9 Best Employee Management Software for Small Business 2021

Best overall
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Flexible packages
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Free payroll with some plans
Best productivity tracker
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Time and activity tracking
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Transparent tracking tools
Zoho Projects
Zoho Projects
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Low per-user pricing
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Lots of project management tools
Best for benefits
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Add-ons for many kinds of benefits
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Full-service payroll
Most customizable
Sage HR
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Modular plan building
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Variety of different modules

If you can’t afford to staff a full HR department (and even if you can), employee management can become an overwhelming task. Things like running payroll, administering benefits, hiring and training, and performance evaluation can feel time-consuming and confusing.

That’s where employee management software can help. With the right workforce management software, you can automate or speed up all sorts of human resource tasks.

But which HR software should your business invest in? We have some ideas. We’ve found the best software solutions, and we’ll tell you how they can help your business.

Best employee management software 2021

Compare the best employee management software

Starting price per mo.
Free trial
Free plan
Learn more
Zenefits$8.00/employee2 wks.Icon Close  Dark
Hubstaff$5.83/user14 daysIcon Check  Dark
Zoho Projects$5.00/user10 daysIcon Check  Dark
Gusto$19.00 + $6.00/personN/AIcon Close  Dark
Sage HR$5.50/user14 daysIcon Close  Dark
7shifts$17.99/location60 daysIcon Check  Dark
Paychex$59.00 + $4.00/employeeN/AIcon Close  Dark
BambooHRUnlisted7 daysIcon Close  Dark
DeskTime$5.44/user14 daysIcon Check  Dark

Data effective 1/25/21. At publishing time, amounts, rates, and requirements are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

Zenefits: Best overall employee management software

Zenefits offers the best workforce management solution for most businesses.

Why? Well, in part, it’s because Zenefits is more of an employee management system than a single tool. Zenefits offers a wide range of features that can help with all sorts of human resource needs.

Every plan comes with essential HR management tools, like the ability to create an employee database, to create offer letters for hiring, and to streamline employee onboarding with a self-service tool. All plans also come with scheduling, time off, and benefits administration tools. And with higher-tier plans, you can get payroll, human resource advice, performance management, and more. It’s a lot.

Zenefits software pricing

Cost per employee
Free payroll (with annual billing)
Performance management
Learn more
Essentials$8.00–$10.00/mo.Icon Close  DarkIcon Close  Dark
Growth$14.00–$18.00/mo.Icon Check  DarkIcon Check  Dark
Zen$21.00–$27.00/mo.Icon Check  DarkIcon Check  Dark

Data effective 1/25/21. At publishing time, amounts, rates, and requirements are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

Luckily, Zenefits balances all those great features with fair pricing. Even better, it offers a number of ways to get discounts. Opting for annual billing (rather than monthly) gets you a discount on the monthly price of each plan. Annual billing on the Growth and Zen plans get you free payroll. And Zenefits regularly offers special deals (often through the website’s chat) that can get you further savings.

Now, we have to admit that Zenefits may not be the best solution for any single HR function. Other software offers more advanced payroll features, for example. But Zenefits offers such a well-rounded suite of tools in such affordable packages that we think it’s a standout workforce management software.

So for most businesses looking for the best employee management software, Zenefits is where it’s at.

Hubstaff: Best for productivity tracking

A big part of managing employee performance is managing employee productivity―and that’s what Hubstaff excels at.

Hubstaff offers employee time and activity tracking (screenshots and activity levels) on all plans, so you can make sure workers (even remote employees) stay on-task and on-time. With more advanced plans (Premium and Enterprise), you even get GPS tracking, which lets you know that employees are also working from where they should be (perfect for employees visiting job sites).

Hubstaff software pricing

Cost per mo.
Payroll and invoicing
Learn more
Free$0.00/userIcon Close  DarkNone
Basic$5.83–$7.00/userIcon Close  Dark1
Premium$8.33–$10.00/userIcon Check  DarkUnlimited
Enterprise$16.67–$20.00/userIcon Check  DarkUnlimited

Data effective 1/25/21. At publishing time, amounts, rates, and requirements are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

But why choose Hubstaff over other employee productivity software? Transparency, for starters. Hubstaff’s software notifies employees when they’re being tracked, what’s being monitored, and even when screenshots are taken. That transparency makes Hubstaff less, well, creepy than other activity monitoring software. And employee data can be viewed by both HR management and employees themselves, encouraging self-accountability.

Put simply, Hubstaff’s transparency and effectiveness make it our favorite software for tracking employee productivity.

Zoho Projects: Best for project management

Want to make sure your workforce is getting through the projects it’s supposed to? Project management software like Zoho Projects can help.

We know that things like employee engagement don’t mean squat if your team can’t get essential work done. That’s why Zoho Projects has lots of features to help your workforce do just that―get stuff done. It includes tools to help your team strategize, track, and ultimately complete projects. For example, it lets your team create and assign tasks and subtasks, assign statuses to tasks, and get project overviews.

Zoho Projects software pricing

Cost per user
Learn more

Data effective 5/14/21. At publishing time, amounts, rates, and requirements are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

Zoho Projects stands out from other project management software thanks to its very (very) affordable pricing. Higher-tier plans even get you more advanced project cost management tools, still at a surprisingly low price. Plus, Zoho Projects offers project templates to help your team to visualize and break down new projects, making Zoho Projects wonderfully user-friendly.

With affordable tools to keep your workforce organized and focused, Zoho Project makes an ideal software for managing employee projects.

Gusto: Best for benefits

Planning on offering health insurance, a 401(k), or other benefits? Then you want Gusto, our favorite employee benefits administration software.

While Gusto bills itself primarily as a payroll software, it offers tons of benefits administration features. Health insurance administration comes standard with the Core plan and above. (You will, of course, have to pay for premiums.) And while it doesn’t come standard, you can add on a health reimbursement tool to repay employees for some (or all) of their health care premiums.

Gusto software pricing

Cost per mo.
Project and time tracking
Learn more
Basic$19.00 + $6.00/user1 stateIcon Close  Dark
Core$39.00 + $6.00/user50 statesIcon Close  Dark
Complete$39.00 + $12.00/user50 statesIcon Check  Dark
Concierge$149.00 + $12.00/user50 statesIcon Check  Dark

Data effective 1/25/21. At publishing time, amounts, rates, and requirements are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

But Gusto doesn’t stop at health insurance benefits. It can also help you offer a wide variety of account types, including 401(k) retirement accounts, 529 college savings accounts, health savings accounts (HSAs), and flexible spending accounts (FSAs). You can even offer commuter accounts to help with commuting costs.

In other words, Gusto makes it easy to offer employee benefits of all sorts, which is why we recommend it as the best software for benefits administration.

Sage HR: Most customizable plans

Don’t want to pay for HR management features you don’t need? Then take a look at Sage HR and its highly customizable plans.

While most other employee management software comes in a few set tiers of plans, Sage HR uses a modular plan creation system. That might sound complicated, but it just means that you can pick and choose the price plan features you want. That way, you’re never paying for scheduling software features (for instance) when your entire team works 8 to 5 on weekdays.

Sage HR software pricing

Module type
Learn more
Core HR + Leave Management$5.50/employeeStandard
Shift Scheduling$3.00/employeeAdd-on

Data effective 1/25/21. At publishing time, amounts, rates, and requirements are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

You start with Sage HR’s Core HR + Leave Management module (which includes things like an employee database and onboarding tools). From there, you can choose to add other modules to give you things like performance management (with goal setting and feedback tools) or scheduling (with a drag-and-drop scheduling tool). You can build the perfect plan for your specific HR management needs.

So if you don’t want to be on the hook for an HR function you don’t care about, you’ll love building your own management software solution with Sage HR.

Honorable mentions

7shifts: Best for restaurants

Restaurants run a little differently than other types of businesses, which means a typical employee management system may not work for your restaurant. That’s why we recommend 7shifts instead.

7shifts software pricing

Cost per mo.
Max. employees
Payroll integration
Learn more
Comp$0.00/location10Icon Close  Dark
Appetizer$17.99–$19.99/location20Icon Close  Dark
Entrée$39.99–$43.99/locationUnlimitedIcon Close  Dark
The Works$69.99–$76.99/locationUnlimitedIcon Check  Dark

Data effective 1/25/21. At publishing time, amounts, rates, and requirements are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

7shifts was designed with restaurants in mind. That’s obvious in everything from its per-location (not per employee) pricing to its employee scheduling features (including notifications for new schedules) to its task management add-on (which lets you display a task list when employees clock in). Advanced plans even get you labor budgeting and compliance tools.

With such thoughtful features just for food-industry businesses, 7shifts is our favorite software solution for restaurants.

Paychex: Best for compliance

Paychex offers a variety of employee management services (including benefits administration, scheduling, and human resource consulting), but we mostly like its payroll plans for their excellent compliance features.

Paychex software pricing

Cost per mo.
HR administration
Learn more
Go $59.00 + $4.00/employeeIcon Close  DarkIcon Close  Dark
Flex SelectUnlistedIcon Check  DarkIcon Close  Dark
Flex EnterpriseUnlistedIcon Check  DarkIcon Check  Dark

Data effective 1/25/21. At publishing time, amounts, rates, and requirements are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

Paychex payroll offers everything you need to stay compliant with legal requirements. It includes reporting for new employees and contractors, for example, as well as automatic tax documents (W-2s and 1099s) for employees. Paychex also takes care of your payroll taxes on your behalf. And it even sends you all the posters you need to stay compliant with federal and state labor laws.

So if you want great payroll services with an emphasis on legal compliance, Paychex offers a great software option.

BambooHR: Best for hiring and onboarding

Growing your workforce? BambooHR makes hiring and onboarding easier for your HR department―and your applicants.

BambooHR software pricing

Cost per mo.
Hiring and onboarding
Software integrations
Learn more
EssentialsUnlistedIcon Close  DarkIcon Close  Dark
AdvantageUnlistedIcon Check  DarkIcon Check  Dark

Data effective 1/25/21. At publishing time, amounts, rates, and requirements are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

BambooHR offers excellent hiring and onboarding tools. Take its applicant tracking system. Aside from letting you see important info at a glance, BambooHR lets your team communicate and collaborate on hiring decisions―even commenting directly on applicant profiles. Or look at its employee onboarding tool, which includes not just standard forms and, but also a way to introduce new hires to other employees.

And those are just some highlights. BambooHR has all the essentials (and extras) you need to perfect your hiring and employee onboarding.

DeskTime: Best for time tracking

Time tracking can help a lot with performance management. And for a simple, affordable time tracking software, we recommend DeskTime.

DeskTime software pricing

Cost (annual billing)
Cost (monthly billing)
Max. users
Learn more

Paid DeskTime plans include time tracking for both employees and projects. The employee time tracking can help with improving individual employee productivity, of course. But the project time tracking can also help you make sure your workforce is managing its time well as a whole. As an added bonus, DeskTime’s Premium and Enterprise plans let you use time tracking data to create and send invoices.

So though DeskTime doesn’t have tons of extra management tools like some HR software does, its time tracking makes it a worthwhile addition to your software collection.

Employee management software FAQ

What is an employee management system?

An employee management system can refer to any software that helps you, well, manage employees. It may include HR functions like these:

  • Payroll
  • Productivity monitoring
  • Scheduling software
  • Employee engagement
  • Performance management

In most cases, though, an employee management system refers to software that includes an employee database to collect vital information about your employees.

How do I choose employee management software?

When you’re choosing an employee management tool for your business, you should think about a few factors:

  • What HR management functions you need (payroll, scheduling, etc.)
  • Who will actively use the software (just HR managers or your whole workforce)
  • What your software budget can afford

Those factors should help you narrow down the field from all the employee management tools out there to just the management software that will fit your business’s needs, use cases, and budget.

What is the best HR software?

The best HR software really depends on your specific human resource needs and the type of business you have. A restaurant that mostly needs to make employee schedules, for example, will want different software than a marketing company that needs powerful applicant tracking and benefits administration.

That’s why our rankings above include recommendations for all kinds of HR software.

The takeaway

You’ve got quite a few choices for workforce management tools, depending on whether you’re concerned about employee records, payroll, attendance tracking, or other HR tasks altogether.

Our suggested software above can help with those HR management duties and more. We think Zenefits offers the best employee management solution for most businesses, but all of our recommendations have a lot to offer.

Good luck streamlining your employee management!

Is your business one of the many that’s gone even partially remote? Give your workforce the tools it needs to succeed with the best collaboration software for business.


At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.

Chloe Goodshore
Written by
Chloe Goodshore
Chloe covers business financing and loans for Business.org. She has worked with many small businesses over the past 10 years, from video game stores to law firms. Those years watching frustrated business owners try to sift through their many options gave her a passion for breaking down complex business topics. She wants to help business owners spend less time agonizing over their businesses so they can spend more time running them.
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