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BambooHR is human resources software that should start at around $7 per employee per month, but this figure isn’t available on the company’s website. Instead of clicking on an easy-to-read pricing page, you’ll need to fill in a web form or call BambooHR for a “custom quote.” That’s worth it, however, because if you take advantage of the free evaluation period, you’ll find BambooHR to be a smart and feature-rich online HR software package, with a friendly, intuitive design that looks a lot like a typical consumer website. Functions and tasks are broken out clearly and in a way that makes long hours of training mostly unnecessary for common HR tasks, like on-boarding and performance management. That’s no small feat for HCM software (human capital management), because such solutions can easily get visually confusing with dozens of buttons or tabs to support the minutia involved in managing a business workforce. The only thing we didn’t like about BambooHR was the company’s website. Placing buttons that say “view pricing” only to take you to a webform that requires an email or call is annoying especially if you bump into it in multiple places. The site’s “Resources” page also had a content library with a non-functioning search bar, so you’re effectively trapped in whatever resources BambooHR is highlighting that day. Despite this, however, even though it carries a higher price tag then much of the competition, BambooHR has earned our Editors’ Choice award in this comparison of all-inclusive HR management systems followed closely by the more enterprise-oriented Fairsail HRMS.

That, however, requires some extra explanation: When you look at the features chart in our main roundup article (link above), you’ll also see Editors’ Choice awards handed out to other companies, so please note that only BambooHR holds the award in this category of all-inclusive HR management packages because it covers most everything an HR professional might need to do, including:

  • Applicant tracking for managing job seekers

  • Employee onboarding using a self-service portal (friendlier than it sounds)

  • A robust HR reporting engine

  • A database for employee records

  • Time-off tracking

  • Performance management, and more.

The only area where BambooHR doesn’t have much going for it is benefits administration. The reason for the other Editors’ Choice awards is that PCMag reviews many HR products that qualify to fit into the overall HR management category, even though they focus more heavily on one key area, like performance management for example. We’ve done separate comparative reviews on most of these key HR functions and handed out Editors’ Choice awards to the winners of those roundups, which are reflected wherever those reviews appear. These products qualify to compete in a soup-to-nuts HR management roundup because their manufacturers have expanded their feature sets, but they really only shine when examined through the lens of that initial, specialty sub-category. So, for exmaple, for performance management, the Editors’ Choice winner is SuccessFactors Perform and Reward, while the EC for benefits administration rightly goes to Zenefits. Finally, the current EC for HR shift scheduling software is Deputy.

Returning to BambooHR, however, the platform includes the basic features of most HR software: a dashboard home screen with modules for personnel data, time-off tracking, files and reports, plus mobile apps. It’s also got a built-in performance review function with a stripped-down design meant to simplify what can be a numbers-obsessed process. As such, it’s well-suited to a growing number of companies that are scaling back performance reviews but not ready to completely throw them out.

The software has an optional applicant tracking (AT) system (yet another HR sub-category, where our current Editors’ Choice is Bullhorn Staffing and Recruiting ) and can integrate with more than two dozen other HR software providers through an open application programming interface (API), as well as expanded benefits administration features and reporting to track varied benefits packages. Put together, all those features allow it to compete head-on with the Editors’ Choices in our other HR product categories, but it only wins the award from an umbrella standpoint. Within each category, the products that best specialize in those capabilities tend to win the EC award, though BambooHR gives all of them a good run for their money, especially in terms of bang for buck.

Like other HR software, BambooHR is an integrated platform with functions allocated by using role-based access methods, with system administrators and managers able to do and see more than run-of-the-mill employees. Anyone who logs on encounters a well-organized dashboard accented with splashes of BambooHR’s signature bamboo green color.

The dashboard’s main navigation bar runs across the top, with tabs for My Info, Employees, Job Openings, Reports, and Files. Regardless of access level, users also see a vertical column on the left-hand side with their photo, contact information, and available time off information. The rest of the dashboard is devoted to tiles that display upcoming trainings, recent activities, and company announcements. Managers and system administrators can also see which employees are out, who’s got upcoming work anniversaries or birthdays, plus there’s various workforce statistics, and links to benefits providers and to the company’s website. Company admins who are new to the software can use a Getting Started tile at the top of the page to launch common tasks such as adding an employee or creating a report, one of several available help features.

BambooHR - Organizational Chart

Job Listings

BambooHR is one of few HR software solutions with an integrated AT system, which is offered as an optional (i.e., paid) add-on under the Job Openings tab. Open the tab to see a list of job openings, who the hiring lead is for each, how long a position’s been open, and how many applications it’s received. I used the Add Job Opening button at the top of the page to create a new job listing, and used drop-down options in the listing template to choose title, salary, and other requirements. Plus there’s a built-in text editor that allowed me to write a description.

Once my job listing was complete, I could share it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. Job listings are also automatically posted to a company’s career page and to major job websites such as SimplyHired and Glassdoor, a major time-saver for a busy company owner or understaffed HR manager.

Onboarding a new employee is just as easy. From the dashboard, to fill in the all of the required information, I could use Getting Started > Add an employee or I could use Employees > Add Employee to access the template provided. If I wanted, I could email a new employee a New Hire Packet, which would direct them to log onto their employee file to fill in their own personal information, saving myself some time in the process. A system administrator-level user can also use the Customize Add Employee form link to add data to the form, such as a nickname or information about company-owned equipment assigned to the new employee.

Benefits Administration and Reporting

Once a new employee’s information was uploaded, we used the Employees tab to see them in an alphabetized list, directory, or organization chart, all of which have tools to customize views to show more or less information. Clicking on any employee’s name in the employee list brought us to their personnel file where we could see job information such as title, compensation, location, time-off balances, trainings they needed or had completed, and benefits.

Benefits administration (BA) is one area in which BambooHR has serious functionality. On top of base capabilities in storing data on company benefits for which an employee is enrolled, the company has rolled out several new benefits tracking features over the last year. BambooHR now allows companies to track custom benefit packages, including 12 different benefit types for specific employee groups. By using future dating, users can also now make changes to benefits before an impending status change, such as an employee getting married and changing their health insurance coverage.

BambooHR also now includes the option to set a variable rate health plan, which allows you to track age-based plans and any health benefit where each individual employee pays a different, varied amount. Users can also use BambooHR’s open application programming interface (API) to sync the information with Maxwell Health, the company’s preferred third-party BA outsourcer.

Finally, added benefits reports allow tracing of historical benefit information for use when filling out Affordable Care Act (ACA)-compliant forms, such as the 1095-C and 1094-C. Benefits reports in BambooHR provide benefit history including eligibility, enrollment, coverage, and cost; all forms are exportable.

Aside from benefits reporting, BambooHR also includes a selection of standard reports on everything from employee head count to required Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) data. A Files section is a virtual filing cabinet for storing frequently used tax forms and other documents. There’s also a built-in email function, Android and iPhone apps that include an employee directory and a time-off tracker, and support in the form of extensive Help forums with FAQs and video tutorials. While BambooHR’s BA capabilities still can’t match that of Zenefits’, our Editors’ Choice in the category, the company has taken major steps to address the platform’s previous limitations in the area and it has paid off.

BambooHR--Add Benefits

Performance Reviews

BambooHR is one of the HR software makers pushing for a more simplified and oft-used performance management paradigm. Instead of an annual or semi-annual performance review, BambooHR enables a system whereby employees and managers track goals and performance on a nearly daily basis. System admins or managers can use Settings > Performance to schedule reviews, give employees goals to track, and set up self and manager assessments. Unlike ratings-heavy performance reviews from SuccessFactors Perform and Reward, these consist of a couple of simple questions such as “What are some things I do well?” and “How could I improve?” If managers choose to include goals, then employees get a monthly reminder email about what they’re supposed to be working on. Whatever information is included in the review goes into a performance matrix that managers can access by going to Reports > Employee Performance.

The quadrant-style matrix plots out how employees are doing as compared to their colleagues, separating the “rock star” performers from those who are “checked out.” The entire process is simpler to set up and execute than comparable review processes from competitors such as SuccessFactors Perform and Reward and Cezanne OnDemand, and provides more templates for getting started than does WebHR.

Prices starts at $7 per employee per month for a bundle that includes the ATS. At that price, it’s more expensive than Zenefits, which currently lacks an ATS and performance review function. It also costs more than WebHR and Cezanne OnDemand. However, it costs less than SuccessFactors Perform and Reward.

If you’re looking for HR software that’s easy to get up and running, with lots of built-in templates and support, BambooHR is worth considering. It’s not the cheapest option, but it provides a lot of bang for your buck including well-organized, visually appealing lists, directories, and reports, plus a performance review process that fits with the way more companies are working. An optional ATS posts to major job boards is a great bonus as is the open application programming interface (API) which allows the software to be integrated with a company’s existing HR software vendors. This is why it has earned our Editors’ Choice award in this roundup.

BambooHR - Head Count Report

(via PCMag)