The Complete Guide to HRIS Integration


Managing your people is one of the most important parts of running a successful business. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. HR software has become more sophisticated to meet the demands caused by an increasingly complex workforce, but in some cases companies turn to integrations to gain the functionality they need. Today, we’ll do a deep dive on HRIS integration and how it can impact your organization.

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HRIS Integration

Here’s a breakdown of what we’ll cover:

What Is HRIS Integration?

At face value, the concept sounds simple — you connect your HRIS (human resource information system) with other essential HR applications, such as payroll. Right?

Well … sort of. While that’s one way to look at it, some vendors use integration to refer to their suite of already connected HR tools.

In other words, you can get an integrated platform from a single vendor that covers everything from recruiting to benefits admin to analytics. You can also opt to implement point solutions for each HR process and then integrate the systems to achieve a unified platform. Or you can do a combination of the two. Those latter two approaches are what we’ll be covering.

Before we move on, a quick word about integration vs interfacing. If you’re looking to implement HRM integration, be aware of what you’re actually trying to accomplish and the means you’ll use to get there.

Integration refers to a seamless connection of different systems via API (application programming interface), middleware or iPaaS. Because both systems are plugged into the same database, data flows from one to another so they’re always in sync and show real-time data. Any update in your payroll, for example, automatically appears in your HRIS records.

Interfacing still lets two systems share information, but it’s more limited because they each have their own database. An interface acts as a link so you can transfer information back and forth. The main drawback, however, is that you have to do so manually. If a system processes a lot of data and updates frequently, interfacing would be more time-consuming.

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When Should You Consider HRIS Integration?

Integrating software of any type requires a lot of time and resources. As such, it’s important to know which situations call for integration and which don’t. Every situation is different, so your best bet is to look at your unique circumstances to determine the most sensible path forward.

However, here are three situations where integrating your HRIS is likely a good idea:

1. If your current HRIS can’t do everything you need.

The difficulty with HR software these days is that there’s no single definition that tells you exactly what you’ll get. You have HRIS, HRMS (human resources management system) and HCM (human capital management). Vendors refer to them differently, and their functionality isn’t consistent across the board.

HCM vs HRIS vs HRMSTypically, HRIS is the most basic, and includes elements like benefits administration, recruiting and compensation management. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to assume that HRIS refers to the basic HR toolkit that manages people, processes and procedures. The point is, you may have a system labeled “HRIS” that lacks certain capabilities your business needs.

If you’ve made up for that by implementing separate systems for your other extended HR processes and it would be difficult or unfeasible to completely switch to a suite that covers all your bases, your company is a good candidate for integration.

Why not leave every system as-is? We’ll cover benefits a little further down, but suffice it to say that integration will help your HR management run more smoothly.

If you’re operating in different systems today, you likely run into double entry, data errors, lack of visibility and a whole host of issues that come with siloed systems. Integration is the answer to those problems.

2. If you want to go the best-of-breed route.

It’s common for vendors to preach the value of a fully integrated software suite. And there certainly are benefits, such as seamless data access, 360-degree visibility and other perks that create a unified, holistic environment.

That doesn’t mean implementing all-in-one software will be the best route for your organization. Using separate applications from a range of vendors may fit better with your business strategy, processes and architecture.

Vendors that specialize in one area, such as workforce management, likely offer a tool with deeper functionality. That’s because they can focus their resources and expertise in a smaller niche. Choosing point solutions for each HR process means you get the best of each.

That said, it’s not impossible to achieve the same result if you choose a single platform. The industry has shifted as bigger vendors such as SAP and Oracle acquire best-of-breed solutions that let them sell HR suites without sacrificing deeper functionality. But that doesn’t guarantee that each module in a vendor’s suite will reach the standards of individual point solutions. As always, use your company’s requirements as a barometer to measure what you need to accomplish and how best to do that.

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Thanks to APIs, apps and an increasing emphasis on integration standards, piecing together your own suite of HR applications isn’t as hard as it used to be.

However, you still have to put in the work of implementing and running each system, along with integrating them with your HRIS for greater cohesion.

Bottom line: weigh your company’s priorities before starting.

3. If it fits your budget better.

Maybe you’re a small business and need the functionality of several systems along with the benefits of HRIS integration — but your budget isn’t big enough for a single suite of integrated HR tools.

Or maybe you already have HR systems in place and need to connect them, but don’t have the budget to do a massive upgrade to a vendor that does it all.

In either case, considering HRIS integration may be a good option. That way, you get the best of both worlds without decimating your budget in the process.

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Questions to Ask Before You Integrate

Before you rush a proposal to the executives, you need to thoroughly map out the integration journey. It’s one thing to build a convincing business case — it’s another to push for integration because it sounds like something an innovative, digitally transformed company would do.

Before you implement HRIS integration, you need to ask the right questions to ensure you’re prepared. Let’s look at some good questions to consider:

Why Are You Integrating?

In other words, what’s the motivation? HRM integration won’t do you much good unless it’s rooted in a clearly defined purpose. Some good reasons could include:

  • Removing data silos that are in place due to running multiple HR applications
  • Increasing staff productivity
  • Centralizing information and employee access

Spend time gathering input from key stakeholders and developing goals based on your priorities. It’s important to get feedback from your HR staff and others who regularly use your systems — their insight will give you the full picture of pain points and areas where you need to enhance your processes.

What Will It Take to Pull off a Successful Integration?

List the elements that impact the integration, both positively and negatively. You can’t expect to have a successful integration without first identifying and planning for potential setbacks.

We’ll talk more about integration challenges below, but you also need to know where things stand today:

  • What current processes do you have?
  • Which teams are responsible for upkeep and data management?
  • If you have an enterprise integration strategy (EIS) in place, how does it play into your HRIS integration?

By looking in detail at your organization’s current state, you can more accurately predict where and how integration will influence everything going forward.

You also can’t overlook the people aspect of integration. Consider what it will take to equip your teams to adjust to the new processes. The complexity of the change will determine how much training they’ll need, if any, once you roll out the integration.

How Will You Measure Success?

You need to define what success means for your company and then make sure you have a way to measure it post-integration. If, for example, one of your goals was to reduce manual data entry by 20%, you need a before-and-after snapshot to know you achieved that goal.

What’s the Best Timing?

“Right now!” may seem like the best answer. But in reality, you need to ensure the timing of your integration won’t interfere with other company initiatives.

You’ll need to devote time and people to running an effective integration, so it’s essential to avoid creating a battle of priorities. If your IT team is upgrading your website platform over the next month, that’s probably not the best time to add HRIS integration to their plate.

Will You Receive Support from the Vendor?

Depending on your situation, you might be able to turn to your vendor for integration support. The biggest advantage is that the additional help will ease the burden of your IT team. Plus, the vendor should have a solid understanding of best practices and know the most effective way to integrate their solution with another.

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Integrations to Consider

For the purposes of this article, we’re staying in the HR realm (though there are other useful integrations you can make with HR, such as finance or ERP).

One caveat before we get started: this list won’t apply to all situations. Your exact list will depend on your business needs. So take this as a guideline to inform your HRIS integration rather than the golden standard.

With that settled, here are four integrations you should investigate:

1. Payroll

First, let’s delve into payroll software. Connecting your payroll processing and HRIS is an important step in gaining more streamlined HR processes.

Every company needs the ability to run payroll. But having it separated from the data in your HRIS means extra work and a greater potential for human error. Each update to employee information in your HR database needs to also occur in the payroll system. Doing everything twice makes it easier for details to slip through the cracks. Connecting HRIS and payroll creates a more seamless flow of data.

In some cases, an HRIS will already offer payroll capabilities. However, you’re less likely to find solutions with built-in features that adequately encompass global payroll. Differences in compensation standards across multiple countries and currencies make global payroll a tall order. Imagine the difficulty in handling that if your payroll tool isn’t connected to your employee database.

UltiPro Payroll Gateway

View of a payroll processing tool.

Basic payroll features won’t be able to support such complexities, so you’ll need to modify certain fields to account for the unique demands of each country. The system also needs to account for regulatory requirements, such as GDPR, as well as incorporate local tax laws.

Some payroll vendors sync with the top HRIS platforms, which lets you take advantage of their integration best practices and simplifies the integration process.

2. Applicant Tracking System

Next up, applicant tracking systems (ATS). These solutions are a subset of talent management and revolve around recruiting and retaining employees.

While ATS tools are fairly common in HRIS solutions, top vendors such as Namely, Zenefits and BambooHR also offer ATS integrations. This provides you with more flexibility to create an HR ecosystem that works best for your company.

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3. Workforce Management

Third, we have workforce management integration. WFM software handles things like scheduling, performance management and labor tracking. Since an HRIS platform serves as your central warehouse for employee information, it’s helpful to have this connected to your workforce management solution.

4. Learning Management System

Finally, we have LMS software. Learning management has become increasingly popular (and important) in the last several years, as companies strive to equip employees to excel in their positions.

LMS features include various learning methods, gamification, reporting and analytics. Since employees study for certifications, take quizzes that test their knowledge and more, it’s valuable to keep track of their progress.

Syncing an LMS platform and HRIS enables you to automatically maintain an up-to-date employee record. This also makes it less of a hassle to generate in-depth reports.

Benefits of Integrating Your HRIS

If you invest the time and resources to integrate your HRIS with other key HR systems, you’ll reap a wealth of benefits. Here are some of the top advantages:

Benefits of Integrating HRIS

No More Double Entry

HRM integration removes the work of maintaining clean records across multiple systems. When you enter a newly hired employee into your HRIS, for example, it automatically updates in your LMS. Added up across every employee and HR system, that translates to hours of saved time for your HR staff. They can then use that time on HR strategy and initiatives.

Consistent Data

Humans aren’t perfect. The more you rely on manually entering the same info into different systems, the greater the risk of adding an extra zero or missing a letter. The fact that you won’t be entering data into different locations each time a change happens means you’ll have enhanced data accuracy.

Having accurate data is critical, especially in payroll, where a mistake could mean the difference between $1,000 and $10,000.

With your systems connected, information will automatically flow from one source to the other, reflecting every update in both locations. The fact that you only need to enter information once reduces errors. And that means your HR staff won’t have to waste time finding and fixing those discrepancies.

A Single Source of Truth

Driving business strategy involves having a complete view of your organization. Siloed HR data acts as a roadblock because it prevents you from identifying trends and seeing the big picture. HRIS integration solves that problem and gives you a set of data to update and track. From there, it’s easier to make smarter, data-based decisions.

Dayforce HCM Headcount Dashboard

Dashboards like this one provide an overview of important HR data.

Efficient Reporting

A central data repository makes your reporting more efficient. Reports are only as effective as the data they’re based on. By creating a single pool of information, you can simplify the reporting process and gain insights you wouldn’t have seen with disparate systems.

One example is tracking your employee information during the onboarding phase and during any ongoing professional development. LMS and HRIS integration removes barriers so you can uncover any skills gaps and maintain an accurate record of the skills they gain over time.

Easy Access

  • Single sign-on (SSO): Instead of users needing to track usernames and passwords for several platforms, they can log in to one system and easily access the other without toggling back and forth.
  • Employee self-service (ESS): Giving employees access to their information is never a bad idea. When you integrate payroll and HRIS, it’s easy for them to view their pay history, control their direct deposit settings and more.


Staying compliant with the numerous rules and regulations in place is hard enough already. Add errors and systems that don’t talk to each other to the mix and you’re on the way to a messy situation. For example, if you’re running global payroll, you need to comply with several different sets of laws.

With integration, the system takes all the relevant information into consideration, and automation greatly reduces the chances for making a mistake.

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Challenges are as much a part of software integration as injuries are in sports. However, proper planning will go a long way in reducing their potential. Here are some challenges to be aware of:

Not Enough Resources

Rolling out an integration will require significant time, money and extra work. The additional workload could easily overload employees, especially when viewed within the business as a whole.

No Tech Standardization

What impact will an integration have on your infrastructure? If there isn’t any standardization, such a significant update could affect the software in other departments.

For example, if your HRIS and legacy ERP systems are already integrated, you need to ensure integrating a payroll solution with HR won’t conflict with your current setup.

People Problems

Resistance to change: Just because the execs sign off on an integration doesn’t mean everyone will agree. With all the hype about AI replacing workers, implementing an integration that streamlines workflows could cause employees to worry that downsizing is on the way.

Slow adoption: The fact that HRIS integration offers benefits doesn’t make adoption automatic. It could take users time to adjust to the new way of doing things. On top of that, the system needs to be user-friendly or else it may cause frustration and hinder your employees’ ability to realize your company’s goals.

Department clashes: If your integration brings together two departments that were previously separate, there may be tension. Chances are, they both have different processes and systems in place, so combining those could prove difficult.

Lack of Training

Some of your people problems can stem from employees not receiving the training they need. If you’ve had the same processes and procedures for a long time, switching to the new method will take employees some getting used to. Without training, users are much less likely to master and feel good about using the new setup.

Dirty Data

This doesn’t mean your data got dragged through the mud. It means there are errors. For example, if you previously had separate payroll and HRIS, they probably have inconsistencies.

It’s important to clean your data up before integrating and run audits to prevent errors from slipping in. Otherwise you might end up with an employee who has a yearly salary of $410,000 instead of $41,000. (Can you feel the accounting department getting ready to pounce?)

Technical Issues

Outside of bad data, any number of technical problems can arise during implementation:

If you’ve configured your HRIS using custom fields or workflows, for example, that can complicate the integration process. Even if your HRIS system comes with built-in APIs, such modifications can cause a need for a customized integration, which requires IT expertise.

In the case of payroll, the system requires a lot of different inputs from your HRIS, including employee names, addresses, type of pay and more. In addition, the payroll platform may require data to be formatted a certain way. You’ll run into trouble if you don’t map those relationships.

You may also face obstacles if you integrate an on-premise solution with a SaaS product. Difficulties include differences in data structures, latency, API constraints and loss of data integrity.

By preparing for these challenges ahead of time, you’ll make it easier for your HRIS integration to run as smoothly as possible.

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Next Steps

HRIS integration is a significant undertaking. Before taking the plunge, be sure your efforts will be rewarded. Asking questions prior to integration will help you identify the goals you want to achieve and how to reach them.

Integrating your HRIS with other human resource systems will boost efficiency, cut down on errors and provide a unified HR platform that enables superior strategic planning.

If you’re looking to upgrade your current HRIS or still on the search for the right software to implement (great job being ahead of the game!), we’re here to help. Finding the right solution isn’t easy, so we put together a handy HR software comparison report to make your search less complicated.

Your people are the foundation of your success. Give them the right HR software, and it will only serve to empower them. And that will strengthen your business.

What HRIS integrations are you thinking of implementing? Share in the comments!

Zachary TotahThe Complete Guide to HRIS Integration


Join the conversation
  • nadeem dilber - February 29, 2020 reply

    Great piece of work

    Zachary Totah

    Zachary Totah - March 2, 2020 reply

    Thanks Nadeem, glad you enjoyed it!

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