows across the business, including:  

 

Benefits administration

  • Automated benefits administration
  • Self-serve capabilities for employees to access, edit, and learn about benefits

Time and attendance

  • Accurate management of employee absences
  • Increase administrative efficiency with time profiles to determine employee holidays, work schedules, and premiums. 
  • Automatic calculations of time and pay by employee profile 
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By digitalizing time and attendance processes, organizations can automate and simplify global employee time tracking and meet compliance regulations.

Embedded localization

  • Adapt to country-specific business practices and laws with automatic legal and regulatory changes 
  • Comprehensive inventory of globalization and localization requirements for individual countries 

Employee self-services

  • Self-service capabilities that increase workforce productivity
  • Integrated HR data on a single platform
  • Trackable key HR information based on country-specific requirements
  • Provide employees with a personalized profile page, where they can manage and view benefits, request time off, and more

Organizational structures

  • Analytics for real-time insight to the entire workforce
  • Identify critical positions and quickly make workforce adjustments to address gaps
  • Visualize organizational structures  
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By using modeling tools and embedded analytics, managers can visualize organizational structures to improve recruiting, succession, learning, and workforce planning.

Benefits of a cloud HRIS system

In addition to the basic functionality of a modern HRIS, cloud-based systems are more easily integrated with your existing systems. They are scalable and can more readily be augmented by new innovations and security features. 

 

Below are just a few of the common benefits of an integrated cloud HRIS system:

  • Makes HR admin faster and more accurate. When dealing with people’s livelihoods, there’s no margin for error. With its ability to automate and streamline admin tasks, HRIS software can free HR teams up from the delays and inaccuracies brought on by manual and paper-based systems. 

  • Improves employee experience. Employers sometimes forget how important it is to their teams to be able to see the status of their benefits, payments, and time off. HRIS tools allow employees to directly access their personal information, produce reports, and issue requests – all without the inconvenience and time it takes to go through the HR department.

  • Improves efficiency. HRIS solutions offer a wide range of self-service tools that greatly minimize the need for email and paper-based forms and approval processes. Schedules, workflows, time-off requests, and more – can be automated and managed in real time, and on the fly.

  • Supports compliance efforts. With a rise in remote work and a cultural shift toward greater sensitivity and litigation, businesses need to be sure they’re on the right side of global labor and employment regulations. Cloud HRIS helps to ensure that all HR activities fall within the boundaries of compliance and help to support their workforces. 

  • Keeps things secure. Within HR files are some of the most sensitive and precious data in your company – including employees’ medical and financial records and details. In the past, when this data was stored on laptops or unsecured databases, there was an ever-present risk of compromise. Today’s integrated HRIS systems have advanced security protocols built in to help minimize cybersecurity risks.

How cloud HRIS integration supports core HR processes

While HRIS systems help to centralize and streamline HR processes and administration, there are many other core functions that are going on simultaneously such as recruitment, training, and planning. And you don’t have to be an HR specialist to see how useful it can be for all these essential functions to be unified and centralized.  Yet, when organizations are working with legacy systems and disconnected HR software applications, they’re forced to use manual processes to hunt for tools and information across organizational silos. 

 

The best cloud HRIS systems not only allow for integration with your core ERP, they are built for it. For example, a cloud ERP system manages a wide range of day-to-day business activities and is built to integrate a multitude of disparate business processes. By unifying cross-business data, ERPs provide a single source of truth and ensure reliable data integrity. So when your core HR processes and HRIS are integrated with the speed and analytical capacity of a modern AI-powered ERP – you get the best of both worlds. 

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Explore core HR in the cloud

Learn why organizations are moving their core HR functions to the cloud.

HRIS examples in action

Just a few years ago, it was mostly the largest organizations that made use of HRIS solutions. But as integrated cloud-based systems grow in popularity, it becomes increasingly feasible for smaller – and growing – organizations to leverage the benefits and efficiencies of an HRIS.

 

Here are some examples of companies that have succeeded with SAP SuccessFactors solutions to streamline HR processes.

  • Growmark has been serving farming businesses across the United States and Canada for over 20 years – with a diverse and widely disbursed workforce. They have used SAP SuccessFactors solutions to integrate and automate processes across the entire employee lifecycle. As a result, GROWMARK can run efficient HR processes and attract and nurture the talent it needs to help its customers succeed.
  • Kmart Group revolutionized shopping in Australia, New Zealand, and Asia by offering vast product selections at discounted prices. When the company needed to reinvent its HR system, it turned to SAP SuccessFactors solutions to transform employee experiences and revolutionize the future of work across more than 500 Kmart, Target, and Catch stores.
  • Röhm GmbH, a leader in methacrylate chemicals that keep industries moving. As their business grew, they realized that they needed better support and empowerment for their evolving workforce. Röhm chose SAP SuccessFactors solutions to transform HR and smooth the transition for everyone

Explore HRIS software today

Modern businesses are looking for a unified, global, core HR solution – one that offers a consumer-grade user experiences and supports real-time data analysis and automation. As workforces become more distributed, HRIS software needs to globalize along with them by providing deep localization and compliance across multiple countries. And as business models shift and evolve, companies demand the agility and simplicity provided by a broad range of truly relevant and powerful prebuilds, helping them to implement new processes and applications reliably and quickly.

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Transform your HR systems today

Explore SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central HRIS.

HRIS FAQs

Human resources information systems (HRIS), human resources management systems (HRMS), and human capital management (HCM) are the terms that are often used interchangeably but have a few key differences. While HRIS handles core HR processes, an HRMS (human resource management system) includes these capabilities in addition to talent management, such as learning, development, and succession planning. More generally, HCM (human capital management) is used to describe the broad set of practices and software to manage an organization’s workforce. HCMS software and HRMS are terms often used interchangeably.

Growing businesses and those with a medium- to large-sized employee base, especially across different states, countries, or continents, can get significant value from the centralized, real-time data model and automated workflows of an HRIS.

 

With an HRIS, a company can easily comply with local data protection and employment regulations. A localized, regional user experience supports easy access for HR professionals, managers, and employees around the world.

An HRIS benefits everyone within an organization including HR personnel, managers, and every employee. Automated workflows and centralized, real-time data create efficiencies, which in turn augment productivity across the organization.  

The system can resolve many persistent business problems including: 

  • Manual, time-consuming workflows for HR personnel and employees 
  • Lack of continuity across systems with siloed data stores 
  • Stale and outdated HR and employee information  
  • Limited alignment of HR strategy with corporate strategy 
  • Inconsistent regulatory oversight for corporate and government employment laws 

An HRIS must be resilient and able to adapt to the changing needs of the business. Additional considerations include: 

  • Proper management of the data transfer from legacy systems to the HRIS
  • Scalability of the HRIS as the organization grows   
  • Compliance with regional and global regulatory requirements 
  • Rapid adoption with well-trained employees to leverage the full value of the HRIS once live

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