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HRIS—The Software HR Loves to Hate

No one goes into business or starts their HR career saying, “I want to purchase HR software someday!”

We want to build things, help customers, and improve the lives of employees. But along the way, we have the… privilege? Opportunity? Bad luck to be involved in? The buying, maintaining and operating of HR software. And the most common type by far is the HR information system (HRIS), sometimes called Core HR.

An HRIS or Core HR solution is what it sounds like. It is a piece of software that sits at the center of HR function and acts as a repository for digitized employee data and facilitates the automation of key HR processes like payroll, benefits admin, time and attendance, and others.

With 86% of the participants in a recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) indicating that their organizations use an external provider for their HRIS solution, you could assume that these tools are a valued part of the HR Tech ecosystem.

With an average net promoter score (NPS) of -47, you’d be wrong.

Just 10% of those surveyed were promoters who would recommend their tech solutions to others, and nearly 60% were detractors.

How likely are you to recommend your HRIS systemWhy is this fundamental piece of the HR tech stack so widely used, but also fundamentally unloved?

Expectations are everything

Decision makers have varying expectations of the value that will be delivered to their organizations when they make HR technology investments. Some want to pay a flat price and get everything bundled, while others are willing to invest in separate point solutions to get specific features. So often, organizations will go into selecting a solution without a clear agreement from the business on what they are looking to accomplish with their purchase.

HRIS and Core HR solutions are not just a single modules or function, and implementing one is not a solution to all of your HR automation problems. Respondents to i4cp’s survey rated a few areas of Core HRIS functionality as strengths of their solution, including employee self-service, payroll, time and attendance, and benefits admin. When looking to solutions focused more on talent management processes like a learning management system, applicant tracking or performance management, respondents were more likely to cite those as areas of weakness from their HRIS provider. Especially for larger organizations, it’s very difficult to manage complex and robust hiring, learning and performance processes with tools from just one provider.

In i4cp’s most recent HR technology study, we uncovered a strong, positive correlation between certain HRIS modules and better market performance. The strongest relationships were:

  • Employee self-service
  • Onboarding management
  • HR document management
  • HR case management
  • Workforce planning and analytics

Get to know your provider

When investing in a tool as central as an HRIS, remember that you are investing in a partnership, not just a product. When opting for cloud-based tools in particular, you are buying into the solution as it is, and as it will evolve over the life of your contract. In fact, i4cp found that dissatisfied users were 1.4X more likely to regret not interacting with the vendor beyond their salesperson.  And satisfied users were 2.6X more likely to cite ongoing customer support after initial implementation as a key selection criterion.

Before, during, and after the sale, it’s important to have deep relationships that will sustain the partnership. Use the demo and selection process to meet their experts, and expose your own to your potential partners. And if you’ve inherited a solution, it’s not too late.  Many providers have optimization teams that can come help address key pain points and solve problems. In these situations, relationships are crucial.

The purchase of an HRIS solution may never be a career highlight, but having a solution you hate could make that career unnecessarily painful. HRIS solutions are a big investment, and if you are charged with picking a new one, make sure to do so thoughtfully. Set the right expectations, involve the right people, and build relationships to drive success.

You may never fall in love with an HRIS, but these steps can lead to a peaceful and productive coexistence.

Mollie Lombardi
Mollie Lombardi, Senior Research Analyst
Mollie Lombardi is a top industry analyst, with extensive experience gathering and interpreting new data, but she also moves beyond the numbers, translating them into real decisions and actionable insights. She has interviewed & surveyed tens of thousands of organizations, and her dedication to creating better conversations between users and creators of HR Technology drives her work.