The Top 6 Best Tools for Workforce Planning and Human Resources

Colby Haverkamp
December 20, 2022

Workforce management is a complex task, even for the most skilled human resource departments. HR professionals are constantly on the hunt for tools to help them manage their growing teams.

Today’s workforce is larger and more distributed than ever before. The pace of business has also never been faster. With competition approaching from all angles, there is now a desperate need for constant upticks in employee management efficiency.

With almost everything becoming cloud-based and plug-and-play, the ability to integrate neatly into vast ecosystems of software has become critical. In a landscape full of technological sprawl, having a single platform for everything related to people operations is imperative.

HR teams need a software platform that offers an essential combination of simplicity and power, among other capabilities such as:

Without these capabilities, organizations not only run the risk of losing the talent battle. They may also be bogged down in clunky, cumbersome people operations systems that make them slower and less effective overall.

Where can these essential features be found all in one package? In this list, we cover what we believe are the top six best platforms for modern employee management that you can use to optimize your HR team.

The Power of Human Capital Management (HCM) Software

Many companies still rely on things like spreadsheets and documentation to handle several HR processes, usually stranded across cloud drives and paper files. But these methods are problematic for a growing organization.

Humans make mistakes, and there are lots of opportunities for errors in spreadsheet-based systems that require constant human handling. This can lead to inaccurate data that results in poor decision making. What’s more, keeping up with employee data, allocating labor, running payroll, and building custom analytics reports requires a lot of customization work from some of your most valuable employees. Almost none of these processes are automated with spreadsheets, which costs you time and money in several ways.

But even if you’ve customized and automated your reporting processes with a well-built spreadsheet, one employee can accidentally erase a cell and break the whole system. To prevent crashing from human error like this, you need a robust HCM solution to manage your people processes.

The right workforce planning/HCM software can help with this. No matter what stage you’re in, HCM software can provide a host of benefits. Where workforce planning done manually is time-consuming, error-prone, and difficult to analyze, HCM software can automate hundreds of tasks and maintain updates across the entire workforce management ecosystem.

A powerful HCM platform is also essential for communicating key metrics and data to make decisions about how to use your workforce. For example, software-based tools make the most important metrics visible, and can deliver accurate reports in real time with ease.

There are a wide range of tools for workforce planning. Your work email is probably packed with marketing emails from a host of developers promising big things. But which one is best for your needs?

To help, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best HCM software providers currently available. We’ve included software that can fit various business structures and industries. You’ll notice that there is no “one size fits all” approach. Instead, we’ve focused on defining characteristics of each software, including where they shine and things that may not make them an ideal fit for your needs.

1. Criterion - The Best Workforce Planning Tool For Emerging and Enterprise Organizations

Configuration and customization are key to standardizing people management processes and delivering them at scale. Through its open architecture, Criterion HCM offers highly configurable workflows that can be easily aligned (and re-adjusted) with your organizational goals in environments of constant change.

While it’s suitable for organizations of all sizes, we have built Criterion HCM specifically for medium-sized organizations with complex HR needs. Our platform is focused on striking the perfect balance between enterprise-level functionality and intuitive user experience design. We strive to make complex workforce management processes simple and efficient for everyone involved.

Both emerging and enterprise companies are in a unique position. They both need powerful tools that provide robust data and reports on a reliable platform. At the same time, these organizations need to consider how much time and money they are willing (or able) to pour into a solution over time. They shouldn’t need an entire team of software engineers to customize and maintain their HCM.

Before Criterion, many medium-sized companies had to make do with lower-end HCM vendors that had an acceptable user experience design but were impossible to customize to meet specific needs. To make matters worse, these companies would still have to implement third-party tools to cover features that were lacking. At the same time, high-end HCM providers that could give these companies powerful tools would charge astronomical sums for customization and maintenance.

Criterion HCM provides an ideal solution for mid-sized organizations by combining enterprise-level functionality and customization with a best-in-class user experience. All of this happens from a single, unified cloud platform. There’s no need for piecing together outside tools.

Here are a few things you can achieve with Criterion’s native features:

Our HCM platform meets complex challenges by delivering essential HR, payroll, and talent engagement solutions to help speed up critical processes via automation and consolidation. All of this is available at an affordable price with a support team ready to help you customize the platform for your needs.

With over 20+ years of experience and a 95% customer satisfaction rating, Criterion is the superior option for emerging and enterprise companies that are looking to refine their human resources, talent engagement and payroll processes.

Key Features

What Real Users Say

Many Criterion users agree that the platform is truly designed with HR professionals as the ideal user. Many also agree that we have an excellent support team to help customers make use of all available features.

Other users comment that the design makes it easy to access several types of information with very little effort. Employee history, position data, and all related information is at your fingertips. What’s more, it’s easy to build customized reports from this data using native Criterion features.

We service hundreds of the most respected companies in several industries. That said, Criterion specializes in building HCM software for businesses in construction and engineering, education and government, financial and professional services, franchises, and nonprofit organizations. While you can still use the software if you work in a different industry, it may not always be the ideal fit for your business needs.

2. Workday - Best Software for Agile Workforce Planning and Analytics

Speed and agility are essential in today’s fast-paced, and often chaotic office environments (whether in-person or virtual). The ability to adapt quickly has become a key competitive advantage in the new world of work. Workday is a cloud-based platform that offers features like Adaptive Planning, an open system that allows HR professionals to integrate data from more than 300 outside systems into one place quickly and easily.

In fast-moving corporate environments, it's easy to get lost in the weeds. Workday attempts to solve this problem by cutting through the confusion and delivering data on finances, operations and people into one central place. The result is real-time, unified data that is live, secure, and actionable.

While Workday is a powerful solution that can deliver important data when you need it, it’s not as low-hassle and no-fuss as some are led to believe. The reason for this is that the learning curve for Workday is extremely steep. HR departments may need to spend a lot of time learning its host of tools to make them work for their own workforce management processes. For HR professionals that wear multiple hats, this solution may not be ideal.

That said, once Workday is fully implemented with your team, it can deliver an agile solution that’s equipped to tackle large-scale business challenges that are nearly impossible for homegrown HR management solutions. Of the many HCM products, Workday is one of the fastest and most agile in the area of enterprise resource planning.

Key Features

What Real Users Say

Users praise the employee self-service options offered by Workday, which make it easy for teams to get what they need without going through hoops or asking superiors. Additionally, other users comment on Workday’s ability to integrate with several other software platforms.

However, some users say that the overall user experience is tough to learn. Some report trouble finding important information or accessing basic features. Instead, they get lost in the complex design. To make matters worse, some users also report that customizing the platform in-house is quite difficult. You would likely need to hire someone outside of your organization to customize it for your unique business needs.

3. ADP Workforce Now - The Classic Choice for Large Enterprises

Every organization is unique and constantly evolving, but one thing has become clear in recent years: HCM is becoming more people-centric by the day. Employee satisfaction and engagement are becoming more and more important at all levels on the organizational chart. It’s up to each team of employee management experts to decide which platform is the right match for their organizational identity and culture — in other words, which platform is the right match for their people.

ADP is a well-known corporation, and many companies already use this platform for people management and payroll. It makes this list because it has earned its own spot among companies across the world as a powerful tool. What their long-standing popularity has afforded them is great security and a strong support team that provides a lot of help with implementation and continuous HR processes.

ADP is mainly focused on payroll, HR, and tax filing for small, mid-sized, and large businesses. However, they aren’t the cheapest on the market for any of these. They have developed ADP Workforce Now as a specific tool to help with workforce planning and other related HR processes.

Having access to an array of secure integrations is a must-have in today’s highly cloud-based business landscape, and that’s exactly where ADP’s strengths lie. Making use of the ADP marketplace, professionals can connect their platform to tons of other employee management solutions with ease.

It’s a good choice mostly for large enterprises with more than 1,000 employees. For smaller teams, the level of service offered isn’t always worth the high price per employee. That said, ADP isn’t exactly upfront about their pricing plans. You’ll need to answer several qualifying questions or contact their sales team to discuss your business needs first.

Key Features

What Real Users Say

Many users report that ADP workforce has an easy-to-use, intuitive interface and attentive technical support when things go wrong. They also praise ADP for its payroll features, which is what the company is mostly known for.

However, many users also report that the software is somewhat dated. ADP has been around for more than 30 years, and its features (specifically with benefits administration) may be somewhat clunky due to a lack of modern design. Others also say that their “solutions” to certain technical problems are more like workarounds, and their archaic system often prevents them from fixing bugs efficiently.

4. Paycom - Best Software for Employee-Driven Organizations

Despite how the name sounds, Paycom does more than just run payroll. The software can also handle time tracking, benefits administration, talent management, labor allocation, and several other HR processes.

Paycom’s main focus is on employee self-service, allowing employees to track their own time and input their own payroll information. They even have a mobile app that can be used for virtually any time-tracking and payroll process, with custom permissions that make the app just as robust and secure as tracking time in the office.

Some of their core strengths for workforce planning include an intuitive calendar interface and real-time work tracking. The software connects time tracking and employee self-service options directly to your reporting functions, making sure your data is accurate across the entire system. This makes workforce planning much easier for everyone involved.

Paycom claims to have solutions for small, medium, and large businesses across several industries. They even serve organizations in unique sectors like education and religion. However, reports suggest that the modules require extensive training and onboarding to use effectively. If you are looking for a plug-and-play solution, Paycom may not be the most intuitive option.

Key Features

What Real Users Say

Paycom is often praised for its intuitive, easy-to-use payroll features, which put employees in charge of their own data accuracy (while still giving managers control over security). Other users appreciate that Paycom puts all the necessary HR and employee data into one app interface. 

Some users say that Paycom customer support is lacking, especially after the initial onboarding process is complete. While they do have a well-staffed support team that users can access through an 800 number, issues appear to rarely have good solutions. Others say that Paycom is lacking integrations, making it more difficult to use with other apps. If you have an existing system of programs you need to use with your HCM, you may have trouble managing that workflow.

5. Bamboo HR - Best Software for Startup Organizations

Part of Bamboo’s value proposition is its ability to serve organizations during stages of growth. As an all-in-one provider of HCM software, it aims to free up HR professionals from repetitive tasks (like data entry or creating spreadsheets) and allow them to focus their time and energy on more strategic initiatives. Popular among small businesses in particular, BambooHR is designed with growing organizations in mind.

The software is designed to help teams streamline their hiring and onboarding processes. For this reason, startups may use BambooHR during their initial growth phase to bring in top talent, build their teams quickly, and help new employees ramp up. The software also offers a few workforce planning and HR tools that can be quite useful for some teams.

However, once an organization reaches a certain size, BambooHR may show its limitations. Many times, larger companies need to switch to a different HCM platform in order to handle their growing needs. Keeping track of team member information and managing a larger workforce can be difficult with BambooHR, since it isn’t really built for enterprise companies.

BambooHR also puts all the essential HR data in one place to avoid working in silos. This simplifies and unifies people management practices for small companies in several industries. That said, reviews are mixed about the time-off request functionality in particular.

Key Features

What Real Users Say

Above all, BambooHR is praised for its hiring and onboarding features. Customers say the software streamlines this process to make it fast and easy to bring on new talent. Many also say that the software doesn’t require much training to start using, making the implementation process much easier than some larger, more complex platforms.

While BambooHR’s base platform is praised for being easy to use, some users report that it isn’t very easy to customize and presents major issues for organizations with more than 50 employees. Reports of crashes and slow loading times (due to a large volume of information) are definitely a concern. Some users say that using BambooHR in countries outside of the United States may be difficult as well. PTO features and holiday calendars for the United States are built in, but it can be difficult to add different calendars and holidays for overseas employees. This can make workforce planning particularly difficult for global teams.

6. UKG - Best Software for Relationship-Focused Companies

UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group) promotes itself as a people-focused software that places high value on their relationship with customers before anything else. They pride themselves on having a great work culture that encourages diversity and a healthy work-life balance.

As for workforce management and payroll, UKG claims to be able to tackle any challenge or compliance standard that comes their way. UKG offers four different packages tailored to help different-sized businesses with specific software needs. While they do appear impressive, it is difficult to tell a clear difference between some of them.

UKG’s target customers are in the financial services, public services, healthcare, retail/food service, manufacturing, and distribution industries. While many companies have used this platform with some form of success, anyone outside of these industries may not have the best experience with UKG. The software does boast a lot of features, but in some ways, UKG may focus a bit more on their culture and reputation than providing key functionality for workforce planning.

Key Features

What Real Users Say

Companies using UKG Pro consistently rate the software as very good. With powerful HR and payroll features, many claim that the user interface is well-thought out and built with real customers in mind.

While some users praise UKG’s interface as easy to work with, many say that it’s lacking in customization and has plenty of design flaws. Other users say that customer support is quite poor throughout the implementation process. For this reason, anyone who needs a well-supported transition to this platform should take their promises with a grain of salt.

Simplify Your People Processes with Criterion HCM

Speed, scalability, flexibility, automation, and unification are all on the list of every HR professional’s most desired features in a people management platform. While all of the tools above offer these capabilities to one degree or another, some are more or less focused on certain areas than others.

Workforce planning without an HCM solution that’s specifically designed to work with your business is wildly inefficient — and in some cases it might as well be impossible. While there are a ton of workforce planning tools available on the market today, a lot of them aren’t worth researching.

Mid-market companies need a customizable, easy-to-learn solution that is flexible enough to work with their industry and unique business needs. But HR teams are often responsible for more than just workforce planning. Running payroll on time in accordance with tax withholding, overtime, and union rules can sometimes take a whole team to accomplish manually. Without the right system, administering benefits packages and bonuses, and developing custom onboarding sequences can be even more of a challenge.

Discover an affordable HCM solution that’s built for the unique needs of your team and industry. Criterion HCM is designed to make your people processes easier and more efficient than ever before. Besides that, there’s a lot that Criterion can help your team accomplish with workforce planning and more.

Book a demo today to see what a customized HCM looks like in action.

Colby Haverkamp
Enterprise Sales Executive
Senior Sales Professional with 5+ years experience in providing software solutions across public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Colby also has a background in public policy, global governance, and organizational management both at the international and domestic levels. He thoroughly enjoys opportunities to learn more about the missions of organizations and what makes them effective, so individuals are more than welcome to contact him for a virtual coffee if you'd like.

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