The 16 most common HRMS modules & features
Finding the right HRMS for your business can seem like an endless series of challenges. One of the first, and most important, is knowing exactly what features, functions, and modules you need - in other words, knowing what you need the system to do in order to support your strategic business goals.
The problem is, when you start looking at what HR software and technology is available, “HRMS” turns out to be a somewhat slippery term. Some vendors use it to describe a basic employee database with limited functionality, onto which can be bolted a number of compatible modules, each providing software support for one of the different HR functions listed below.
Others use it as a blanket label for a broader system that actually includes most if not all of the following modules in a single streamlined package.
Whatever the definition, here are brief descriptions of the sixteen most common modules and features by HR function, together with the key elements of each. The most popular HR system modules and/or features include:
- HR database
- Performance management
- Benefits administration
- Workforce management
- Time and attendance
- Absence and leave management
- Learning and development
- Talent management
- Succession Planning
- HR analytics
- Employee wellness
- Multi-territory workforce management
- Employee self-service
Not so much a feature as a foundation for all the rest, an HRMS stores your employee records. This can be as basic as name, address, telephone number, and job role, right up to a complete work record, including performance management assessments and training undertaken.
This may be the most straightforward feature of your HRMS but in a sense, it’s also the most critical in that it stores personal information (possibly including bank details for payroll purposes) and the question of the system’s data security is fundamental.
A recruitment module should handle all your internal form-filling and authorization processes; allow managers +/or HR to post advertisements and supporting documentation online, and offer applicant tracking, and even initial sifting. There may also be functionality to build talent pools which can then be ‘trawled’ for suitable candidates when a vacancy becomes available.
Of all HR technology, recruitment modules have embraced social media to the greatest extent – for example, compatibility with LinkedIn and other platforms is increasingly found as standard – and social capabilities are a key topic when questioning vendors.
Common recruitment module features include:
- Customized pipelines for different roles
- One-click posting of jobs and job descriptions to a variety of jobs boards
- Automated assessment processes, inc. interview scheduling
- Applicant tracking
- Resume parsing
- Standard metrics and analytics for candidate profiles
- Mobile app
- Gamification (though opinion is divided between the pros and cons)
- Social media interface
- Digitized offer management
Once you have your new hires, they need to be guided through your organization’s onboarding and induction procedures. This process can benefit from automation, significantly reducing the burden on both managers and the HR team: new recruits can be ‘introduced’ to the necessary people and to the organization itself; there may be automatic notifications to relevant departments for issues such as building access, user accounts, security passes, etc.
In an ideal system, the onboarding functions also interface with the performance and talent management modules.
Common onboarding module features include:
- Pre-first day preparation
- Easy (and paperless) set up of accurate employee records
- Provision of essential information about the company and key personnel
- Gamified learning
- Automatic scheduling of essential meetings
- Compliance with legislative mandates
- Goal-setting as a basis for the probationary period
Automating the appraisal process, recording and tracking objectives and targets, this module should incorporate your competence framework, job standards, and/or other relevant systems.
Common performance management module features include:
- Setting and managing personal performance goals
- Links to a competency framework
- Scheduling of appraisal and review meetings
- 360 performance feedback
- ‘In the moment’ feedback tools
- Big Data gathering for a broader picture of individual performance
- Links to talent management and succession planning functions
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Benefits management is all about providing timely information and aiding employees to make the right choice for their circumstances. This module should manage and monitor employee benefits, healthcare, pension/welfare packages, tracking enrolment options, and any financial implications.
Common benefits administration module features include:
- Online open enrollment
- Automated communication of enrolment options and information
- Plan comparison tool to aid employee choices, including costs and contribution breakdowns
- Automatic event management of the benefits life cycle
- Legislative compliance for your territory
Primarily a scheduling function, this module should link closely to (and is often combined with) time and attendance and leave management. Similarly, real-time functionality may involve linkages to other business intelligence systems such as ERP and CRM to match workforce deployment to shifting needs.
Common workforce management module features include:
- Scheduling and shift management
- Workflow monitoring
- Management dashboard with real-time data and metrics
Alongside payroll, this is probably one of the longest-standing automated HR functions: the time clock. These days, such systems often incorporate biometric identification to avoid ‘buddy punching’ practices and will link directly to (or be an integral part of) the workforce management module, with information links to your payroll and accounting software.
Common time and attendance module features include:
- Employment attendance tracking
- Time clock management
- Biometric systems
- Functionality for remote and mobile workers
- Legislative compliance (e.g. minimum mandated rest breaks)
Again, often linked to the time and attendance and workforce management functions, your leave management module is an automated way to allocate, book, approve, track and monitor any absence from the workplace. It may be for vacations, compassionate reasons, illness, parental leave, or even jury duty. Request and approval processes should be streamlined and the outcomes incorporated into team calendars where appropriate.
Common absence and leave management module features include:
- Self-service leave requests
- Integration with workforce management (scheduling) and time and attendance functions
- ‘Account management’, tracking accrued vacation time and usage.
- Metrics and analytics, including absence levels and trends
Often using the outcomes of the performance management process as a starting point, this module may produce individual training plans for staff, deal with bookings (for training courses and other learning options), and manage the follow-on evaluation and feedback process, while tracking training expenditure against budget allocations.
Common learning and development module features include:
- Learning portal
- Training recommendations linked to role, skillset, and career aspirations
- Individual user learning plans
- Setting and managing goals
- Links to a competency framework
- Streamlined learning administration (reducing the HR overhead)
Focusing on identifying individuals with potential, this module should assist with setting up talent pipelines to ensure your organization avoids critical skills and experience shortages that might impact performance. Links to recruitment, learning and development, and performance management should be seamless.
Common talent management module features include:
- Alignment with organizational strategic business goals
- Identification of career paths and individual career planning
- Integration with key recruitment campaigns
- Reward benchmarking (internal and external)
Linked to talent management, succession planning is all about having a structured process to put the right employees into specific career paths leading to specific job roles and positions. The goal is to ensure that your business-critical roles and responsibilities are always filled. Essentially, you’re futureproofing the workforce and the right HRMS can further that goal.
Key succession planning activities that an HRMS can support include the following:
- Identification of employees ready for advancement or with the potential to be so based on performance management data.
- Established career paths tailored to your organizational and business needs.
- Mapping of the process against an in-house competency framework.
- Gap analysis and creation of structured personal development plans tailored to identified individuals.
- Tracking of progress against career goals and development plans.
- Management of coaching and mentoring programs.
Often incorporated as functions within other modules, HR analytics provide reporting capabilities (frequently in the form of libraries of HR metrics and benchmarks) assessing and analyzing the data gathered and stored with the HRMS (and other business systems) to provide strategic and predictive insights that can be used to guide the business strategy of the organization.
A basic payroll function will calculate and pay salaries for each employee, withhold the appropriate taxes and deductions, and organize either the printing and delivery of paychecks or payment via direct deposit into employee bank accounts.
Traditionally, automated payroll was usually handled by a separate, dedicated piece of software. However, it’s increasingly common to see payroll functionality bundled up in your HRMS.
A clear benefit is that the essential employee data necessary when running your payroll is probably already stored by the HRMS (personal identification, banking details, a record of hours worked, etc.) Other benefits of HRMS-based payroll are data security and accuracy, less likelihood of errors, legislative compliance, and having all your people-related automation accessible via a single portal or access point.
Over the last few years, employee wellness has become an increasing priority for many organizations and their HR departments; arguably all the more so in light of a global pandemic. What this means is wellness and fitness programs, information initiatives, and incentivizing health practices such as exercise and a better diet. After all, a healthier workforce is present and much more likely to be operating efficiently and productively.
An HRMS can be used to manage and track engagement with such initiatives, set wellness goals, and disseminate key information and health prompts. There’s also the option of implementing wellness-related rewards and benefits as part of your overall compensation package.
Consistency is important in HR in terms of policies, systems, processes, and how they are applied across the workforce. This becomes a more complicated proposition when your organization is spread across multiple countries or territories. Every time you cross a border, the employment legislation and regulations change. Maybe not to a great degree, but there is change, even if only in payroll management terms.
If all your employees are tidily homed within a single set of national boundaries, you can skip this section. But with the increase in home and remote working and virtual teams, more and more businesses have multinational workforces.
Unless you want a separate HRMS for each territory (which would undermine the most essential advantage of using an HRMS in the first place!) you need a system that can handle multiple tax regimes, varying labor regulations (e.g. differences in working hours limits) and differences in compliance reporting requirements.
On a final note, not so much a distinct module as an underpinning (and essential) feature, these days no HRMS is complete without employee self-service. In fact, it’s pretty much a must-have if you want the impact and benefits of your HRMS to go any further than the HR department and boardroom.
It may be as simple as each employee being able to submit requests for paid time off. Or go as far as a full HR portal with an individualized dashboard for each worker, giving them access to a variety of HR services, from selecting benefits options to booking (and virtually attending) the latest training and development.
It is important to note that some of the above modules and features will probably overlap in terms of processes or category. For example, benefits management might fall under the payroll banner; and indeed payroll itself might be ‘filed’ under the broader heading of compensation management, taking in the wider reward and recognition packages.
Furthermore, there are other HRMS features and functions available (artificial intelligence and HR chatbots, anyone?) and there is also enormous variation in how the above features might be executed – e.g. one recruitment module might parse applicants’ resumes, another might put them through a series of gamified tests as the first round of assessment.
In other words, there are a seemingly infinite variety of combinations, each emphasizing different elements. The key lies in the project planning phase before you even dive into the (often bewildering) world of HRMS. It’s important to do your research and analysis, and to talk to key stakeholders about what a new HRMS needs to facilitate – what functions do they need, and what must those functions do?
It is crucial to start the HRMS selection process with these kinds of fundamental questions that focus on you and your business so as not to lose your way and be seduced by the latest industry ‘must-have’. Equipped with the answers, you’re ready to start searching for the ideal HRMS for you.
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