The best human resources tools range from employee data software to mobile HR apps that track people and work-related activities. HR tools streamline tasks human resource professionals manage—beyond hiring, benefits, and culture building. Below are traditional HR standbys plus some newer tools your HR team may find you can no longer live without.
In fact, the HR discipline extends across the employee life-cycle, from recruiting to employee retirement (or termination, whichever comes sooner.) Therefore, HR staffers need human resources tools that tie all that employee data together. Some HR tools do it all in human resources information system (HRIS) software, while others specialize in niche functions.
1. HR/Payroll Software
Trying to keep track of employee data on paper and spreadsheets makes little sense. For a business managing people, it’s best to invest in an all-in-one solution to save time and minimize keying errors. In my opinion, you can’t find a better value than Gusto for an easy-to-use online HR, benefits, and payroll software that starts at $45 per month. That’s because it takes the guesswork, paperwork, state new hire reporting, and tax filing off your hands.
“The best HR tool that we use is Gusto. Gusto is inexpensive, and it handles most of our HR. It takes care of our payroll, benefits, and paid time off. It is an easy way for us and our employees to do payroll.
Gusto contains all of the past pay stubs and has excellent customer service. For us as a startup company, it is convenient to be able to pay a monthly fee to automate this portion of our business rather than paying someone a salary.”
—Bo Lais, CEO/Founder, Lula
At Fit Small Business, we’ve compared Gusto to ADP, Gusto to other payroll software, Gusto to other benefits alternatives, and even have real Gusto customer product reviews. Gusto continues to stay at the top of our list as the best software for HR, payroll, and benefits for small businesses.
2. Project Management Software to Help With Scheduling
HR manages lots of projects. I recently attended a demo for Monday.com and thought, “Hey, where have you been all my life?” Monday’s project and task management software is intuitive and affordable (as compared to more complex project management tools like MS Project).
Whether you’re building a performance feedback process, designing an online training course, or implementing new employee timekeeping software, Monday.com makes it easy to set up, share, and track your projects from beginning to end. A basic plan for five users costs $25 per month.
3. Task Tracking Software
For repetitive HR tasks like new hire onboarding and managing benefits enrollment, it’s helpful to have a nifty task management tool like Trello. The good news is that it’s not just for HR. For example, you can use Trello to schedule new-hire onboarding activities, store training docs, plan team events, and even to plan your personal vacation (for free). It’s a great way to keep track of all your HR to-dos in a transparent and shareable manner.
Here’s a Trello expert who shared sample HR boards with us:
“Brian suggests that Trello can be used for everything from applicant tracking to managing the social committee. He also offers some great sample HR Trello boards to give you some ideas of how to use Trello to make HR easier to manage.”
—Brian Cervino, Product Marketing, Trello
4. HR Automation & Communication Software
You’ve probably heard of Slack. It’s an online employee collaboration and communication software that makes it possible for remote teams and work-from-home employees to stay in touch. Our firm implemented Slack a few years ago and it’s the glue that keeps us all on the same page. For HR professionals wanting to improve teamwork and communication, Slack is a great tool, and like some of our other favorites, it offers a free plan.
“Personally, Slack is my favourite HR tool. Slack has a lot of integration features to automate certain parts of the HR process and also make the employee journey easier. At Logojoy, we currently have Slack integrated with Trello, where we keep company directories and useful links for employees, and Asana for task management among the teams.
Slackbots can be triggered by asking questions like, “How do I submit an expense?” and integrations that introduce new people in channels and help facilitate people giving shoutouts to one another for great work.”
—Emma Hunt, Head of Recruitment for Logojoy
5. Compliance Websites (IRS & Other Government Webpages)
The government does a pretty sweet job of providing HR professionals with up to date state and federal labor law information as well as state-by-state rules for the locations in which you do business. You can find information on .gov sites ranging from at-will employment laws to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
6. Recruiting Software to Improve Your Hiring Pipeline
If you plan to hire more than two employees, recruiting software is a must. If Zoho isn’t on your radar, it should be. Zoho offers so many business apps that integrate that I’d be remiss in not telling you about Zoho Recruit. If you need recruiting software to keep track of your job postings and applicants in your pipeline, Zoho is a great solution. In fact, it provides resume parsing (AI automation) and is affordable for even the smallest of firms.
“Zoho Recruit was easy to implement, customizable, and affordable. We have been using it for four years and it has met all our needs. Previously, we had a more expensive and complex tool that kept upgrading and changing the look and feel. Zoho Recruit is perfect to manage the recruiting process.”
—Kerry Alison Wekelo, Managing Director HR/Operations, Actualize Consulting
7. Drug Testing to Reduce OSHA Risks
Those businesses in industries that employ equipment operators, truck drivers or even salespeople using a company car, may want to minimize any OSHA violations. One way to do so is to create a process for pre-employment, random or post-accident drug testing. Eliminating impaired workers from your team through drug testing (where it’s legal) is a solid safety tool for HR.
8. Applicant Tracking Software for Complex Staffing Needs
If you’re working as part of a hiring team and want to make recruiting and applicant tracking easy for everyone, you might consider using Greenhouse. It allows you to track job postings and applicants like any ATS software but adds the ability for internal hires to recommend and refer candidates too.
“For obvious reasons, the No. 1 tool in any talent professional’s arsenal should be their ATS, or Applicant Tracking System. Greenhouse is, without a doubt, the best HR software we use on the Talent Team. The interface is easy to digest and wildly customizable, so it assimilates to whatever processes you have already in place. In addition, the accounts, customer support, and data teams at Greenhouse are extremely helpful and prompt in getting back to you with innovative solutions to any issues you may have.
We left Greenhouse last year in favor of exploring another ATS, but we quickly learned our lesson. We came running back after a little over four months, because we realized that we aren’t going to find another ATS that is more intuitive or customer-friendly.”
—Keaton Kruser Recruiting Coordinator, Fueled
9. Training Tools to Educate Staff
As an HR professional or a manager responsible for people development, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to be an expert in all training topics your employees may need. Training companies with off-the-shelf and custom training courses provide just the tools you need to help new managers grow in their role, as well as help employees be safe on the job, or learn software skills.
10. Employee Engagement Apps
Employee engagement software is the new “it” thing in HR, providing HR practitioners with tools to monitor and improve employee engagement, happiness, and on-the-job performance. They may include survey apps, reward and recognition apps, employee performance feedback apps or software that helps employees connect with others for fun, social causes, or ad hoc learning.
11. Google Suite of Business Apps for Everything
Speaking of apps, if you’re managing HR in a startup, you may want to take a good look at Google and G Suite. Less costly than desktop software for email, calendar, and document storage, Google Suite makes teamwork and employee collaboration easier. Individuals can get a free account, or you can brand your business account for a small fee for all your employees to have access to G Suite.
“I use Google forms for the back-end of performance evaluations and employee recognition systems, and even use GoogleHire for my ATS. Having all of these diverse platforms seamlessly connected saves me hours. With a startup tech team moving fast and sometimes on the go, I could not keep up with employee schedules or needs without Google Calendar, Gmail, and Google Docs.”
—Erin Bryan SHRM-CP, HR Manager, Inui Health (formerly Scanadu)
12. Background Checks to Improve Hiring
Background checks are a tool in the HR toolbox that helps your business reduce hiring risk. For example, a finance company may want to ensure it doesn’t hire someone with credit issues. A health services company may want to verify that staff members have the proper licenses. Background check companies cover a wide range of topics—from criminal history to watch lists.
13. Survey Software for Employee Input
A great HR tool that helps you keep the pulse on company culture is a survey platform that gives you real-time feedback. You can use these HR tools to learn about current events at work, or simply to assess employee happiness. Online survey software often provides free plans, but you also try paid tools and apps as well.
“After nine years of work and having tried many different alternatives, I can assure you that our favorite tool is TinyPulse. This software allows us to feel more connected than ever. Being able to issue mini surveys within the company allows us to review weekly or monthly suggestions, doubts, or even concerns that may be arising in the team.
For example: Three months ago, there was a big change in the company directory, however, we did not realize that the communication we made to the company was not very clear. Doubts began to grow about whether this change would also apply at a general level (would there be layoffs or internal movements of personnel?).
Thanks to this tool, we learned about this problem in just a couple of days, and all of the doubts were clarified, helping everyone to return to work in a normal way and without additional worries.”
—Cristian Rennella VP of HR & Co-Founder of elMejorTrato,com.oe
14. A Virtual Assistant Company
If you’re managing HR in addition to your day job (running a business!) you may find an HR tool that you’ve not yet considered—a virtual assistant (VA) company. By working with a stateside or overseas VA firm, you can outsource much of the HR administrative tasks such as data entry, email, and report generation and focus on what HR does best—maximize people’s performance. VA firms charge by the task or by the hour, some costing as little as $1 per task or $5 per hour.
15. Accounting Software for Number Crunching
A non-traditional HR tool for small businesses is accounting software like QuickBooks Online and an experienced and trustworthy accountant who can answer off-the-wall payroll and tax questions that employees have. Accounting software is helpful when you need information from your bookkeeper like how much your business is spending on labor? A good accountant who uses great software is so important to HR.
16. Appointment Setting Calendar Software for Key Dates
As an HR professional, you may have meetings—lots of them. That makes appointment setting software an important HR tool. In addition, if you manage HR in a firm that offers billable services, like a law firm or tax service, think what a hero you’ll be when you make life easier for everyone with software that can manage scheduled appointments.
“I know what I have going on each day, who is out of the office, what meetings I have to attend, projects that need follow-up, etc. I can plan days/weeks/months ahead.
It keeps me organized. I set reminders, such as; dates performance reviews are due, scheduled interviews, dates to run certain reports, payroll notes, dates to enroll benefits for new hires, etc.”
—Jennifer Weber, HR Assistant, Enertech Global LLC
17. LinkedIn for Access to a Professional Network
LinkedIn is more than a professional social media platform. It offers hiring tools, job postings, and the ability to contact prospects. It’s also a great place for HR professionals to network with others.
“The practice of HR is in such a transition phase right now, moving from tactical transactions to strategic business partner. Having a strong network of knowledgeable professionals in all types and sizes of organizations provides access to a wealth of knowledge and allows me to better understand the current state and pace of change across different programs and processes.”
—KC Bradley, Sr. HR Manager, Accenture
18. Society for Human Resources (SHRM) Website
You can find industry groups on social media platforms like LinkedIn and websites like HR.com, but to join an HR network with nearly 300,000 members, you should purchase a membership with the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). SHRM provides a peer network, researched data, and more for about $200 a year per subscriber.
”If I don’t access [SHRM] on a daily basis, I do so at least one to two times a week for information on policies or to keep abreast on issues that impact the workplace. Not to mention it’s the go-to spot in communicating with other HR professionals to gain insight or network.”
—Melanie Veal, HR Director, Butler Metro Housing Authority
19. Online Legal Services for Downloadable Policies
HR professionals may not realize that common documents like a nondisclosure agreement for a freelancer or severance agreement letter template are available for a nominal fee with online legal services. Rather than spend hours crafting your own document that may not stand out in court, consider signing up for an online legal service like BizCouncil (under $100 per month). Online legal services can be the HR tool that brings you superpowers.
20. Cell & Desk Phones for Communication
It may seem obvious, but having a mobile phone in addition to your in-office VoIP phone system comes in handy. In fact, new apps like TextRecruit can help you source and stay in touch with younger candidates who may rarely use an email account.
21. Virtual Private Network (VPN) for Working Offsite
Having the ability to work while offsite at conferences, networking meetups, or recruiting events is essential. If you want to improve your company culture and retain your top employees, you might consider providing work-from-home options for employees by setting up VPN service to ensure your data stays secure even when you’re out of the office.
“My VPN access [is my most important HR tool]. I need to have access to my company network at all times. This way, I am able to use my laptop or smartphone if I’m not in the office and an issue arises.”
—Keshia Martin SHRM-CP, Check Into Cash, Inc.
22. An HR Consulting Firm for Ad Hoc Questions
You may be able to get by with free downloadable HR forms and policy templates from online legal services, but when it comes to customizing them, it’s helpful to work with an HR professional. For only $99 a month, firms like Bambee provide unlimited HR consulting and can save you from making expensive labor law mistakes like wrongfully terminating an employee using unfair hiring practices.
In addition, some HR software providers like Gusto and Zenefits provide HR and payroll consulting services as an add-on service to their HR software platforms. If you’re an HR department of one, there’s no need to go it alone.
23. Video Conferencing for Interviews with Remote Candidates
Our company uses Zoom due to its low cost and free version, but there are other video conferencing software options that make it easy for you to interview candidates or interact with your offsite team members. As more and more companies add work-from-home benefits for employees, it just makes sense to have video conference software in your HR toolkit.
“Virtual interviews have given our operations a huge productivity and efficiency injection. I seriously don’t know how we managed without them! We experimented with Skype interviews and other software; we eventually settled on Yello. A great thing about Yello is that candidates record answers to questions at their leisure; scheduling is completely cut out of the equation, which frees up a lot of time. Without scheduling restrictions, we were also able to expand our candidate pool. My favorite aspects of Yello are: 1) we can cut off rambling answers by setting time limits; 2) our team members and clients can view interviews on-demand; and 3) our team can consistently evaluate candidates.”
—Ellen Mullarke, VP, Messina Staffing
24. Timekeeping Software for Hourly Workers
For businesses in the retail, service, home healthcare, and restaurant industries, time and attendance software is a must. Rather than expect supervisors and managers to tally up time sheet hours each week and turn them into payroll, consider using timekeeping software. HR tools like When I Work and Homebase are free to smaller businesses with one location or fewer than 75 employees. Both provide labor law compliant time tracking that’s easy for employees to use via desktop, tablet, or smartphone.
25. Scheduling Software to See Who’s Where When
As the people person in your company, HR professionals are often tasked with keeping track of workers. Online employee scheduling software and apps can help by putting real-time work schedules in the hands of your workers and allowing them to opt-in for shifts, shift swap, and request time off, all from an app.
Bonus: Application Program Interface (API) Software
Not to scare you with tech talk, but often the best tool for HR is one that you can use to connect new HR software and apps to other business, communication, or HR software you’re already using. In some cases, your HR software has pre-built interfaces like Slack and Gusto have with time tracking apps. But in other cases, data integration can be set up using an API like Zapier. If you want to improve your organizations’ productivity, consider partnering with an IT partner who can manage APIs to your HR resource list.
The best HR tools may turn out to be ones that support your managers and employees with communication helping them to collaborate with others on work-related tasks. The HR tools listed above are favorites because they make your life easier, whether it’s with tracking open jobs and candidates, managing time worked and payroll, or simply monitoring employee engagement to improve your employment brand.
If you’re looking for a top-rated, affordable small business HR system that does it all, from time tracking and labor law compliance to payroll, try Gusto. It provides self-onboarding for new hires, stores all your HR documents, runs payroll with direct deposit, manages add-on employee benefits, and so much more. Sign up for your free 30-day trial of Gusto.