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Everything you need to know about HR Databases

Many businesses may well have an HR database that is the lifeblood of information on their employees.  Does this database fulfil all you require from it?  Is the database system able to produce in-depth reports?

Introduction To HR Databases

Is all of your data stored on one database or do you have multiple pieces of software where data is stored?  Have you listed all of the requirements you need from a system or listed the gaps that your current system has that need rectifying?  Doing this regular exercise makes sure that the system is fit-for-purpose.  If it isn’t then it might be best to start looking for a new HR software provider.

Decision-making can be more complicated than it first appears because, with so many systems available in the marketplace, there is the added pressure of making the correct choice for long-term investment.  To give a helping hand, the following guide talks through everything that should be considered when choosing an HR database that can really work for an organisation.

What is an HR database?

HR databases are used by HR professionals (or the person responsible for HR in smaller businesses) to store personal information relating to their employees. There are often many areas to an HR database, as there is a wealth of tasks that they can help with, such as recording training details or managing recruitment.

Data stored can include everything from employee details to manager information, holiday and absenteeism, rotas or standard working hours, clocking on and off times, timesheets and expenses, plus any other information that can assist HR with workforce management.

Secure databases are the best option because that way staff only have access to the data that is applicable for their job role. With so many legal considerations to think about when handling data, having a system that has all of the relevant security measures in place takes it off the dreaded To Do List. Simply Personnel’s core modules – Personnel ManagerTraining Manager and Recruitment Manager – are designed to be accessed by HR or management staff, whereas Employee Self Service is a module dedicated to allowing staff to contribute to their own HR admin – reducing the burden on the HR team.

Also assisting HR teams is the reporting functionalities that are available in HR databases. Running reports for yourself or senior management is extremely important particularly as HR needs can change, as well as employee data changing due to new starters/leavers/promotions/annual pay reviews etc. Whether weekly, monthly or annual reports are needed; ideally one system can be used to produce all of these and export them easily for presentation to line managers, senior management or whoever requires the visibility.


Who would need an HR database? Most businesses need to store HR data and run reports on it. The simplicity of the software makes many HR systems easy-to-use. Why do businesses need data? Businesses need data to be recorded. Having employee data to hand is perfect to monitor sickness/absence/grievance/disciplinary cases etc. Who would need software to manage/handle their database? Any size of business may well want to record their data and have it available to report on.

What information can be determined from the data? Having a warning system to flag on a red/amber/green system for things to watch out for with an employee is important. For example, if an employee reports in sick many single days in a year, this can be flagged and investigated. Data is beneficial for a company, as they can ensure that staff are being paid correctly (or managed correctly in the instance of disciplinary or grievance issues). Why use software to manage data? It is much easier to use software than having hard copies of data because searching for the desired information is a lot faster and data is less likely to get lost or destroyed.

Employee databases

What information is stored about employees in employee databases? Holidays, employee personal details such as address, date of birth, job title, length of service, salary, recruitment details, qualifications held, timesheets, rotas and training courses attended etc are specific examples of data stored about employees.

An employee may log certain data themselves, such as what work they have completed each day or the hours they arrived/finished. Team leaders may also be able to access the information that relates to the staff who report to them but other confidential data, like salary, can still be kept private. There may then be one or more members of the HR team who have a Big Brother-type view of the system with access to all of the data, in order to produce reports or make any necessary changes at top level.

With Simply Personnel, each module stores different data about employees in accordance with what functions the module provides. For instance, the Training Manager module stores training needs, details of training courses attended and CPD; whereas Timesheets and Expenses would store a record of the work an employee has completed and the costs of them working outside the office. Therefore, it is worth speaking to our sales consultants about your employee data storage requirements, so that they can ensure you have the relevant modules for your needs.

Client databases

The other side to databases covers data relating to clients. Records on clients could be business or consumer data. Client databases record fields such as company name and address, transaction data, products bought, value of sales, when the purchase took place and previous purchases. Simply Personnel is purely an employee database and does not include these types of fields.

Database Management

What happens if important data is lost? What emergency measures are in place and what is the action plan if this has happened? From an operational point-of-view, if data has been deleted then a recovery plan from a previous back-up can be obtained. Has senior management been told and what are their responsibilities if business or consumer data has been lost? Who has access to this data? Designated staff members should have access to the HR database. Senior management, HR and departmental managers may also need to have access.

Is data collected from the website and is this placed on a database? Where is the data stored? Data collection and storage varies from one HR system to another but most are cloud based these days. With Simply Personnel’s private cloud option, data is stored securely on our server; so we take total control over the updates and support.

How often is the data backed up? Who backs up the data and when? When are updates run to the database and what checks are in place to make sure that the system update runs smoothly?

Our team of experts will back-up your data regularly, so you do not have to worry about it. We are also in control of the updates, so ensure that no data is lost in the process. Our experts have over 10 years’ experience at updating Simply Personnel, so they know what can go wrong and how to prevent it.

Storing data ethically

As HR records are very rarely going to be anonymised, there is a major need for them to be held securely and only shared with pertinent people. Legal obligations are also vitally important, such as compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998, Freedom of Information Act 2000 (if you are a public authority) and, in very limited circumstances, the Statistics and Registration Services Act 2007 – which govern the use of certain types of data.

Questions that you need to think about include, have employees been informed as to how and for what purposes their data will be held? Where appropriate have they consented for their data to be used in a particular manner? Can the data be reused or archived – or will further permissions be needed? How will the data be reviewed and updated?


How secure is your data? Where is the data stored?

For customers taking the private cloud option, the data is stored on our server and we place very tight security on it. We also take security to the next level by allowing the HR system administrator (master user) to assign access permissions to the other users based on what they need to use the system for. For instance, if you have the Training Manager module and one member of your team is solely responsible for looking after reporting on training then the administrator can give them read only or unrestricted access to this part of the software without them being able to see anything else. Furthermore, if your company has three modules but you want to assign one module per staff member, the main software administrator can also control that.


The main features of an HR software system should cover managing employee records, keeping track of holidays, recording and reducing absences, having a built-in reporting tool, housing organisation charts, having a training course diary, keeping a log of training courses, recording recruitment processes, managing shift plans/attendance, logging timesheets and expenses and allocating shifts. With a modern, clear design; the system should be easy-to-use.

Simply Personnel is structured in eight modules with each module focusing on a key area of HR to make it easier for you to find the functionality you need. For example, if you are looking to view an employee’s work log, then you would head straight for the Timesheets and Expenses module. Should you wish to view the hours an employee is working, you can either use the Rotas and Rostering module (for shift workers) or Personnel Manager (for staff with regular working hours).

Reporting and Summaries

Importing data into an HR system is just the beginning because it then needs to be worked with to manage the workforce. An efficient HR system will not require data to be exported in order to produce the reporting that is needed. Modular-based software may come with a module designed specifically around the production of reports or this may be integrated into the system as a whole.

Simply Personnel is a modular-based software solution that has its In-depth Reporting module built-in and provided free with the employee database (Personnel Manager module). In-depth Reporting is not necessary in order to see all of the reports, however. Quick overview graphs showing employee absence and holidays are accessible from inside an employee’s record with all of their other personal information.

However, for those times when you need to sit down and produce a more comprehensive report to show management, the In-depth Reporting tool is extremely fruitful, as you can get fast visibility on many areas like absenteeism, appraisals, pay, disciplinaries/grievances, company issued vehicles, working days/hours/minutes and even passport/work permit/visa information for business travellers/employees from overseas – not just for one employee but across the board.


When switching from a standard spreadsheet or database to an HR software system, consideration needs to be taken as to how existing employee records will be transferred. Inputting the data manually may be inconceivable for large organisations that could have thousands of records to import. Smaller organisations may wish to do a manual transfer but there is still a chance for human error – particularly before system familiarity is established.

Does the HR software provider you have chosen offer the ability for an automated data transfer or do the work for you? At Simply Personnel, we can undertake a free data transfer for all our clients when they sign-up; taking the hassle away and giving them more time to spend becoming familiar with the functionality of the system.

Storage Size

It is important to know how much storage capacity is likely to be needed and how much space there is available. By working this out, the likelihood that an HR software system will run out of server space or is not well-equipped to cater for that number of employees is reduced. Many systems will have large database capacity within them but it is always worth checking the size capability of any system before purchasing.

The capacity of Simply Personnel’s HR software is basically as large or small as it needs to be – think of it like a Slinky – compact or voluminous depending upon what is required of it. Although the software can cater for an unlimited number of employees; our smallest employee banding is up to 25, so you do not have to pay for an expensive, large capacity system. That being said, upgrades are available at any time. At the time of upgrade, we send a new licence key to be entered into the software, which automatically gives additional storage space without the need to reinstall or re-enter existing records.


The days of logging everything in journals or saving client files in a filing cabinet are a memory for the majority of organisations. Most businesses use a database for complex data storage. Simple spreadsheets or basic databases have evolved to detailed reporting software systems. These come in various forms such as cloud based systems and complex reports can be run, so that it is easy to search and report on information held within these programs. Gone are the days of huge rooms for a computer and in comes the digital age where everything is faster and available at the touch of a button.


What developments are required going forward? In our field of HR software, more complex reporting and useful reminders for the busy HR professional would make their lives easier. With the constant deadlines and figures for senior management, a system that focuses increasingly on helping the HR professional in their day-to-day job will make things easier and be the system that outsells others. Getting more information from the customer as to how you can improve a software program will provide a great starting point for future development. Increasing the number of new releases for software to show a commitment to customers of constant improvement will become more of the norm.

Database Training

Whenever a new database system is being assessed, it is important to gauge how easy it is to use. The fact that staff need to be trained on a new system and how many people are going to need this training will figure in the cost of the system and initial implementation.

Is training part of the initial package and do you need refresher training later in the year? If your system is modular, does training come with each module you add or do you pay extra for it each time? What is the cost of the training? Do you need a few days training to learn the system or will one day/half a day suffice? What manuals are provided for you to use on the training course and do you need more thorough manuals to use with the system throughout the year? Is there self-training guidance and is this available at a reasonable price? In addition, what is the support helpline like and is the technical support available 24/7?

With any training, it is always good to obtain a list if there are regular courses held or noting what training is available from any HR software provider. As every organisation is unique, a great deal of training is very often tailored to understanding how the system can be used to perform the functions that each company requires. Is there any extra training when the system has been updated or do you need to pay for this?

Here at Simply Personnel, our customers tend to benefit most from on-site training because they get face-to-face interaction with one of our expert trainers and are able to pick up a greater amount of knowledge than can be passed on through an online session. If you let us know your training needs, we can give you a competitive quote. However, as a cheaper alternative, we do also offer online and over-the-phone training – please contact us to make an enquiry.


The management of employees has come a long way from the olden days when everything would be logged in journals or as paper files; now there are many different HR software solutions available to automate complex HR processes and make the sorting of data easier.

HR databases work to give HR professionals any information or reports that they require; therefore it is important to ensure that they are fit-for-purpose. A wealth of data can be stored but should only be visible to staff on a permission-basis. All businesses have to undertake HR functions, whether they have a dedicated HR team or not, so whoever has the responsibility for such tasks would be the ideal person to manage the HR database. Such databases are usually employee databases and not client ones because they do not hold information relating to customers but are solely for managing the workforce.

When storing employee data, it should be compliant with the relevant government legislations and secured to prevent it from being stolen or accessed inappropriately. However, having data stored in a way that is easy-to-manage is also essential because it will more than likely be used regularly and in the production of a wide variety of reports. Simply Personnel’s HR software comes with advanced reporting tools but also has quick overview graphs to show employee absences and holidays at a glance.

Also making life easier is the free data transfer service that we offer to new customers who were previously using a spreadsheet to manage their employee data; our team import this spreadsheet into Simply Personnel on behalf of the customer.

Simply Personnel is not a client database because those are used to store information regarding business transactions; rather it is an employee database and can be accessed by all manner of staff for different reasons. With so many people having the potential to access the system, there is a likelihood that the data could get lost, so keeping a back-up is important – as is ensuring that employees are sufficiently trained to use the system to its maximum potential.

To find out more or discuss your HR database options, please call 0800 783 0322 option 1 or e-mail

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