FrontRunners quadrants highlight the top software products for North American small businesses. All products in the quadrant are top performers. Small businesses can use FrontRunners to make more informed decisions about what software is right for them.
To create this quadrant, we evaluated over 390 Human Resource Information System (HRIS) products. Those with the top scores for their capability and value made the quadrant.
Scores are based largely on reviews from real software users, along with other product performance details (e.g., what features they offer, how many customers they have).
Every product in this quadrant offers a balance of capability (how much the products can do) and value (whether they’re worth their price/cost) that makes them stand out in the race for small business software success.
FrontRunners has four sub-quadrants:
Depending on the specific needs of a software buyer, a product in any of these sub-quadrants could be a good fit.
Why? To even be considered for this FrontRunners, a product had to meet a minimum user rating score of 3.0 for both Capability and Value. This means that all products that qualify as FrontRunners are top-performing products in their market. They appear in the quadrant in relation to how their peers performed.
For some buyers, a specific FrontRunners sub-quadrant might be best. For example, buyers wanting a core system with a strong focus on personnel tracking and reporting capabilities might consider software in the Contenders sub-quadrant, while those looking for a more comprehensive platform with features like performance management and applicant tracking might look in the Leaders sub-quadrant.
You can download the full FrontRunners for HRIS report here. It contains individual scorecards for each product on the Frontrunners quadrant.
You can find the full FrontRunners methodology here, but the gist is that products are scored in two areas, Capability and Value.
To be considered at all, products must have at least 20 reviews and meet minimum user rating scores. They also have to offer a core set of functionality—for example, to be considered for FrontRunners, HRIS products must offer personnel tracking and reporting capabilities.
From there, user reviews and other product performance details, such as the product's customer base and the features it offers, dictate the Capability and Value scores. Capability is plotted on the x-axis, and Value is plotted on the y-axis.
For more information about FrontRunners, check out the following:
Have questions about how to choose the right product for you? You’re in luck! Every day, our team of advisors provides (free) customized shortlists of products to hundreds of small businesses.
Check out the FrontRunners External Usage Guidelines when referencing FrontRunners content. Except in digital media with character limitations, the following disclaimer MUST appear with any/all FrontRunners reference(s) and graphic use:
FrontRunners scores and graphics are derived from individual end-user reviews based on their own experiences, vendor-supplied information and publicly available product information; they do not represent the views of Gartner or its affiliates.
Providers listed as Runners Up were considered for inclusion in the quadrant, but were ultimately not included for one or more reasons: they did not have enough reviews; they did not meet the reviews score minimum; they did not meet the ultimate Value and Capability minimum scores; or they did not meet our functionality requirements for the market.
Human resources software is designed to help organizations manage every aspect of their HR operations, including:
We created this guide to help you determine which HR applications are best for your organization. Here’s what we’ll cover:
What Is Human Resources Software?
A Comparison of Top HR Solutions
Overview of HR Applications
Common Features of HR Software
What Type of Buyer Are You?
Market Trends to Understand
Recent Events You Should Know About
Human resources (HR) software solutions make managing a large or growing workforce more efficient. Vendors and buyers alike often refer to this category of software as human resources information systems (HRIS), human resources management systems (HRMS) or human capital management (HCM) software (though if you want to get specific, each of those categories has its own nuances).
What all HR solutions have in common is their ability to streamline the traditional HR functions of benefits administration, personnel tracking and payroll. But in addition to increasing your productivity by automating many of these administrative processes, HR software can also support you on a strategic level, by helping you to recruit, develop and manage your company’s most valuable resource: its people.
There are many popular accounting solutions on the market, and it can be hard to know what distinguishes one product from another and which is right for you. To help you better understand how the top accounting systems stack up against one another, we created a series of side-by-side product comparison pages that break down the details of what each solution offers in terms of pricing, applications, ease of use, support and more:
|Top ADP Comparisons||Top Bamboo HR Comparisons||Top Namely Comparisons|
|ADP vs. Zenefits
Paylocity vs. ADP
Namely vs. ADP
|Bamboo HR vs. Zenefits||Namely vs. ADP|
|Top Paychex Comparisons||Top Paylocity Comparisons||Top Workday Comparisons|
|Zenefits vs. Paychex||Paylocity vs. ADP||Zenefits vs. Workday|
|Top Zenefits Comparisons|
|ADP vs. Zenefits
Bamboo HR vs. Zenefits
Zenefits vs. Paychex
Zenefits vs. Workday
Industry watchers break down the field of HR software into three main categories: Core HR, Workforce Management and Strategic HR—also called Talent Management or Talent Administration software.
Core HR encompasses the three traditional human resources management functions: benefits administration, personnel tracking and payroll. Every company will require these functions once it has reached a critical mass of employees. You need core HR functionality when, for instance, manually running payroll and managing employees with spreadsheets becomes too burdensome a task.
Workforce management, or Workforce administration as it is also called, comprises the range of software solutions intended to effectively schedule and track your workforce. These solutions are ideal for organizations whose employees work in shifts, and include applications to track time and attendance, monitor compliance with labor laws and usually include payroll functionality, or integrate well with other payroll software. It's important to note that there are industry-specific systems that offer attendance functionality outside of human resources software. Specifically, school administration software provides education organizations a means of tracking student attendance. This can include providing online portals for parents and teachers to monitor attendance online.
Strategic HR involves growing your company by attracting and developing the best people, as well as better managing your workforce overall. Strategic HR applications generally provide some combination of applicant tracking and recruiting, learning management as well as performance review functionality. This type of software streamlines these strategic processes to ensure that a company is using its staff as efficiently as possible, and also that employees are continuing to grow and develop—increasing employee satisfaction and retention rates.
Of course, core HR, workforce management and strategic HR functions often overlap. While there are best-of-breed solutions for individual functions in each category, there are also integrated suites boasting across-the-board functionality.
|Benefits administration||Manages employee benefits such as paid time off, medical/dental/life insurance policies and 401k participation. Example vendors: OmnipriseHRM, Epicor HR, Triton HR.|
|Personnel tracking||Centralizes employee data, such as SSN, contact information, past employment and demographic information. Example vendors: Sage HRMS, Ascentis, Lawson HR.|
|Payroll||Tracks employee salaries, bonuses, 401k contributions, health and other deductions; calculates withholding for taxes; and cuts paychecks. Most solutions provide integration for direct deposit as well. Example vendors: Halogen, Vista HRMS, Tribe HR.|
|Time & attendance||Helps staff track employee attendance and absences, and enables employees to clock in and out. Many solutions also track PTO and sick days. Rules-based engines provide alerts when employees miss or perform established amounts of work. Example vendors: TimeForge Labor Management, LaborVIEW, Kronos.|
|Employee scheduling||Provides functionality for scheduling employee shifts and attendance to ensure compliance with staffing needs. Systems can schedule employees across departments, locations and projects, and provide alerts to employees when schedules change and when staffing levels are inadequate. Example vendors: Ascentis, Sage HRMS, UltiPro.|
|Applicant tracking systems (ATS)||Provides a centralized database that lets recruiters store applicant information and employment applications throughout the application process. Features include candidate tracking, applicant status monitoring and direct integration with other HR applications. In addition, many vendors include on-boarding features, like the ability to perform background checks. Example vendors: iCIMS, MarketRate, NuViewHR.|
|Employee evaluation||Also known as performance review software, these applications offer a centralized system where supervisors can conduct and track reviews with employees. Features performance measuring, tracking and goal management. Example vendors: Empower by ECI, Cornerstone CSB, People-Trak.|
|Learning & development||Establishes a centralized hub to monitor new employee training and the ongoing skills development of existing employees. Features include content authoring and management, curriculum and certification path definition, testing and reporting. Example vendors: Prosperity LMS, Halogen Talent Management Suite, SmartTeam.|
Given the wide variety of popular HR software available, the task of choosing one solution is daunting. To help you narrow the field, below we present four common buyer goals. One or more of these goals might align with your needs.
Streamline HR administrative tasks. If you’re a small to medium-sized company with no HR software, or you are using a few standalone solutions that you want to consolidate, you should consider an integrated HR suite. This will automate your more basic HR functions with a single system. Representative vendors: Sage HRMS, SAP - HR, Vista HRMS.
Boost efficiency when recruiting and hiring candidates. If you need to scale your workforce quickly, a best-of-breed recruiting and applicant tracking solution might be your best option. Many of these solutions can automatically post jobs to job boards and social media outlets, in addition to simplifying candidate tracking and on-boarding of new employees. With searchable databases of candidates and robust reporting capabilities, you can make the most of your current candidate pool, while expanding your talent base. Representative vendors: SuccessFactors, COMPAS, GoHire.
Manage a large pool of employees working in shifts. If you are faced with the task of staffing a workday with multiple shifts to assign and time-off requests to approve—such as the shift-work found at hospitals, grocery stores or restaurants—and need better tools to track your workforce, you need to build up the workforce administration pillar of your HRIS. Many solutions either feature a built-in payroll system to help when running massive payrolls, or integrate effectively with your current payroll software to ensure all hours worked by employees are compensated. Representative vendors: LaborView, TimeAttend, TimeForce.
Develop your workforce. You want to ensure that your best employees are recognized and rewarded so they stay with your company and continue to do great work. The broad category of talent management solutions help you do that, with everything from performance appraisal solutions, to systems for gathering peer feedback, to employee training tools. Benefits include increased retention rates, higher morale and greater employee productivity. Representative vendors: Halogen Talent Management Suite, Kenexa2x, NuView HR.
As you evaluate a human resources management system, it is helpful to understand a few current trends in this industry.
Consolidation of cloud-based HR software start-up vendors. Recently, there has been a trend in the HR software world toward consolidating as many applications as possible under one vendor. As such, companies have focused on developing integrated suites that allow HR departments to track an employee’s entire life cycle within an organization.
To that end, many best-of-breed providers have been acquired by larger vendors looking to extend the breadth of their integrated suite solutions. For instance, in 2012, SAP acquired SuccessFactors; Oracle bought Taleo (one of SuccessFactors’ competitors) and Salesforce.com completed its integration of Rypple, a social performance platform.
For buyers, this offers the opportunity to benefit from larger corporate resources, but it can also lead to disruptions as acquired companies are integrated and product offerings are rationalized. In anticipation, buyers should lock in rates and service/maintenance terms in their contract as this can save them a headache down the line.
Adoption of software as a service. HR software vendors have widely embraced the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), or “Web-based,” deployment method. SaaS applications are easily implemented and updated, and can be accessed by HR staff and employees from almost any device with an Internet connection. Although most SaaS applications allow for some level of customization, it is important to realize that customization options to support your company’s unique needs can be somewhat limited.
Vendors such as TimeForce allow employees to request time-off through their Web-based system
Consumerization of HR software technology. A major shift in the development of enterprise software has been the emergence of consumer markets as a primary source of technology innovation—a trend called consumerization. From social media as a recruiting tool to mobile apps for managing HR on the go, consumer technologies are changing the way HR technology is being used. Vendors are beefing up collaborative capabilities in their systems and developing more intuitive user interfaces. When selecting the human resources system that’s best for you, third-party reviews of product features are a great way to distinguish which vendors will deliver.
Vendors such as Bullhorn feature mobile accessibility
Sage announces stake in Fairsail. In May 2016, Sage announced a minority investment of £10 million in Fairsail, a cloud-based HR software vendor. Through the partnership, Fairsail will become the “platform of choice” to accompany Sage’s X3 Business Management Solution for midsize customers.
Ultimate Software acquires Kanjoya, announces UltiPro Perception. In September 2016, Ultimate Software acquired Kanjoya, a cloud-based workforce intelligence platform. Ultimate leveraged the technology in Kanjoya to develop and announce UltiPro Perception—a tool to “collect, understand and act on employee feedback.” UltiPro Perception will be available to UltiPro customers in January 2017.
Zenefits releases Z2 update. Zenefits, a small business HR software provider, released a major update to their platform called “Z2” in October 2016. The update changed the look and feel of current applications and added wholly new functions, services and mobile apps. Learn more here.
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