10 Things to Look for in an Online Payroll Provider

Valerie D'Orazio

Valerie D'OrazioWriter at Fingercheck

Thursday, September 13, 2018

As with any software-as-a-service, choosing the right vendor can be a headache. When it comes to choosing a payroll provider, this list details the 10 key things to look out for.

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Payroll is one of the most sensitive aspects of your company. It can be a little “scary” to entrust it to an outside agency...much less an online service. However, automated payroll technology has gotten to a level of sophistication and intuitiveness that makes it a secure and convenient option, one that more and more businesses are using every day. If you shop around and ask the right questions, you should have absolutely nothing to worry about.

Let’s look at ten factors to consider when searching for an online payroll provider that’s right for you: 

1. Do they offer a range of payroll services?

There’s a number of basic services that your payroll company should be able to provide, including integration with your time & attendance software, paying employees via direct deposit, offering paycards and handling payroll taxes. It is also becoming increasingly standard for payroll companies to offer human resources services as part of their overall packages, including; employee onboarding, applicant tracking and background checks.

2. How easy is it to use?

Your ideal provider should give you as much independence as possible to view and handle your payroll, while at the same time doing most of the heavy lifting. Boasting an intuitive and user-friendly dashboard, such a service should make inputting precious data foolproof. Another vital quality is the ease at which you can add employees, especially for larger companies. For example, does it have a “bulk upload” function that can utilize a spreadsheet?

3. Is it secure?

You will be entrusting your online payroll provider with some highly sensitive information, so ensuring that you will be receiving the highest level of cybersecurity is critical. Your payroll provider should also implement the same high security standard used by online banks, keeping passwords, tax information (including social security numbers), and other personal data protected behind firewalls. Other security measures to consider are 256-bit Advanced Encryption–an industry standard–and multi-factor authentication.

4. How much does it cost?

Payment plans vary, but the trick is finding the one that best fits your business. Many will charge a monthly fee, with an additional amount for each employee; of course, you’re going to want to add up how much this is all going to cost you, especially if you have a large company. Also, be sure to determine whether you are getting charged monthly or per pay period. Finally, ask if there are any add-on fees for services you might be using on a regular basis.

5. Is there an element of employee self-service?

This one is key. Your ideal online provider should be able to take much of the payroll process off your plate by giving your employees access to their pay information, including breakdowns, pay stubs, and direct deposit notifications. If your payroll plan includes HR services, like employee onboarding and seamless time and attendance integration, even better! Check if the provider offers an app that you and your employees can download. This allows employees to self-serve and keeps you all on the same page.

6. How good is their customer support?

It’s vitally important that you understand what type of technical support your online payroll provider offers. Do they have a number to call for immediate service? If the company has an automated help desk, how responsive and useful is that for your needs? Are there detailed FAQ and Help sections on their website? The only time you might really be able to assess many of these factors is after you sign up for the plan...but the demeanor and attentiveness of the salesperson you chat with might be your first tip-off.

7. Do they have accounting expertise to hand?

The penalties for screwing up one’s payroll can cost you more than your actual payroll. Your online payroll service should not only be highly knowledgeable about accounting (well, obviously!), but be able to keep up with the ever changing landscape of tax and employer laws. After all, part of the reason you’re switching to an online provider is to get peace of mind! Search their website, or inquire with a representative regarding compliance. Another good question to ask: “do they have a tax expert on-staff?”

8. Can it grow with your company?

Hopefully, your business has a long, fruitful future that includes expansion and new hires. Is the online payroll service provider you are considering offering a scalable plan? Will it be easy and affordable to add new employees to the mix? Are there discounts after you reach a certain threshold number of employees? And, most importantly, can the payroll service efficiently handle the volume from a larger business? A quick check regarding their clientele can be helpful.

9. Is it convenient to set up?

Payroll and Human Resources professionals have consistently cited switching over to a new platform as one of their top headaches. There’s the set-up process, transferring data to the new provider, and the inevitable learning curve. How easy is the provider offering to make these formidable tasks for you and your company? Does the provider offer integration with aspects of your previous plan? If not, factor in the ease-of-use, price, and other factors to gauge whether it’s worth making the switch.

10. Do you get a good feeling from them?

Yes, I’m totally going to venture into “touchy-feely” emotions here in this last point. After all, you’re going to be living with this new payroll provider for a long while, at least for a per pay period basis. Do you initially have a good feeling about them? How do you feel browsing through their website? How do you feel chatting with their sales rep? And do you have that sense of confidence in their presentation that would justify you granting them one of the most sensitive aspects of your business?

I hope you’ve found this guide helpful. We wish you the best of luck in the process. And remember, even if you are just starting the search, the fact that you’ve made the decision to upgrade your payroll has put you on the right path!

Author: Valerie D’Orazio is a New York-based tech and pop-culture writer who works for Fingercheck. She enjoys giving business owners and workers information they can use to empower their lives.

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