March 20, 2023

HRIS Implementation Guide: The Steps for Success

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Tags: HR

Key takeaways

  • Companies need an HRIS to run an efficient, effective business and outperform their competitors.
  • A successful HRIS implementation requires company evaluation and testing, project management and goal setting, a timeline and deadlines, a planned rollout, and company-wide training.
  • HRIS implementation can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to complete, depending on company size, the complexity of needed software, and technical knowledge of the staff.

A human resources information system (HRIS) is an increasingly necessary tool to run an effective business. It serves as a database for personnel records and aids businesses in streamlining core business operations, such as payroll and benefits, with overarching company objectives, such as talent development and employee satisfaction. Nowadays, running a business without an HRIS is much like driving a racecar with square wheels; businesses will eventually get where they need to go but far behind their competition.

Transitioning from one HRIS to another or implementing a new HRIS for the first time can be labor-intensive and time-consuming. However, an HRIS implementation strategy can give businesses a head start in their race toward greater compliance, efficiency, and productivity.

Check out our HR Software Guide for the best HRIS solution to fit your needs.

Elements of a successful HRIS implementation

Before implementing new HRIS software, businesses should spend time crafting their HRIS implementation plans. Successful plans include the following elements: evaluation and testing, project management and goals, timeline and deadlines, rollout, and training.

Evaluation and testing

Companies must include HRIS evaluation and testing in their HRIS implementation strategies to ensure the solution they choose satisfies their business needs. Although the benefits of an HRIS are enormous, not every solution is created equal. Creating an HRIS requirements checklist, with “must-have” and “nice-to-have” features, and understanding the different types of HRIS solutions available can aid businesses in narrowing down their options.

Watch: The 5 Types of Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS)

While executives may have a clear vision for why a new HRIS is necessary, this should not mean middle managers and employees have no say in the implementation process. Gathering information from all stakeholders when implementing a new HR solution shows employees their voice matters in the process. It can also reveal additional company deficiencies that a new HRIS can remedy.

In addition, companies should evaluate the following when implementing a new HRIS:

  • Sustainability: Will the HRIS be sustainable in the long run? Does it have a way of updating when new employment laws take effect? Does it have add-on features that can scale with the business?
  • Cost: In addition to the cost of the HR software, does the vendor charge any HRIS implementation fees? What are the costs to the business when employees who are involved in the HRIS implementation process cannot participate in other business priorities?
  • Technical requirements: Does the company want an on-premises or a cloud-based HRIS? What hardware, software, or IT infrastructure is necessary to support the new HRIS? How user-friendly is the new software? Can everyone in the organization learn how to use it after a few lessons?
  • Data location: Where are company and personnel data stored currently — paper files, spreadsheets, or in an existing HRIS? How will the new HRIS migrate this old data into its system? If you’re moving from separate HR software solutions into an all-in-one suite, how will the new software move data from these systems?
  • Access controls: How much control do super users and system administrators have over the new HRIS? Does the company have to work with the HRIS vendor to make system changes? How many access levels are there? How granular can the access levels get?

Lastly, companies should test their top HRIS software choices to verify their selections perform the HR functions they want at the level of efficiency they need. Compared to demos, where vendors showcase their most successful features, companies that take their HRIS for a test drive first can make sure they are not settling for less than they need.

Project management and goals

An HRIS implementation project plan requires collaboration between multiple departments, including HR, finance, and IT. A successful HRIS launch will require team leaders from each department to help coordinate the implementation of the new HRIS, with a designated project manager leading the charge.

Most HRIS vendors also assign an implementation team to assist companies with creating timelines, managing data migration, and customizing company workflows on the new HRIS. Small businesses without the internal resources to implement a new HRIS may have to lean on their HRIS vendor for implementation support. Alternatively, they can hire a consultant to assist.

“We had to bring in a consulting partner for this task,” explains Katie Boudreau, operations and HR manager at CallerSmart. “This consultant came highly recommended by one of our solution partners, thus helping us save on time and resources.” In fact, with the consultant’s help, CallerSmart completed their HRIS implementation seven days ahead of schedule.

To that end, companies should define key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to track implementation progress. For instance, KPIs can measure individual team leaders’ contributions to HRIS implementation, overall project costs, and productivity goals. Utilizing KPIs can provide organizations with clear, quantifiable data to illustrate whether or not the newly implemented HRIS successfully meets the needs of the business or falls short.

Timeline and deadlines

The timeline for HRIS implementation depends on each company’s circumstances, but the factors that most influence timing include:

  • Size of the company.
  • Scope of the software solution (all-in-one suite vs. standalone module).
  • Complexity of the company’s required HRIS processes and workflows.
  • Technical knowledge of the teams involved in implementation.

Implementing a new HRIS can take an organization anywhere from a few weeks to several months to complete. For best results, vendor and internal implementation teams should work together to develop an implementation timeline with realistic and attainable deadlines.

Some companies plan their implementation schedules around when they need a new HRIS feature. For example, companies requiring global payroll capabilities plan their HRIS implementation around when they start paying international talent. Failing to complete their HRIS implementation on time could put companies at risk for compliance violations and payroll inefficiencies.

Alternatively, a company migrating from an old HRIS to a new one may need to plan the new HRIS’s implementation around when the contract with its old HRIS vendor ends. If not, the business could experience critical payroll and timekeeping issues due to lost company and personnel data.

Finally, companies should also add wiggle room to their timelines to accommodate unforeseen circumstances, such as communication failures or data migration errors.

“A lack of technical understanding can become a challenge, which proved a hiccup for us during the adoption stage,” recalls Boudreau, discussing CallerSmart’s implementation of its first multifunctional HRIS. Including extra time in the implementation schedule allows companies to address unexpected issues without significant risk to their deadlines.


Companies can phase in their new HRIS systems through immediate, parallel, or gradual conversion.

Immediate conversion is a direct switchover from one HRIS to another on a specific date. This method is the riskiest of the three, as staff must use the less familiar new HRIS without the ability to access data or processes in the old system. However, if companies conduct extensive tests before the specified conversion date, immediate conversion can be the fastest implementation method.

Parallel conversion involves using both the old and the new HRIS at the same time or in parallel. The new HRIS does not replace the old system until the new HRIS produces the same results as the original HRIS. Parallel conversion is the most time-consuming of the three rollout methods, as employees must replicate their work on both systems. However, running both systems simultaneously allows a business to quickly identify errors or bugs in its new HRIS before it goes live.

Gradual or phased conversion involves introducing the new HRIS’s features over a set period until the old HRIS phases out. Gradual conversion is the least risky of the three methods, as companies continue to have access to their old HRIS whenever an error occurs during the rollout.

For small companies implementing their first HRIS, immediate conversion is the quickest way to start using a new system. However, a gradual approach may be the better option to allow employees time to adjust to each new feature and process without overwhelming them. For example, small businesses may start with core HRIS features, such as payroll and benefits administration, before rolling out others, like recruiting modules and performance management.

Larger companies or those switching from one HRIS to another should consider either parallel or gradual conversion methods to ensure data integrity and that their business continues to run smoothly in the interim.

Parallel conversion is great for companies that want to learn in-depth ways to optimize their new HRIS’s processes compared to their old system. In contrast, companies looking for the least amount of disruption to their workflows during HRIS implementation should choose a gradual conversion method.


Training allows companies to take advantage of everything their new HRIS offers and creates buy-in for employees who are resistant to the new technology.

HRIS vendors often offer training modules for new users during implementation, such as online manuals, how-to guides, webinars, one-on-one instruction, self-guided tours, and training classes. However, other companies may resort to their own ways of training staff.

For example, a company may adopt a trickle-down approach, where a super user receives in-depth training from the HRIS vendor and subsequently trains the rest of the company. Additional training can consist of scheduled department sessions or company documentation in the form of emails, posters, or guides to distribute across the organization. Some HRIS vendors may already have new user training and marketing materials that companies can use instead of creating their own.

In Boudreau’s case, her team surveyed staff members to understand their technical expertise and openness to training. Then her team leveraged training materials from CallerSmart’s HRIS vendor and implementation consultant.

“We created a self-service portal with relevant FAQs, alerts, news, and tips that could help staff learn and implement proactively without waiting for direction,” says Boudreau. “Interactive guides helped create a step-by-step support system for staff members to find solutions and also reach out to our in-house expert or consultant for more complex requests.”

Similarly, another effective training method involves transforming HRIS training into a game. For example, companies can construct tasks for new users to learn and complete in the new HRIS. Upon successful completion, employees can earn rewards, badges, or certificates to illustrate their mastery. Gamification makes training more engaging and increases the likelihood that employees will remember the processes for continued iteration.

What are the steps to implement an HRIS?

With the above elements in mind, companies can expect their new HRIS implementation to follow these six steps:

  1. Project kick-off and stakeholder meetings: The company defines the scope of the implementation project; identifies the project manager and team leaders; and establishes the timeline, deadlines, and goals of the project.
  2. Installation: If the new solution is cloud-based, installation may be instantaneous; for on-premises solutions, companies may have to work with vendors and IT departments to install the new software.
  3. Data conversion and system configuration: Team leaders work with the vendor to migrate data to the new HRIS, integrate the new system with current tech stacks, and configure workflows to meet company requirements.
  4. Testing and training: The project manager and team leaders test the new HRIS’s modules, functions, workflows, and features to make sure it meets the required capabilities; training on the new system commences company-wide.
  5. Go-live: Real processes take place on the new HRIS and the company rolls out the HRIS through immediate, parallel, or gradual conversion methods.
  6. Post-implementation review: The implementation team surveys the company on satisfaction with the new HRIS, enacts any necessary changes, determines if the HRIS implementation met all established goals, and sets up a cadence for future reviews of the system.

The cultural impact of a new HRIS

Changing from one system of HR operations to another can be challenging for employees to accept and adopt. Sometimes, employees may even feel threatened if a new HRIS automates processes and makes their positions obsolete.

As a result, companies should be mindful of employees’ concerns and make them part of the implementation process. Effective change management can reduce employee uncertainty and anxiety over the new HRIS and instead redirect employees’ energies toward the benefits the new HRIS provides.

These benefits include:

  • Decreasing rote, repetitive tasks.
  • Increasing time for high-priority and more challenging work.
  • Expanding opportunities for upskilling and career development.

Employees who are active participants in implementing their new HRIS will be more invested in its success. Developing a positive culture around a new HRIS goes a long way toward bolstering employee engagement and satisfaction, so companies can focus on attaining their future goals.

If you’re not quite ready for implementation, check out our HR Software Guide for the best HRIS solution to fit your needs.

1 Deel

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Deel is the all-in-one platform built to hire, manage and grow global teams. By bringing together cutting edge HR tools, payroll solutions, compliance and more, Deel enables companies to scale globally with unmatched speed and flexibility.

With Deel, you can hire and onboard any type of employee, compliantly, in 150+ countries in minutes. You can run payroll in 100+ countries and all 50 states in a click of a button. You can offer competitive benefits, equity, manage equipment and more.

Learn more about Deel

2 Rippling

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Rippling is the first way for businesses to manage all of their HR, IT, and Finance — payroll, benefits, computers, apps, corporate cards, expenses, and more — in one unified workforce platform. By connecting every business system to one source of truth for employee data, businesses can automate all of the manual work they normally need to do to make employee changes.

Learn more about Rippling

3 GoCo

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Elevate your HR with a modern, easy-to-use HRIS designed for small businesses. GoCo is a secure, compliant hub for sending, digitally signing, and organizing your sensitive HR documents and data. Manage records, performance, time off, onboarding, benefits, and more – all in one place. With the best support in the industry, every GoCo customer is assigned a dedicated Customer Success Team that is readily available to provide guidance and ensure a smooth and reliable HRIS experience.

Learn more about GoCo

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