HR software vs. spreadsheets: Which is better for your business?

HR software vs. spreadsheets: it’s a debate we often hear at HR Planner. As UK SMEs look to explore ways to work smarter, not harder, many are turning to their methods of managing employee data and how technology can help them to save time and money, as well as reduce the risk of human error.

In this blog, we weigh up the benefits of both spreadsheets and HR software, giving you a complete, unbiased comparison that will help you to decide what’s right for your business.

Benefits of spreadsheets

Regardless of your role in your business, whether it be a manager, HR professional, director – or even all three – it’s likely that spreadsheets have played a vital part in tracking and managing your employee data at one time or another. Programmes like Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets have provided teams with a cost-effective and convenient tool for decades.

Let’s have a look at what some of the benefits of spreadsheets are:

Useful functionality

For those familiar with Excel spreadsheets, there are plenty of functions which can help HR teams. It’s range of formulas, pivot tables and filtering tools are great at showing you the information you want to see.

However, to get the best out of spreadsheets, they do require users to have a level of understanding of the advanced features and how to use these with ease. Without this, you could be missing out on handy functionality that could benefit your business.


Changing how you do things and upgrading to a new software system can seem daunting. You don’t want to cause a big upheaval and make life harder for your team. Being a familiar tool, spreadsheets can seem the easier option, as you know their limitations.

Widespread access

One of the reasons spreadsheets remain popular is because they are widely available and easy to access offline.

The danger with saving and using spreadsheets offline is that this can cause duplicates, making it hard to keep track of the most up-to-date versions.

Low cost

Low upfront costs can be a real plus for SMEs, especially as there are no additional costs if you’ve already got spreadsheet software as part of a package.

The drawback to this lies in the hidden costs of human error that’s associated with manual data entry. Correcting mistakes can be time-consuming and costly, so it’s important to bear this in mind.

Benefits of HR software

In many cases, as a business grows, using spreadsheets to maintain employee records can become increasingly complex. So what if there was a better way? Whilst spreadsheets are undoubtedly great, HR software can provide an alternative solution that saves you time and improves productivity.

Here’s a few more reasons why HR software may benefit your business:

Streamlined operations

Say goodbye to managing multiple spreadsheets, wall charts and stacks of paper. With an HR tool, you’ll be able to consolidate all of your employee and company data in one place. Not only does this make it easier to keep track of the information you need, but it will help to streamline your workload too.

If you’re looking to free up yours or your team’s valuable time, the automated features of HR software will remove the need to complete repetitive, time-consuming tasks.

Reduced administration

The self-service functionality of software like HR Planner means that your team can easily request their own holiday or notify you of sickness or absence with just the click of a button. Our cloud-based planner enables them to make informed decisions when requesting leave, helping to avoid disruptive staff shortages too.

You can even store important documents online in one central location so that they are easy to access, which proves ideal for onboarding new employees and upskilling existing staff.

Enhanced security

HR software is designed for GDPR and data compliance, to keep your information secure at all times. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for spreadsheets, which are often saved in a central location and can be accessed by anyone within the organisation, increasing the risk of data breaches.

HR Planner has been developed to the highest security standards, allowing you to set user roles and permissions that control who can see and modify each individual element of your employee data.

Reduced risk of human error

When tasks are completed manually, it’s easy for mistakes to be made. It could be forgetting to approve a paper holiday form request that’s been sitting on your desk for weeks, making a typo when adding data into a spreadsheet or forgetting to keep on top of your team’s training.

Reducing the risk of human error within HR should be high on the list of priorities for any business, making this one of the biggest pros when evaluation HR software vs. spreadsheets.

Complete visibility

An HR management tool will give you transparency and complete visibility of your HR processes, providing everything from accurate calculations for holiday allowances to handy absence reports. There will be no need to juggle mountains of paperwork or comb through various spreadsheets to access the information you need.


One of the best ways to future proof your business is by using software that can easily be scaled alongside you as you grow. This will help to avoid the headache that comes with managing multiple spreadsheets and helps to ensure that all the information you need is kept up-to-date in one place.

HR Planner has been designed to be affordable and scalable, with the option to add additional users at any time for just £2.29 per user, per month (when paying annually, £2.50 if monthly).

Try HR Planner today with a free 14 day trial. For more information on our latest features and how we can support your business, call our expert team on 01252 63 60 70 or email