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The Features of HR Software That Matter Most in Successful PeopleOps

The features and considerations HR leaders should know about to make educated HR software decisions.

Christina M. Moran, Ph.D
Industrial/organizational psychologist with 17 years experience in HR and leadership
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The skills of PeopleOps teams are in constant demand. Whether your team is expanding internationally or into new industries, complacent or ambitious, employing seasoned professionals or developing up-and-comers, a business cannot thrive without maximizing the collective efforts of its people.

But gone are the times of taking days to get back to people and taking years to develop a meaningful people strategy. The pace of success only continues to quicken, and people want customized answers on demand so that they can do their jobs, do them well, and turn their attention to the next item needing attention.

The implementation of automation and HR software can help expedite processes that previously required manual effort, and do so with perhaps even enhanced results. This article focuses on features of People software that add value and matter most to People professionals.

In This Article

The Key Features of HR Software

A comprehensive HR software solution should add substantial value to most, or all, of these PeopleOps functions.

Candidate Sourcing, Recruitment, and Hiring

Sourcing, attracting, and selecting strong candidates take up A LOT of work. Offerings with AI functionality can assist HR management with automatically identifying top candidates based on your vacancies and skills needs. Your HR software should handle everything from posting on job boards, providing data analysis on peer positions and salary, to onboarding a new hire and keeping secure track of their employee information.

Employee Database & Source of Truth

A strong HR software should act as the central source of truth regarding employee records, tax information, and career planning. Maintaining this database doubles up as means of data security as it can control who has access to this, often sensitive, information.

A great HRIS has employee self-service functionality with access control. Employees can log into their self-service portal to log changes regarding their personal information, time off, employee benefits, and more. This relieves the HR department from a lot of employee data management while ensuring up-to-date records.

Payroll and Benefits Management

A lot of top HRIS solutions have integrated payroll management and record-keeping capability. This aids with managing tax deductions and other compliance regarding remuneration throughout the employee lifecycle.

Automation of HR Functions

A number of HR responsibilities can easily be automated with software and apps. Doing so can save your PeopleOps team from manual paper-pushing so they can prioritize high-level, strategic HRM goals.

Workflows that can be automated include sending out and analyzing employee surveys, benefits administration, timesheet management, scheduling check-ins, and tracking hiring needs. You can choose the frequency and type of real-time notifications that goes to the HR department and to the employee.

Time tracking, PTO, and Attendance Management

Keeping track of employees’ entitled leave, leave taken, sick days, shifts worked, and overtime logged can be overwhelming without an effective tool. HR software that includes these features directly pulls data through to remuneration and other employee records, once again relieving HR from a ton of administrative work, not to mention potential human error.

Performance and Promotions Management

Integrated with time tracking, HR systems can flag attendance and other issues surrounding employee performance. The platform can also assist with transitioning workers through promotions, succession planning, and other career advancements, including skills training if you have an integrated LMS.

HR Analytics and Data Management

Your HR software can offer accurate and in-depth insight into various HR metrics that can help pinpoint issues with retention, engagement, staff shortages, overstaffing, and more. Using this data to establish hiring trends and other cyclical occurrences is essential in drawing up a valuable recruitment and retention strategy.

Learning and Upskilling

The COVID-19 pandemic blew the roof off the need to develop engaging learning in a remote work environment. Many companies invested in learning management software to track, deliver, and recommend engaging learning content. HR tools that offer talent development have become integral to human capital management, employee engagement, and the employee experience.

Acknowledgment and Recognition

Every employee wants to be recognized differently. A comprehensive employee recognition program can be a burden to administer and coordinate, though this growing software sector aims to streamline and automate this ever-important culture-builder as much as possible.

Demo call with HR software vendor

Top Considerations Before Buying HR software

Software solutions are rarely ever a “one-size-fits-all” fix, addressing every need for every customer in the exact way the customer had hoped. Further, all solutions do require some customization and tech-savvy on the user end to maximize their value and provide the best experience.

That being said, here are key considerations that may be important to you and your organization before choosing to partner with a new HR software vendor.

A User-Friendly Interface

What rating or grade would you give the user experience? Could you easily see individuals at your organization interacting with the software while requiring only minimal support or guidance from your in-house team?

If the user experience isn’t pretty self-explanatory and easy to navigate right “out of the box”, your HR team members may end up spending a good bit of time creating user guides, providing training, and answering questions on how to use common features.

Customer Service and the Vendor Relationship

How easy is the new provider to do business with? The sales process and team can often be very different from the experience and team you’ll partner with once you’ve signed an agreement. However, strong organizations are more likely to have cultural ideals that show up consistently across the individuals you may interact with.

Your experience during the sales process may be somewhat indicative of the experience you’ll have once you’re a customer. Treat the sales process as the start of your relationship and evaluate it as such.

Security Compliance

What security and compliance measures does the software have in place? If you’re not sure what requirements need to be met for your organization, you might consider partnering with in-house or outside legal, IT, compliance, or similar resources.

There is no need to spend time exploring a solution that ultimately will pose insurmountable or unacceptable security, legal, or compliance risks.

Language Compatibility

For companies who have colleagues spread across the world, or who otherwise utilize different languages, access and language offerings must work for your entire team. This is an important consideration both today and in the foreseeable future as the company scales.

For example, if your organization currently employs individuals proficient in English, but the five-year plan includes goals of expanding into markets that are more likely to utilize other languages, this should be taken into consideration before setting on a major HR software implementation.

HR software dashboard that is user friendly

Core Functionality that Matches Your Priorities

What are the key features that are a priority to you and your organization? Make sure these functions are part of the core solution you buy, not add-ons that incur extra cost.

Software Integrations

What integrations come with the HR management software? Will the other tools in your HR Tech stack "play nice" with it?

Specifically, it’s important to get at least a high-level overview of the process for integrating the new software system with existing solutions in your core HR Tech stack. If the new software requires advanced API knowledge and skilled IT professionals to implement, who will set it up? If you have a small business or your organization does not currently have these skills on staff, you may require external support which could come in the form of an initial fee and then ongoing maintenance. If it is a cloud-based solution, a lot of the support can be done remotely.

Remember: HR Software is constantly changing, so there should be no expectation of “set it and forget it” when bringing in a new solution. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t understand the technicalities of vendor responses though — insist on a demo and keep asking for clarification on various software features and integrations until you’re sure you understand.

Usage Limits

What limits does the provider set regarding usage, available user seats, file sizes, etc.? It’s important to know if these limits will accommodate your needs today, as well as how quickly you may outgrow them.

User Feedback

What do current customers have to say? It’s important to ask for as many referrals as you can, both from current customers and past customers if possible.

Ask for referrals to customers who work for organizations similar to yours, use the same integrations, provide access to users in similar locations, and so on. This may help verify answers you received from the vendor’s sales team and give a more realistic look at what you’re in for once you become a customer.

Compile a list of questions to ask referrals in advance of these calls. Important questions to include are how likely the individual would be to work with the provider again, how long certain processes took, and what the adoption rate was in their company.

Pricing Models

How does their pricing model align with your budget? Being upfront and honest when you believe a provider is out of your budget can likely save everyone some time. 

Bear in mind that, if a solution is appealing and slightly over budget, there may be room to negotiate the cost of HR software. While negotiating, consider bringing non-monetary value to the table. For example, you can offer to write a case study in exchange for a discount.

Think Long Term

It’s been mentioned above but is worth mentioning again: the solution you choose must be able to scale with your company.

Don’t merely select a provider because their solution is better than what you currently have. Select a provider that you can see meeting your organization’s needs for at least five years into the future. Doing so requires that your organization has some defined goals or vision so that the People strategy can drive the fulfillment of those goals.

The Value HR Software Adds to PeopleOps

A lot of HR- and People-related matters require advanced thought, experience, and expertise. However, if the answers to certain questions can be anticipated with “if-then” logic, it is likely that HR software can provide an automated solution.

In addition to alleviating workload by taking “if-then” tasks off the desks of valuable team members, HR software can often do so more quickly and with greater accuracy than humans can. HR Software can also enhance communication among multiple systems, thereby preventing delays and discrepancies in information manually being fed back and forth between departments. Acting as a central source of truth, your HR software ensures all data points are on standby, ready, and waiting with accuracy.

In short, HR software can help you complete the tasks your HR team is taking care of now, but possibly with greater speed and accuracy. Typically, and as long as the software solution selected does not create more problems than it solves, team members are grateful to have some of these repetitive tasks completed by a software solution. Relieving them of the automated tasks allows your HR team to focus on the work that provides more meaning, challenge, and autonomy to them in their role.

Encouragement for building your HR tech stack

Building an HR Tech Stack

If you’re auditing your systems and determining what type of HR Tech stack you may need, here are some common software offerings and points to get you started:

In some cases, one solution can provide offerings in more than one category, such as an HRIS with integrated payroll functionality. There are also solutions that focus more narrowly on one specific element of the employee experience, such as solutions that only provide surveys, rewards and recognition, or performance management.

There are pros and cons to using a “one-stop-shop” solution that provides offerings in a variety of areas, as well as to using narrowly focused solutions. Many organizations use a blend of both — perhaps one solution that has a couple of different offerings paired with a few other systems.

If you’re considering a multi-featured HR software, get the most from your demo by asking your vendor about each offering individually, as opposed to generalized questions about the whole package. It can be the case that just one feature of their HR software is the core offering that gets the most developer attention and has the most success, whereas the secondary features are more of a white-labeled or third-party add-on. These are sometimes added to give the impression that a solution can serve many different needs, but not do so with equal efficacy.

In this case, buying separate tools that are more specialized may serve you better than a multi-featured platform, as long as all the software solutions integrate well.

Software Solutions in HR and PeopleOps to Start With


“Too long; didn’t read”? Here are the key takeaways

  • Understand where your organization is headed, so you can support the People strategy with HR software offerings that will expedite success.
  • Be thoughtful in developing a list of requirements specific to your organization.
  • Research vendors, schedule demos, and keep detailed notes of interactions with providers, key features, and so on.
  • Make it easy to look back and understand your reasoning on selecting one provider over another by keeping a side-by-side comparison in a spreadsheet. This is critical as your decision will undoubtedly be questioned and possibly criticized after implementation — it’s human nature to some extent.
  • Be judicious in opting for one provider that fulfills many needs, a variety of providers that each fill a targeted need, or a blend of both.
  • Integration will be necessary — get clear on the process, cost, and what expertise is required on your end.
  • Consider who on your team will take the lead for “owning” the effectiveness of the system and maximizing its usage for your organization

Implementing software, applying automation, and doing more more quickly are expectations of PeopleOps leaders that are only growing greater. It’s important to develop a thoughtful strategy that optimizes human attention on the most important projects and leaves the tasks that can be automated to a trusted software provider.

Christina M. Moran, Ph.D
Industrial/organizational psychologist with 17 years experience in HR and leadership
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Dr. Christina Moran is a licensed Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and works as part of the leadership team at ThenDesign Architecture. An energetic strategist and executor, she has demonstrated exceptional results in a variety of areas including people leadership, business operations, organizational effectiveness, marketing, international account management, and analytic modeling.

Her career has spanned consulting, business leadership, academia, athletic and performance domains, and nonprofit direction. An evidence-based thought leader, Christina's research has been published in a number of top-tier peer-reviewed journals in the field. Christina obtained her doctorate and master's from the University of Akron's nationally ranked industrial/organizational psychology program and her bachelor's of science in psychology with a minor in Spanish from John Carroll University. She is licensed to practice psychology by the state of Ohio.

Featured in: Harvard Business Review ScienceDirect

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