Top HR Tools for 2021

One thing we all learned from our pandemic experience of 2020 is the critical role tech tools play in keeping us connected, personally and professionally. Even before that, HR teams increasingly relied on technology to streamline all aspects of their work. Now, as companies adopt a hybrid workplace model to accommodate both onsite and remote employees, HR tech tools have become mission-critical. 

Whether your People Ops have been tech-forward for some time or you’re just now considering how to design the human side of your digital transformation, the question becomes, “which tools should we choose?”

Feeling Overwhelmed? No wonder.

There is no shortage of options when it comes to software platforms and apps designed to support and enhance human resources efforts. You can find comprehensive solutions that address virtually everything you need to accomplish, from recruiting and onboarding to ongoing employee and benefits management and general administration. 

There are also myriad products that are more specialized, so you can assemble your own tailored set of services. In keeping with COVID-19, the marketplace now includes HR tools that address employee health and workplace safety, including contact tracing. 

Free Is a Very Good Price

Making your technology decision-making even more complex is the issue of budget. Every company has one, and yours may limit your options. The pandemic has taken an enormous economic toll on enterprises across all industries, and now many are operating in survival mode. Cost-control and ROI are critical. Fortunately, many SaaS providers offer free versions of their products, or at least a free trial. 

Even better, you don’t have to be small to benefit from free HR software. Some of these platforms are so robust that many very large brand names have adopted them. 

So, whether you’re choosing tools for a small-to-midsize company or you’re an HR Head Honcho for a major enterprise, here are some of the top HR tech tools you should consider for 2021 – free to you, at least at first. 

  • Bamboo HR: Geared toward smaller companies, this software allows you to track key employee data and manage it efficiently using a wide range of data management and analytics features. There’s even an option to add a mobile app. Users especially like Bamboo’s swift and reliable customer support. You can test-run select components of this software at no charge for a trial period, but users report the company is very accommodating should you wish to extend that period or switch to a limited-time trial of their all-in-one product.
  • BrioHR: With this platform, you can manage recruiting, applicant tracking, onboarding, PTO, payroll, employee data, and performance reviews.
  • Freshteam: This is a comprehensive HR platform designed to support actively growing companies. Their Sprout option is available entirely free for up to 50 employees. You can Freshteam to handle everything from job postings and candidate tracking to PTO. Like many popular HR tools, the software is “self-service,” enabling employees to directly access their data, training information and so on.
  • GoGo: This user-friendly system automates key processes such as onboarding, payroll, and benefits administration including PTO. It supports secure sharing of confidential documents. The company provides HR-related information and training, and should you wish, they will also link you with its network of partners that provide employee benefits.
  • Homebase: Another comprehensive platform, Homebase is designed for companies with hourly employees. It includes not only HR tools such as time tracking and payroll but POS integration, employee messaging. If your business has just one physical location, this software is free no matter how many employees you have.
  • HRnest: This is a specialized tool you can use to manage work schedules, employee files and leave-related data. You can actually pick just one, two, or all three of those modules, depending on your needs.
  • IceHRM: This is an all-in-one HR platform, but you can choose one of three versions. With the Lite option, you’ll pay nothing no matter how many employees you have. Even better, you can demo upgrade features from their Cloud option for 45 days at no charge. There is a self-hosted option as well. All versions integrate essential processes for recruiting, PTO, payroll, training, travel, and employee management. There is an employee directory and both chat and email messaging features.
  • OrangeHRM: This is a well-known and respected platform designed as a series of modules you can select for a custom fit, which makes it easily scalable. Although the package technically does not include payroll management, you can integrate that, too, via a partner provider.
  • People HR: One of the biggest names in HR software for SMBs, this platform focuses on hiring and employee management, with processes for applicant tracking, customized job description creation, ongoing recordkeeping and performance reviews.
  • Saba TalentSpace: This employee management tool focuses on tracking recruiting and performance and includes social collaboration components such as messaging and teamwork support. It can be customized for certain specific industries such as manufacturing, professional services, or healthcare.
  • SnapHRM: Another up-and-coming platform, this one is very user-friendly. The “Startup” level is free for up to 5 employees and includes access to all the platform’s services. If you grow out of the free version, the paid upgrade is still very affordable.
  • WebHR: This one gets low marks for aesthetics but high marks for affordability. It’s free for fewer than 5 employees, and costs as little as $1 per month per employee as you grow. You can add modules as you grow as well — the basic configuration covers all the basics and includes a messaging feature and a discussion forum.

Tips for Choosing HR Tools

The list above includes popular free options, but you still have to winnow your way to a final choice. To make the best decision, consider:

  • Versatility. The more you can do with the software, the more time and money you can save. Many platforms will give you features you hadn’t considered. That’s a productivity bonus.
  • Scalability and flexibility. A product that is adaptable will serve you well longer and increase your ROI.
  • Your entire team. Learning what employees really want and need up front will help you choose a product they will be excited to learn and use
  • Your company’s long-term goals. The digital transformation is a work in progress, and even if your HR technology is free at first, it’s an investment in your future. 
  • Security. This is critical for all businesses, but nowhere more important than when you’re protecting employee data as well as the company’s.
  • Support. Look for reviews and ask current users about this because reliably responsive support is a must. Waiting around to get help will cost your company in productivity, and it could damage your reputation with candidates or existing staff.  

As G2 notes, “In today’s virtual and remote employment scenario, organizations have a greater need to make their HR departments’ workloads easier with highly efficient management techniques and applications.” Spending the time to research and choose top HR tools for your team can pave the way toward a more profitable future.