Management Software Turducken: What are the Different types of HR Software?

November 12th, 2019 11 min read

Comic book fans have long pored over maintaining the genealogy of their favorite comic book universes. For the more popular franchises, such as Marvel and DC, this is no small feat, and it’s become even more complex as movie universes build upon, parody, or stretch the comic universes they’re based on to the breaking point (cough, X-Men, cough).

While comic fans can revel in the complexity of their universes, the same is rarely said of business software. In particular, as HR management has become a more complicated and intricate profession, the software designed to support the profession has become a maze of intersecting, overlapping, and competing product areas.

There are currently eight Human Resources software categories on TrustRadius that focus on some sort of “management,” and several others that implicitly deliver similar services for HR professionals. All of these products are designed to help HR professionals manage specific aspects of their jobs and vary primarily in the range of professionals the products can service.  Products themselves also rarely fall neatly into distinct categories, and overlapping feature sets can complicate and confuse the market space.

However, there are also substantial benefits to HR software’s interconnectivity. Expansive software or suites with multiple HR capabilities enable centralization that can raise HR efficiency and productivity.

If you’re looking for a specific type of HR management software, a unique set of software types, or a full suite, we’ve provided a roadmap of different types of “management” software that help HR professionals. This roadmap breaks down each category, including what other categories it’s most similar or interconnected with, and what some of the top products in the category are (with an emphasis on standalone products).

Let’s take it from the top.

HR Management

HR Management software is often used as an umbrella term for many different types of software. However, “HR Management” also refers to a specific type of software, also known as “Core HR” or “HR Information Systems.” These products cover three areas central to any HR activities: Benefits administration, personnel tracking, and payroll. Some Core HR products also offer Asset Management and Leave/Attendance Management.

There is also a segment of products known as “Human Capital Management suites.” These suites have a Core HR foundation, but also include broader HR capabilities. Almost any type of software discussed in this roadmap could be found in an HR Management suite, but the specific feature list, or “modules,” vary by suite.

There are also specialized point solutions for each facet of Core HR. There is a small niche of payroll-specific solutions and a larger range of offerings tailored to Benefits Administration. Personnel tracking solutions most comfortably fit under Workforce Management. However, given the overlap between point solutions and suites, you will frequently see products in different “tiers” discussed side-by-side.

If you’re looking for a broader HR Management software or suite, check out TrustRadius’ Buyer’s Guide to HR Management Software here.

Talent Management

Talent management is an approach to HR management that focuses on developing and managing the “talent” aspect of personnel. It facilitates acquiring talent to fit the business’s needs and further developing employees once they’ve been hired. It has become a larger category in recent years as smaller sub-categories developing their own nuances. “Talent” is an intentionally broad term—it ranges from hard to soft skills, as well as developing employees for career growth within the organization. Components of talent management include:

Talent management intersects with many different types of HR software, and is also presented in suite form itself. Talent management can overlap most heavily with recruiting, Corporate Learning Management, and performance management software. Talent management-specific suites include Saba TalentSpace, PiiQ by Cornerstone, and SAP SuccessFactors Learning.

Performance Management

Performance management focuses on evaluating and roadmapping employee’s performance based on preset standards. These evaluations can come in the form of supervisor evaluations, peer review, self-evaluation, and skills evaluation, as well as career evaluation. Based on the results of these evaluations, performance management tools help employees improve and develop to meet current or future benchmarks. 

Performance management most frequently appears as a function of broader talent management software. However, there are some standalone products that focus on evaluations and employee surveying. Notable point solutions include Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment, Quantum Workplace Engagement Surveys and Pulses, and 15Five.

Corporate Learning Management

Corporate Learning Management Systems (Corporate LMS) are online systems used for training and development. They are designed for internal and external use(usually employees and clients, respectively). Businesses use this software to host 3rd party training material, or create their own, for continued education and development, as well as to track said development. Core Corporate LMS features include:

  • Content creation/authoring
  • Content library management
  • Certification management (especially for highly regulated industries like finance and healthcare)
  • Performance reporting

Corporate LMS can intersect with performance management or bundle with talent management suites, but there are also a variety of standalone offerings. Point solutions include Articulate Storyline, Brightspace, and Lessonly.

Workforce Management

Workforce management (WFM) is a collection of processes and tools used to schedule and track pools of employees. Workforce management is particularly relevant for shift-based industries, such as the service and manufacturing sectors. Workforce management products can range from generalist suites to products that focus on particular workforce types, such as call centers, project-based workforces, etc. Its capabilities include:

  • Time and attendance tracking
  • Labor scheduling
  • Compliance monitoring (relating to labor laws)
  • Staffing optimization
  • Payroll functionality (depending on the product)

Workforce management is a specialized set of products that most closely align with the “personnel tracking” capabilities found in Core HR products. There are also some standalone WFM offerings, such as HotSchedules (for restaurant management), Boomr, and TimeForce.

Freelance Management

Freelance management is what it says on the box. It provides the narrower services you need for managing a contract workforce. Its primary role is to help you locate and hire freelancers, like a freelancer-specific ATS platform. Freelance management often includes the ability to track and pay freelancers as well. Some more specific capabilities are:

  • Portfolio screening
  • Talent vetting
  • Job posting/a platform for job boards
  • Contract management
  • Job payment management
  • Invoicing and billing

Freelancer management software often overlaps with core HR capabilities because it specializes by demographics. Rather than offering additional features, the Core HR features are just narrowed and tailored to meet a unique workforce’s needs. Notable standalone software includes Upwork, Contently, and

Payroll (Management)

OK, no one really calls it “payroll management,” but I’m a sucker for continuity.

Payroll functionality is offered in point solutions that focus on calculating and processing employee pay, tax forms, and benefits administration. Payroll is offered in an extremely wide range of other product categories, so there is an equally diverse range of deployment options. Payroll capabilities can be found in point solutions or bundled with accounting software or HCM suites, can be managed in-house or outsourced or semi-outsourced, and can be deployed on-premise or in the cloud. While specific features vary as well, the standalone and core payroll features include:

  • Direct deposit processing
  • Calculating employee pay
  • Withholdings calculations
  • Tax form generation
  • Benefits plan administration
  • Payroll tracking and reporting

Payroll functionality will be found as part of a broader HR suite since it’s so integral to any HR process. However, if you’re picking and choosing services from different suites, or just want to replace the payroll functionality of the main suite you’re currently using, and want a standalone payroll solution, you can start by checking out Gusto, SurePayroll, and Intuit Payroll.

This should help clarify if you’re looking for a point solution, a full HCM suite, or something in between. Now you can spend less time figuring out what kind of software you need and more time picking the perfect solution to meet your needs! To that end, check out the Top Rated software in HR management, Talent management, Corporate Performance management, and Corporate Learning management to which products are rated most highly by other users. Gobble gobble, quack quack, cluck cluck!

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