14 questions to ask when searching for HR software
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Finding the right HR software can be a real struggle for small businesses. In a marketplace filled with providers offering what appears to be similar products, where do you start and how can you tell what is the best fit for your needs?

Many small businesses aren’t even sure that they need HR software at all—it can feel like something large companies need. Yet tens of thousands of small companies are already benefitting from HR software, and the right product can save even small companies both time and money. Sound good?

It’s always great to start your search with a clear view of what you are looking to achieve, what any must-have features are, and what you would ideally like on top of that.  And although it might look to start with as though many of the options are very similar, HR software for small businesses actually varies quite a bit—with some offering lots of features while others are much more limited. And it’s worth noting that price is not always a good indication of what you’ll get, either.

When speaking to thousands of small businesses, we often get asked similar questions at different stages of the process. That’s why we’ve pulled together a list of some of the top questions to ask potential providers when you start your HR and Payroll software search.


  1. How can HR software help a small business?

We know that tens of thousands of small businesses are using HR software already, but why? Some of the key benefits that you can expect are:

  • Storing records securely so they are never lost, meaning no more paper employee files
  • Saving hours and hours on admin for things like Holiday and Expenses; no more spreadsheets!
  • Never forget a key employment dates and issues with reminders in advance / issues e.g. Right to Work and Minimum Wage
  • Easy to run payroll in minutes with no stress- no need to find and email information anywhere else!
  • Digital timesheets for your team to complete
  • Calculating part time holiday entitlement, taking away the worries of getting it right


  1. How else can HR software help my company?

Getting to grips with how HR software will specifically help you and your business is so important. Other ways that you can benefit include:

  • Get any information you want about your team in an instant—from when someone last had a pay rise to what their partner is called or when someone is due back from maternity leave
  • Manage all one to ones, appraisals, and any performance issues
  • Keep track of health and safety to help you meet your legal obligations
  • Easily onboard new staff and automatically set them up on payroll
  • Stay engaged with your people, wherever they work
  • Push essential employment policies and information to your teams with no wasted paper and proof of who has and hasn’t read them


  1. What about payroll software? Do I need it?

You’ll already know that as soon as you start to employ people, you need to organise payroll, and you need to do it well. Many small businesses opt for using a payroll bureau, but a package which offers both HR and payroll can make the process faster and simpler. Not to mention cheaper!

Until recently, it has not been easy for small businesses to run payroll themselves. But now there are a few integrated HR and payroll software options for small companies which make this incredibly quick and easy.

Even if it’s not something you’re looking to do in-house just yet, this is one of the biggest benefits from using HR software, so we suggest that you find out if the software you’re considering has payroll built in or not. If you don’t use it straight away, you may well want to within a year or two.

You can find out more about small business payroll options in our blog, Should your small business be outsourcing payroll?


  1. What will HR software really cost?

Some software costs are clear and transparent- while some makes you speak to a salesperson before they give you a quote.

And different software companies charges in different ways, too. It can be quite confusing! Some charge for everything, and some charge per feature. Knowing what features you want now, and perhaps in the future, will help you find the best value package that matches your needs.

Some companies charge setup fees, while most aimed at small companies don’t. Some software is hard enough to learn and use that you might need training, which some companies charge extra for. It’s important to get a complete quote and make sure you are comparing apples with apples.

We also recommend shopping around, as price isn’t always a reliable indicator of value, especially for small businesses. Sometimes, you don’t get what you pay for and there may be better options available that can actually cost you a lot less!


  1. How long will I be tied in for?

Contract terms will vary as much as price does. Some HR software providers offer monthly contracts, while some will expect you to sign up for three years.

Unfortunately, businesses sometimes make the wrong decision when it comes to software, and you might find that you don’t get quite what you expected. We always recommend avoiding long term contracts if you can because things change!

Shorter term contracts (and there are plenty on the market) are designed to keep you happy. If you’re not happy, you can cancel and go elsewhere. Why risk any supplier which demands a long contract—what have they got to hide?


  1. How quickly can we get up and running?

Once you’ve found the software you want and are keen to get started with it , what happens next?

It’s important to ask how quickly you can get set up and using the software. Some HR software will allow you to get up and running in literally minutes, while other companies take several weeks to set your new account up. If you can sign up online for a Free Trial straight away that’s usually a good sign that you can get started quickly.

You’ll then need to think about how easy it is to set the software up for your company’s needs—things like holiday years, sickness policies, and so on. And how easy will it be to import your staff details? Most HR software for small employers lets you customise the software to work how you want it to- but some has far more flexibility than others. If you can, check this out on a Free Trial.


  1. What if we grow as a business? Can the software grow with us?

Even if you have only two employees now, you might want to make sure you have software that can grow with you as you increase your amazing team.

Some HR software has limitations on employee numbers, some may not be able to support what you’ll need, and others may get too expensive. Also find out what happens you reduce headcount? Will the amount you pay for your software reduce too?

  1. What integrations can each HR software offer? For example, finance.

Even if all you’re looking for right now is basic holiday management or team calendars, it’s worth asking about integrations that are available. Some HR software is designed to connect seamlessly to the common apps small companies use, while other HR software providers don’t.

Think about what other software you use now, such as accounting software, rostering software, or clocking in and out (time and attendance) systems. If you use any of these, it’s worth trying to find HR software which can connect to them well.


  1. How easy is it to use and will our people like it?

The last thing you want is to sign up to HR software that is difficult to use and complicates things further.

Think about what you and your people will be using it for – booking holiday, logging sickness, expenses etc. – and ask to see it. Is it easy to see where you should click next? Can you use it on phones and tablets? Will any training be required? Are you likely to get lots of questions from your team about how to find their way around?

Also, how does it look? If it looks old, clunky or boring your team are less likely to use it. Try to find something that you will enjoy using yourself and go from there.


  1. Will we need training to use the software?

Some software is easier to use than others. There’s no doubt you’ve experienced that already, even outside of HR software.

Depending on how easy it is will establish whether you are likely to need your software provider to provide training. Be aware that this could come at an additional cost, so you may need to factor that in.

Other software will offer in-system help, so you can get the answers as you go, and training materials for you to share with your team.

You will know what works best for your people, and for your business, so we always recommend chatting to software providers about the options available to you.


  1. What level of customer service do we get?

Finding out about what customer service you will get can set your expectations from the start. Some companies will provide support via phone, or video call. Some via tickets, online chat, or FAQ documents. Some will have limitations on support – such as technical issues or bugs, while others will support with ‘how-to’ guides and other general queries.

Understanding this will help you identify what the best option is for you.


  1. What if something goes wrong?

Sometimes it happens. Software isn’t always perfect, and sometimes things are misunderstood or miscommunicated. Or maybe one of your team has entered something which is wrong, and you need to know how to fix that…  what happens then?

Is there someone who can help you if you don’t get the answer you were looking for? Customer service varies enormously from one supplier to another. We suggest that you find a support offer that you’re really happy with; there are stories of some companies taking weeks to answer customer requests—and that’s not good if you have an important issue.

What if the problem isn’t solvable and you’re in a long-term contract? How does customer success ensure you are happy?

We always recommend seeking references from other customers during the buying process. Often, they’ll be able to give you a ‘warts and all’ opinion on the software and customer service, so you know what you’re getting into. Reviews are often helpful too, but be wary that, very often, negative reviews aren’t online!


  1. Is there a free trial available?

Demos, testimonials, and videos are helpful when making your decision, but nothing is as good a guide to the software as a free trial.

With a trial, you can play around with the system, see how easy it is for you to use, try to work out how to do what you need to and get some support if you’re unsure. Bear in mind that free trials are like a blank piece of paper. It can often take half an hour or an hour to set up everything you ned, such as staff details (these can be fictional if you prefer), to really understand how it works.

Many small business software providers offer free trials, so if it’s not obvious it’s always worth asking.

  1. Is it made in the UK, and does that matter?

Some HR Software is developed for the UK market specifically, while plenty of options are “international”. The difference will be that the HR software aimed at the UK market specifically will cover some of the unique aspects of employment in the UK, while the international software probably won’t.

Employment law varies enormously from one country to another. If you have plenty of people based overseas then you might prefer a more international option—while you might get less benefit in any one country, you get the value of having all your people information in one system. But if you are mainly UK-based, you might be best with a UK-focused HR software package.

We hope this will help you sift through the different software products on the market and make the right decision for your business. And note that no HR software is the best fit for every company… the key is to find the one which will suit your needs best. Good luck!


If what you’re looking for is a simple system with flexibility, monthly contracts, and quick turnarounds, check out the citrus HR offering now, or start a free trial, which you can do online whenever is convenient for you.

The content of this blog is for general information only. Please don’t rely on it as legal or other professional advice as that is not what we intend. You can find more detail on this in our Terms of Website Use. If you require professional advice, please get in touch.

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