HRMS software providers typically cover every element of an HRIS and many include the capabilities of an HCM. Because the HRMS business is so massive and covers such a wide range of employee size and functional requirements, not all HRMS providers have a progressive Talent Management component included in their offering. Some of the HRMS vendors look like this [HRIS + (Payroll + TLM) = HRMS] while others have built their offering to look more like this [HCM + (Payroll + TLM)]. Two characteristics of any true HRMS are the following:

  1. Payroll
  2. Time & Labor Management (TLM)

* Scheduling — Not all HRMS providers offer Scheduling capabilities within their offering.

That should provide some clarity to these three acronyms, but it is easy enough to get sucked backed into the confusion about the types of HRIS systems. Below are two simple scenarios where the lines can get blurred even further:

  1. Talent Management vendors commonly refer to their offerings as HCM vs. Talent Management (TM) because it elevates their identity and solution beyond a best-in-class application(s). Many of the pain points that convince prospective executives to invest in new HRIS, HCM or HRMS systems are those surrounding the Talent Management capabilities, which can be overlooked as the fundamentals are taken for granted. Should TM be included under the acronym HCM or remain on its own?
  2. Stand-alone Time & Labor Management vendors typically refer to their offering as Workforce Management, but may fall under the umbrella of HRMS. Does Workforce Management fall under the acronym HRMS or should it be labeled as Time & Attendance?
  3. The hot HR technology industry continues to move at the speed of light with the addition of new cloud vendors and consistent M&A activity. I don’t foresee the vendor and analyst landscape getting to the point of 100% agreement on these definitions, but I do believe that by putting definitions to the acronyms and applying a specific level of expected functionality to each term, provides some clarity to individual’s better evaluating HR technology vendors.


A HRMS can help you track crucial data such as performance improvement measures without shuffling paper. This can facilitate management of your people by allowing you to track employee initiatives without getting bogged down in manual record keeping. This gives you more time to put the human in human resources and less time behind your computer!


HRIS software is designed to manage people, policies and procedures. Unless the employees reside outside the U.S., the majority of vendors pitching HRIS only cater to businesses that employ U.S. citizens.

Keeping this at a high level, I have categorized (9) major capabilities that define an HRIS. There is absolutely no doubt that this is open to interpretation, but I feel these are the major characteristics.

  1. Recruiting / ATS (Applicant Tracking System)
  2. Core Human Resources
  3. Benefit Administration /Open Enrollment
  4. Absence Management
  5. Compensation Management
  6. Training & Development
  7. Workflow
  8. Self-Service (Candidate / Employee / Manager)
  9. Reporting


By using a HRIS, you can get your HR staffers out of the business of administrative record-keeping. There’s no reason for HR to be the dusty repository of info locked in filing cabinets that isn’t translated into relevant usable data. Instead, freed of administrative record-keeping duties, HR can participate more meaningfully in planning and leadership.

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