Key takeaways

  • The 5 types of HRIS are operational, strategic, tactical, comprehensive, and limited-function.
  • Choose limited-scope HRIS if your needs are very specific or require a standalone solution with more advanced features.
  • Choose comprehensive HRIS if your company data grows in quantity and type.

Apr. 30, 2024: Irene Casucian added examples of HR solutions for each type of HRIS and updated the page layout to improve the visual flow of information.

Aug. 10, 2023: We reorganized the article to make it easier to read, added infographics to help compare the different types of HRIS, and added some screenshots to provide real-world examples. We also revised the copy for clarity and length.

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What is an HRIS?

Human resources information systems (HRIS) are centralized repositories for employee data. One of the benefits of HRIS is that they are designed to help HR teams streamline and automate a variety of functions ranging from basic human resources (HR) tasks like payroll to more nuanced processes like performance management.

In some cases, an HRIS consists of multiple subsystems that work together to create a holistic view of an organization’s workforce. In other cases, an HRIS is a specialized, standalone tool that drills into one or two subsystems.

Learn more in our video overview:

5 types of HRIS and their use cases

All HR information systems fall into five main types based on function or scope:

  1. Operational HRIS
  2. Strategic HRIS
  3. Tactical HRIS
  4. Comprehensive HRIS
  5. Limited-function/specialized HRIS

Both limited-function and comprehensive HRIS solutions may house different quantities and types of data that fall across the three different functional types of information systems.

HRIS diagram.

1. Operational HRIS

The operational HRIS category includes tools that assist HR staff and people managers with hiring, promotions, transfers, and other talent management needs. Operational HRIS solutions focus on improving existing systems by making them more efficient and impactful.

Applicant tracking system (ATS)

An applicant tracking system (ATS) logs all open positions within an organization and optimizes workflows to fill them as quickly as possible. ATS functions include syndicating job postings to multiple job boards, screening applications to identify qualified candidates, and identifying bottlenecks within the hiring process.


Workable automates tasks like publishing job posts, sorting applicant résumés, and scheduling interviews. Automating these tasks helps streamline the screening and recruitment process, increases efficiency, and reduces the chances of human error.

Workable has a customizable pipeline with different icons and labels to identify the different stages of the recruitment process.  Source: TechnologyAdvice
Workable’s workflow management feature includes a customizable pipeline that HR professionals can use to simplify the screening and recruitment process.

Performance management system

A performance management system stores employee information regarding performance appraisals. It supports employee retention, promotion, transfer, job rotation, contract termination needs, and other talent management concerns. A performance management system helps managers take action if an employee is under-utilized or needs extra support.


An integral part of a performance management system is conducting regular performance reviews to identify employee strengths and areas of opportunity. To help streamline this process, Leapsome automates review cycles and allows employees to set and track personal and organizational goals.

The performance appraisal feature collects and provides the data and documentation necessary to make critical decisions regarding employee retention. This includes deciding whether to retain, promote, transfer, or terminate an employee.

A Leapsome screenshot displaying two goals for an employee named Leonard Smith plus a progress bar for each.
Leapsome helps employees create goals and monitor progress for an easier way to track employee growth and development. Source: Leapsome

2. Strategic HRIS

Modules and functions within strategic HRIS systems help with analysis, decision-making, and goal-setting in relation to human capital management. Strategic HRIS solutions often help companies plan for growth and expansion by finding and retaining the right talent.

Workforce planning

Workforce planning tools help HR teams identify the necessary background and skills, responsibilities, reporting structure, and salary for any given role. This functionality helps develop strategies for filling skills and role gaps in the current workforce, which has downstream implications for recruiting strategies as well as learning and development plans.


Rippling’s headcount planning creates approval workflows and helps you budget for current and future employees. This gives you a quick view of the actual headcount and allows you to compare it against the planned headcount. You can also view the number of headcount in each phase of the hiring process, as well as the range of total compensation and annual bonus.

Rippling’s headcount planning module aids in planning for company growth and expansion by clarifying the costs related to necessary positions. Understanding these data allows for effective budgeting for crucial roles.

A sample of Rippling’s headcount planning module showing a graph of each department’s monthly headcount.
Rippling provides managers with a visual representation of headcount data by team, which can be beneficial in planning for the company’s growth and in making informed decisions. Source: Rippling

Learning management system

A learning management system (LMS) supports succession planning as operational decisions are made regarding job rotations or promotions. It tracks skill sets for employees across the company and identifies employees who are ready to pursue additional training or certifications based on recent changes to their roles or responsibilities.


360Learning helps you create a course that supports different content types, incorporates gamification elements to increase user engagement, and allows managers track learners’ progress. These features significantly enhance learning management within a strategic HRIS because they align employee development with company goals and prepare them for future company needs.

A screenshot displaying how 360Learning allows administrators to customize page layout by adding or moving around widgets.
360Learning allows administrators to tailor page layout by adding or moving around widgets to enhance employee learning and engagement. Source: 360Learning

3. Tactical HRIS

The tactical HRIS category targets efficiency and compliance for internal workforce management. The tools and functionalities that fall in this category help HR leaders make decisions on how to best use existing resources for functions such as compensation, recruiting, training, and benefits.

External data aggregation

Tactical human resource modules aggregate external data related to a business’s competitors, industry, and compliance requirements. This information provides benchmarks in areas such as talent acquisition, employee satisfaction, compensation, DEI, and performance management.


Deel tracks compensation data across international markets to help determine whether a proposed payment rate is higher, lower, or on-par with similar roles in a specific geographic region.

Deel displays dropdown menus for country, second country, currency, and gross annual salary plus a calculate button to compare costs for international employees side-by-side.
Deel’s employee cost calculator helps benchmark salaries for specific roles across the globe. Source: Deel

Benefits administration system

Compensation and benefits management impact employee experience and are two of the largest business expenses. Company leaders have a vested interest in regularly reviewing the organization’s benefits package as part of an employee’s total compensation. If an HRIS indicates a particular benefit is being underutilized among employees, HR leaders may need to remind employees about the benefit or decide to invest in a different benefit instead.


TriNet helps users identify how employees are utilizing company benefits. If you find that a benefit is not being utilized effectively, you can also use TriNet’s marketplace to compare benefits and find one that supports your employees’ specific needs.

An example of how TriNet presents medical plan options to employees.
TriNet helps employees pick the right benefits through its benefits decision support tool. Source: TriNet

4. Comprehensive HRIS

As the name implies, a comprehensive HR information system functions as a one-stop shop for storing any information needed to perform nearly all HR management functions. It serves as a central repository for a wider range of data that supports operational, strategic, and tactical HR functions combined.

These three functions don’t operate in a vacuum; rather, they influence each other in different ways. For example, information about where a role fits into the reporting structure and how it contributes to the company’s goals serves both operational and strategic angles of job analysis and design.

It makes sense for larger businesses to use a comprehensive HRIS since it consolidates data across all three types of functional systems. This information provides valuable insight so HR and business leaders can make informed decisions quickly.

Smaller businesses, on the other hand, may want a simpler HRIS platform that fulfills only core human resources management needs such as payroll. In this case, a comprehensive HRIS may be overwhelming to implement and maintain. The higher cost also puts all-in-one HR suites out of reach for many smaller businesses’ budgets.


BambooHR is a popular all-in-one tool with HRIS key features to support onboarding, performance management, payroll, and benefits administration.

A screenshot of how BambooHR displays employee information and how users can filter the data to narrow the search.
BambooHR saves employee information and allows HR professionals to create custom filters. Source: BambooHR

5. Limited-scope or specialized HRIS

In contrast to a comprehensive HRIS, a limited-function HRIS focuses on one or a few core information systems. They typically support a narrow list of HR functions, such as payroll and benefits administration and are a better investment for businesses’ with specific tactical needs that can’t be addressed by an all-in-one solution.

No matter what HR function(s) a company focuses on with a limited-function HRIS, an employee information system is essential to the HR software. This system collects, archives, and tracks personal and professional employee records, including name, address, minority status, citizenship, education, and past professional experiences.

Limited-function HRIS platforms are often less expensive compared to comprehensive HRIS solutions, and solo HR professionals can manage this kind of software alone. For these reasons, small companies with lean HR teams may find limited-function HRIS platforms more manageable. 


When I Work focuses on workforce management and is best for organizations that need to effectively schedule shifts. When I Work’s more advanced features, like automatic scheduling and labor costing, make it a better option for companies with primarily frontline workers compared to comprehensive HR without these specialized abilities.

When I Work’s mobile app displays an employee’s schedule and tasks for the day, location, and rate of task completion. It also allows an employee to easily clock in.
When I Work’s mobile app allows managers and employees to view, make, and request schedule changes easily through its user-friendly mobile app. Source: When I Work

How to choose the right type of HRIS

There are many HRIS solutions available that fit a wide range of needs, so the quest to find the best fit comes down to two questions: 

  • What kind of HR management functions does the business need?
  • How will it use the data it collects from those processes?

Choose limited-scope HRIS if:

  • Your business needs an HRIS that specifically covers:
  • Operational HRIS to help develop your company’s current workforce. 
  • Strategic modules to support your company’s growth and succession planning efforts. 
  • Tactical modules to help you house data so that HR can make informed decisions about how to best use its existing resources.
  • You require a standalone solution with more advanced features for particular needs that a comprehensive HRIS does not cover. 

Choose comprehensive HRIS if:

  • As a company, your data grows in terms of both quantity and type. 
  • If you value efficiency and strategic insights over a bigger financial investment. 

Ultimately, the right type of HRIS depends on the unique needs your company faces now and in the future. Keep these needs top of mind as you explore our comprehensive list of solutions in our HR Software Guide.

TechnologyAdvice is able to offer our services for free because some vendors may pay us for web traffic or other sales opportunities. Our mission is to help technology buyers make better purchasing decisions, so we provide you with information for all vendors — even those that don’t pay us.

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