Eight questions to ask when choosing your first HR system



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6 mins

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From the user experience to mobile access and reporting dashboards, we share the top eight questions you should be considering when choosing your first HR software

Setting out on your quest to choose your organisation’s first HR system can be daunting: stakes are high (budgets can be, too), and the choice on the market can be bewildering, especially if you haven’t been part of an HR software selection project before.

Here are eight essential points to consider when choosing your first HR system – or upgrading your existing software to one that’s a little bit more sophisticated. 

1. Do you (or will you) need an HR system with global capabilities?

If you are a global organisation (or you plan to become one in the next one to three years) and are looking for a system that will support your HR administration in all the countries you operate in,  you need to think beyond the needs of your UK-based staff. Is the new system able to support multi- entity to allow for in-country reporting as well as global reporting? Is it available in different languages? Is it compatible with the different payroll software you might use in these countries? And does it allow for variances in employment law? 

2. Will it automate your workflows?

It’s not unusual for an organisation to invest in an HRIS system and then still manage many processes – such as onboarding, reporting and setting reminders – manually. With the right software in place (and correctly configured), you should be able to automate many of your processes and make the system work in the way that’s right for your organisation and your HR team. 

3. What’s the user experience like?

And we don’t just mean the HR admin user experience – what’s it like for an employee or manager to use the software? If your people don’t enjoy using the system, they won’t use it – and your investment of time and money will be for nought. Does the HR software (and the people working for the vendor) feel like the right fit for your organisation? Is the system easy to use? People don’t need a user manual to use Facebook or Spotify, for example, and the same should go for your HRMS. 

4. What’s it like to use the software on a mobile or tablet?

Most people do not work from a laptop or computer desk all day – they’ll be using their mobiles and tablets to check work-related apps regularly. If the HR system you’re considering purchasing isn’t optimised for use on mobile devices, that should be a red flag. If the software does work on mobile, what aspects of it are available on these devices? Often, you can only use the app version to book a holiday or see basic personal information. It’s 2020; demand HR software that can do more on mobile. This is particularly important if a large segment of your workforce is not office- or desk-based. 

5. Will the system protect your data?

From a GDPR perspective and from a security perspective, if you choose this provider and their software, will your data be secure? Are you able to configure user access levels yourself – down to the specific fields a user role might be able to view on a particular page? Ask for evidence of GDPR compliance, and look for vendors who are accredited to the information security standard ISO27001.

Also ask the vendor if you can integrate other software – such as L&D, payroll or talent management – with the central HR system to minimise the risk of data breaches even further. Is it possible to enable single sign-on (SSO), so employees’ network username and passwords grant them access to the HR system? Your IT team will probably have other questions about the system’s security, too – don’t be afraid to ask them for their advice and expertise. 

6. What is the system’s reporting capability like?

It’s likely that one of the key reasons why you’re looking to invest in HR software is so you have better insight into your people data. You’ll achieve this by having all your data in one place (so, the more systems and sources of data you integrate with your central HR management system, the better) and by picking a system that produces reports automatically. You have better things to do than spend hours each month manipulating spreadsheets and producing management reports; look for an HR system that will do the hard work for you and present data in easy-to-understand visual dashboards.

7. How will this system deliver the right solution for your needs?

It’s not unusual that what begins as an HR system selection project evolves into a wider review of business systems that involves finance, payroll, IT and more. You’ll need to decide which business needs are driving the project, and where comprises will be tolerated. Opt for a best-of-breed approach to integrated software, and you stand a chance of finding the right niche solution for each business need. Go for an HCM suite, on the other hand, and it’s likely that functionality in some areas won’t be where you want it to be. Analyse each proposal carefully and assess the impact your decision will have on the organisation as a whole – not just on the HR function. 

8. What’s your software maturity level?

In a 2020 white paper for Ciphr, independent HR technology experts Phase3 outlined their four-stage HR software maturity journey – from ‘HR eyes only’ software to ‘full people management tool’. You’ll want to pick HR software that is in line with your current position in the journey, or the stage that you are aiming for. Pick a system that’s too basic and you’ll find it won’t meet your needs and cause frustration; opt for software that’s too sophisticated and you’ll have wasted money on functionality you don’t need or can’t use. Remember, you’re striving for that Goldilocks moment – finding the HR software that’s ‘just right’ for your organisation.

These tips were taken from a June 2020 webinar hosted by Ciphr with recruitment experts hireful, offering advice on how to choose the right HR software for growing organisations with more than 200 employees. Catch up on all our advice by watching the webinar recording: