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What is an HRMS?

A human resources management system (HRMS) helps businesses manage and automate their core HR processes such as employee data storage, benefits administration, time and attendance, and payroll. In addition, an HRMS provides talent management capabilities such as recruiting, onboarding, performance management, goal planning, learning and training, compensation, and succession planning.


A modern HRMS helps to replace traditional labor-intensive spreadsheet and paper-based processes. An HRMS also reduces human error and automates repetitive and time-consuming manual processes. This allows HR team members to focus on higher-value and, ultimately, more rewarding work.

HRMS history

In the 1970s, larger companies were digitizing some of their basic processes, particularly data-heavy and error-prone functions like payroll and accounting, but these early human resources management systems were limited in scope. By the 1990s, more powerful mainframe computing and the rise of the Internet allowed businesses to digitize and automate a wider range of core HR functions like records management, benefits administration, and recruitment workflows. 


Today, with the growth of smart technologies and cloud connectivity, HR processes are no longer limited to transactional data. A modern HRMS can gather and integrate data to adjust reporting structures in real time, based on regional variances in infrastructure, laws, and regulatory compliance. These systems also automate workflow and leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to create smarter and more streamlined processes.

HCM versus HRIS versus HRMS

Human capital management (HCM), human resources management systems (HRMS), and human resources information systems (HRIS), are HR terms that are often used interchangeably but have a few key differences. 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 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.


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


Why is HRMS software so important today?

For many years, businesses have considered the use of new technologies and ways to better automate their HR processes. When the pandemic hit, it brought with it massive and unprecedented changes to the workforce. HR teams were forced to – very suddenly – begin using new technologies to support and manage a newly remote and distributed workforce.


At first, many of these transitions were problematic, but now, more than a year on, HR leaders have become more creative and adaptive in their practices. An SHRM article tells us that this has ultimately turned out to be a good thing. With their entire workforce becoming remote – almost overnight – HR teams became the “first responders” of the business world, and many other departments and team leaders have taken their lead. In the wake of the pandemic, many companies suddenly became aware of just what a goldmine of data and people analytics they had in their HR departments – and how that information could help them inform decisions and strategies across the business.


Today, HRMS software is invaluable in helping businesses organize, understand, and streamline this rapidly changing world of work. HRMS solutions put complex HR processes in one place, giving businesses centralized employee data storage, automation capabilities, and embedded AI and advanced analytics. Additionally, sophisticated, user-friendly talent management capabilities help ensure that businesses are recruiting, developing, and retaining the best talent in their industries.


Whirlpool: HRMS success story

After implementing an HRMS, Whirlpool saw a 20% reduction in HR operating costs.

Who uses HRMS software?

Many of the areas listed below have traditionally been quite siloed – feedback or new data in one would not necessarily have made it to the other. A modern HRMS not only optimizes and improves the processes for each of these professionals, but also ensures that the data they gather and feedback they give gets shared – and is able to inform the wider body of people analytics.

  • HR professionals: For HR teams, the usefulness of an HRMS extends from basic editing and access to employee data – all the way to delivering complex data-driven reporting and automating sophisticated talent management tasks.
  • Recruiters: HRMS tools give recruiters a centralized portal from which to post job requisitions, nurture and source candidates, and access and customize onboarding functions.
  • Managers: Even from their mobile devices, managers can use HRMS software to oversee team structure, track time and absences, approve vacation and time off requests, and track employees’ performance to see if they need support or feedback to help them meet their goals.
  • Employees: A single user-friendly portal can allow employees to edit their personal data, view organizational charts, input time and vacation requests, view learning assignments, and even manage their personal career goals and development plans.
  • Candidates: Today’s candidates have dedicated HRMS portals to help them search and apply for jobs, track application status, and accept digital offers with electronic signatures.

HRMS software components

HRMS software can provide clarity and simplification. Bringing workforce data together in one place not only makes things easier for the business, but also provides insights and analysis from disparate sources and departments to deliver increasingly accurate and actionable recommendations and reports.


Here are the different elements of an HRMS solution:

  1. HRIS: Core HR and payroll

    Employee self-service: HRIS tools help both employees and team leaders to clear away the clutter of legacy and paper-based HR administrative tasks. Self-service, mobile-friendly capabilities help to increase workforce productivity and transparency in myriad areas, such as employee data management, reporting and analytics, time and attendance, and payroll.

    Benefits management: With an increase in hybrid workplace models, businesses struggle more than ever to keep up with the many benefits requirements across the United States. Automated benefits administration can dig HR teams out from under this mountain of paperwork and free them up to provide the knowledgeable advice and guidance that employees value in these crucial areas of their lives. Self-service, mobile-friendly employee portals further empower workers to keep an informed eye on benefits for themselves and their families.

    Time management: Payroll leakage is the result of inaccurate timekeeping practices by employees and managers and can cost businesses up to 2.5% of their total payroll expenses. While sometimes intentional, it is often due to errors from outdated systems and inaccurate manual practices. But fortunately, it’s one of the more highly preventable areas of operational loss and can be greatly mitigated with the use of intelligent HR software solutions. HRMS tools are highly customizable and can be synchronized with holidays, accrual, and other business rules. Automatic calculations of time and pay are integrated with payroll functions and employees have self-serve access to help them gain the full view of their timekeeping.

  2. Talent management

    Recruitment and onboarding: Despite an enormous COVID-19-driven spike in unemployment in the past year, employers are finding a shift in attitudes and expectations and are finding it difficult to find available candidates. HRMS solutions can help employers optimize the recruitment process to make sure they can find and attract top talent. This includes better support for global talent sourcing and candidate relationship management. It also supports more comprehensive applicant tracking and streamlined processes to support succession planning.

    And for new hires, HRMS onboarding tools can provide a portal for new employees – including paperless and automated new hire workflows and a more engaging and personalized training and onboarding process.

    Performance and compensation management: Performance management can be challenging, requiring businesses to balance both qualitative and quantitative data while remaining objective. HRMS tools can help to manage employee goals and reviews, delivering continuous performance management alongside guided action planning.

    Managing compensation can also be a tricky proposition requiring the assessment of multiple factors both inside and outside the business. HRMS software can help effectively support compensation planning and design.

    Learning and professional development: Growth and career development are crucial parts of the employee experience. HRMS tools use smart technology to deliver a more personalized and engaging learning experience – connecting people, information, and experts across the business and beyond. For employees, this helps them better structure their time and career planning goals. Mandatory learning and compliance training can be easily scheduled, and more long-term aims like leadership development and succession planning can be incorporated into their calendars in ways that best suit their unique needs and commitments.

    Sales performance management: As any business leader can tell you, their sales teams are at their best when they’re out there selling and nurturing leads. An HRMS helps businesses streamline and centrally manage sales-related issues like commissions, territories and quotas, and even agent performance.

  3. Analytics and workforce planning: Data-driven insights are key to aligning HR with the overall corporate strategy. With metrics and KPIs, reporting, predictive workforce modeling, and AI-powered analytics, HR leaders can better support strategic and operational planning as well as budgeting and performance management.

  4. Employee experience management: With an increased focus on the employee experience, businesses must look for innovative ways to better understand why employees feel the way they do about their experiences at work, starting as a candidate to the day they leave and everything in between.

    Voice of the employee (VoE) technologies and tools to gather this information include 360-degree feedback assessments, surveys, behavioral and sentiment analysis, and more. Using these insights, organizations can personalize each employee’s experiences across their lifecycle, boosting engagement and productivity.

HRMS systems and the next steps to digital transformation in HR

Digital transformation in HR and any major operational change will always meet some initial pushback and inertia – as well as incur some inevitable risk. The best way to prepare for an operational change is to start sharing and communicating about the project aims and goals. When there are open lines of communication between your team leaders, executives, and HR specialists you can start to break down walls. Effective change management and planning strategies can help better prepare your teams to secure buy-in early on.


The list below highlights some important checklist items as you embark upon your HR digital transformation.

  • Data integrity: Before you begin the data migration process, ensure that you have the right resources and upskill or reskill your IT talent to ensure that you can accomplish this task and minimize human error.  
  • Costs and effort: Quantify the project requirements across all impacted areas of the business, including implementation and integrations. Identify realistic budgets and timelines to help ensure deployment success. 
  • Current and future needs: Work closely with your department and team leaders from the beginning to make sure that you understand their specific goals, requirements, and challenges. Ensure that your HRMS can scale to meet the evolving needs of all stakeholders. 
  • Compliance: Define regulatory, employment, and other legal requirements and confirm that your new system supports these needs across all regions. 
  • Readiness at launch: Get your HR team on board early to help you develop training schedules and goals. Set monthly milestones to ensure that all your administrators, managers, and employees are properly trained and are ready to leverage the full value of the new HRMS system. 

Explore HRMS software today

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