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The Best HR Software For Small Businesses

HR automation is fairly new, but the benefits for small businesses are immense. Here are the best HR software options that are affordable and loaded with features to manage payroll and benefits.

    Noah Miller
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Best HR software

It is easy to see that the world of human resources is going digital. As more companies shift their attention to providing cloud-based HR opportunities, small business owners are taking advantage of HR software solutions that used to be attainable at the enterprise level only.

Fancy, highly interactive home pages greet employees and function as a way to sync important employee data and manage the legal requirements of managing human capital. Digital onboarding can take the stress out of new hire paperwork. Digital HR software also syncs time tracking with PTO counters to help manage payroll and scheduling. Want to promote employee education? Learning modules can be created for you. These companies even help create employee handbooks and provide expert HR advice with a quick chat or phone call.

Sometimes, HR can be the last department to develop as companies grow, but it doesn’t have to be that way anymore. HR software wants to make HR accessible to all, and there is no better time to try out the options and see if you can benefit.

Not all HR software systems are created equally. Some have better payroll capabilities, and some are more focused on offering a bevy of customizable features. Ultimately, every HR program needs to cover the full life cycle of an employee and represent your company’s culture from the onset. The decision comes down to your priorities, and no matter what those priorities are, there’s an HR software solution for your needs.

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Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

The 5 Best HR Software

Gusto, Zenefits, BambooHR, Paycor, and are five of the best HR software programs for small business owners looking to outsource or upgrade their HR department. The best HR software choices help you manage payroll; track employee hours, PTO, and compensation; administer benefits; write performance reviews; plus help with onboarding/offboarding.

1. Gusto: Best HR Software For Payroll


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Best small business HR software for payroll.


  • Built-in time tracking and HR features
  • Readily available pricing information
  • Easy to use
  • Simplifies payroll


  • Advanced HR features are not available on all plans
  • Reporting capabilities are limited

Gusto started in 2012 as ZenPayroll and made a name for itself by simplifying payroll with its cloud-based platform.

With payroll as its central focus, Gusto is best for small businesses that find their most time-consuming HR task is payroll but might be interested in adding a few additional services.

gusto dashboard

Gusto Pricing

Gusto has four pricing plans. These range from the Basic Plan for $19/month plus $6/month per person, which offers basic payroll, all the way to the Concierge Plan, which costs $149/month plus $12/month per person and comes equipped with multiple tools for payroll and HR.

Gusto Features

While the HR options are limited, Gusto does cover onboarding employees with a seamless online program and helping your business stay compliant. Available at the third pricing tier, Gusto offers the following HR services:

  • Employee directory and surveys
  • Custom employee handbook
  • HR and compliance support

Upgrading to the Concierge service, the most expensive Gusto plan, gives you access to additional HR tools, including:

  • Customizable onboarding tools
  • Certified HR pros
  • HR resource center

When To Use Gusto

As a more payroll-centric company, Gusto is a great option for small business owners who might need simple but not sophisticated HR solutions. The interface is user-friendly on both the employee and administrative sides. If payroll is your company’s biggest headache, Gusto’s system is the best choice.

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2. Zenefits: HR Software With the Most Advanced Features


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Best small business HR software for features and options.


  • Employee-friendly mobile app
  • Numerous features
  • A robust foundation of available integrations
  • Easy to use


  • Unsuited for businesses with fewer than five employees
  • Mediocre customer service

Zenefits deserves a pat on the back for relaunching its entire platform a few years ago and building its company from the ground up after a few scandals rocked the Silicon Valley darlings.

The new Zenefits focuses on affordable HR options that offer more features than the competition.

zenefits hr dashboard

Zenefits Pricing

Zenefits has three pricing plans. Pricing starts at $8/month per employee for the Essentials plan up to $21/month per employee for the top-tier Zen plan. The more expensive the plan, the more advanced features you can access, including performance management and employee engagement surveys.

Payroll is not included in any of the plans and will cost an extra $6/month per employee. Additional add-ons include advisory services for $8/month per employee and the ability to use your own broker to manage employees for $5/month per employee.

Zenefits Features

Zenefits core features included with all plans include:

  • Offer letters
  • Background checks
  • Self-onboarding with a mobile app
  • Employee directory and company organization chart
  • Automated workflows
  • Time-off requests/tracking
  • Numerous reporting options
  • Document management
  • Compliance services

All plans also include time and scheduling, integrations, and access to the Zenefits mobile app. More expensive plans include these advanced features:

  • Compensation management
  • Performance management
  • Well-being
  • Employee engagement surveys
  • People Hub

When To Use Zenefits

With similar pricing to Gusto but more HR options with its core package, Zenefits is likely to be an asset for small businesses with advanced hiring/performance review/termination requirements. Zenefits is loaded with HR features and offers competitive pricing, which is why it’s one of our top picks for HR software.

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3. BambooHR: Most Intuitive HR Software


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Best small business HR software for intuitive human resources management.


  • APIs integrate with HR software vendors
  • Easy to use
  • Intuitive UI


  • Some essential features only available as paid add-ons
  • Limited benefits administration capabilities
  • Non-transparent pricing

The functionality of BambooHR’s platform leads the competition with its ease of use, intuitive interface for both employees and administrators, and customization abilities.

This award-winning software is loaded with advanced features to help simplify the HR process throughout the employee lifecycle.

bamboohr dashboard

BambooHR Pricing

BambooHR has two plans but unfortunately does not offer pricing details online. Instead, the company requests that you get a personalized price quote by phone or through its website. A general price range provided by customers that have used this software is $6-$8/month per employee.

BambooHR Features

BambooHR offers two different plans: Essentials and Advantage.

Both plans include the following:

  • Time-off management
  • Employee directory and company organization chart
  • Employee records
  • Benefits tracking
  • Document storage
  • Standard workflow and approvals
  • Standard reporting

Upgrading to the Advantage plan gives you access to more features, such as:

  • Onboarding/offboarding
  • Application tracking systems
  • Full company branding/customization
  • Training tracking
  • Webinar library
  • Customization options

BambooHR includes time tracking and performance management programs as add-ons. For payroll, the company partners with TraxPayroll to sync up data related to benefits, PTO, and compensation.

When To Use BambooHR

If a small business needs a comprehensive human resources management system, BambooHR has all the foundational requirements to manage your employees. It aims to make HR easy and intuitive, even if a company doesn’t have a specific HR department/team; its functionality for HR on the administrative end is designed for the novice/DIY small business owner.

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4. Paycor: Best HR Software for Small Businesses


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Best small business HR software for businesses with ten employees or less.


  • Built-in payroll included in all plans
  • Cloud-based with few software and hardware requirements
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to set up


  • Non-transparent pricing
  • Limited benefits administration features
  • Mediocre customer service

Paycor is a great one-stop shop for a small business’s HR and payroll requirements. The company focuses on ease of use and streamlining its interface and is fully committed to listening to clients and adapting/updating its software to respond to feedback.

The options at this price point make Paycor a contender for small businesses looking for a simple platform at a competitive cost.

paycor dashboard

Paycor Pricing

For businesses with fewer than 40 employees, Paycor offers three pricing plans that range from $99/month to $199/month. The more expensive the plan, the more features you can access.

For businesses with 40+ employees, custom packages are available. Contact Paycor to learn more and get a price quote.

Paycor Features

All plans have full-service payroll as a foundation and not an add-on. All plans also include the following:

  • Tax filing
  • Reporting
  • Self-service garnishments and child support
  • Paycor Mobile

If you upgrade to one of the higher tier packages, you can also access features, including:

  • Online onboarding with assistance
  • Full-service payroll
  • HR support center with 1:1 guidance
  • Hiring wizard
  • Advanced analytics

When To Use Paycor

Paycor’s basic packages do not include time management software, employee scheduling software, recruiting and application tracking, benefits administration, and learning modules. A small business with fewer than ten employees might not need some of these extras, however, and can find good value in the product for its foundational capabilities.

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5. Best Free HR Software

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Best free HR software for small and medium-sized businesses with multilingual employees and/or international locations.


  • Flexible payment scheduling
  • Ideal for businesses with many multilingual employees
  • Robust security capabilities
  • Viable for multiple business sizes


  • Limited customer support options
  • No US labor law compliance

Managing employees is a major task for any business. When employees are spread across multiple locations and countries, that task becomes even more difficult. Businesses with many multilingual employees and international locations must contend with language barriers and added steps to manage human capital as well as payroll. boasts support for a whopping 67 languages and is perfect for multinational teams that need human resource management tools and basic payroll processing features. dashboard Pricing

For the number of features it offers for free, is a contender not to be taken lightly compared to other ostensibly free payroll software solutions, which sometimes gate certain features behind monthly fees and annual renewals. According to its home page, is “Free! Forever.” so what you see is what you get when you sign up. That means support for unlimited user accounts, time management, multiple pay schedules, a self-service portal, and much more. Features

Through crowdfunding, offers free access to all its features and doesn’t require subscribing to any plans to unlock anymore. The company only requires an initial sign-up.’s free features include:

  • Support for multiple pay periods
  • Attendance management tools
  • Time-tracking
  • Employee self-service portal
  • Regular software updates

When To Use

Small business owners and HR managers who need free, multilingual HR software and payroll management features should give serious consideration. The software offers online HR and payroll, leave management, and expense reporting, which are essential to businesses that don’t yet have mature payroll processes set up.

However, may not be the best HR management software for any business new to using payroll software, as its customer service is run through a user-supported forum.

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Choosing The Right HR Software For Your Small Business

HR software

When it comes to picking the right HR software for your small business, it helps to know what you need. If payroll is your biggest headache, you want to find a platform that meets your payroll needs first. If you hate the manual onboarding processes and paperwork takes years off your life, you want to find an HR platform that takes that process online.

Automation of HR is fairly new, but the benefits for small businesses are immense: Where a small business was priced-out of running enterprise-level HR services, now the market is booming. As each company prices its services differently, you must prioritize your needs. However, no matter what, outsourcing HR saves small businesses money in the long run. A yearly software expense does eliminate the potential need for a full-time HR manager, relegating those duties within your company and saving on salary costs.

Any HR software worth checking out should have options for syncing employee information, managing payroll, assisting with onboarding, running benefits administration, managing worker performance, and navigating all aspects of your company’s legal HR compliance requirements.

Ultimately, HR is about hiring the best people, growing the best people, and retaining the best people for your company’s growth. HR is also about company culture and setting the stage for what work looks like at your business: An easy system for both employees and administrators will save you time and hassle. Look for programs that have highly-rated mobile apps or functionality with a modern/social media feel to the presentation.

No matter which option you choose, always remember to do your research, take advantage of free trials, and fully explore your options before making a commitment. Good luck!

Interested in learning more about how HR software can benefit your business? Dive into our most effective ways to manage your business’s human resources

HR Software FAQs

What is HR software?

Human resources software, or HR software, simplifies human resources tasks. HR software makes it easy for businesses to perform various tasks, including but not limited to completing onboarding tasks, maintaining legal compliance, running payroll, managing benefits, and maintaining employee records.

What is HRIS software?

Human resources information system software, or HRIS software, helps you manage and maintain information on your policies, procedures, and personnel. HRIS software may offer payroll processing, employee hour tracking, and an employee directory.

What is the best small business HR software?

The needs of your business determine the best small business HR software. For example, if you want lots of different features and customization options, look at Zenefits. If you want to simplify payroll, give Gusto a try. All of the options on this list are reputable software programs that may best fit the needs of your business.

How much does HR software cost?

The cost of HR software varies by a number of factors, including the size of your business and the features you need. On the lower end, expect to pay around $6-$8/month per employee. On the higher end, you may pay $60+/month per employee.

Are there any free HR software options for businesses?

There are free HR software options for small businesses, but many of them are quite limited in functionality. Start your search with our five picks for the best payroll and HR software that’s free.

Do I have to have an HR manager for my business?

It’s never a bad idea to have an HR manager for your business. If you have a smaller business, you may be able to operate without an HR manager or only use one part-time if you have the right HR software. For businesses with 50+ employees, it’s generally a good idea to have an HR manager on your staff.

In Summary: The 5 Best HR Software

  1. Gusto: Best HR software for payroll
  2. Zenefits: Best HR software with the most advanced features
  3. BambooHR: Best for the most intuitive HR software
  4. Paycor: Best HR software for small businesses
  5. Best free HR software
Noah Miller

Noah Miller

Expert Analyst & Reviewer
Noah is a writer and content creator currently living in Fairfax, VA. When he isn't writing about IT solutions and innovations that help his clients, he's probably sitting behind a drumkit or adding new hardware to his computer. Since 2017, Noah has worked for federal, state, and commercial clients as a proposal writer, technical writer, copywriter, and analyst. He has a BA in Creative Writing and a Minor in German from Goucher College.
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Merchant Maverick’s ratings are editorial in nature, and are not aggregated from user reviews. Each staff reviewer at Merchant Maverick is a subject matter expert with experience researching, testing, and evaluating small business software and services. The rating of this company or service is based on the author’s expert opinion and analysis of the product, and assessed and seconded by another subject matter expert on staff before publication. Merchant Maverick’s ratings are not influenced by affiliate partnerships.

Our unbiased reviews and content are supported in part by affiliate partnerships, and we adhere to strict guidelines to preserve editorial integrity. The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone.

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