People sometimes have a love/hate relationship with the Human Resources (HR) department of their company. They can be your best friend when you’re new and negotiating your pay and benefits packages, but if you ever find yourself on the wrong end of a disciplinary action, they can quickly turn into your worst enemy. That said, the people in HR departments sometimes get a bad wrap. They are literally there to be your ally in the process of navigating the rules and regulations of day-to-day business life.
Friend, foe, or otherwise, the truth of the matter is, HR departments are changing rapidly, and technology is playing a major role in those changes. I don’t foresee a future when there won’t be a need for human beings in HR positions, but the types of skills needed are becoming more and more technical in nature. Human beings will be supplemented by software, as we are in most industries these days.
Not that long ago, the people in the HR department were charged with keeping all of your personal data controlled in locked file cabinets and password protected files on their desktops. Now, with the implementation of new software, employees are gaining more control over their own data, and taking some of the responsibility out of the hands of the HR department to maintain and update the most personal of our personal information.
The Human Resource Information System (HRIS) is a software or online solution for the data entry, tracking, and information storage needs of the Human Resources department within a company. Over the years, the HRIS has become a staple in most HR departments, and more and more, the expectation is that HR managers will be well versed in their functions. No matter what size, there is an HRIS solution that will fit the company’s needs for data management and security, but choosing the right one can be tricky.
So, what are some of the benefits of using an HRIS?
Minimizes human error.
Even the most dedicated and meticulous people can make errors from time to time. When that person happens to work in HR, it can have detrimental costs. Because they are handling the most personal information within the company, it’s incredibly important to protect the integrity of HR processes and data. HRIS can safeguard the integrity, and minimize human involvement with employee data.
Scales with the company.
Because the software can scale quickly and relatively easily, you can start with a more limited HRIS and then expand as your organization grows. There are solutions on the market for every size company, every need, and every rate of growth.
Easily stores and tracks certifications held by employees.
HRIS can also track vacation time accruals, continuing education credits, and other employee-based documentation. No need to go dig through file cabinets to determine if someone is up to date on their certification – it’s all there in the system.
Eases the process of onboarding new employees.
A good HRIS can store the documents and processes for onboarding new employees, and even have them enter and take ownership of their data. This alleviates some of the data security issues of old filing systems and the need for HR employees to gain access to information the employee might not be comfortable sharing.
Eliminates some of the bottlenecks that can happen in the HR department.
Take for instance, vacation time approval. You want to take a week off to drive to go see your grandparents. You talk to your boss, she approves the time off, but now you have to get approval from HR so they can make sure you have enough accumulated time available. Your HR contact happens to be out on vacation until next week. You wait and wait, and when the day comes for you to discuss your upcoming vacation with him, he’s in meetings all day to catch up from his own time off. With an HRIS, you can login to your account, send a request, and the approvals can happen via email. Easy and timely.
Frees up HR time for more strategic uses and organizational planning.
The HRIS can take on a ton of the time-consuming, day-to-day updating and filing of information, and puts the onus of data entry in the hands of the employee versus HR. Instead of tracking down forms and trying to read bad handwriting, HR can focus on planning out employee recognition events and helping to meet the strategic benefits goals of the department.
If you are the one tasked with choosing the right HRIS for your company, it’s a good idea to do your research up front before committing to one for purchase. There are many different options and specific needs for your organizational structure, and as with any software purchase, each manufacturer will have a sales pitch that tells you they can fulfill every little thing your heart desires. That may or may not be true – so do your due diligence. Have your list of needs, check out chats on various HR boards, and ask people you know who have already been through the process of purchasing an HRIS. Get as much input and information as you can before making your decision.
This also includes taking the time to check out any available software demos – be sure to see if the manufacturer can provide you with examples of the reporting to make sure it can fit the needs of your leadership.
If your organizational data is super complex, or you’re trying to find a solution that works with other systems as well (particularly accounting/finance) it might be a good idea to get multiple specified quotes from vendors to compare and contrast costs and options before you even set a budget for your purchase.
That said, once you know your budget, stick to it – there is a wide range of costs depending on the needs of your organization, but knowing what your bottom line is up front will save you lots of time and headaches. It will also be helpful to whatever vendor you choose, so they know the limitations of the offerings they can make.
As you can see, there are a lot of benefits to using an HRIS in any size organization, and HR employees are going to need to have training and experience working with them more and more into the future. The introduction of a more automated process can be good leverage for freeing up time for HR to focus on more strategic projects, as well as safeguarding personal employee information and keeping it more secure and protected.