March 9, 2017

Best HR Software for Small Business

The HR software market is growing fast. Vendors are turning out more solutions, and businesses are buying them. According to Deloitte’s “2017 Global Human Capital Trends” report, 73 percent of business and HR leaders now consider “digital HR” a very important trend in human capital management. But making a major software purchase is usually predicated on having available budget.

Small businesses still need to streamline workflows and be efficient, especially when it comes to HR

What if you can’t afford to make a major technology purchase? What if you’re a small business or startup, and buying the latest incarnation of Peoplesoft sounds about as realistic buying all of your employees Teslas for their Christmas bonus?

Despite tighter budgets and limited IT resources, small businesses still need to centralize workflows and be efficient, especially when it comes to HR. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best HR software for small business—modern, cloud-based systems with industry-leading functionality at an affordable price point.

Small Business Pain Points

In a 2016 Special Expertise Panel, the Society for Human Resource Management, SHRM members identified some of the top challenges facing HR departments today: steeper competition for talent, new developments in technology, a rising sense of insecurity, demographic shifts, and the economy ranked high on the list. 

Businesses of every size are impacted by the need for better hiring practices and talent management, and the software industry itself has evolved to meet these demands. At the industry level, things are looking up. But small businesses still face a number of more nuanced challenges:

No dedicated HR staff: Many small businesses either assign HR responsibilities to a cross-functional manager or to a single, in-house HR administrator. In either scenario, a single person handles payroll and benefits, time tracking, grievances/disciplinary action, hiring, promotions, and so forth.

Record-keeping and regulatory compliance: HR regulations are in a constant state of flux. Small businesses must balance record-keeping etiquette with healthcare reform, tax codes, and labor laws. Armed with only a file cabinet and the Sunday paper, this is sure to result in mistakes, processing delays, and, in worst cases, legal fines.   

Employee attrition: According to a Jobvite survey of over 2,000 adults, 51 percent of employed workers are actively seeking or at least open to a new job. Without a strategy for investing in talent and building an attractive work culture, small businesses lose good employees to competitors that offer higher salaries and better benefits.

Performance gaps: On smaller teams, it becomes quickly apparent if certain employees aren’t pulling their weight. But without a formal performance management or training system in place, how do you orchestrate consistent improvement?

Key Software Features

The right HR software can help small businesses alleviate these pain points by automating administrative tasks, record-keeping, and compliance, and by giving HR coordinators tools to find and retain the best talent. In the current market, most solutions are moving toward mobile access, multi-channel talent management, internal collaboration models, and self-service access.

HR software dashboards

In order to get the highest return on your investment, it’s important to choose a solution that offers modern capabilities and intuitive access. Although solutions vary from vendor to vendor, a full-featured HR management platform will offer some combination of the following features:

  • Employee self-service
  • Applicant tracking and onboarding
  • Compensation and succession planning
  • Benefits administration
  • Performance management
  • Time/attendance tracking
  • Social recruiting
  • Collaboration tools (newsfeeds, internal messaging)
  • Reporting/analytics
  • Mobile access (through native app or web interface)

Types of Systems

There are many different ways to package HR software. Most small business solutions are cloud-based, which saves upfront cost and eliminates the need for IT infrastructure. Beyond deployment models, there are three primary classes of HR software structured around use intent:

  1. Core HR: Core HR solutions help businesses perform the administrative functions of managing a workforce—payroll, benefits administration, time and attendance tracking, workforce planning, and regulatory compliance. The self-service portal—which lets employees access their work-related data and enter updates and requests—is also an integral feature for most core systems.
  1. Strategic HR: The primary focus of strategic HR solutions is to hire, retain, and develop the best employees, for which reason it’s often referred to as “talent management.” These solutions mostly address recruitment, performance management, training and development, and succession planning. Some may even be best-of-breed applications designed to address a specific aspect of talent management, such as the hiring process.
  1. Integrated HR suites: These solutions provide end-to-end functionality across most or all areas of HR management including administrative aspects as well as recruitment, talent management, and e-learning (or learning management systems). Some product suites are sold in modules, which can be purchased discretely, according to need.

8 Top Solutions for Small Business

PeopleMatter

PeopleMatter Reports Screenshot

PeopleMatter offers a modular suite of workforce management solutions aimed at companies in the service-industry. Their product is divided into three primary modules: HIRE, LEARN, and SCHEDULE.

HIRE is essentially an applicant tracking system, but rises above competitors by offering cutting edge tools such as social media recruiting and custom career webpages.

The LEARN module lets businesses design custom courses and online training programs for employees.

Finally, the SCHEDULE module helps managers build employee schedules and optimize shifts based on cost thresholds and employee availability, with integrated communication tools for last minute shift swaps and absences.

All three modules are accessible as web-based applications or through native mobile apps with custom access controls. PeopleMatter is used at over 300,000 locations by businesses of varying sizes, including grocers, convenience stores, retail stores, hotels, and restaurants.

Namely

Hr software for small business: Namely user homepage

Namely is a web-based platform specializing in core HR and talent management for growing companies. Their product covers payroll and benefits administration, time tracking, performance reviews, and of course, serves as a system of record for all of your employee data. Namely also offers a built in social news feed and custom reports for individual and team metrics.

The system is designed to be adaptable and user-friendly, which makes it stand out against more complicated enterprise solutions. But Namely’s penchant for small and growing companies doesn’t mean they skimp on resources: business clients receive 24/7 customer service through a dedicated Namely account manager. Namely has been used by thousands of small businesses across the globe, as well as some larger brands like Kayak, Mashable, and Vimeo. Full disclosure: TechnologyAdvice currently uses namely for our HR needs. 

JazzHR

Hr software for small business: jazz performance management

Unlike PeopleMatter and Namely, JazzHR is a best-of-breed HR solution, meaning it’s designed for specialized use—in this case, applicant tracking and interview management. JazzHR helps companies post jobs, screen applications, and manage the interview process through a centralized, real-time platform. Managers can create custom recruiting stages with automated to-dos (e.g. follow-up emails, reminders), and add stakeholders to the process as users with varying permissions and privacy levels.

Post directly to job search sites like indeed, glassdoor, and careerbuilder, and use built-in SEO tools to make sure you’ve chosen the right title and job description. JazzHR also offers social recruiting, employee referral programs, applicant screening, background checks, resume review, branded career sites, interview guides, recruitment calendars, and more.

Although it doesn’t have a native mobile app, career sites and interfaces are automatically optimized for the device in use. Along with 3,000 other businesses, TechnologyAdvice has used JazzHR  to more than double our team—from 20 employees to over 50 since 2013.

Cezanne

Hr software for small business: Cezanne hr dashboard and mobile interface

Cezanne offers comprehensive HR management tools that are accessible to smaller companies, but designed to scale with future growth and advancement. The system is cloud-based and priced on a monthly subscription according to modules implemented and number of users.

The core module, “People,” offers features for training and development, disciplinary actions and grievances, health and safety compliance, doc management, and reporting. Clients can choose to add on any or all additional modules, including absence management, time tracking, performance management, and applicant tracking. Unlike larger vendors with complicated pricing structures, Cezanne offers each module for the same flat rate per user, so you know exactly what you’ll pay ahead of time.

Beyond its primary features sets, Cezanne also provides workforce analytics tools and complementary solutions for payroll. The platform is accessible to employees and managers on the go through a native mobile app for Android and iOS devices.

BambooHR

BambooHR is a cloud-based core HR solution designed to meet small business administrative needs and give employees efficient self-service access. Although BambooHR doesn’t offer some of the robust features of its competitors, the price point is hard to beat, and the user experience is simple.

The web application serves as a central repository of employee information, such as job and salary history, benefits, and training. Employees can access company documents, request time off, as well as view and edit their personal data.

With varying levels of custom access, administrators can manage time off requests, set accrual policies, and generate custom reports based on any data in the system. For expanded use, BambooHR integrates with many popular applications for applicant tracking, eSignatures, payroll, and performance management. The system is also accessible on mobile devices through native apps for iOS and Android.

Zenefits 

zenefits screenshot

Zenefits started out as a basic, free, core HR solution, but their product (and company) has come a long way in recent years. Zenefits now offers built-in payroll, time tracking, native mobile apps, and impressive integrations in addition to the platform’s main functions: HR management and benefits administration.

It’s still a free solution for many (Zenefits makes their profit by acting as a brokerage medical, dental, vision, life & disability, FSA & HSA) but Zenefits now offers three premium tiers with a monthly subscription cost per employee. What you pay will depend on which features you need, but in general, the cost is still much lower than solutions from the enterprise market. 

As of the last update to this article, Zenefits boasted over 20,000 small and midsize customers across the U.S. 

Zoho People

Zoho People is part of Zoho’s online suite of productivity apps for businesses. If you know anything about Zoho, you know they tend to play the less-expensive underdog role in a number of other software categories, and their human resource management is no exception. 

People bills itself as a “complete online HR solution,” but if you look closer, it’s mostly an administrative HR tool with a basic performance appraisal feature. The good news is, if you need to expand your HR stack into recruiting/ATS, People integrates with Zoho Recruit (and for that matter, every other app in the Zoho universe). Other People features include time and attendance tracking, leave management, custom forms and permissions, and employee self-service. 

Users can access the system online, or via native mobile apps for iOS and Android. 

EffortlessHR

hr software small business: effortlesshr screenshot

EffortlessHR is a Tucson-based provider of online HR software designed specifically for small and medium-sized companies. The platform itself covers personnel management, PTO and time tracking, and an employee self-service portal. Applicant tracking is available as an add-on. 

While Effortless isn’t one of the more robust systems on this list, they are one of the more affordable — priced at a flat rate per month based on the number of admins you assign, rather than the number of employees. That gives you the flexibility to grow your team without upgrading pricing tiers every time you add a few more employees. Another nice feature is that Effortless comes out-of-the-box with over 100 HR form templates, so you won’t have to create common workflows and documents from scratch. 

* * *

Thanks to modern innovations like software-as-a-service (SaaS), the market is brimming with affordable solutions for businesses of every size. Even if all you need to do is track time off and digitize employee records, a centralized HR solution can help you do this more efficiently and accurately. With a little luck, your business will start to grow, and you’ll be glad when your HR infrastructure can grow with you.

Need help choosing the best solution for your business? Use our HR software product selection tool to get a personalized recommendation based on your industry, company size, and the features you value most. 

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15 Comments

  1. Justin

    Hey great post, I would also add Breezy HR to this list. Breezy is lightweight recruiting software for small team doing big things. It’s free to trial and only $19 form there. You can check it out: https://breezy.hr

  2. Naresh

    Peterson, Thanks for the full list. Really usefull.

    I would like to contribute by listing one more HR software. CEIPAl Workforce is a cloud based workforce management portal to manage employee personal information.

  3. Vardaraj

    Good article Aleks. You should include Successfactors Perform and Reward solution for SMB as this solution is developed to cater SMB market.

    • Aleks Peterson

      Glad you found it useful Vardaraj, and thanks for the input!

  4. Vinay

    The need of right HR software for small business is, as important as for the established Enterprise. If you start right, you’ll do good, has came true for many startups. Even the companies listed here are the best ones to manage HR initially. Quite a few listed in comments can also be tried-out.

  5. Prateek

    Hey great post! I would also like to add TeamWise HR to this list. TeamWise is a workforce management software that helps HR and Payroll professionals to perform routine employee-related tasks. The all-automated technology and user-friendly interface makes it possible to execute all tasks with complete accuracy and zero errors. It also offers a free trial.
    https://teamwise.in

  6. reya

    Great Post! I would like to add Ascent Hr Software to this list. Using Ascent Hr Software get Benefits to your small organisation. You will get 60 days money back guarantee. You can visit on for more information:
    http://www.eilisys.com/

  7. Ian Ingar

    Ditto. Great post. I would also like to add Zuman to the mix. A slightly different approach to HR and payroll as they focus on an HR BPaaS (Business Process as a Service) model – http://www.zuman.com

  8. Aaron

    I’ve never heard of a few of these, so I’ll have to check them out. If you are going to revise the post with other’s suggestions, also be sure to include EffortlessHR ( https://www.effortlesshr.com/ ) – Thanks!

  9. Sakshi

    Great article.HR software is quickly becoming one of the most useful tools for businesses across all major industries.This technology can help HR managers and CEOs determine how to manage staff, how to improve worker efficiency, and how to improve worker happiness.

  10. Utsav

    Years ago, if HR departments wanted to keep electronic records on their employees their only option was an HR system hosted on site and which was accessible for few HR administrator. If you have big staff in your organisation, it becomes difficult to maintain the record and you solely depend on paper work. By using this software, you will require less paper work, work can be done faster and smoother. It will reduce the cost of the company. It becomes easy to track employee’s leaves. It improves the communication between manager and employees.

  11. Usamah

    Nice writeup! Allow me to contribute one more to the list – Kitikiti HRM. You can immediately generate pay slips, apply for leave and submit expense claims upon sign up – without any additional steps. The philosophy is to start with the end in sight, and allow you to then customize HRM policies to your liking.

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