April 12, 2021

A guide to choosing the right payroll software for your small business

To help set your business and your people up for success in the years to come, you’ll need to choose a payroll partner that not only meets your immediate business needs, but will support you through change and growth. Here’s how to evaluate payroll software with key questions to ask vendors to help you make the right decision.

Paying your people accurately and on time should always be a business priority, which means choosing payroll software is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Having the right systems in place to pay employees accurately and on time is an essential part of maintaining business continuity and avoiding costly fines and penalties associated with noncompliance. Software that gives your people the access they need to view their pay and manage their own information can also build employee-employer trust.

Partnering with a provider that fits your business’ needs will help you stay on top of payroll complexities, so you have more time to manage and grow your business and your people. Though, with so many payroll software options in the market today, how do you narrow it down? You’ll need to get clear on your business needs so you can ask potential vendors the questions that matter.

What to look for in small business payroll software

When evaluating payroll software, you’ll need to assess how the capabilities and support will meet your business needs today and down the road as you experience change or expansion. Here’s what you’ll need to keep an eye on to ensure you’re getting what you need in both the short and long-term.

1. Robust payroll processing and tax calculations

A payroll system that can handle various calculations – such as CPP and EI deductions, bonuses, holiday pay, overtime, etc., – should be the foremost priority. Dig deep and ask potential vendors the right questions about the product to help you meet your government remittance and filing obligations.

Can the payroll system automate tax rate and tax form updates? Does it automatically file Records of Employment (ROE) to Service Canada and make payroll tax remittances in your province? It’s also important to choose a solution that can facilitate remittances to third-party vendors, for example, benefits, RRSP, etc. Look for a system that also helps you easily configure earnings, deductions, and taxes, and make changes.

With the compliance landscape changing on what feels like a daily basis, you’ll also need to look for a solution that can help you monitor for compliance changes. Payroll software that facilitates legislative changes is important, but also look for a payroll provider that goes above and beyond to keep you up to date, such as offering an info center that hosts information on various software updates.

Download the free checklist for a list of questions to ask payroll vendors to best meet your business needs.

2. High level of security

In addition to payroll and tax automation, you’ll want to look for payroll software that helps keep your business and employee information safe and secure. Keep an eye on the security measures the software has in place when accessing highly sensitive employee data and look to see if the system has safeguards that will help you identify risk and irregularities within the account.

3. Employee self-service

Employees want the convenience of accessing their information from anywhere, and in real-time. Look for a payroll partner with a mobile solution that empowers employees to view and manage their personal detail such as their pay, personal information, and more.

A solution with self-service capabilities can also help reduce administrative effort for you or your HR team. As well, mobile payroll processing capabilities is another option you’ll want to look for to give administrators the tools they need to make changes while on the go.

4. Payroll reporting capabilities

The right reporting capabilities will help you and your team make smarter business decisions, more quickly. Payroll software that has data analysis and reporting capabilities will help you gain valuable business insights without hours spent managing dashboards. For example, the ability to access your payroll and year-end reports from the previous year at any time, as well as archived reports from years prior. Ask vendors if their system has pre-built payroll and year-end reports and advanced reporting capabilities.

5. Proven expertise

Ask the right questions to ensure you’re working with an experienced partner, not just a service provider. Ask various vendors for some examples of how they helped companies with your specific challenges. As well, it will be important to understand the level of experience they have in supporting businesses with expansion. See if their payroll software is really built to handle exponential growth or if you’ll have difficulty adding new employees and calculating payroll in different regions. 

Learn more about how Powerpay has helped Canadian small businesses streamline payroll processes and empower its employees.

6. Strong customer support

When you use a payroll system, you have control over your payroll, however, it’s important that you’re not alone if you have any questions. A partner that offers strong support could help your in-house payroll team overcome challenges that create barriers to accurately paying the workforce on time. 

Look for vendors that will support you every step of the way. What support options do they offer and what kind of ongoing support will you receive? Will you be routed to a team of CPA-trained representatives who are familiar with your business needs? What are their different communication options (e.g. phone, email, support tickets, etc.) for support?  

Some payroll providers offer support online, over the phone, or even both. Depending on your personal preference, you’ll want to factor in the kind of customer service you’ll receive as you evaluate your options.

7. An efficient implementation process

After you sign on with a new payroll provider, you’ll need guidance for a successful launch. Ask providers what they’re implementation process looks like and how long it will take to implement the new solution. Is there a dedicated person who will help you get set up? As well, some payroll partners will offer resources like a pre-implementation checklist that helps you prepare everything your team needs for a seamless setup.

8. Flexibility

Find a flexible solution and a partner that can grow with your organization. How easily will you be able to add modules if your business needs change? Ask each vendor if their system supports quickly changing employee assignments, work locations, and pay rates.

Other key features to look for

Once you’ve evaluated the payroll capabilities that align with your business needs, there are other items you may want to consider to help you streamline related HR processes.

Find out if the provider has flexible plans and options available should you need them down the road. For example, can you record and track employee information in a single system or will you have to reenter the data in other modules? Does the system automate the new hire process so employees can take control of their own information such as contact, banking, and tax forms? Another important feature to look for is the ability to track which employees have signed off on company documents, such as employee handbooks and policies.

Download the free payroll and HR checklist for a list of questions to ask vendors as you narrow down your search in finding the right partner for your business.

Finding the right payroll partner

When choosing the best payroll software for your small business, you’ll also need to assess the vendor’s track record. How long have they been established and how many customers do they serve? Rely on credible sources and review sites like Capterra to help you learn more about a product’s capabilities as well each payroll vendors’ reputation.

Read next: Seven things to look for when choosing a payroll partner

Tyson Hurl

Tyson is a Go to Market Product Marketing Manager at Ceridian.

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