Your A-Z guide to HR software


When we talk about ‘HR software’ we’re actually talking about a broad range of HR tools, platforms and applications. To help you understand the lingo, we provide an HR software A-to-Z

Absence management
A function within HR software that collects and aggregates information on attendance, holidays and sickness. Many tools offer employee self-service via an intranet, relieving HR of time-consuming administration and allowing managers to have an overview of where staff are. These systems also enable managers and HR to conduct in-depth analysis of sickness absence patterns across departments, teams or even individuals, to identify and remedy problems.

Also see Time & attendance , Bradford factor and Holiday requests

Analytics tools enable HR departments to draw insights from various sources of employee data. This could, for example, show a link between high-performing employees and the way they are rewarded, or help HR to see patterns in employee behaviours that lead to certain outcomes. See also big data.

Applicant tracking system 
An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a software application that enables the electronic handling of recruitment needs. An ATS may also be referred to as a Talent Management System (TMS) and/or Talent Platform and is often provided via an application service provider or software as a service (SaaS) model. Also see Recruitment

Artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence, or AI, refers to computer systems being able to perform tasks normally carried out by humans. Within the HR and recruitment sphere, it is increasingly being used to conduct tasks such as selecting candidate shortlists, while it is predicted that many roles will be automated thanks to AI innovations in future.

Originally an acronym for Bankers’ Automated Clearing Services, BACS is a not-for-profit, membership-based industry scheme for the electronic processing of financial transactions. BACS Direct Debits and BACS Direct Credits are made using the BACS system. BACS payments take three working days to clear: they are entered into the system on the first day, processed on the second, and cleared on the third. Also see Payroll

The process of comparing the activities and work processes of an organisation or department with those of other outstanding organisations or departments to identify ways to improve performance.

Big data
Big data refers to the ability to collect data from multiple sources and systems and analyse it to generate useful insights. Many large consumer-facing organisations use this approach to find insights on customers, but it is increasingly used in the fields of HR and recruitment. See also analytics

Bradford Factor
Some software systems can incorporate the Bradford Factor or Bradford Formula, which is used in HR management as a means of measuring worker absenteeism. The theory is that short, frequent, and unplanned absences are more disruptive than longer absences. Also see Absence management

Budgeting software brings together data from multiple sources, including HRIS, payroll, performance management and sales forecasting, to help build a complete picture of the current and future business situation. This allows organisations to accurately predict the overall costs and identify where savings could be made.

Cloud-based software Accessing software ‘in the cloud’ is when individuals use a web browser or mobile app via an internet or mobile data connection to use the system. Data is stored securely by your cloud provider and any updates or additional functions can be added remotely. Many organisations now use cloud-based HR systems because they require far less upfront investment than implementing an HR system on-site, and easily scale up or down. See also Software as a Service

Competency framework software
A competency framework, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is ‘a structure that sets out and defines each individual competency (such as problem-solving or people management) required by individuals working in an organisation or part of an organisation’. Competency framework software or competency management software can help managers and HR get a clear view of where skills need to be developed, and also support a change management process.

Configuration and customisation
Configuration is the setting up, addition, modification or deletion of parameters and rules within an application, such as holiday entitlements, pay rates etc.

Customisation is modification of the original software to accommodate your particular requirements, such as new screens and new categories.

Continuing professional development
Continuing professional development (CPD) is the means by which members of professional associations maintain, improve and broaden their knowledge and skills and develop the personal qualities required in their professional lives. Software can help managers to track and monitor their staff’s continuing professional development and ensure that objectives are achieved. Also see Training/learning management.

Discipline & grievance
Specialist software can help to ensure that disciplinary and grievance issues are handled effectively, fairly and in line with relevant employment legislation. These tools include features such as step-by-step processes for managing disciplinaries and grievances, letter templates, disciplinary hearing guides for managers, an audit trail of all meetings and documents and automated alerting of key milestones.  Also see Employee relations

An umbrella term relating to online or app-based applications that deliver training to employees. Most systems complement a blended learning approach that combines classroom and on-the-job training with online learning. See alsoTraining/learning management, Learning management system

Employee opinion surveys (EOS)
Employee opinion surveys (EOS) – also known as staff opinion surveys, employee surveys, employee attitude surveys or employee engagement surveys – are used by organisations to measure core aspects of employees’ work experiences. Staff can give feedback on leadership practices, fairness of pay, workplace relationships, team spirit, and opportunities for personal development, among other things. There is a growing trend towards conducting smaller, more frequent surveys (sometimes called ‘pulse surveys’) and using mobile apps to measure employee happiness.

Employee self-service (ESS)
Employee self-service (ESS) describes the way employees can access, view and update applications that they interact with. This could encompass anything from personal data in HR management systems to booking holiday or arranging training.

Employment checking software
Employment checking software, also known as background checking software, helps organisations to keep an electronic audit trail of new recruits’ (and existing employees’) experience and qualifications, references, DBS checks and right to work in the UK.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
A software application or combination of applications that manages and co-ordinates information and resources within an organisation. HRIS (Human Resources Information Systems) generally form part of an ERP application. This goal is for all departments to base their decisions on the same information (sales forecasts, actual orders, sickness absence records etc), throughout the organisation.

Employee expenses software helps gather and organise information about all expenses: travel expenses, accommodation expenses, meal expenses, entertainment expenses, etc.

FTE (Full-time equivalent)
The basis on which headcount is calculated within most HR software systems: 1.0 FTE is represented by a full-time employee. For example, if a standard full-time employee works 40 hours per week, an employee working 25 hours per week is expressed as 0.63 FTE.

Health and safety software
Health and safety software helps you set up and maintain an online safety and compliance management system that covers all your organisation’s health, safety and environmental requirements.

Hosted service
This is where an organisation accesses a piece of software that is hosted on a server remote from the office. As with cloud or software as a service (SaaS) the application(s) is accessed via the Internet, typically for a monthly management fee. The employer saves money on investing in IT infrastructure such as servers as these are bought and looked after by the host. See also Software as a Service

HRIS stands for Human Resources Information System (or Human Resource Information Software), and is a generic term for software elements dealing with the recording and processing of personnel. Related terms include HRMS (Human Resource Management System or Human Resource Management Information System) and Human Capital Solutions (HCS). HRIS software can form part of a suite in larger organisations, often collectively known as Enterprise Resource Planning applications (ERP).

Job evaluation
Job evaluation software analyses existing roles within an organisation. It can be used to produce an organisation chart enabling the grading and banding of salaries and benefits and ranks jobs at similar or varying levels of responsibility.

Job board posting software
This enables hiring managers or recruiters to post a role on multiple job boards at once, rather than approaching each one individually. Most also integrate with social media channels such as Twitter or LinkedIn so your job ads can reach an even greater audience.

Key performance indicators
A key performance indicator (KPI) is a measure of performance. Such measures are commonly used to help an organisation define and evaluate how successful it is, typically in terms of making progress towards its long-term organisational goals.

KPI software can centralise the distribution and monitoring of these indicators, and store any data relating to these performance indicators. Managers can then compare different parts of the organisation or identify areas that need work.

Learning management system (LMS)
Learning management systems, at their most basic, record any training that employees have completed, and how well they performed. More sophisticated systems help training professionals to create and curate content for staff, offer self-service access to relevant training media, and aid communication between staff. See aksoTraining/learning management

Onboarding software
Onboarding new employees successfully can really impact their engagement with the role. Onboarding software can make sure administrative tasks are completed in good time, allow new staff to interact with their future colleagues, and book essentials such as induction meetings or compliance training.

Outsourced service
Outsourcing involves the transfer of the management and/or day-to-day execution of a business function such as payroll to an external service provider. The client agrees to procure the services from the supplier for the term of the contract.

One of the most well-established HR software packages, payroll software automates the process of calculating pay, reducing the burden of understanding complex payroll legislation and payroll systems operation. Any organisation that runs its own payroll needs a system that can report to HMRC online and in real time.

Payroll systems now have to cope with large amounts of data that change weekly or monthly – from flexible working hours to a variety of taxes affecting different employees in the same workforce, as well as pay increases, taking away leavers and adding joiners.

In addition, they now also have to deal with pensions auto-enrolment, and from April 2017 larger companies will have to pay an apprenticeship levy via PAYE. Most packages’ data can be integrated with broader HR systems, and vice versa.

Performance management
Performance management concentrates on how specific departments, offices and even employees are performing against pre-defined performance metrics. In some instances, this can be used as part of the appraisal process allowing managers and employees to easily see how their performance is measured.

A number of performance management ‘apps’ have emerged allowing managers to give more frequent feedback or set incremental goals.

Recruitment systems
Recruitment software encompasses a range of tools from applicant tracking software to onboarding systems that ensure employees settle into a new role. Recruitment systems are designed to streamline and speed up all of the administrative activities associated with recruitment – from the specification and posting of job vacancies, to managing CVs and organising each stage of the interview and selection process. See also Applicant tracking systems, Job board posting software, and Onboarding systems.

Reporting tools
Reporting tools help HR departments extract insights from their staffing data. See also Big data, Analytics

Reward management software
A system that allows organisations to administer their various benefits offerings such as pensions or flexible benefits schemes. Staff can update their details or view the value of their benefits, typically via a company intranet. Reward management tends to be linked to payroll systems. See also Payroll

Salary analysis
Salary analysis and compensation modelling software makes it easy to model alternative pay scenarios and instantly see the financial impact. Some systems allow you to work with your complete employee population or isolate groups, to allow multiple factors to be taken into account. This can help ensure your pay policy is equitable.

Shift management/rostering
Many employers where staff work shifts use software to help manage their staffing needs and optimise their workforce at the most appropriate times. There are free and paid-for online shift scheduling systems, and most systems can be accessed via mobile devices so managers can use them on the go.

Software as a service
Software as a service (SaaS) describes the supply of software as an on-demand, variable overhead rather than a fixed cost. The idea is that you subscribe to services via the internet rather than investing in hardware or individual software licences. This approach can reduce upfront expense. See also Hosted service

Succession management/vacancy management
Succession planning software can help to identify potential succession gaps and plan future staffing needs within an organisation. Some systems are designed to help you identify and develop successors for the top levels of the organisation, as well as manage broader talent pools.

Talent management platform
Talent management software brings together elements such as 360-degree feedback, engagement surveys, employee referral schemes so organisations can get a view of where their strengths and weaknesses are in terms of skills, identify high potential staff and work out where to recruit.

Training/learning management
Most organisations take a blended approach to learning, combining online content with offline learning sessions. However training is delivered, it is easier to manage and schedule using a learning management system (LMS) or some form of training software. See Learning management system.

Time and attendance
This software collects employee time data. This might be entered by the employee themselves, while other systems can be integrated with electronic swipe cards or fobs worn by employees. This information is stored in a central database, where it can be reviewed and used for payroll and custom reports. Most time and attendance systems can generate reports to reveal trends in absence and sickness.

Workforce planning software
Workforce planning software is a planning system that automatically analyses key HR metrics such as headcount, salary and compensation figures to help with future planning. The advantage of workforce planning software is it can speed up and improve the accuracy of planning, using pre-built calculations and data forms to allow HR managers to easily see how different forms of compensation and workforce modelling will affect the organisation.

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