8 Functions of an HRIS: How Can They Help Your Organization?

Feb 28, 2024
Reading time: 9 min
Sharon Rusinowitz
Director of Content Marketing

At the heart of every HR team lies a dedicated group of people who are committed to creating a stellar employee experience and growing the organization. And behind those people lies a human resource information system (HRIS).

For most People teams, the HRIS sits at the core of their operations. As the system of record for people data, it’s the center of the HR tech stack and the must-have solution to make many critical HR processes run effectively.

But with such an important role, there’s a lot of nuances among HRIS options. With that in mind, let’s break down everything you need to know to make the right choice for your organization, including:

  • What does an HRIS platform do?
  • What are the benefits of an HRIS?
  • What are the types of HRIS platforms?
  • What are the key functions of an HRIS platform?

What Does an HRIS Platform Do?

At the highest level, an HRIS is a system of record for people data. It helps manage and streamline various HR-related activities within an organization. Looking deeper, it serves two primary functions:

  • Organizational-level activities: At the organizational level, an HRIS platform helps People teams review and understand the structure of the entire organization. It provides a holistic view of the workforce, allowing teams to map out processes and analyze people data to discover trends, gaps, and opportunities for improvement. In doing so, an HRIS supports better decision-making and strategic planning.
  • Employee-level activities: At the employee level, an HRIS platform manages individual employee information. It centralizes data related to each employee, including details like personal information, employment history, performance management, compensation, and more. This aspect of an HRIS allows for more efficient processes and a better view of individuals across the organization.

The overall objective of an HRIS is to streamline HR data management, making it easier for People teams to access, update, and analyze data. By consolidating diverse HR functions into a single platform, organizations can optimize their HR processes, reduce manual workloads, and enhance overall operational efficiency. This, in turn, contributes to a more strategic and data-driven approach to People operations.

What are the Benefits of an HRIS Platform?

The right HRIS platform can turn your People team into a lean, mean HR machine by increasing efficiency and enabling more strategic, data-backed decisions. Key benefits of an HRIS platform include:

  • Time savings: One of the biggest perks of an HRIS is the time it can save your People team. Instead of wrestling with spreadsheets or juggling separate systems, everything you need is in one place – that way your team can focus on the more strategic aspects of their jobs.
  • Improved employee experience: HRIS platforms make life easier not just for your People team, but for your entire organization by giving employees self-serve access to personal information, performance history, time off requests, and more.
  • Fewer errors: Forget lost paperwork and typos in data – by automating data entry and other HR processes, an HRIS platform reduces errors in your all-important people data. And having fewer errors can make an enormous difference in terms of cost and time savings as well as staying compliant with regulations.
  • Data Security: HRIS platforms typically have robust security measures to protect sensitive employee data. With features like role-based access control, encryption, and secure data storage, these platforms safeguard confidential information, ensuring that only the appropriate people can access and modify specific data.
  • Analytics and reporting: Powerful analytics and reporting tools available in many HRIS platforms can help your People team better understand and report on critical data like turnover and workforce demographics. These insights enable data-driven decision-making for more strategic initiatives. Having dashboards available to managers and leaders that feature data on their team members can further elevate the role of people data in making critical decisions that affect employees and the business.

Types of HRIS Platforms

HRIS platforms aren’t one-size-fits-all. There are various types of HRIS platforms, each of which is designed to address specific HR functions and organizational needs. Understanding the needs of your organization can help choose the right type of system to best meet your goals. The most common types of HRIS platforms include:

Operational HRIS

The operational HRIS is the workhorse of HR platforms. This type of HRIS is all about day-to-day people management and administrative tasks. Think of it as your reliable assistant, taking care of the essentials while you focus on the big picture. It’s here to make life easier for you as a People leader and for your entire People Ops team.

Top capabilities of an operational HRIS platform are modules to support talent acquisition teams as they keep track of open headcount, people data management, organizational changes such as promotions or lateral moves, performance management, and ongoing employee development.

Strategic HRIS

The strategic HRIS can be your secret weapon, going beyond day-to-day operations to support analysis, decision-making, and long-term planning. These platforms are all about making data-driven decisions to propel your organization forward. Imagine being able to identify potential future leaders within your organization or predict turnover trends before they impact your bottom line. Sounds like some kind of HR magic, right?

Top capabilities of a strategic HRIS platform are modules to support analytics and reporting (including metrics related to employee performance, turnover, and workforce demographics), workforce and succession planning, and overall employee engagement and retention trends.

Tactical HRIS

The tactical HRIS is like your organization's tactical squad, honed for improving efficiency and ensuring compliance in internal workforce management. These platforms play a pivotal role in helping People leaders manage the detailed, critical tasks that keep your workforce running smoothly throughout the employee lifecycle, from pre-boarding to offboarding. Think of these platforms as the place where strategy meets execution, helping you turn plans into action.

Top capabilities of a tactical HRIS platform are modules to support automating repetitive workflows like employee onboarding and offboarding, managing historical data about organizational changes, maintaining security for sensitive people data, and reporting to stay compliant with regulations.

Comprehensive HRIS

The comprehensive HRIS is the ultimate multitasker, combining the strengths of operational, strategic, and tactical systems into one robust people operations platform. Think of it as your all-in-one HR toolkit, covering everything from daily administrative tasks to long-term planning and detailed compliance management. A comprehensive HRIS can be a game-changer for businesses that need to cover a lot of ground with their HR processes. This powerhouse of a system can streamline your people ops practices, reduce errors, and save significant time and effort, giving your team the freedom to focus on strategic decision-making.

Top capabilities of a comprehensive HRIS platform are modules to support advanced analytics and reporting, strategic workforce planning, employee access to data, performance management, automated workflows for tasks like onboarding and offboarding, and employee engagement.

Limited Function/Specialized HRIS

The limited function, or specialized, HRIS offers a deep, highly comprehensive focus in one area. This approach is best for organizations with a larger tech stack who want to invest heavily in a particular area, since this type of HRIS provides a laser-focused approach with in-depth features.

Top focus areas for a limited function HRIS include performance management, learning and development, or compensation and benefits.

8 Key Functions of an HRIS Platform

Regardless of the exact type of HRIS platform, having the right system in place can help any team – no matter the size or industry – increase efficiency and improve strategic planning. So what exactly can you do with the right HRIS platform for your team?

While some of the functionality available will depend on the exact platform you choose, key functions of an HRIS platform typically include:

  • Core HR Functions: An HRIS acts as the system of record for all people data. In doing so, it supports general HR functions to save the People team time. Whether that’s automated workflows for routine tasks or allowing employees to access and update basic information on their own, an HRIS can reduce manual tasks so your team can focus on more strategic efforts
  • Benefits and Other Employment Resources: An HRIS platform needs to provide employees with one central place to gain access to benefits and other employee resources. Some platforms go so far as to allow employees to review and update benefits information during open enrollment and following life events. Other solutions allow employees to view their benefits throughout the year as well as connect to other basic HR data and capabilities (like viewing their salary).
  • Attendance and Time Off Requests: Many HRIS platforms support time off requests, while some also support attendance and time tracking. These capabilities make it easy for employees and managers alike to handle these basic tasks.
  • Payroll Updates: HRIS platforms can offer a variety of capabilities around payroll. Some solutions make it easy for employees to see their compensation (including base, bonus, and equity) – and the same goes for managers who need to view information about their employees – while others go so far as to offer connect to payroll processing and keep payroll information updated based on time tracking data and benefits information.
  • Workforce Planning: Whether you’re adding headcount, re-organizing teams, succession planning, or anything else, some HRIS platforms extend their capabilities to support a variety of workforce planning efforts. Having these extended capabilities in your HRIS helps ensure all of your people data is tied together and supports better access and security than alternatives like spreadsheets.
  • Employee Engagement and Employee Training: Another extension area for HRIS platforms is engagement and training. Need to keep a pulse on employee sentiment? Or have employees complete certain forms as part of compliance or training? Many HRIS platforms can support these needs through configurable forms that tie back to reports and analytics. This allows your People team to easily run processes and keep tabs on the results too
  • Performance Management: Some HRIS platforms also extend to offer performance management capabilities, including self, manager, and peer reviews, goal-setting, ongoing feedback forms, and more. Having performance reviews tied into your HRIS not only means one less system for everyone to navigate, but it can also help your People team use that all-important performance data to provide context to other efforts (like compensation planning)
  • Reporting and Analytics: Last but not least, one major function of an HRIS is reporting and analytics, especially in the case of a comprehensive HRIS that can bring a variety of capabilities and people data together into a single platform. For example, People teams can use an HRIS to report on key HR metrics throughout the employee lifecycle, including eNPS scores, retention/turnover rates, performance reviews and compensation across teams and demographics to ensure equity, and more.

Choosing the Right HRIS

Having the right HRIS can make an enormous difference in how your People team operates and supports your organization. So how do you make the right decision? It starts by understanding your company’s needs and overlaying those needs with the various functions different HRIS platforms can support.

And once you do find the right fit, you’ll be well on your way to streamlined people operations and stronger insight into your people that can help move your organization forward.

Ready to learn more about choosing the right HRIS for your company? Start with these six steps.

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