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The 5 Best HR Outsourcing Services and How to Decide

Rare is the future business leader who lays awake at night as a kid, dreaming of the complex HR challenges they will have to overcome on their way to success. But by time they’re in charge, there isn’t an owner on the planet who can sleep soundly if their HR is disorganized.

Mistakes with payroll and compliance can be exceptionally costly, but for many businesses, the cost of a well-staffed HR department is out of the question.

A lot of the time, what ends up happening is that non-HR personnel are given crucial responsibilities they’re not ready to handle.

Another (much better) option is to outsource some or all of these tasks to a company that specializes in HR. With their help, you can save time and excel with tasks that you could only muddle through before. The other great part about outsourcing HR is that it saves the company money.

Sold?

Here are the five best HR outsourcing services we’d recommend.

The 5 best HR outsourcing services: reviews

Many of your best options for outsourcing HR come from Professional Employer Organizations, also known as PEOs. Typically, these companies can handle the entire HR stack and more, acting more as a co-employer than a vendor per se.

On this list of the best HR outsourcing services, you’ll find companies that can quickly take specific HR tasks off your plate, as well as outsourcing solutions from PEOs who can take a much more central role in the long-term health of your company.

Note that we’ve included pricing information where available, but for the most part you’re going to have to contact sales.

Gusto

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Meet Gusto, an HR outsourcing service with a pricing structure so simple that budgeting is a walk in the park. No surprises.

It’s perfect for SMBs looking to offload some or all of their HR burden. Gusto aims to take the stress and confusion out of hiring, insuring, and paying your employees, letting you and your team focus on growing the business.

Gusto is easy to use for both you and your employees. You don’t have to be a tax expert to stay on top of payroll. Gusto’s expertise will help you stay compliant, avoid fines, and keep everyone happy.

They offer four tiers of pricing:

  • Contractor: $0 base price + $6 user/month
  • Core: $19 base price + $6 user/month
  • Complete: $39 base price + $6 user/month
  • Concierge: $149 base price + $6 user/month

Additional features, like 401(k)s or HSAs, are priced the same way: base price plus cost plus per-user. So as you grow, you know exactly how to budget for HR.

If you’re switching from another service, Gusto’s integrations with all the big names in accounting, time tracking, POS, expense management, and business operations ease the transition. There’s even a handy time-tracking feature available at the Complete plan and higher.

Gusto gets endless happy reviews from founders and SMBs that need a blend of a self-service payroll and HR outsourcing services. Tax forms, pay stubs, timesheets⁠—it’s all taken care of without any extra work on your end.

Pros

  • Transparent pricing
  • Great onboarding experience

Cons

  • Lackluster customer service reviews

Oasis

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A few years ago, Oasis was acquired by Paychex, another big player among the best HR outsourcing services. Since then, their service and security has only improved and it’s become the largest privately-held PEO in the nation.

Because they offer cost-effective plans for SMBs, Oasis’ purchasing power gives companies the opportunity to obtain Fortune-500 level benefits that would otherwise be out of reach.

They balance their big-time offerings with a concierge feel by setting you up with two personalized points of contact at Oasis:

  • Senior HR Generalist, Human Resources: Manages the overall relationship, provides support, advice, industry-specific guidance, and training.
  • Payroll Account Manager: Handles all payroll-related activities, acting as a day-to-day point of contact.

Their web-based onboarding process has been streamlined to get your employees in the system quickly, and you have two designated advocates ready to help when issues arise.

You get access to a complete package of HR products, and the flexibility to select only the services that make the most sense to you. The only feature you are required to use is payroll. After that you can pick and choose, paying only for what you need.  

You can also choose whether you want to pay a percentage of the company’s total payroll or a per-employee fee, whichever works best for you.

The result is a level of customizability you don’t often find withHR outsourcing services, making Oasis very attractive for companies of all stripes.

Pros

  • Flexible pricing structure
  • Scalability
  • Access to variety of insurance carriers

Cons

  • Limited reporting features

TriNet

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TriNet has been helping companies grow since 1988. It’s an established choice for SMBs with little time or focus to handle the administrative tasks associated with HR: hiring, payrolls, benefits, managing expenses, PTO and the like.

They offer a range of bundled HR products for specific industries, including financial services, architecture and engineering, tech, and consulting.

TriNet’s secure online platform centralizes all of the relevant information and services for your employees. The dashboard is intuitive, and the reporting features are admirable in comparison to many of TriNet’s competitors.

The role-based self-service platform enables managers to view critical data in real-time and build workflows to save time. It also allows employees an paperless option to manage their HR options from their desktop, tablet, or mobile device.

We haven’t personally tried TriNet, but it looks like customers are happy to stay with them⁠—their platform is always improving. Reports say TriNet helps accomplish HR tasks better in less time.

I can get behind that if it means not having to work through the minutia of insurance premiums and tax laws.

In short, this is an excellent option with a long track-record of success and near-constant improvement. Especially for businesses in industries to which TriNet can lend deep experience.

Pros

  • Intuitive
  • Time-tracking module
  • Mobile App
  • Useful analytics dashboards

Cons

  • Some learning curve

ADP

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Automatic Data Processing, Inc., known by most as ADP, is a global leader in business outsourcing services and human capital management.

When it comes to specific HR services, ADP has two general offerings:

  • PEO/co-employment: Treat ADP as a partner. ADP will share certain employer responsibilities and risks, taking a much more active role in employee guidance.
  • HR outsourcing: Treat ADP like an extension of your current HR staff. They can handle any HR tasks and provide time-saving expert guidance.

(Either of these work well for any size company, but we’ll focus on the HR outsourcing for this post.)

ADP’s HR outsourcing solution is highly customizable across all areas of employee management, including:

  • Payroll and tax administration
  • Benefits administration
  • Compliance
  • Talent acquisition
  • Strategic HR

And integrations with all popular business software keeps the flow of data seamless and adds to the high quality of the platform’s reporting features. Instead of wading through unfamiliar HR tasks, you’ll get decision-quality information about your business with very little effort.

Whether you’re a small business looking to build from a strong foundation, or a mature company preparing for a major transition, ADP is a great all-round resource.

Pros

  • Excellent reporting features
  • Tons of quality integrations
  • Deep experience in every major industry

Cons

  • Can be expensive to implement

Justworks

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Justworks is a clean, modern HR outsourcing solution. Think of it as a PEO that enables smaller businesses to deliver employees enterprise-level benefits.

The main draw to Justworks is the simplicity of the system and the top notch customer support, two qualities that make implementing Justworks fairly painless.

They are serious about 24/7 support. Call, text, or Slack, and you’ll find a human on the other end of the conversation.

Once you’re set up, new hires will appreciate the user-friendly interface and quick access to the support they need. They can onboard in minutes, literally, and get started enrolling in benefits through an entirely paperless process.

There are two plans for Justworks, Basic and Plus, which are priced based on how many users you need:

Basic: Payroll, benefits, HR tools, and compliance

  • $49 user/month, less than 25 users
  • $44 user/month, 25-99 users
  • $39 user/month, 100-174 users
  • Contact sales for more than 175 users

Plus: Basic plus access to medical, dental, and vision

  • $99 user/month, less than 25 users
  • $89 user/month, 25-99 users
  • $79 user/month, 100-174 users
  • Contact sales for more than 175 users

These prices are competitive and you can save 15% when you bill annually.

Justworks is intent on building a reputation for fair dealing, and it pays off for their customers.

For example, you don’t have to worry about paying for seats you don’t use, as you are only billed for the W-2 employees you pay through the platform each month.

Beyond saving you money, Justworks helps foster the healthy relationships between you and your PEO that are so crucial for continued success.

Pros

  • 24/7 customer service across multiple channels
  • Transparent pricing
  • Empathetic company culture

Cons

  • More quality integrations would be nice

How to decide on the best HR outsourcing service

This is no small decision.

Even the smoothest implementation is going to take time, and you’ll be sharing a host of sensitive employee information with the other party. You want to be sure you’re making a decision you can stay with for a long time.

There’s a lot to think about, but if you follow these steps, you can narrow your list down to the best HR outsourcing service for your specific needs.

1. Define the optimal HR outsourcing scenario for your company

There are many reasons that make people consider outsourcing HR—what are yours?

Before diving too deep into any sales material, have a quick video conference with stakeholders to tease out the services that really matter.

Essentially, you’re trying to reach a consensus about what before/after looks like for successful rollout.

What busywork and time-sinks do you need to offload now? What about next year? What do you want to retain control over?

As you go through your options, you want a clear picture of the type of interface and range of functions that your people care about.

Consider the vendor side of this, as well. When you use the best HR outsourcing services, you’re not just offloading tasks⁠—you’re getting access to expertise compliance, legal matters, tax strategy, and HR information systems. Which vendors have the deepest experience in or passion about your use case(s) or industry?

2. Forecast the total price

This is going to be easier with solutions like Gusto and Justworks, but even then, you’ll want to spend some time in the discovery phase hashing out the total cost of your dream solution.

Some options are more affordable than others, but none of the best HR outsourcing software is cheap by any means. Don’t stinge on the key factors you identified with your team during step one⁠—it’s almost never worth it long-term.

Remember to calculate projected savings, as well. One of the primary goals with any HR outsourcing transition is to cut down on costs, but that’s not always achieved by choosing the least expensive option. Additional features and higher-tier pricing might have the tools you need to see the results you want, so they’re worth investigating.

For the most part, the options above let you bundle services you need and avoid paying for the ones you don’t. Take advantage of that flexibility to build the best solution for your employees, now and down the road.

3. Prepare for implementation

Once you’ve landed on (and ideally tried and tested) a workable solution, set a realistic date to begin the transition. Work with the vendor to figure out all the steps you need to take before day one to streamline the process.

You might even want to think about creating a transition management team to oversee the process. Particularly if you’re switching to a PEO, your company might have to undergo significant structural change. And you definitely want to avoid uncertainty, fear, or alienating your employees during the changeover.

4. Get back to business

Once you have your new system up and running, it’s time to sit back, relax, and… just kidding.

Now that your HR issues are straightened out, it’s business as usual.

The difference is that you can focus more on driving your company’s growth, knowing that every employee you bring on is better supported than they were before.

Good luck and rest assured you’re in good hands if you go with any of the services on this list.

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