The Best HR Software of 2021

Our HR software reviews are the result of over 40 hours of research on 110+ HR software companies from across the web. These reviews and our HR software guide help small businesses and startups find the best HR software for their business.

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How We Chose the Best HR Software

In order to be an efficient and agile team, it’s important for HR management professionals to automate as many of their tasks as they can. A major tool toward these goals is HR management software, also known as the Human Resources Information System (HRIS). There are plenty of HRIS solutions on the market that tout all manner of features and services. In order to help your business find the best options, we chose to focus on a few key areas that are the most important in an HR software package:

Core HR Features

A solid HR software package provides effective and well-designed support for the traditional pillars of human resource management: personnel tracking, payroll and benefits administration, and time and attendance tracking.

Other HR Responsibilities

A fully modern HR software suite goes beyond core HR functions to tackle recruitment-related features like applicant tracking, the management of a company’s legal and regulatory commitments in regard to employment, and further features like performance tracking and employee engagement.

Demo or Free Trial

Because HR software can be a significant financial investment, it matters whether a company lets you try before you buy in a significant way, ensuring that the product you’re investing in genuinely meets your specific needs and provides solid value for money. We prioritized companies that provide the kind of free trials or demos that actually provide potential users with a clear perspective on the software.

The 15 Best HR Software Suites of 2021

CompanyPriceFree Trial / DemoVisit
ADP WorkforceNowQuote-based30-day free trialVisit ADP
BambooHRQuote-based7-day free trialVisit BambooHR
Dayforce HCMQuote-basedFree demo onlyVisit Ceridian
FreshteamSprout – Free/up to 50 users
Blossom – $50/month/50 users
Garden – $100/month/50 users
Estate – $200/month/50 users
21-day free trialVisit Freshworks
GustoContractor - $6/employee/month
Core - $6/employee/month plus $39 monthly base price
Complete - $12/employee/month  plus $39 monthly base price
Concierge - $12/employee/month plus $149 monthly base price

NoneVisit Gusto
Kronos Workforce ReadyQuote-basedFree demo onlyVisit Kronos
NamelyQuote-basedFree demo onlyVisit Namely
Oracle PeopleSoftQuote-based30-day free trialVisit Oracle
PaycorQuote-basedFree demo onlyVisit Paycor
PaylocityStarts at $2 per employee/monthFree demo onlyVisit Paylocity
SAP SuccessFactorsQuote-based30-day free trial; free demo also availableVisit SAP
Ultimate Software UltiProQuote-basedFree demo onlyVisit Ultimate Software
WorkdayQuote-basedFree demo onlyVisit Workday
ZenefitsGrowth – $18/employee/ month
Essentials – $10/employee/ month
Zen– $27/employee/month
2-week free trialVisit Zenefits
Zoho PeopleFree for 5 employees
ESSENTIAL HR – $1/employee/month
PROFESSIONAL – $2/employee/month
PREMIUM – $3/employee/month ENTERPRISE – $5/employee/month
15-day free trialVisit Zoho

ADP WorkforceNow

ADP is a venerable presence in the human resources sector, a company that’s been providing tools, resources and consultancy for HR management for more than seven decades. Its major modern HRIS solution is called ADP WorkforceNow. Designed for businesses of 50 employees or more looking to streamline their HR management, it operates around a unified employee database and handles payroll processing and tax filing, benefits management and talent recruitment, and time and attendance tracking. It offers sophisticated reporting and analytics, provides smartphone and tablet apps, and sports cross-compatibility with other ADP software suites, full cloud integration and multiple third-party integrations, and self-service tools for employers and administrators.

WorkforceNow has a web-based dashboard accessible from any internet-connected device that’s compatible with Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Edge, and the company provides solid online support and multilingual service. Its 30-day free trial offers a substantive test drive of its features, and its reliable performance and ease of use in managing the core tasks of HR management makes it a frequently recommended solution.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Quote-based30-day free trial>Unified database automates data synchronization and eliminates duplicate data
>Convenient self-service portals for employees and administrators
>Sophisticated reporting features
>More features at ADP

Pros & Cons of ADP WorkforceNow HR Software
ADP WorkforceNow offers a solid and reliable set of mobile- and web-compatible features to address the core of HR management. It also provides useful extras like employee self-serve portals, extensive reporting features and analytics that help companies evaluate how their hiring practices or current employee performance compare to certain self-established benchmarks, and third-party integrations that make it easy to customize to a specific company’s needs.

It’s easy to use overall, but its feature set can be a bit overwhelming for new users, and it takes some practice and training to get the most out of its reporting and analytics in particular.

>Delivers well on core HR features
>Third-party integrations and API
>Feature set can overwhelm new users
>Reporting and analytics are complicated to implement

What Customers Are Saying
ADP WorkforceNow is widely praised by its customer base. One customer notes: “Quick and efficient now that all of our employees’ information is imported . . . Great feedback from our employees with the online login and viewing of past checks, paid time off, etc. . . . It is easy to access [and] store/add data from week to week. It is implemented well for our technicians and sales agents to log in online and view all their payroll information.”


BambooHR provides a powerful set of HR management features in a package noted for its user-friendliness. A cloud-based solution that’s focused on small and mid-sized businesses, it delivers on the fundamentals of time tracking, payroll processing and benefits administration and can go beyond them to provide employee engagement and satisfaction tools, automated reminders and workforce analytics for all possible stages of the employee life cycle. The software is designed to help any size HR department drive company culture, refine the hiring and onboarding process and track employee data through a centralized database. It provides mobile apps for iOS and Android to support recruitment on the go.

Per-employee subscriptions combined with implementation fees comprise the typical pricing quote for BambooHR. Its biggest drawback is how quickly these costs can mount. The software is structured in modular fashion, with different features needing to be added through specific modules at added costs. Some businesses will find at the end of the day that it isn’t cost-effective to actually add enough modules to live up to the software’s promise of being able to manage a full employee life cycle. Its seven-day free trial version is too limited to provide a full perspective on everything the software can do.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Quote-based7-day free trial>Automated reminders and workforce analytics
>Centralized database
>Employee engagement and satisfaction tools
>More features at BambooHR

Pros & Cons of BambooHR HR Software
BambooHR offers up the possibility of an impressively powerful and easy-to-use HRIS suite that covers all the basics and delivers plenty more, managing an employee’s journey with the company from one end to the other on a model that’s easy to customize for a specific company’s needs. Unfortunately, actually getting all of this functionality can grow prohibitively expensive for some companies, and its free trial version doesn’t last long enough to provide much perspective.

>Powerful and user-friendly feature set
>Offers lots of flexibility and customization
>Short free trial period

What Customers Are Saying
BambooHR’s attractive interface and useful automation draw praise from the customer base: “The look and feel of BambooHR is amazing! It’s almost like Facebook for recruiting. It is very intuitive for what it [offers] to the administrator and end user. The applicant tracking system is very easy to use and goes the extra mile with automation and thoughtfulness concerning on-boarding and then ‘flowing’ into the core HRIS.” Another notes, “Modern HR information system with great broad feature set for medium-size businesses. Excellent for leave management, request, approval and tracking.”

Dayforce HCM

Ceridian’s Dayforce is a payroll and HCM (human capital management) suite that provides efficient core HR management by managing time and attendance, payroll and benefits through a unified database with a single rule engine, an approach which this suite can lay claim to having pioneered as early as 2012. It’s noted for providing an intuitive and streamlined user experience (although the sophistication of its features can still mean it’s best administered by someone with IT experience), and it saves considerable amounts of time and energy for users by almost completely eliminating redundant data entry. Employee schedules and other parameters can be adjusted and analyzed in real time, without resorting to separate “bolt-on” applications, and the software’s analytics can be used to manage recruitment and development, build schedules that promote employee wellness and monitor compliance across an employee’s life cycle.

Dayforce HCM offers a mobile-compatible app that supports password-free biometric login, provides an employee-facing portal for checking work-related information, offers detailed reports with embedded analytics for managers, and lets administrators pull data across departments and applications with confidence in its accuracy. International personnel tracking and multi-currency and multi-lingual support make it a useful solution for companies operating across borders and for businesses ranging from small to large scale.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Quote-basedFree demo only>Unified database, rule engine and feature set
>Provides useful data tools for managers and admins
>International personnel tracking w/ multi-currency and multi-lingual support
>More features at Ceridian

Pros & Cons of Dayforce HCM HR Software
Dayforce HCM’s unified approach to its rules and database system has made it an efficient HR management software. It provides a strong feature set, although bugs and glitches have been known to crop up from time to time, and its reporting functions could be more user-friendly.

>Efficient solution that unifies employee database and system rules
>Streamlined and intuitive UX for most things
>No free trial

What Customers Are Saying
Customers generally have positive things to say about Dayforce’s functionality: “The system has a breadth of features which are useful to any organization. We did have an HRIS system in the past but it had limited capabilities, especially in terms of reports. With Dayforce, we have done away with several paper-based processes. . .” The mobile app is a particular favorite for some: “This is very easy for everyday use, especially on the cell phone app.”


Freshteam’s design puts specific focus on maximizing the efficiency and effectiveness of the recruitment process for growing companies. Recommended for in-house hiring managers and freelance recruiters alike, it provides core applicant tracking and recruitment CRM features in a single, compact package. Offering a free package for small teams to cover the basic necessities, Freshteam provides best-in-class applicant tracking that consolidates information on and speeds up the assessment of top candidates, storing all recruitment-relevant data in a unified database and managing recruitment operations from a single user-friendly dashboard.

Freshteam is also known for having a responsive support team that’s genuinely knowledgeable about the software’s core recruitment mission. It provides efficient candidate tracking and screening, populating distinct applicant profiles with information from the database so that it’s easy to see the best candidates for a position at a glance. It’s an ideal solution for further recruitment necessities like scheduling interviews and collecting structured feedback, building org charts to see at a glance which positions need filling, and managing job postings and time off.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Sprout – Free/up to 50 users
Blossom – $50/month/50 users
Garden – $100/month/50 users
Estate – $200/month/50 users
21 days free trial>Detailed applicant tracking from a unified database
>Automatically populates applicant profiles
>Interview scheduling and structured feedback
>More features at Freshworks

Pros & Cons of Freshteam HR Software
Freshteam’s applicant tracking and onboarding is best-in-class, it offers a useful free trial and small, functional free edition (a rarity in the HRIS marketplace), and it’s built to integrate with other Freshworks software. If you want to make it part of a more complete HRIS package — obviously, given its specific recruitment focus, it won’t cover all of a company’s HRIS needs — that kind of integration will be necessary, as it doesn’t always work with applications outside the Freshworks family.

>Applicant tracking and onboarding features
>Free plan
>Integrates well with other Freshworks software
>Focuses more on recruiting than HR
>May not integrate well with other HRIS software

What Customers Are Saying
Customers give the software generally positive reviews: “Freshteam has given a new lease on life, so to speak, to our HR team and dramatically improved our tracking and maintaining information about our teams . . . The interface is sleek and intuitive. It’s incredibly easy to set up and get an Org Chart started, and build an employee directory with as much or as little information as you need for your company’s needs.” Another user notes, “FreshTeam is used by one department at a small non-profit to help us recruit & hire interns year round. Prior to FreshTeam, we were using Google Sheets and email. FreshTeam has helped us streamline workflow by >40%!”


Gusto is still a relatively new entry in the HR software market, with a specific focus on payroll services. Designed to provide smart payroll tools for small businesses, it has a clean, easy-to-navigate user interface, and its simplicity in itself is a major benefit in dealing with the otherwise intricate and time-consuming tasks of payroll, benefits administration and tax filing. (On the other hand, the dashboard is perhaps a bit too simplified and could be a bit more robust about the information it displays.) At its higher tiers of service, Gusto adds further HR management functionality to the core payroll mission, such as onboarding and time tracking tools and an employee self-service portal.

Notable for its affordability and ease of use, Gusto excels at its core payroll management mission and provides a number of useful automations in doing so. It also excels at benefits management and helping employers of any size find appropriate health insurance for their employees. An aspect of this service includes effective support and consultancy from HR professionals on benefits questions (although, unlike some competitors who offer similar services, Gusto’s isn’t available on weekends). On the other hand, it does not offer a free trial version, requiring potential users to invest a lot of trust in the software’s features and design philosophy.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Contractor - $6/employee/month
Core - $6/employee/month plus $39 monthly base price
Complete - $12/employee/month  plus $39 monthly base price
Concierge - $12/employee/month plus $149 monthly base price
None>User-friendly interface and navigation
>Strong payroll features, reporting and automations
>Detailed and flexible employee records
>More features at Gusto

Pros & Cons of Gusto HR Software
Gusto’s ease of use, accuracy and wealth of payroll tools and automation make it a highly successful program in its chosen specialty. The lack of a free trial is a missing piece, however, and despite the virtues of its simplicity, its dashboard could be a bit more robust.

>Easy to set up and use
>Robust benefits integration and consultancy services
>Simple and efficient timesheet integration, tax filing and deduction management
>No free trial

What Customers Are Saying
Gusto’s customers praise its ease of use and the way it simplifies complicated problems for small businesses: “Gusto is easy and straightforward to use. But it doesn’t sacrifice accuracy for ease. What I like most about Gusto is that it makes it easy for small businesses to be legally compliant with complicated wage laws across jurisdictions. I haven’t found a legal error yet — and I can’t say that about any other payroll software or service I’ve worked with over the last 15 years.”

Kronos Workforce Ready

Focused on the small to mid-sized business market, the Kronos Workforce Ready suite provides a considerable amount of general HR management functionality at affordable price points. Kronos has been a long-time presence in the HR software market that more typically focused on cloud-based HR for larger businesses, and some elements of that mission may be reflected in the way it’s implemented. It’s immensely feature-rich and highly configurable, adaptable to the needs of a wide range of businesses with enough expertise and heavy lifting, but it’s not as easy to use as some of the alternatives and may well prove overtasking to implement and manage for small businesses who don’t have a dedicated HR department or manager.

Aside from core HR features, Kronos Workforce Ready includes applicant tracking, hiring and onboarding, time-off management, analytics and a companion mobile app. It works through a single portal for all users with distinct access levels for employees, managers and administrators. Employees can view their personal profiles and payment details, edit their personal and contact information and request time off, among other functions. Managers can use the same portal to organize teams, conduct performance reviews and generate reports. Administrative users can set up workflows and rules, generate shortcuts and templates and edit policies. There are significant benefit management features that can be augmented by a number of third-party integrations to perform with more flexibility and power.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Quote-basedFree demo only>Tiered user access to versatile service portal
>Mobile app compatible with Android and iOS
>Analytics provide actionable insights from mobile and desktop apps
>More features at Kronos

Pros & Cons of Kronos Workforce Ready HR Software
Its configurability and rich feature set are two of Kronos Workforce Ready’s biggest selling points, combining with its affordable pricing to make it an attractive option for its target niche. That same feature-rich configurability comes with the trade-off that actually implementing all the software’s functions will likely be daunting to the less technically proficient user or one with less time to invest in setup and management.

>Offers a lot of configuration options
>Vast array of features
>Affordable pricing
>Need a dedicated team to manage and implement
>No free trial

What Customers Are Saying
Kronos Workforce Ready’s powerful feature set and configurability are popular with users who can fully implement them: “Workforce Ready is a very robust time and labor application that can integrate seamlessly with your payroll solution. The granular configuration options allow the administrator and/or implementation team to set up their timekeeping solution according to their individual needs. Moreover, by mixing and matching profiles within the different areas of configuration, one can fine tune options by departments or individual employees if necessary.”


Namely is a generalized HR solution focused on small to midsize businesses. Recognizing that it’s important for an HR solution to be adaptable to the needs of a specific size and sector of business and how they handle time management, onboarding and payroll, Namely goes to considerable lengths to provide customers with as much customizability as possible. In fact, it gives the customer near-complete control over how the software looks and works, which gives the benefit of maximum adaptability but does come with a drawback: more configurability can also make a piece of software take longer to set up and implement, and this is doubly true of Namely.

That said, once implemented, Namely offers a large array of core HR features for benefits administration and payroll, an easy-to-navigate user interface and a robust selection of additional features that customization makes easier to set up in the most convenient way for you. It offers a centralized employee database with detailed reporting and a social news feed, provides compliance training and tracking as an integrated part of the service and enables performance reviews and document signing directly within the app. Its per-user expense has the potential to become expensive for larger companies, making it best suited for its mid-sized target market.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Quote-basedFree demo only>High capacity for customization
>Core HR features
>Integrated compliance training and tracking
>More features at Namely

Pros & Cons of Namely HR Software
Namely is readily adaptable for almost any needs that mid-sized businesses might have from HR software, and with its reporting features, intriguing features like a social news feed and integrated performance review and user-friendliness after implementation, it’s a solid option. However, its immense customizability also makes setup considerably more labor-intensive and time-consuming, and its prices make it a less-than-attractive option for larger businesses.

>Flexible and informative reporting
>In-app performance reviews, document signing and more
>User friendly
>No free trial
>Expensive as more users come online and the cost per user gradually mounts

What Customers Are Saying
Namely’s customers generally have extremely positive things to say about it: “As an HRIS Namely is as good as it gets. After using many other platforms in the past, I can say that Namely provides an easy to use platform that works out of the box but offers a great deal of customization to fit your workflows . . . Having HRIS, Payroll and Benefits in one place and dedicated client rep and dedicated benefits rep is definitely hard to beat.”

Oracle PeopleSoft

Oracle PeopleSoft consists of a series of modules that tackle different elements of HRIS and HCM (human capital management) functionality. Its Global Core HCM module provides payroll solutions for both North American and international countries and handles pension and benefits administration. A workforce management module deals with time and labor management, absence tracking and resource, travel and expense management. An in-memory labor rules and monitoring module provides real-time analytics to ensure compliance with overtime regulations, and workforce service delivery uses a self-service and collaboration framework to streamline common HR tasks (allowing employees to access an HR help desk, view payroll and benefits, and edit their personal information and profiles in a centralized database). Finally, the talent management module handles recruitment and succession planning.

PeopleSoft serves a number of large organizations in the private sector and government alike. Implementing the software is a nine-step process in which the company provides both training and certification via a number of different models. This is certainly not one of those solutions that downloads and installs at the touch of a button and can be operated on sight by users at any experience level. Applications within each of the modules need to be purchased separately, and between the costs of training and licenses, it’s fairly clear that Oracle PeopleSoft is not a solution made with small- or mid-sized businesses in mind.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Quote-based30-day free trial>Complete modular feature suites for all aspects of an HRIS
>Employee self-service portal and database
>Real-time analytics and compliance tracking
>More features at Oracle

Pros & Cons of Oracle PeopleSoft HR Software
Oracle PeopleSoft imposes no limit on how many users can be covered by a license and provides an incredibly powerful array of features ideal for managing large teams with efficiency. That said, it obviously does not prioritize ease of use, and between training and certification costs and the expenses of licensing for separate modules and for separate applications within a module, this is clearly an application for large organizations with significant resources only.

>Unlimited users per license
>>Efficient solution for large teams
>Training and certification is needed to run the software

What Customers Are Saying
Once users have cleared the hurdle of training and learning about PeopleSoft’s less than user-friendly system, they praise what it can accomplish: “Once you know how to use PeopleSoft, it can be one of your best friends. It can be a guiding tool to help better so many departments of a company. It helped me understand the ins and outs and track financials of projects much more vividly than I’d be able to otherwise. My most productive and proactive days at my old job included getting the most out of PeopleSoft and checking in on all of my various jobs . . .”


Paycor is an all-in-one HRIS suite that provides core human resource features with a particular focus on recruitment and payroll solutions. It has a reputation as an intuitive platform with easy-to-manage onboarding, timekeeping, payroll, tax compliance and reporting functions. Some of its signature features include a class application tracking system that supplies real-time dashboards for users (allowing applicants to interact with the hiring process), a centralized employee database and predictive analytics focused on key metrics like diversity, labor costs and employee retention. It provides plans both for small businesses of up to 40 employees and for mid-market companies with up to 1000-plus workers.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Quote-basedFree demo only>Predictive analytics
>Centralized employee database
>Full range of core HRIS features
>More features at Paycor

Pros & Cons of Paycor HR Software

Paycor’s full feature set and ease of use make it a great choice for both small and mid-sized business. Sophisticated features like benchmark-driven analytics and a real-time dashboard for applicants to access information about the hiring process help set it apart. On the other hand, users have expressed the desire for more extensive customer support.

>Benchmark-driven analysis
>Real-time dashboard for onboarding new hires
>Good ease of use
>Customer support's response time and substantiveness could use some work

What Customers Are Saying
Users are generally very pleased with Paycor’s friendly interface and list of features: “Overall a very happy client. Use it daily for managing employee information and their payroll needs, and loving it . . . Easy and simple for hands-on approach to payroll management even during complex times. The software is rapidly updated with changing [times] such as setting up new earnings codes for COVID related leaves. Easy to learn, to use, to navigate. Friendly screens, interface.”


This web-based payroll and HRIS service is specifically targeted at the smaller end of the small to mid-sized business market. It provides advanced reporting and self-service features, integrates seamlessly with leading retirement plans, general ledger and time-and-attendance apps, and offers Web Pay as its signature online payroll solution with proactive features like a pre-process register and custom compliance and checklist tools. QuickPay accompanies it, a built-in app designed for easy batch payroll processing. Other HRIS functions include personnel tracking, scheduling, onboarding and learning management.

Paylocity is accessible around the lock and is customizable to specific users’ way of working. It provides intuitive and integrated benefit enrollment, sports mobile compatibility and boasts comprehensive templates for data on new hires that collect demographic, earning, deduction and direct deposit information. Web Pay features drag-and-drop customizability for processes and additional templates. It provides streamlined communication via team notes, offers analytics tools for management and makes it simple to set up performance reviews.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Starts at $2 per employee/monthFree demo only>Mobile-compatible online app
>Web Pay offers feature-rich payroll management with drag-and-drop customization
>Additional HRIS features for recruitment, training and onboarding, and for benefit management
>More features at Paylocity

Pros & Cons of Paylocity HR Software

Paylocity’s ease of use, the convenience of access as an online app and drag-and-drop customization are all major advantages, and it offers plenty of useful features in the payroll management arena in particular. Its reporting functionality is limited, however, and some users find its organization of key tasks and information limited as well.

>Easy to use
>Strong payroll management features
>Built-in batch payroll processing
>Limited reporting functionality
>No free trial

What Customers Are Saying
Users are generally positive in their opinions of Paylocity: “Paylocity is a great program for any company that has to do payroll or track and manage employee time. It is so easy to use and super easy to understand. Paylocity makes everything as simple as a click of a button and the appropriate alerts go where they need to go without much extra help.”

SAP SuccessFactors

While SAP is known as a leading supplier of enterprise resource planning software, it also offers a high-quality HRIS package called SuccessFactors, geared toward small and mid-sized businesses. Well-organized and feature-rich, SuccessFactors is particularly well known for its top-tier performance management features which include personnel files, organization chart creation, goal setting and related Android and iPhone apps. SuccessFactors also includes a range of other HR tools for reporting, employee engagement, benefits administration and applicant tracking, none of which are as standout as its performance management tools, but all of which are solid offerings nevertheless.

SuccessFactors’ Performance & Goals toolkit revolves around a continuous performance management dashboard that allows managers to conduct routine check-ins with their teams and that can automatically pair junior and senior employees for training and support with its mentoring feature. SuccessFactors’ extensive Goals and Performance modules are definitely best suited for companies that place particular time and emphasis on the review process.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Quote-based30-day free trial; free demo also available>Best-in-class performance management tools
>Serviceable mobile apps for Android and iOS
>Solid core HR features
>More features at SAP

Pros & Cons of SAP SuccessFactors HR Software

SAP SuccessFactors is an obvious standout in performance tracking and well-suited for the small to mid-sized business that places a major emphasis on this area of HR. It also offers a very solid core HR feature set for businesses in this range. Its mobile apps have limited functionality, and it lacks the add-on options of other leading HRIS packages.

>Outstanding performance tracking
>Intuitive setup process
>Solid feature set for small- to mid-sized business
>Limited function in mobile apps
>Lacks add-on options of leading competitors

What Customers Are Saying
Though SuccessFactor’s general HR offerings don’t command quite the same regard in general as its performance management functions, it still gets positive word-of-mouth overall from customers: “We have used SAP SuccessFactors for a few months with a good experience. Different from the previous RRHH application, it’s really intuitive and easy to work with. As a project manager, I was worried about a difficult thing like payrolls: if any discrepancy in the payroll is found, it could be really difficult to manage. But this has not happened as SuccessFactors can manage this really easily compared with the previous application.”

Ultimate Software UltiPro

Ultimate Software’s UltiPro is a cloud-based HR, payroll and talent solution package. It provides personalized recruiting and onboarding tools that provide long-term, role-based tracking of pay, benefits and career development information. UltiPro is designed to enable rapid payroll processing, provide efficient management of employee HR requests, support modern learning solutions and facilitate performance and compensation management and succession planning. It also offers employee engagement tools and supports its full range of features with business intelligence AI that provides sophisticated reporting and analytics. Highly configurable, UltiPro aims to consolidate the full range of HR needs on a single platform.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Quote-basedFree demo only>Role-based employee information tracking
>Rapid payroll processing
>Business intelligence-fueled reporting and analytics
>More features at Ultimate Software

Pros & Cons of UltiPro HR Software
UltiPro stays resolutely up to date with current technology, shows a forward-thinking list of tools and features and is clearly built with friendliness to the end user in mind — surprisingly easy to use given its impressive feature set. Users do report that there’s room for improvement in the recruitment module, especially in its reporting.

>Easy-to-use advanced features
>Stays up to date with the most current tech
>Reporting functions in the recruitment module can be improved
>No free trial

What Customers Are Saying
UltiPro draws very positive notices from customers: “We use UltiPro for timekeeping, HR, and payroll across the whole organization. It gives our employees access to their information, securely, gives HR access to the employees, and helps us process payroll more efficiently.”

Workday HCM

Another cloud-based HR solution, Workday HCM is designed for use by businesses of all sizes with a focus on workforce planning, analysis and implementation. It uses a single-system framework to deliver a range of tools for core HRIS features: workforce planning, financials, talent management and recruitment, payroll and analytics, compensation and benefits administration, time and attendance tracking and learning management. It also offers a module specifically for educational institutions that adds admissions, curriculum management, records, advising and financial aid tracking to the picture.

Workday integrates with a wide range of third-party tools and applications and is designed for ease of use and to safeguard the security and integrity of user data. Its pricing is flexible and individualized according to each specific customer and their needs. It’s mobile-friendly and offers a considerable further feature set including automatic bank statement reconciliation and global payroll tools.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Quote-basedFree demo only>Global payroll tools
>Advanced security features
>Education-specific tools for curriculum management and financial aid
>More features at Workday

Pros & Cons of Workday HCM HR Software
Workday HCM is highly scalable and known for its easy-to-use interface and delivers strong functionality for performance reviews and talent management reporting. Some users do report a learning curve in initial implementation.

>Easy-to-use interface
>Scalable for use by almost any size of business
>Strong functionality for talent management reporting and performance reviews
>Some users report learning curve in implementation

What Customers Are Saying
Workday HCM draws very positive reviews from users: “There couldn’t be any easier to use software for the simple task of keeping track of honest work hours in the workplace. It’s one more thing to help take stress off your mind and be able to focus on [the] actual work you came in for. . . As an employee to clock in and out, you really are just looking for ease of access. That is what Workday provided for us.”


Zenefits’ reputation as an HRIS package has grown quickly since its advent in 2013. It’s an HR software solution designed for small businesses and start-ups and backed with consultation and support from human advisers. It provides a particularly complete small to mid-sized business solutions for benefits administration, and it boasts an impressive feature set that includes intuitive administration and a capacity to add on services as necessary, along with business intelligence reporting.

Zenefits current benefits administration package now includes plan building and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) features, strengthening its already leading-edge BA functionality. Partnerships with Chekr, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Slack allow it to share information with these platforms. Its payroll applications are designed with start-ups in mind, streamlining the hiring of independent contractors and making it easy to set up stock options and paid time off. It is a strong offering on the whole and competitive with the best the industry has to offer.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Growth – $18/employee/ month
Essentials – $10/employee/ month
Zen– $27/employee/month
14-day free trial>Deep benefits administration functions
>Start-up-specific payroll management features
>Third-party data sharing partnerships with major platforms
>More features at Zenefits

Pros & Cons of Zenefits HR Software

Zenefits features comprehensive benefits admin and plan building. It provides solid UX, thorough employee records and excellent business intelligence (BI) reporting. Very small businesses may find its features overwhelming, however, and it should be noted that its mobile apps don’t support all possible administration tasks.

>Comprehensive benefits administration tools
>Detailed employee records and business intelligence (BI) reporting
>Best for larger businesses
>Mobile apps don't support all admin tasks

What Customers Are Saying
Customers rave about Zenefits: “This is a great software for a distributed workforce. We have employees in different 20 states and 40 different locations. Zenefits makes it easy for us . . . This software is so easy to use for both the employees and the HR team. Everything is simple and straightforward, no convoluted quirky tricks needed to enter information.”

Zoho People

Zoho People is award-winning HR software. Built for the small to medium business market, it’s designed as a straightforward, scalable solution that works “out of the box” and focuses on ease of implementation and use. It includes a sophisticated learning management system and operates its main HR management functionality from a centralized hub. This provides a collaborative, problem-solving environment that allows employees to report times from their mobile phones or devices, check their schedules, request time off and otherwise touch base with managers and colleagues. Zoho People synchronizes with other systems to eliminate redundant data entry and provides smart, real-time analytics. It’s offered on a flexible and affordable pricing scheme and integrates fully with the family of Zoho products for companies that want to extend and deepen its overall value.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Free for 5 employees
ESSENTIAL HR – $1/employee/month
PROFESSIONAL – $2/employee/month
PREMIUM – $3/employee/month ENTERPRISE – $5/employee/month
15-day free trial>Collaborative community hub and employee self-serve portal
>Third-party integrations to eliminate redundant data entry
>Real-time analytics
>More features at Zoho

Pros & Cons of Zoho People HR Software
Zoho People is a fully integrated, scalable solution that provides excellent all-in-one HR functionality, is easy to use and implement and provides outstanding communications and notification tools. It provides all this at a reasonable price. Its mobile apps have drawn some user complaints for being occasionally glitchy, and its learning management system doesn’t match the full functionality of software specifically dedicated to that purpose.

>All-in-one HR feature set
>Communication and notification tools
>Reasonable pricing
>Learning Management System (LMS) doesn't match the functionality of software packages dedicated to that purpose
>Mobile apps can be glitchy

What Customers Are Saying
Zoho People draws rave reviews from its customer base: “Non intrusive, robust and easy to use HR tool . . . This app is great for companies that don’t have a clock in/out system, a file repository per employee for HR documents and a company calendar with events or things that will be done in the company per employee. . . This is basically the best suite for managing employees. It has a mobile app as well! So you can clock in and out or view your documents on the go.”

What Is HR Software?

While most HR software covers the same basic pillars of human resource management — payroll, time tracking and benefits administration — HR or HRIS software can have a wide variety of different takes on what needs to be emphasized, how specific features and functions should be approached and what added features or integrations are most crucial. There is no “right” answer to these questions. Everything depends on the approach that makes the most sense for a specific target user or market and that delivers the best results for your specific company.

Three general rules of thumb are worth keeping in mind:

  • When HR software places a major emphasis on customization, this also is likely to make setup more work.
  • The more extensive a solution’s features list becomes, the more work will have to go into making its UI easy to use to keep it from needing specific training to use by your company. Sometimes, it isn’t possible to close this gap.
  • Having access to a deep list of features sounds great, but remember that for smaller-scale organizations, too many features can become overwhelming in themselves.

Benefits of HR Software

Human resource management without software support can be immensely time-consuming, labor-intensive and frustrating. Having the advantage of a quality HRIS suite can cut the amount of time spent on HR tasks by as much as 40% or more.

Freeing up that much time can make a decisive difference to businesses of almost any size, but it can be a particular lifesaver for small businesses, where small teams often already feature multiple team members trying to cover multiple bases without burning out. The time and energy that HRIS can save can mean the difference between success and growth as opposed to faltering and burnout, which all on its own makes it an investment worth looking into.

Must-Have Features of HR Software

HR software packages, unless they are extremely specialized toward one aspect of HR management, should offer the following core feature sets:

  • An employee database that cuts down on redundant data entry and keeps information together
  • Payroll management
  • Applicant tracking
  • Time and attendance tracking
  • Benefits administration

Multiple sub-features are possible within any of these general categories. You can see plenty of examples in the guide above. In addition to these core HR functions, good HRIS suites should generally offer at least some of the following added benefits:

  • Self-service employee portal
  • Third-party integrations
  • Performance management
  • Employee engagement and satisfaction
  • Reporting

Most modern systems should offer real-time “smart” reporting, though the quality of this is still highly variable. And finally, most modern HR suites should offer mobile apps or mobile compatibility as standard features.

The Cost of HR Software

As you’ll note in the above guide, HR/HRIS software is so often priced by specialized quote that it’s hard to make general statements about its pricing. There are, however, a couple of things to look out for: training costs, which can rapidly escalate the price of a HRIS plan (this is one of the reasons we placed so much emphasis on ease of use as a criterion) and modular structuring of HRIS suites, which can lead to the separate licensing of various kinds of features and functions, bumping up the overall costs even further.

The presence of either of these things does not necessarily mean you should avoid the solution in question, simply that you’ll have to keep a careful eye on the final cost and assess whether the features it’s delivering are worth it. In the end, your goal is simply to find the solution that’s right for your business at a price point you can sustain.