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.

The technology replaces time-consuming paper-based processes and complicated spreadsheets. By automating many of these workflows, an HRIS minimizes human error and reduces repetitive tasks so employees can focus on higher value work.

With a centralized, real-time data model and automated processes, HR professionals, managers, and employees can use the HRIS to quickly access the information they need for an efficient and accurate result. By streamlining employee data management and associated processes, HRIS software can help businesses save time and money.

What does an HRIS do?

An HRIS manages and automates core HR processes. The system extends across the entire employee lifecycle, collecting and storing HR and other data to help inform decisions and support interactive workflows.  

For example, an employee accesses the system to request time off. The action automatically flows through the HRIS to the manager for review and approval.

HRIS data is stored securely, with automated compliance management processes that satisfy corporate, national, and international requirements. Regulatory updates are implemented automatically to support statutory reporting standards.

The streamlined and automated workflows support employees across the entire business:

Capabilities of an HRIS system

The capabilities of a human resources information system support a variety of HR processes and interactions. The technology provides smart automation of workflows across system and business functions, including:

People and transactions

Organizational structures

Benefits management 

Time management 

An HRIS system on a mobile device
Increase productivity with an HRIS system that automates processes and provides self-service HR tools for employees.

The evolution of human resources information systems

Organizations began to centralize employee data in the 1960s and 1970s. This new model supported better record keeping as well as the ability to more easily meet regulatory requirements. The central data repository was stored on large mainframe computers, with transactional processing (if any existed) limited to payroll.

Human resources information systems came into use in the 1980s, with the move from mainframe systems to client server technology. This made the systems more affordable while providing basic analytic tools for the business.

Since then, the technology has evolved. Instead of focusing on transactional HR processes, modern systems support a more interactive model that emphasizes the employee experience for HR professionals, managers, and workers.

Today, an HRIS automates workflows, leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to handle repetitive, time-consuming tasks. These systems can integrate feedback and automatically adjust reporting structures based on changes in business rules and regulatory compliance while delivering an efficient and positive experience to all employees that interact with it.

HRIS software can be implemented on premise or in the cloud, with modern systems predominantly housed in a private or public cloud. A cloud platform provides a range of benefits including larger data storage capacities, stronger security, and easier integration with complementary applications such as payroll, applicant tracking, and other HR systems.

Who uses an HRIS? 

Historically, organizations with a medium- to large-sized employee base mostly benefited from a human resources information system. Today, however, thanks to minimal infrastructure and implementation costs with cloud-hosted systems, smaller-growing organizations are now able to leverage the benefits and efficiencies of an HRIS.

Here are some examples of companies around the world and across all industries that are relying on an HRIS to streamline HR processes.

Explore HRIS software today

Learn how this technology automates core HR processes, supports global compliance requirements, and enhances the employee experience. 

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.

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