If you’re reading this, you are either a business owner, manager, or HR professional who is interested in what a PEO can offer your company and its employees, or someone looking to switch off of their current provider.
In either case, you need to determine the right one out of the near-countless options available to businesses across the country. Fortunately, we are here to help with that, providing you with the information you need and some top options to check out for your company.
Yet, just in case you are new and are wondering, what is a PEO exactly?
What is a PEO?
It is a professional employer organization, which is a company that you can generally enter into a co-employment agreement with so that the PEO can manage payroll processing and other common human resources tasks for you. They are extremely common and popular, serving hundreds of millions of employees and thousands of businesses.
They offer a number of employer services and can effectively process benefits, payroll, compliance-assistance, HR solutions, and more.
Why Is This Decision Important?
On the surface, it may seem as though most national PEO providers generally do the same HR tasks, allowing businesses to have their payroll needs met and allocate more resources towards the activities which help them thrive. Yet just like any type of business, there are so many variances in pricing plans, how PEOs operate internally, how well they streamline business operations.
And while there will certainly be the right decision for your company listed below or easily found, there are probably more poor decisions which you will want to avoid. Some will be obvious for reasons of company size or services mandated or not offered.
Other choices will be a bit more difficult. So, before you search, make sure you know what you might be looking for first, or at the very least have complete knowledge of how your business operates.
What to Look for from a PEO
In case you are new to PEOs, there are plenty of differences between them, and understand these are key to making the right decision for your company. While there are plenty of minute details you can look into, we recommend focusing on the following key items:
Price is a difficult thing to judge when pricing is highly variable among PEOs, but some PEOs will certainly be cheaper than others for your small business (perhaps even significantly so).
Get a quote from all the PEO companies on your shortlist and consider the long-term as well as the short term. Pricing may be either a flat rate per employee, a percentage of your payroll, or based on the size of your company.
Benefits and Offerings
While you will get payroll services and the rest of the basics, what else does a PEO you have in mind offer? Are there enough benefit package options so that all your employees will be satisfied? Are these benefits competitive? Benefits affect retention, so you should consider this carefully.
A PEO can promise the world and the best services in that world, but can it deliver? Are they able to provide administrative services without delay or without problems? Based on what you can find in reviews and reports from other clients, are all promises met? Information here might be imperfect, but the more research you can do, the better. You should also look for ESAC accreditation.
Minimums and Requirements
Your business may not be large enough in terms of payroll or number of employees for some PEOs. For example, there is a five or ten-employee minimum for several providers on the list below, and pricing will be affected, perhaps to a prohibitive degree.
Conversely, it is also a possibility that a PEO does not have the capability to work with a company that is large compared with what they are used to. While these PEOs will certainly want to work with you for the potential revenue, you probably could do better elsewhere.
If something goes wrong with your PEO arrangement or the online tools you are using, things can get overly complicated or problematic if they aren’t resolved promptly. For that reason, good customer service and employee self-service are must-haves.
Online Tools and Portals
Somewhat related to customer service, you should try to take a look at the online tools and portals your top PEO solutions use, to see if you like the interface and if all the features you want (and some you didn’t know you wanted) are there. You may wish to get some additional opinions from employees and managers as well, as other people might be using these items far more often than you.
What Are the Best PEO Companies?
You will naturally weigh all these things differently from other business owners, but you should take a look at them all before making a decision. Things will change over time, as will your company, but the starting point is the one thing you can control.
1. Amplify PEO
Our top choice for businesses in 2020 and an all-in-one PEO service we think most businesses should at least take a look at, Amplify PEO is a full-service provider that has been around for quite some time and is happy to work with businesses in all industries and of all sizes.
Benefits options and related services are highly competitive, and employees will be able to enjoy dental, medical, and vision benefits if they so choose, and you can trust that there are competitive retirement options for your employees as well. If you are worried about risk management and workplace safety, there are safety reviews on offer and workers’ compensation support, so you can focus more easily on other matters.
If you’re wondering what makes them the cream of the crop, that would be their excellent attention to customer service, which is some of the best in the industry for a larger company and allows you to work with a company that will take the individual needs of your business into account.
Complaints are rare about their service team, and those smooth interactions make Amplify much easier to work with than many competitors. You will be talking to a human being when you have a problem.
In terms of the usual services such as payroll support and HR administration, there are no issues we could find whatsoever. Everyone will get what they need in a timely manner.
The main thing that might give you pause if you are thinking of working with them is that Amplify PEO does not always have the specialized features that other providers might have, depending on your industry. If you know you need a more niche PEO, then it’s still the best one to look for.
2. CoAdvantage PEO
Growing rapidly and based in Florida, CoAdvantage is the PEO company operating under the larger Morgan Stanley structure.
They have several decades of experience helping businesses just like yours get everything they need to thrive and allow employees to get all the benefits they need, and you can trust that they will be dedicated to making your team the best it can be.
They also operate in all 50 states, so all will be handled easily no matter where your staffing takes you.
Yet how can they help your business build the best team? We found CoAdvantage to have some of the best team building tools and services in the industry, and because of the information they can help you get, you will be able to identify top performers in your business and the top potential candidates for new positions.
The time saved on the hiring process is worth a great deal. And as might be expected, onboarding is relatively simple for new employees and managers alike.
However, the above is not to say that their standard services such as payroll management and benefits administration are lacking. That is far from the case, and all the normal options are available. It may not have the top marks in other specialized areas outside of teambuilding, but your priorities might line up with CoAdvantage’s strengths.
Our next pick is VensureHR, which is an equally strong choice if you have a smaller business, given that VensureHR seems to specialize in them. They will work with just about any company, no matter how small, making them stand out if you only have a few employees and do not want to deal with the restrictions or additional expenses that would otherwise be encountered. You will still, of course, want to check if VensureHR is a good fit outside of this one consideration.
Services provided include everything you might expect, including insurance options (healthcare, disability, life, and everything else) as well as standard retirement options through a partnership with Slavic 401k. You as the employer will have the options to adjust the exact parameters of benefits packages so that you do not overextend your business’ resources.
Customer service does not reach the high standards set by Amplify PEO, but you can expect that Vensure HR will get the job done.
Pricing will depend on the exact specifications of your business and what plans you want, but VensureHR might also be one of the most affordable companies on this list, with pay-as-you-go workers’ compensation plans and options for different services and benefits. It’s more customizable than you might think and your business may need just that.
However, given how VensureHR is best for smaller businesses, it might not be the best option for larger ones looking for HR software, HR services, or HR outsourcing. If this is the case for your business, then you might want to give it a pass. Additionally, after a certain amount of growth, you may wish to consider switching, so keep a note of that if you want to work with them.
4. Resourcing Edge
Resourcing Edge, having been in business since 2003 and with clients in 44 states (and they don’t seem like they are going to stop there), is a PEO service that is perfect for small business owners and startups looking to take advantage of training options for employees and themselves.
Services provided are as expected, including the usual payroll administration, HR support, and reasonable employee benefits packages so that employees should be satisfied.
Yet we won’t focus on that here (there is little that stands out, just note that there is nothing terribly wrong with the offerings) and instead focus on the excellent training options and the safety programs on offer. Out of our top selections, Resourcing Edge is the choice if you consider employee development and getting help staying on top of safety training most important.
To pair with those training options, users will likely be pleased with the wide and excellent array of employee benefits available to them (if you make them so). Resourcing Edge has plenty of partners, and it shows in how much improvement in the lives of your employees you can make.
Their pricing plans can vary from business to business, so we recommend that you take great care and ask for a quote as soon as you can if you are interested in their services.
They are a smaller company of about 100-150 employees (this is small compared with other providers), so this is another case where you should make sure they are large enough that your business can be taken care of. Small businesses should have no difficulties, however.
Rounding out our list is Insperity, which while last here should absolutely not escape your consideration. Long-lasting (it has been in business for more than 30 years) and serving millions of employees over more than 100,000 businesses, it is one of the largest PEOs you can find and able to work with even the largest businesses.
Yet despite this, it is surprisingly flexible in its offerings to companies, and Insperity can help your company whether you are looking for just the most basic of service packages or something far more complex and robust for your business. Value is key when picking a PEO, and Insperity can provide just that: no wasted value.
If you are interested in Insperity for your business, then we recommend getting a quote from them alongside any others and that you start making more direct comparisons based on the specific needs and resources of your business.
They do charge on a per-employee basis, making them a better option for small businesses. They are also generally easy to cancel, requiring only a 30-day notice. If you just want to trial a PEO, they might be the best choice.
In short, Insperity is reliable, adaptive, and able to scale with your business easily. If you do not know where to go and our other recommendations are not a good fit, they should be able to help you.
Out of all of these listed PEO companies, we found that most people should start their search with Amplify PEO and work their way down. However, that is not to say that Amplify is the perfect option for everyone.
Some businesses require a PEO that has a more personalized touch, and others will want something more focused on either smaller (like VensureHR) or larger businesses. Some instead might want to prioritize specific features and specialized services.
Therefore, we find most direct comparisons and strong evaluations unnecessary if not counterproductive, but we do hope that you have a better idea of what you would be getting into with each provider, as comparisons can still be made if you have a clear goal.
Other PEO providers not yet reviewed for this list include TriNet, Justworks, Paychex, Oasis Outsourcing, and ADP TotalSource.
PEO Companies FAQ
Do you still have questions about how to best set up your arrangement with a PEO, how everything works, or how you can get the most out of your arrangement? If so, please read the following:
As a general rule, yes, although the specifics will certainly vary based on the PEO company you want to work with and in some cases the plans and benefits you want to sign up for.
You will want to ask questions and read the fine print to determine just how long your company will be on the hook for. Year-long contracts are common, and multi-year contracts do exist as well.
If you are concerned about this, you may want to choose a provider that allows you to cancel on short notice without penalty, or one that effectively allows for a trial period.
Not unless you want them to, no. While payroll will likely be handled by the PEO now, how you want to run your company will still be up to you. Whatever organization you partner with is not going to come in and make changes and recommendations unless you ask them to or if what is currently going on breaks regulations that they might be responsible for.
You should be able to go over everything with your PEO during the onboarding stages or before you agree to anything.
Your employees might experience some changes during the onboarding process. Much of the answer to this question lies in how things were done prior to the PEO coming on board. They will likely need to get used to a few new procedures, but not much that will affect their average working day.
If there is a benefit offered to employees, there is a PEO that can help you set it up. Some of the most common benefits offered include various retirement plans of various types, investment opportunities, and health insurance plans (including dental, vision, and additional benefits). Some might even offer discounts that are common retailers for employees, certain rewards programs, life insurance, regulatory compliance, worker’s compensation insurance, and development programs.
There really are not many limits on what is possible.
Other services offered are more for the benefit of the employer, and can include workers’ compensation support, workplace safety and OSHA compliance support (among related services), employee handbooks, training options in a wide array of fields, and even human resources support. Many services can cost extra, but you can make these decisions on a case-by-case basis with most PEOs.
This is another question that is answered with “it depends”, although there will almost certainly be an online portal to work with and several means to contact your provider if you would rather directly speak to a human. How easy that is depends on the PEO, and there may or may not be a dedicated contact, but there will always be a way to get your questions answered or to have appropriate adjustments made.
You may also be able to make simple requests for changes online without contacting the PEO, or some things might require a more in-depth touch. Again, it all depends on who you work with.
How Do You Get the Most from Your PEO?
While you will almost certainly want to consult with your point of contact from the PEO company, doing the following now and during the onboarding process (and beyond) will allow you to make the most of the services you are paying for:
- Read everything related to your PEO carefully. Options that you gloss over today might be relevant tomorrow. Adjustments you did not think possible might in fact be just so, but just require calling the right person. It can be a bit of work, but it is worthwhile for either you or a trusted associate.
- You will almost certainly be able to upgrade your services down the line, or even switch providers once the first contract term ends. Do not get decision paralysis now, nor overdo it on services you may not use at this time. Most plans are at least somewhat adaptable, your business should be adaptable, and you should always be on the lookout for a better plan or provider.
- While some PEOs might be cheaper, do not measure everything as a simple cost. Those cheaper PEOs might not provide nearly as much value for your dollar and allow you to do the most with your time. Money is not the only resource you have to manage.
- We recommend not suddenly thrusting the news of a new PEO on employees, leaving them with a bunch of emails and pamphlets, and expecting them to make the most of things.
- In the United States, understand how PEOs and PEO clients work with the IRS, tax administration, and tax filings. There may be opportunities like training programs available for things like payroll tax, employee leasing, on-boarding new-hires, etc.
There are dozens of significant PEO companies not listed here, if not more. And while you can certainly sort through them, we strongly believe that the best PEO service for your business needs is listed above, as these companies here represent the best of the best.
Not every option will be a good fit, but take note of your priorities, notice what will be best for your employees, and you should be able to make your decision quickly enough and correctly. We hope that the above information was helpful to you and that you return to this article as needed throughout the process.