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How to Build Your HR Tech Stack + A List of the Best Tools for Your Company

Written by
Rachel Cravit
Rachel Cravit

If you work in HR, you’ve got a lot on your plate. Chances are, your team is not only responsible for payroll and benefits, but recruiting, onboarding and offboarding, culture and engagement—the works! Fortunately, there are tools out there to help make your job easier. Like… a lot of tools.

So many, in fact, that assembling the right combination—what we call an HR tech stack—can be an overwhelming and exhausting ordeal.

That’s where we come in. In this handy guide, you’ll learn how to build an HR tech stack that actually works for your team… with some of the very best tools out there.

Here’s what we’ll be covering:

Ready? Let’s dive right in!

What is an HR tech stack?

A Human Resources technology stack—or simply HR tech stack—is any combination of integrated digital tools and software used to streamline, optimize, or otherwise support a company’s HR functionalities. An HR tech stack can systematize traditionally complex processes—like recruitment and hiring—or automate administrative tasks, such as payroll and benefits.

What does an HR tech stack look like? Well, that’s up to you! It can incorporate everything from robust HR information systems (HRIS) down to single-task tools, like recognition software or employee engagement surveys. When built properly, an effective HR tech stack should help your team run like a well-oiled machine. The key is selecting the right tools to address your unique challenges and needs.

How do you build an HR tech stack?

When it comes to the latest in HR technology, it’s easy to get distracted by all the bells and whistles. Before you commit to a new tool, however, you’ve got to have a game plan—a system for sourcing, evaluating, and ultimately selecting the best choice for your team. Otherwise, you could find yourself stuck with software that isn’t the right fit or winds up causing more headache than it’s worth. Here’s the IDEA:

  • Identify your specific needs and areas of improvement

It’s tempting to dive straight into new software and tools, but you need to have a clear understanding of your team’s needs first. Take a good look at the tools and systems you have in place already, and see if you can spot any gaps. Start by mapping out your current workflow for payroll, recognition, benefits, etc., and identifying areas for improvement. How are you actually spending your day? Are there any tasks that drain valuable time and resources? What about the rest of your team?

Hot Tip: If you know you want to streamline your HR processes but aren’t quite sure where to start, a simple time tracking tool like Clockify can give you a better sense of the amount of time you’re spending on different tasks throughout the day. Manually responding to job applicants or managing older software systems might be eating up more hours than you realize!

  • Determine your priorities

After you’ve taken a critical look at your existing systems, you may have identified several areas which you’d like to improve. Unless you have an unlimited budget, it’s likely that you’ll need to pick and choose where to invest your resources. Involving your senior leadership team in this process will help ensure your priorities are aligned with the company’s.

  • Establish your budget

Don’t book a software demo or start comparing prices until you know exactly how much you have to spend. Once you have a clear understanding of your budget, your search will become a whole lot easier. You’ll also save precious time by avoiding products that don’t fit.

  • Ask the right questions

Now that you’re ready to start checking out different tools, it’s a good idea to establish some baseline questions for you to answer. These will help you compare and evaluate your options. Some suggestions:

  • How does this tool align with my company’s goals?
  • How would this tool improve my workflow? Is it easy to use?
  • Does this tool offer enough support to my team?
  • Is this tool compatible with our existing technology?
  • Does this tool meet my team’s security requirements?
  • Will this tool scale, as my team and company expands?

You don’t need anything fancy here—just a simple spreadsheet where you can record the results for every tool you’re considering.

That said, keep the IDEA framework in mind as we dive into buzzworthy tools in the HR market!

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HR tools for recruiting and hiring

Lever

What it is:

Lever is a cloud-based talent acquisition software designed to drastically improve the recruiting and hiring processes. The robust solution enables HR teams to source, interview, and hire talent, all from one handy platform—reducing time to hire by up to 90%. It also centralizes candidate data and recruiting metrics.

Why we like it:

Lever doesn’t just improve HR workflows—it also makes life easier for the candidates. Tools like the automatic interview scheduler spare both parties from back-and-forth emails, and it also syncs with Google Calendar and Microsoft 365.

Is it right for your organization?

Lever is suited for enterprise businesses and startups alike. Their customers include Netflix and Shopify.

TalentLyft

What it is:

TalentLyft is an end-to-end recruitment software which combines talent sourcing technology, a recruitment marketing platform, talent CRM, applicant tracking software (ATS) and advanced analytics, all under one roof.

Why we like it:

This simple and straightforward software provides enough functionality for small and medium businesses to streamline their hiring process without loading up on excessive features. At the same time, TalentLyft offers some impressive capabilities, like AI-powered talent sourcing and automated workflows, including resume parsing and interview scheduling.

Is it right for your organization?

TalentLyft’s pricing begins at $99 per month, making it an affordable option to most small and medium businesses (SMBs).

Breezy

What it is:

Breezy is a comprehensive recruitment software specifically designed for SMBs. The cloud-based platform offers a range of functionalities, from job advertising to resume parsing and video interviews, all the way through to sending offers.

Why we like it:

Breezy’s drag-and-drop pipelines visualize the hiring process from start to finish (you decide the number of steps in between). We also dig Breezy’s Chrome extension, which makes it easy to source candidates from LinkedIn and AngelList.

Is it right for your organization?

Breezy is suited for a wide range of businesses, from startups up to enterprise. All plans include unlimited users and candidates. You can sign up for a free trial to give Breezy a whirl without having to book a demo first.

HR tools for onboarding

WorkBright

What it is:

Workbright is a simple, streamlined onboarding solution specifically designed for remote teams. The fully digitized onboarding process enables new hires to complete all the necessary forms from their computer or phone—before their first day.

Bonus: since Workbright essentially removes the need for any physical paperwork, you now have the perfect opportunity to destroy the company printer à la Office Space. Don’t act like you haven’t thought about it. #teampaperless

Why we like it:

Workbright’s e-signature technology makes it easy for new hires to provide signatures by fingertip. It’s also easy for administrators to approve, reject and countersign I-9s from their own mobile devices, so there’s less hassle and headache for everyone involved.

Is it right for your organization?

Multiple pricing tiers make Workbright accessible to SMBs all the way up to enterprise companies.

Guru

What it is:

There’s so much procedural and institutional information at your company! As your head count grows, that documentation can easily be lost in the shuffle. Enter Guru: your organization’s information center or company wiki!

Why we like it:

Guru makes knowledge sharing and information retrieval seamless with your existing workflows. No more digging through the company drive or wasting time trying to find answers! Plus, it makes onboarding a breeze.

Is it right for your organization?

Guru is free for up to 10 people. Larger than that, Guru’s pricing plan starts at $14/person. We especially recommend Guru for companies that are growing fast, so knowledge can be quickly and easily shared with new hires.

Notion

What it is:

Notion is a multipurpose workplace tool and content management system. Although it wasn’t exclusively designed for HR teams, it’s the perfect place to build and share valuable internal resources for new hires—or even create a company Wiki!

Why we like it:

Once you get the hang of it, Notion’s drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to compile essential company information into a secure, central hub. Unlike a physical employee binder or handbook which you need to re-print every time something changes (eww), your Notion workspace functions as a dynamic digital document—easy to update and access, with minimal maintenance involved. It also won’t be read once then banished to the depths of a desk drawer, never to be seen or heard from again.

Is it right for your organization?

Notion is better suited to startups or SMBs who don’t require a more robust information hub for their employees. It’s also limited in visual customization capabilities, so it might not be a good fit if you’re looking for a fully branded solution.

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HR tools for payroll

Rippling

What it is:

Rippling is an employee management software that combines payroll and benefits in one place—but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s also an all-in-one HR platform for teams looking for an extensive range of functionality—from recruiting and onboarding to automatic I-9 and W-2 compliance.

Why we like it:

Rippling’s robust payroll tool makes it easy to pay employees across 50 states and internationally—with options including direct deposit or check—plus federal, state, and local tax filing, worker’s comp, and garnishments.

Is it right for your organization?

Although it’s capable of handling companies with 1-1,000 employees, Rippling might be overkill for small businesses.

HR tools for benefits

PeopleKeep

What it is:

PeopleKeep is a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) software that automates the more laborious aspects of reimbursement requests, like legal documentation and reviews.

Why we like it:

PeopleKeep enables companies to give their employees tax-free money, which can then be spent on health services they find the most valuable. Employers are therefore able to design and manage their own health benefits program without the hefty costs. In fact, PeopleKeep’s customers save an average of 35% in taxes, compared with increasing wages.

Is it right for your organization?

PeopleKeep was built exclusively for small businesses who want to offer a competitive health benefits program to their employees.

League

What it is:

League is a health benefits platform which simplifies enrollment and administration for employees and HR teams alike. Its expansive functionality spans from spending account management to reporting and analytics. Employees can even earn redeemable points for completing healthy lifestyle challenges.

Why we like it:

At its core, League is like a digital wallet, where employees can easily manage their coverage, dependents and spending accounts—all directly from their mobile devices.

Is it right for your organization?

League is best suited for large and growing companies—it counts Uber, Shopify and Unilever among its customers.

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HR tools for employee engagement

Bonusly

What it is:

Bonusly is a simple yet powerful employee recognition and rewards tool which takes employee appreciation to the next level. Here’s how it works: every month, employees get an allowance to reward bonuses to their colleagues. Bonuses appear in a public feed, so recognition is visible and inclusive.

Why we like it:

We love our own tool so much because we see the powerful impact it has on businesses. According to research, companies with recognition-rich cultures have 31% lower voluntary turnover rates than companies without.

Is it right for your organization?

Peer recognition is a great perk for companies at any size. Bonusly is a robust, flexible tool that can grow as your company grows! We serve a range of customers like InVision, SurveyMonkey, and Chobani!

Culture Amp

What it is:

Culture Amp is a people and culture platform offering a bevy of features, from engagement surveys to performance reviews, 360 peer feedback and goal tracking

Why we like it:

Culture Amp’s suite of tools includes a diversity and inclusion survey, which uses demographic customization and heatmaps to inform companies how their employees really feel about the workplace. It also makes actionable, research-backed suggestions for improvement.

Is it right for your organization?

Culture Amp’s most popular plan is geared towards companies with 200-1000 employees.

Donut

What it is:

Donut is a remote-friendly platform offering fun, fresh ways for employees to connect around the virtual water cooler.

Why we like it:

Donut incorporates seamlessly into Slack, where it asks thought-provoking questions to trigger discussions and debates. Forget chatting about the weather—with Donut, you can host virtual coffees, intro new members, and even run a lunch lottery. As more workplaces adapt to remote work, Donut’s creative suite of tools makes it easier to engage work-from-home employees in a fun and meaningful way.

Is it right for your organization?

Free pricing for up to 24 users makes Donut the perfect fit for smaller businesses. It also offers annual enterprise agreements.

Caroo (formerly SnackNation)

What it is:

Caroo is a healthy snack delivery and subscription service available nation-wide in the United States.

Why we like it:

Umm, because... snacks?! Caroo makes it easy to elevate employee appreciation with their curated boxes filled with healthy goodies. Offering a comprehensive service, Caroo takes care of everything from shipping to logistics, whether your employees are working from home or the office. They also donate one meal for every box delivered.

Is it right for your organization?

Snack boxes are available at multiple price points, starting at $24.95. This makes Caroo an accessible service for businesses of any size. They also offer bigger snack boxes to fuel entire teams.

Water Cooler Trivia

What it is:

Water Cooler Trivia automatically sends customized trivia questions to your team once a week. Their vast trivia library contains 6,000 questions spanning multiple categories, which are graded by actual humans on their team.

Why we like it:

Water Cooler Trivia provides a fun, easy way for offices to promote team bonding, prompt interesting conversations and enjoy some good-natured competition—without the logistical hassle of a manual trivia contest.

Is it right for your organization?

Water Cooler Trivia is priced for small businesses all the way up to enterprise.

Hypercontext

What it is:

Hypercontext is a tool to streamline and optimize one-on-one meetings between managers and their reports.

Why we like it:

Many managers fall into the trap of using one-on-one meetings as status updates, which accomplishes little in terms of actually engaging employees. Hypercontext offers a huge library of meeting agenda templates filled with useful question prompts and conversation points to foster open, honest, and productive one-on-one meetings.

Is it right for your organization?

Hypercontext’s free plan makes the tool accessible to small businesses, while the paid plan is perfectly suited to startups and high-growth companies. When you sign up, you'll automatically get access to a free 14-day trial of Hypercontext Pro (no demo required).

Typeform

What it is:

Typeform is an intuitive, drag-and-drop survey builder with a gorgeous interface and several customization options.

Why we like it:

Although not exclusively designed for HR, Typeform is a great way to build intuitive, user-friendly employee engagement surveys. You can incorporate images and company branding into your survey, and even use conditional logic to determine different pathways based on question responses. Typeform also visualizes the data, making it easier to process the results.

Is it right for your organization?

Typeform would be ideal for small or medium sized companies who don’t need a more robust tool for engagement surveys.

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HR Tools for performance management and reviews

Lattice

What it is:

Lattice is a people management tool offering a comprehensive set of features: reviews (from both managers and peers), goals, one-on-ones, feedback and employee recognition. It also includes collaborative agendas and action items to help managers optimize one-on-one meetings and performance reviews.

Why we like it:

Let’s be honest: annual employee evaluations are outdated and ineffective. They’re also universally dreaded by employees. Tools like Lattice make it easy to offer continuous feedback and check-ins on a regular basis.

Is it right for your organization?

Lattice caters to small companies all the way up to enterprise—some of their customers include Reddit, Slack, and Asana.

Small Improvements

What it is:

Small Improvements is a suite of feedback tools that make reflection and communication a part of employees’ regular routines. Pulse surveys, one-on-one agendas, and performance review templates are all part of the Small Improvements feature set.

Why we like it:

It’s in the name—It can be easy to underestimate the small steps toward progress! Small Improvements makes it easy to keep track of feedback and reviews, so you can focus on the big picture.

Is it right for your organization?

Small Improvements is a great tool for any size company—their customers include Zapier, Duolingo, Strava, and others.

Human Resource Information System (HRIS) tools

BambooHR

What it is:

BambooHR is a one-stop-shop for HR departments, centralizing everything from hiring to onboarding, time-off requests to performance reviews, all on one platform.

Why we like it:

For such a comprehensive suite of tools, Bamboo HR is surprisingly simple and straightforward, with an intuitive, user-friendly interface. We especially like Bamboo’s open API, which means easy integration with other powerful HR tools (including Bonusly, Breezy, Lattice, and Lever).

Is it right for your organization?

BambooHR was specifically designed for small and medium-sized businesses, with pricing based on the number of employees and selected features.

Namely

What it is:

Namely is a centralized people operations platform which supports several core HR functions — recruiting, onboarding, payroll, benefits, time/attendance, and compliance.

Why we like it:

Namely was deliberately designed as a “self-serve” HR tool, where employees can request PTO, review pay stubs, and answer their own questions without bombarding you with emails. Bonus: Namely’s appealing interface was designed to resemble popular social media networks, encouraging more frequent use. In fact, 78% of employees log in at least once per month.

Is it right for your organization?

Namely is the perfect fit for medium-sized companies with 50-1,000 employees.

Sapling

What it is:

Sapling is an HRIS tool and people operations platform designed to manage onboarding, offboarding and everything in between.

Why we like it:

Sapling boasts some handy and impressive features to make your job easier, like visual organization directories and employee profiles, auto-assigned tasks/workflows, and bulk data editing.

Is it right for your organization?

Sapling is geared towards mid-market companies with 20-2,000 employees.

Back to you

Don’t be intimidated by the dizzying amount of HR tools and software out there. By identifying areas for improvement in your workflow, prioritizing your needs, having a clear budget, and applying a strategic, thoughtful approach to your research, you can build out an HR tech stack that will actually make sense for your team. You got this. 🙌

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Originally published on December 16, 2020 → Last updated July 27, 2021

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Rachel Cravit

Rachel is a content writer and dog mom from Toronto, Canada. She loves creating useful content for real people, hitting the local dog park with her Cavalier, Louis, and curling up with a dishy biography and cup of chai. You can follow her on Twitter @RachelCravit.

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