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Track, Train and Transform a Workforce with HRIS

According to data from Forrester Research, an independent market and technology research firm, more than 50 percent of an HR professional's day is spent on administrative tasks. Processing employee information, answering questions and resolving employee issues demand precious moments within many organizations. Add to these administrative tasks time spent reviewing resumes, interviewing candidates, reducing employer legal liability following a termination and documenting disciplinary processes, and the day is done only to restart the following day.

Possibly the savior for processing recurring leave requests, benefits needs and salary questions is the Human Resources Information System, which has become the trending topic to handle many time-consuming administrative tasks. It takes only one word to describe every person in the HR department: busy. A HRIS can lessen the amount of time spent on these necessary functions.

What is a HRIS?

Basically, a HRIS acts as an assistant to HR professionals by performing common HR tasks via an online platform or software program. Historically, this system was primarily used for payroll processing with a few additional features for attendance and leave administration. Today, HRIS has expanded to integrate the management of employee data as strategic HR becomes more valuable to organizational goals and objectives.

What Does a HRIS Do for an Organization?

A key benefit of having a HRIS is having the ability to integrate employee data into the system. This helps to speed up – through automation – the performance of administrative tasks related to managing human resources. Organizations that do not have a HRIS solution may have single-task software programs, spreadsheets and multiple file cabinets dedicated to HR tasks.

While something is better than nothing, a manual system can become difficult to manage, lead to frustration and haphazard even for the most organized HR staff. A single employee could have four or five locations to store the same data. There is still consideration for separate health information and I-9 files.

Without a HRIS, manual data management is a time-consuming process that can make it difficult to access employee data efficiently. Furthermore, analyzing and comparing workforce trends are next to impossible for strategic purposes. Simple changes may require updating files in several locations, which quickly becomes tedious and time-consuming. The possibility of errors and inconsistencies can produce invaluable reports that would otherwise be helpful in staff planning and other workforce solutions.

Being strapped for time makes it difficult for HR professionals to present reports on cost savings and productivity levels. Attendance patterns, turnover rates and training needs are valuable strategic information for senior executives. Organizations that have a HRIS can transform the workforce will long-term positive benefits.

Common Functions of a HRIS

Options for a HRIS are extremely customizable depending on the preferences and size of an organization. Many vendors offer cafeteria –style systems that may start with a base level payroll function, but expand to additional modules suitable for talent management or benefits enrollment.

Popular functions of a HRIS include many of the common tasks associated with the human resources department.

Benefits Administration

The average time that HR professionals spend on benefits management and enrollment can consume as much as 30 percent of their day. If the organization offers multiple plans such as health insurance, life insurance, dental and disability coverage, some of their time is most likely spent with multiple carriers. Benefits administration modules within a HRIS allow HR staff to define plans and track details.

This may include premium payment schedules, enrollment eligibility dates and beneficiaries. In addition, a benefits administration module makes benefits data easily accessible for strategic analysis. Eliminating time spent answering questions is the self-service option where employees can enroll, add coverage or make other changes through the HRIS portal.

Paid Time Off and Leave Tracking

Paid time off and leave tracking modules keep track of various types of leave-based policies such as vacation, holiday and sick leave. Tracking of general attendance and excused/unexcused absences can also be tracked and documented easily. Generally, this helps to simplify disciplinary procedures whenever issues arise. HR staff and management can also review statistical data on absenteeism and leave usage trends.

In addition to company-related leave, a HRIS can track statutorily granted leave under federal and state laws. This includes FMLA, military leave, voting leave and jury duty.

Regulatory Compliance Filings

Government laws and regulations can require comprehensive recordkeeping to ensure compliance. From the Occupational Safety and Health Act to the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, the HRIS is already tracking and storing comprehensive employee data that can be used for periodic reporting requirements. The only obligation from the HR staff is to keep employee data current to generate preformatted reports for all federal and state laws associated with employment practices.

Performance Management

Past and present employee performance reviews can be kept in a secure electronic database. Through the HRIS, supervisors and HR staff can make ongoing documentation of employee performance, schedule review meetings and set future performance goals. Integrating performance management with other talent management modules can help identify which employees are ready for a promotion. Documenting performance and skill sets can ensure the right person is promoted.

Training Modules

Training modules can track the attendance and performance of employee training and development programs in a Web-based platform. In addition, education, qualifications and skills can also be recorded. Management and HR can match employees for appropriate training and development opportunities as they become available.

Applicant Tracking

Not only can a human resources information system help track data related to current employees, some systems also allow HR to track the applicant process. The HR department can create job postings, accept resumes, prequalify applicants while assigning and tracking applicant status through every stage of the recruitment process. Some systems are sophisticated enough to also send e-mail alerts to managers and applicants.

HRIS Delivery Systems

Delivery systems for a HRIS will depend on the preferred method of the organization. The two options – software and online – can be delivered in one of three ways. These include onsite, cloud and hybrid.

Onsite Installation

With an onsite installation, the HRIS software is installed on a physical hard drive or server on the organization's premises. A repository of employee data is part of this installation process. Generally, onsite installation is preferred by organizations that have privacy and security concerns. Although HRIS providers are cautious about data sensitivity, storing employee data in an offsite network is still uncomfortable and filled with uncertainty.

While onsite installation gives organizations a sense of security, this type of system can be the most expensive. Hardware requirements, in-house IT and maintenance requirements contribute to the additional costs. However, there are some flexible onsite platforms for organizations that need customized solutions.


Also known as software-as-a-service hosting, a cloud system allows organizations to access information over the Internet. This requires offsite storage that the HRIS provider hosts and gives access to individual modules on demand. The cloud system is the most cost-effective HRIS solution and is quicker to implement.

Hybrid Systems

As the name implies, hybrid systems offer onsite and cloud-based features. To illustrate, the core platform for the HRIS might be stored on a centralized onsite database. Access to additional modules can be downloaded for use on the internal network.

HRIS as the Strategic Toolkit

Moving beyond the world of paperwork and into a more strategic role, HR professionals are essential in guiding the future direction of an organization. Through analyzing employee trends, finding talent management solutions and effective recruiting methods, HR can help to transform workforces in small and large organizations.

Their expertise is needed for more than payroll processes and party planning. Organizations need the insight of HR professionals to show the potential for productivity gains and cost savings. The benefits of strategic HR to transform workforces is best for organizations that want to remain competitive in the 21st century. A HRIS gives HR staff more time to consider strategic objectives instead of handling routine administrative tasks.