ER software vs HR software – what's the difference?

2 Sep 20 by Peter Byrne
ER software

Many people think Employee Relations (ER) software and HR software are one and the same thing. In fact, some senior Human Resources professionals – including those who are extremely familiar with the mature HR software market – would question what ER technology even is? But delve a little deeper into this $10bn global industry, and there’s a lot to be said about this relatively ‘unknown’ side of the market…

By Pete Byrne, CEO and founder of ESPHR

To some people, the perceived difference between ER software and HR software may be nothing remarkable – there’s only one letter in it, after all!

But these two types of systems are actually quite distinct, and the value one can add – particularly in organisations with large and multifaceted workforces – is consequently on another level when compared to the other.

Because HR software exists predominantly to house or interrogate colleague data, some basic HR systems may act as little more than electronic filing cabinets, with self-service capabilities. Whereas other savvier systems include more proactive functionality such as workflow creation, detailed reporting and even predictive analytics. And of course, this data matters, now more than ever. But the people behind the metrics matter more.

So, compare HR software to the combined power of integrated ER technology, and this is when real company transformation can be unlocked. We’re talking access to online resources which don’t just address, of-the-moment ER questions and needs, they upskill HR capability too; CPD-accredited e-learning courses that enrich managers’ skill-sets on topics ranging from discrimination to disciplinaries; and ER case management software with smart reporting functions and one-click lawyer integration. In truth, the list will only grow, especially given the ever-changing world of work we now find ourselves in.

Yet still, sadly, few companies are talking about ER technology solutions. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Why does this all matter to an employment law firm? Because we’ve long strived to challenge what you would expect from a more traditional legal practice, and as such, also becoming a wider, specialist ER business partner made perfect sense. The logical extension of this over time – primarily because we’ve encountered technology gap after technology gap – has been for us to become a trusted ER technology integrator too.

We don’t just want to ‘fix’ employee issues that otherwise risk being escalated to an employment tribunal, for example. We want to truly get under the skin of our customers’ organisations and advise them, strategically, on all ER matters that transform their people, processes and technology provision. We want to upskill managers, alter business dynamics and leverage real change in the boardroom. And we know employee relations – relationships with your people – lie at the heart of that.

So, should ER form part of an HR software stack? Yes. Could ER be a module within an HR system suite? Yes, as our recent blog highlighted, that would be a great staring point. However, the more forward-thinking of businesses – those who are truly employee-first – will acknowledge that ER technology can actually take the lead here, while invariably driving down legal fees in the process.

Exploring ER case management systems to empower your HR team? Watch our 90-second video to learn more about MyHRCases or book a demo today!


We are the HR and employment law experts from ESPHR.

It’s our mission to advise and develop the employment law capability of HR professionals wherever we can, helping HR teams make a real commercial difference to their organisations. That way, you spend less time solving operational issues and more time actioning projects that drive far-reaching change in your company.

Call 0333 006 2929 or email today to discover exactly how we can help you.

Post by Peter Byrne

Founder, esphr

Pete set up esphr in March 2003, after running an HR resource management business for three years.