This article is part of a larger series on Payroll Services.
The best human resource information system (HRIS) should ensure that you have a single source of employee information to help prevent manual data entries as you use HR and payroll tools. A strong HRIS for small businesses would also take on the tasks of onboarding, payroll, performance reviews tracking, and more—saving money and time in managing essential HR processes.
To find the best HRIS systems, we evaluated 12 solutions and narrowed the list down to our top eight recommendations.
- Rippling: Best overall, especially for companies needing robust integrations and hardware/software application support in onboarding
- Paycor: Best for businesses looking for all-in-one HR software vs externally integrated solutions
- Zenefits: Best for small businesses needing HR functions only
- Gusto: Best for businesses with fewer than 100 employees seeking a payroll-first HR solution
- Paychex: Best for solopreneurs and employers wanting a customizable system they can add to as their HR needs grow
- BambooHR: Best for small businesses requiring HR software for performance and employee management
- ADP Run: Best for fast-growing companies planning to go global and looking for flexible HR solutions
- Zoho People: Best for budget-minded businesses needing a basic HRIS, especially those with shift workers
Best HRIS Software Compared
Starter Monthly Pricing
Employee Data Management
Hiring and Onboarding Tools
$10 per employee**
$99 plus $5 per employee
$10 per employee
$39 plus $6 per employee
Basic hiring tools only
$39 plus $5 per employee
Some hiring tools cost extra
$8.25 per employee**
Manages benefits plans only
Some hiring tools cost extra
Free for 5 employees;$1.50 per user for its paid plan
Payroll covers India only
**Pricing based on a quote we received; includes access to its highest plan for 15 employees
Still unsure what the right software is for you? Learn more about what an HRIS/HRMS is before choosing a provider.
Rippling: Best HRIS for Small Businesses
Rippling has a suite of cloud-based solutions for managing HR, payroll, and IT processes. It has a modular system, allowing you to select only the tools you need—provided you get its core “Rippling Unity” workforce management platform. This HRIS works for businesses of any size and can grow with you, even offering professional employer organization (PEO) services and global payroll services for international contractors.
What makes it stand out from the rest is how easy it is to assign hardware and software access to employees. It integrates with more than 500 software and apps, making it a great choice for tech companies and businesses that use a lot of different programs.
Scoring 4.75 out of 5 in our evaluation, Rippling tops our list because of its wide range of features, stellar user reviews, and solid HR, payroll, and IT tools. While it earned high ratings (4 and up) in all of our criteria, the category it scored lowest on is reporting, mainly due to its limited selection of basic reports (fewer than 60 options).
Rippling Key Features
Strong hiring and pre-hiring tools
Its online employee database makes it easy to organize and store staff data and helps create a strong onboarding process. You can add an applicant tracking system if you’re hiring a sizable number of employees. Background checks are available, too.
Solid software integration
If you work with a lot of different applications, then Rippling is a better choice than the rest of the software we reviewed because it integrates with over 500 business programs, including Slack, G Suite, and other popular business applications. Add this to Rippling’s App Management module, and it’s super-easy to grant new employees access to exactly the software they need as part of onboarding. It’s equally easy to remove accounts when offboarding.
Rippling’s payroll module can handle pay processing in all 50 states and includes tax filings, direct deposits, garnishments, multiple job codes, and multiple pay rates. Gusto and Rippling both pay international contractors, but Rippling ranked as one of our top international payroll providers (ADP can handle global payroll, while others on our list work with partners or third-party apps).
You have access to a wide range of benefits, available in all 50 states, which is not the case with Gusto. Rippling’s benefits include health, dental, and vision insurance plus flex plans (FSA, HSA) and commuter benefits. Rippling will also send your Affordable Care Act notices and handle COBRA notices.
If you need a learning management system to help organize and deploy your training programs, Rippling offers a robust solution for you. Its learning management module has a full list of compliance training programs, including automated sexual harassment training for all 50 states, cybersecurity training, and more. It partners with Go1 if you want to purchase custom course bundles of over 70,000 courses—some of which are industry-specific. While Paycor has extensive learning management tools, Rippling automates enrollment, sends reminders and certifications, and even ties training requirements into its time and attendance product.
Device and app management
You can partner with Rippling to buy, set up, secure, and manage employee work computers. It also provides single sign-on (SSO), provisioning, multi-factor authentication, and API support. While others on our list offer some of these tools, like SSO, Rippling has the most complete and encapsulated program.
Paycor: Best for Businesses Needing an All-in-One HR System
Paycor offers a strong payroll program and flexible set of integrated HR tools (including scheduling, compensation planning, learning management, and engagement surveys), which makes it a good option for businesses needing an all-in-one HR system. Its plans run from $99 to $199 per month for up to 49 employees, with per-employee fees that cost anywhere from $5 to $12 monthly. This makes it one of the more expensive options we reviewed—check out Zoho People if your business is very small and budget-conscious.
With an overall rating of 4.44, Paycor earned perfect marks in user popularity and in our expert review criteria. However, it scored the lowest in HR features because while it provides the essential tools you need to manage employee information, staff attendance, payroll, training programs, and performance reviews, it doesn’t file state new hire reports for you and lacks a PEO option—something Rippling, ADP, and Paychex offer.
Paycor Key Features
Paycor has pay-on-demand features, garnishments, benefits, 401(k) integrations, and more. It also handles tax filings and keeps an eye on tax laws at the federal, state, and local levels. Like most of the services on our list, you can add time tracking, but it also has a scheduling app that lets you create and automate schedules and allows employees to request shift swaps.
Hire-to-retire employee management
Paycor’s suite of HR solutions is designed to streamline the employee lifecycle. Aside from an employee database, it offers recruiting, compensation planning and analysis, single or bulk onboarding, and talent development tools. It can help you run employee performance reviews, track work goals, and capture feedback. Paycor’s learning system even offers canned and customized courses and “gamification” to make completing training programs fun for employees and teams (Rippling’s learning management solution does not have “gamification” features).
With its benefits solution, employees can manage, shop, and enroll in a benefits plan through Paycor’s self-service portal and mobile app (iOS and Android). It offers dashboards and reports to help you understand the costs, plus you get automated alerts and reminders (such as for re-enrolling).
Employees can access co-worker profiles, the company org chart, W-2s, benefits information, and more. They can also make changes and request PTO on the app, as well as sign documents and complete tasks. HR and managers can edit and update information, approve requests, send communications, and more.
Paycor’s mobile apps offer tools for employees to request time off, check pay stubs, and even see their tasks and notifications. Managers, meanwhile, can track applicants and approve time cards and workflows. While all the services on our list (except Gusto, as it lacks a mobile app) have highly rated mobile apps, Paycor’s app is one of the best-rated, with 4.6 out of 5 on Google Play and 4.7 out of 5 on the App Store as of this writing. While Paychex’s mobile app scored higher on iOS compared to Paycor, it earned lower ratings on Android.
Zenefits: Best HRIS System for HR Functionality
Zenefits can get pricey as you add more features, and payroll is a separate add-on, but it integrates with around 40 business applications. Thus, we recommend it for businesses that may already have a payroll system they like and simply want to add HR functionality. Its mid-tier Growth plan offers the most important functions to help you onboard new hires, manage employee information, track performance reviews, and plan your company’s compensation strategies.
In our evaluation, Zenefits earned an overall score of 4.31 out of 5. Its transparent pricing, efficient HR tools, user-friendly interface, and popularity among users contributed to its high ratings (4 and up). However, it lost points since it lacks the learning management tools that the other platforms (except Gusto and BambooHR) on our list provide.
Zenefits Key Features
Talent management solution
You can create offer letters with its templates and make it easy for employees to self-onboard with onboarding checklists, online forms, and e-signatures. Zenefits also handles background checks and can help you onboard global employees. Aside from ADP, only Zenefits handles international onboarding.
Communication and record-keeping tools
Zenefits’ highest tier, Zen, includes a Slack-style communications hub for one-on-one or group communications plus document storage. None of the other software on our list have this feature. Zenefits also offers employee surveys with its Zen plan (BambooHR, Gusto, and Paycor have staff surveys in its advanced plans).
Performance and compensation management
Zenefits’ performance management solution offers 360 feedback, with reviews by managers, peers, and the employees themselves. And to help you retain and reward employees, Zenefits has compensation management tools, which include real-time comparison salary data and custom salary benchmark reports.
Zenefits manages benefits to keep you compliant and offers additional plan options like commuter benefits. However, its health benefits are unavailable in Hawaii as of this writing. If you want extensive health insurance coverage, consider any of the HRISes in this guide—except Gusto (health benefits limited to 39 states) or BambooHR and Zoho People (neither offer benefits plans).
Although its payroll tool is an add-on, Zenefits provides unlimited pay runs, garnishment support, and tax filing services.
HR advisory services
Get unlimited access to a team of HR and payroll experts who can advise you on changing labor and tax laws, dealing with difficult employees, writing the company handbook, and terminating employees fairly and within regulations. However, it’s a paid add-on—with Gusto, Paychex, ADP, and Paycor, this service is included in their plans.
Employees can view important information, from policies to their W2s and leave balances, through an employee portal. They can request PTO (and managers can approve it), see announcements, contact co-workers, and more. The employee portal also has a mobile app version (for iOS and Android devices).
Gusto: Best HRIS Software for Payroll
Gusto is an extremely popular payroll software with good HR functionality. We often compare it to other small business HR software, and it always does well. It’s reasonably priced, easy to use, and has most of the essential HR features a small business needs including managing employee information.
If you need health benefits, however, be sure to check that Gusto provides them for the state or states you need before purchasing. Note that its health insurance coverage is limited in 39 states as of this writing. The others on our list provide benefits in all 50 states, except for Zoho People and BambooHR, which do not provide benefits.
Scoring 4.24 out of 5 in our evaluation, Gusto earned perfect marks in pricing, reporting, and popularity among users. It would have ranked higher on our list of the best HRIS platforms if not for its basic job postings and lack of learning management tools.
Gusto Key Features
Gusto, our top recommended payroll software for small businesses, can handle pay processing and tax filings in all 50 states. It pays via check and direct deposit, but also offers Gusto Wallet—an online employee account with a mobile app that lets your staff get paid faster, manage finances, and take salary advances. It’s a great alternative for employees without traditional bank accounts (although ADP has something similar with its Wisely card). Like Rippling, Gusto can help you pay international contractors.
Gusto, along with Zenefits, is on our list of top onboarding software because its hiring tools make it easy to send offer letters and onboard new hires through its customizable checklists and online signing of documents. It also has applicant tracking and simple job posting tools—although, it doesn’t post jobs to popular job boards like most leading recruitment software do.
While Gusto can help you set up and remove business software for your employees, its provisioning and de-provisioning processes aren’t as robust as Rippling’s. The latter provides a wide range of IT tools to help you manage company-assigned computers, device inventory, and business software access.
Gusto is not as feature-heavy as most of the software on our list, but it offers the basics: time and paid time off (PTO) tracking, employee surveys, performance reviews, and integrations with third-party business software. The Concierge Plan, one of its premium tiers, comes with a library of HR documents (such as job descriptions and policy templates), plus dedicated HR advisers and a direct phone line for the support team.
It does not, however, offer learning management tools. If managing and deploying employee training programs are important to you, consider Rippling, ADP, Paychex, Paycor, and Zoho People.
Gusto can help you manage employee benefits—although some, like health insurance, are limited to 39 states. It also offers commuter benefits, flexible spending accounts (FSAs), health savings accounts (HSAs), ~530 college savings, pay-as-you-go workers’ compensation, and financial wellness tools.
Employees have access to the company directory and organizational chart, plus online HR documents. They can even make profile changes, request time off, and renew benefits plans as well.
Paychex: Best Customizable HRIS
If you have specific HR and payroll needs, Paychex can create a highly customized plan for you. It offers dozens of functions in HR, payroll, and compliance support, as well as a wide variety of benefits. Its Paychex Flex solution even comes with payroll, learning management, and onboarding tools. It’s an excellent choice for those wanting a full-service HRIS that can fit the needs of small startups (even solopreneurs), including midsize to large businesses. Just be warned that the pricing is not completely transparent and is subject to change each year.
Paychex earned an overall rating of 4.21 out of 5 in our rubric. It received perfect marks in HR features, reporting, and popularity among users. However, the limited transparency of its pricing plans and lack of unlimited pay runs cost it some points.
Paychex Key Features
Time and attendance tracking feed directly into payroll, making it easy for you to process your employees’ actual hours worked (including overtime). Like Gusto and ADP, you can pay workers by check, direct deposit, or pay card. Paychex handles your tax filings and state new hire reporting, including wage garnishments—provided you sign up for either its Essentials or Pro plans. It also assigns a dedicated payroll specialist to its clients, a service that isn’t available with the other software we reviewed.
Paychex offers hiring services, including job postings and applicant tracking tools. It also provides onboarding tools, such as background checks and online direct deposit and tax forms.
With its labor compliance posters, HR and business documents, and employee handbook builder, you are granted access to online tools to keep your workers informed of regulations and HR-related policies. If you want a performance management system and online learning courses, Paychex provides these solutions to help you assess employees’ work performance and maintain a well-trained workforce. It also offers HR consulting services and alerts you of changes in local, state, or federal labor laws.
You can provide your employees medical, dental, vision, retirement, and other benefits options, and have the applicable deductions for these managed through the payroll program. Paychex also offers an employee financial wellness program similar to that of Gusto.
Employees can view pay stubs and benefits information via Paychex’s mobile apps (for iOS and Android devices), but managers can handle payroll and view employee information, including benefits programs. It has the highest rating on the App Store of all on the list—4.8 out of 5 as of this writing (Android users give it a respectable 4.3 on Google Play, which is above average).
You can manage HR and payroll from its platform and then transition to its professional employer organization (PEO) service once your HR needs grow but you don’t want to expand your in-house team. Paychex’s PEO, one of our top-recommended PEO companies along with Rippling and ADP, can help you efficiently handle day-to-day HR administrative tasks while keeping you compliant with labor and tax regulations.
BambooHR: Best HRIS for Employee Management
BambooHR offers hire-to-retire functionality at a reasonable per-employee price. It has all the essential tools you need to manage employees, store staff information, and run workforce analytics reports.
We were most impressed by its employee engagement (part of the Advantage Plan) and performance management (an add-on) solutions. Both tools come with ready-made questions based on research (Paychex and ADP also offer employee culture management as add-on programs). However, unlike the other HRISes on our list, it does payroll through a partner company, TRAXPayroll.
BambooHR scored 3.88 out of 5 in our evaluation, with perfect marks in popularity among users and in our expert review. It also received ratings of 4 and up in ease of use and reporting due to its intuitive platform and customizable reports. However, it took hits because it lacks transparent pricing, employee benefits plans (only manages benefits packages), learning management tools, and a PEO option (Rippling, ADP, and Paychex offer this).
BambooHR Key Features
BambooHR offers online tools for tracking applicants and onboarding new hires. Its document storage with online signatures lets you keep employee records handy. What really makes it stand apart from the rest, however, is its mobile hiring app, which lets you review candidates and communicate with applicants and your hiring team using your smartphone. Paycor’s mobile app, by comparison, allows you to track applicants only.
With its HR tools, you can track benefits plans, monitor PTO, and manage employee data. Its Advantage plan even grants you access to advanced reports and customizations. BambooHR also offers prebuilt and customizable workflows to reduce the time you spend coordinating with other departments—and it includes email alerts to make sure people don’t forget time-critical tasks. However, if you want robust workflow automation tools with customizable workflow templates you can use, consider Rippling.
Employees can access a company directory, organization chart, and company calendar online. It also lets your staff access their records and manage time off. Managers, on the other hand, can track who is working and who is taking PTO.
BambooHR’s payroll add-on with tax filing services and end-of-year tax forms make it easy for you to stay compliant with federal and state laws. Over 100 standard payroll-related reports help you analyze your workforce expenses—this is more than most payroll software include. Gusto, for example, has 20+ customizable reports.
Available as a paid add-on, its time tracking tools with reminders and overtime calculations are integrated into its payroll module to help streamline employee payment processes. This is similar to Paychex and ADP that can also add time tracking tools to its payroll solutions for a fee. Gusto, however, includes this in its higher tiers.
BambooHR’s performance management solution (a paid add-on) is designed to help employees grow professionally through self-assessments and feedback from managers and peers. It also includes work goal tracking and performance review reminders, including sample questions to help managers conduct effective evaluations with less subjectivity.
ADP Run: Best for Businesses Going Global
ADP Run is just one of the many offerings ADP has for small businesses. With over 70 years of experience in HR and payroll, it can handle the simple payroll needs of small businesses. With ADP Global, you get a fuller set of international payroll and HR features than any of the HRIS systems in this guide (Gusto and Rippling also have global payroll capabilities, but only for processing payments of international contractors).
What’s more, its ADP Workforce Now solution provides flexible options and solid HR and payroll tools for midsize to large businesses. You can even opt to get its complete PEO service if you want expert assistance in handling HR and payroll administration tasks.
With an overall score of 3.68 out of 5, ADP Run received marks of 4 and up in nearly all of our criteria. While it has an excellent range of HR and payroll features, it does not provide pricing information online—which pulled its overall rating down. In addition, the software is not as easy to use as say Gusto or Zenefits, although the mobile app is top-rate.
ADP Run Key Features
While you will have to move from ADP Run to ADP Global if you need international HRIS services, this is the only provider on our list that can help you. Services include hiring, onboarding, payroll, and compliance assistance with local laws in over 140 nations. It’s on our list of the best international payroll services along with Rippling, although Rippling only does international contractors.
ADP Run has HR tools for the entire employee lifecycle. It offers recruitment and onboarding tools, including background checks and job postings to 25,000+ job sites (none of the other HRISes in this list offer a wide job posting reach). Its higher-tier plans include a team of HR professionals to provide expert advice and help you manage compliances. You also have access to learning and performance management tools. And like Paychex, it has a huge number of HR and payroll functionalities, but what you select determines your price.
Similar to Paychex, Rippling, and Gusto, ADP has a full-service payroll solution, which includes tax filing services (but year-end tax reporting costs extra). You can pay by direct deposit, check, or Wisely direct debit card—Paychex and Gusto also offer debit card options. You can even pay international employees (Gusto and Rippling only pay international contractors). In addition to pay processing tools, you can get its benefits management and time and attendance modules as paid add-ons.
ADP Run’s mobile apps (for iOS and Android devices) let your employees access their pay stubs, tax forms, time sheets, and benefits information while on the go. Similar to Paycor, its apps are among the highest-rated on our list: 4.6 out of 5 on Google Play and 4.7 out of 5 on the App Store as of this writing.
You can view, run, customize, and print a wide range of payroll and HR reports. You can also create your own reports, although exporting the data to Excel can get tricky.
Zoho People: Best HRIS for Budget-minded Businesses & Shiftwork
Zoho People is an excellent choice for businesses on a shoestring budget that are willing to put some time into learning software. It offers a free plan for under five employees, which comes with basic employee data management and PTO monitoring solutions. The other HRISes we reviewed don’t have a free option.
What we also like about Zoho People is the affordability of its paid options—you only spend around $1.50–$10 per employee monthly. Unfortunately, you can’t get payroll outside of India, and none of the plans offer HR advisers on staff. However, if you need to manage shift workers or bill clients for jobs, this software has a lot of built-in tools to make it easy.
Scoring 3.56 out of 5 in our rubric, Zoho People earned ratings of 4 and up in reporting, pricing, and our expert review. What pulled its scores down is its lack of a PEO option, HR advisory services, and benefits options (Rippling, ADP, and Paychex offer this). It also doesn’t have payroll features that work in the US—a functionality that many of the software we reviewed provide either as paid add-ons or in their core platforms.
Zoho People Key Features
Employee database and files management
This includes an employee database, document storage, personal file uploads, e-signature integrations, and templates for employee signatures.
With Zoho People, you get tools for recruiting, applicant tracking, and even social media posting of open jobs. The onboarding portal walks employees through policies, setting up profiles, signing documents, and more. However, if you want an expansive job posting reach, consider ADP as it can post your jobs to more than 25,000 job sites.
From shift scheduling to performance reviews, your managers can efficiently manage employees through Zoho People. Aside from planning work shifts, it provides performance management solutions for setting goals, identifying skills, conducting self-appraisals, and collecting peer feedback. There’s also an online tool for receiving and responding to employee queries and complaints.
Zoho People has customizable workflows and approval processes, plus a learning management system that includes online, classroom, and independent learning—although, we suggest Paycor if you want to inject gamification into your training programs. Its communication tool is similar to Slack for employee chat, and you can send employees announcements, host forums, and share HR and/or business manuals for employees to access through the system.
While the payroll plan offered with Zoho People is listed specifically as the India version, it offers pre-payroll tools to help automate and streamline processes. With Zoho People, you can monitor employee attendance and add geolocation restrictions to ensure that workers clock in for work within the GPS parameters you identified. Apart from time tracking, it also allows you to approve time sheets, track and grant PTO, and manage expenses and salary advances.
Looking for something else? If you’re interested in help with payroll processing, check out our guide to the best payroll services.
How We Chose the Best HRIS Systems
We looked for complete HRIS solutions that can support you from the time you start hiring employees—some even help before that with recruiting tools—to the time their employment is terminated. We also considered pricing, ease of use, and HR support.
Click through the tabs below for our full evaluation criteria.
20% of Overall Score
We rated highest for plans under $5,000 a year for 15 employees. We also gave points for transparency and unlimited payroll. Zenefits and Gusto scored highest in this area, while Rippling came in a close second.
20% of Overall Score
This score covered the basics for HRIS: online onboarding with forms, an employee database, benefits, and HR functions in general. Paychex and ADP Run earned a perfect score in this area, because of their robust HR features; Rippling followed closely behind and only lost a few points because access to expert HR advisors costs extra.
20% of Overall Score
This goes deeper into the features, looking at the depth of functionality for the most needed HR tools, from payroll to learning management. Rippling earned perfect marks in this criteria because of its wide range of features that streamlines the entire employee lifecycle, including app and device provisioning/deprovisioning processes.
15% of Overall Score
This score looks at the whole of the feature sets for HR, HRMS, software, and reporting and how appropriate they are for small businesses. While all the software in this guide scored high here, only BambooHR, Rippling, and Paycor earned perfect marks in this criterion.
15% of Overall Score
We considered interface, customer support, online guides, and dedicated help when compiling this score. ADP Run scored highest here, followed closely by Paycor.
5% of Overall Score
HR runs on reports, both for sending to the government and for tracking the effectiveness of programs. We considered the number and customizability of reports. Paychex, Zoho People, and Gusto got perfect scores in this criterion.
5% of Overall Score
As much time as we spend on research, it cannot replace the experiences of real-world users. Here we consider scoring on third-party review sites like Capterra and G2. Only Zoho People didn’t get a perfect score here because of the low number of reviews (the average number of reviews is below 500).
Most HRIS for small businesses cover the basics: employee communication, onboarding, performance management, and the handling of benefits and PTO. Others include payroll, and many have strong learning management systems. In choosing the best HRIS, you need to consider price vs features and whether its solutions cover your current needs but have the ability to grow with you.
For most small businesses, we recommend Rippling. Its modular system lets you build your HRIS with the tools you need. It is user-friendly and highly rated, plus it has PEO and international contractor payroll services. Get started with Rippling today.