Man with tablet that has HR software on it

Your company is only as good as the people you employ. No matter how brilliant an idea you have, or if you’re the next hotshot millionaire, if your staff are burnt out, unmotivated, and disinterested then you’re going nowhere. This makes it more important than ever to have great HR processes in place to keep your employees happy and engaged, which in turn contributes far more to the success of a company. HR doesn’t just cover holiday logging and sick leave requests, it spans learning management, payroll, performance management, recruitment, time tracking, and more.

Yep, that’s quite a list. And at the heart of this all, is a cloud-based HR app that will help you keep all these elements ticking over nicely. Choosing such an app is no mean feat, but at GetApp we’re always here to help and have put together a guide to walk you through all the things you need to think about before forking out for a new piece of tech.

Why do I need HR software?

Whether you’re a solopreneur, a startup, or a small to medium business you’ll no doubt already have experienced the dreaded mountain of paperwork that comes with ensuring the smooth running of all your HR processes. If done manually, this paperwork can see you (literally) pulling you hair out, which is where a cloud-based HR app comes in.

“HR software streamlines and simplifies otherwise burdensome administrative tasks that are also critical for businesses to conduct from a compliance perspective,” says Raj Singh, co-founder of Flock, a HR tech platform for small businesses . “HR is an incredibly complex function. When I served as an HR lead for growing companies, I never had enough time to get through all of the processes for employee onboarding and engagement, and oversee culture and recruiting.”

Chris Wilder, director of Culture and Talent Development at Quality Ironworks, knows only too well about the extra work all this paperwork can create for a HR professional.

“HR is fully of paperwork and compliance,” says Wilder. “Without an HRIS solution, my team and I are going to be spending more time simply trying to find the information to create reports and won’t have little, if any, time to actually analyze the reports and make strategic decisions based on the information. Not only that, but a good HRIS allows me to keep my payroll down so that I’m doing more with less.”

But HR software is not all about transforming your cumbersome manual processes; it helps to keep your number one asset happy and engaged: your staff. David Godden, vice president of Marketing at Thymometrics, a supplier of SaaS employee engagement surveys, explains: “Engagement is not simply created. It’s an effort that must be active and participatory so that it becomes part of the overall corporate culture. HR software opens up communication between employees and managements and makes engagement building a core value of the company.”

What should I look for in an HR app?

So you’ve decided that your company is ready for an HR app, but what exactly should you look for here? If reading a list of features makes your eyes hurt, you’re not alone. Here are a few tips from our HR experts on what they looked for.

“Flexibility and ease of use are key,” says Singh. “Also, effective mobile integration and so many employees are mobile, and ideally look for an app that works with small business brokers who are the experts in navigating the complicated world of employee benefits, areas such as the ACA and other regulatory issues that affect companies and their employees.”

As your HR app won’t work in isolation in your business (much the same way as your HR department collaborates with accounting, sales, marketing, etc), it’s important to check out what other popular systems it integrates with. “Many systems have an API capability that will allow it to talk to other popular programs,” says Rollis Fontenot III, president of Ascend HR Corp, an HR recruitment company.

Should I buy or build my app?

The question of whether you should buy an app from a leading software vendor or build your own is as old as the hills. The general consensus these days – especially with the scalability, ease of use, and predictable costs of cloud-based solutions – is to buy.

“We definitely do not recommend developing your own app unless you have a very large IT structure and developers on staff,” says Fontenot. “Otherwise, it’s much better to buy one off the shelf and customize it. Technology is moving too fast in order to have a good ROI by keeping it in house.”
“I always choose to implement a 3rd-party solution instead of building in-house because most companies do not specialize in HRIS,” says Wilder. “Having a 3rd-party that specializes in this gives me confidence that they are keeping up with the latest regulatory requirements and other industry trends.”

Once you know what you want (and maybe what you don’t want or need), it’s time to look for a software vendor. It’s a good idea to research your product thoroughly and think about whether each solution is a good fit for your company. It’s not much good choosing a powerful enterprise solution with lots of added extras you don’t need if you’re a small business.

What are the benefits of deploying HR software?

If you’ve decided to purchase an app from a software vendor you’ll no doubt have to present a case for the spending to your CFO or finance department. The trick here is to really spell out the benefits your business can expect to gain from the right HR software.

“Gathering and using employee engagement data, in real time, makes it possible to take action in meaningful ways,” says Godden. “The benefits of having real-time employee engagement surveys are they’re happening now and HR leaders can address the issues before they get out of control. They can also measure the success of recently implemented engagement programs.”

“Most systems are HR and legal friendly, so it helps smaller organizations stay compliant with the current laws and regulations,” adds Fontenot. “Several systems allow for a self-serve model where employees can update their own information. This helps the company have the most accurate and updated data on file. For example emergency contacts, home address, home/mobile numbers, etc.”

What is the best HR software out there?

If you’re looking for some ideas on which app to choose, GetRank, our quarterly ranking of the best HR apps, can help you out here. According to the five data points we work to (integrations, mobile app, reviews, social media presence, and security data we collect), the top five HR apps for Q3 2015 are:

1 BambooHR

2 FinancialForce HCM

3 Workday Human Capital Management

4 Halogen Software

5 TribeHR

Which HR apps do you use?

If you’re using a HR app, let us know which one and what you like about it in the comments below. For more information on how these – and other apps – fared in our quarterly ranking, check out our article on the top HR apps or download our industry report, HR in the Cloud: Key Trends for 2015.