Gusto is our choice for the best payroll service with added HR tools. It offers service plans that include a number of human resources services, such as access to an HR professional who can provide advice on all employment-related issues.
Gusto is a market-leading, full-service payroll software platform for small businesses and startups, with over 300,000 corporate clients. Its software is easy to navigate and use. The platform supports automated or manual payroll anywhere in the U.S. for employees and independent contractors alike. It also offers a wealth of additional services, such as comprehensive HR tools and an employee-focused bank and savings account complete with its own debit card.
9.2 / 10
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After extensive research, we picked Gusto as the best online payroll software with added HR services because the system stands out for its ability to serve dual roles. It can handle your payroll and payroll tax responsibilities as well as your HR needs.
When you invest in one of Gusto’s higher-tier plans, you’ll access HR experts and extensive tools and resources, including for job posting. Source: Gusto
Gusto can ensure employees are paid in a timely manner; manage tax payments to meet local, state and federal laws; administer benefits; onboard new hires; and even track PTO. In other words, you get a full HR solution for virtually every part of the employee experience all in one platform. We also love that if you only want to use Gusto to process payroll, you can, and the vendor excels at that task.
With Gusto’s Premium package, business owners can also enjoy access to HR professionals who can walk you through all types of situations. This is a huge perk for small businesses that lack dedicated HR teams. The software is easy to use, and Gusto has excellent customer service to boot.
One of the benefits of partnering with Gusto for payroll processing and HR services is how easy the software is to use. The dashboard is very straightforward and it’s fairly intuitive to navigate, even for beginners.
Running payroll is simple with Gusto’s user-friendly dashboard. Source: Gusto
When you log into the Gusto platform, you’ll see a to-do list with important updates and activities. To run payroll, you enter the number of hours each employee worked, the vacation or sick days they took, any bonuses or commissions they earned, and their expense reimbursements. Then, submit the payroll and receive confirmation it’s being processed. Payroll doesn’t get much simpler than that.
You can use Gusto to pay employees and contractors via direct deposit, prepaid debit cards or paper checks. To add employees or contractors to the system, all you need are their names, email addresses and pay rates. Employees can add this information on their own using the self-onboarding feature.
All team members — full-time, part-time and contract workers — can log into the system to review their digital paystubs and get their year-end tax forms. These lifetime accounts give employees access to their personal information even if they move on to new employers.
Because Gusto understands how closely payroll tasks and human resources responsibilities are linked, you’ll find features covering virtually all aspects of HR.
Pay your employees and contractors as many times as you want each month.
Manage payroll taxes
The platform takes care of your local, state and federal tax responsibilities.
The system integrates with dozens of popular third-party apps.
Added HR services
Gain access to HR experts who can guide you through any people-management situation.
Provide health insurance, workers’ compensation, 401(k) plans, dental insurance and more to your employees.
Manage employee onboarding
Create custom checklists for new hires and send and share documents securely.
As a full-service payroll provider, Gusto offers a wide range of payroll features that small businesses will find valuable. For example, you can run as many payrolls as you want each month for no extra cost. Unlimited payroll gives you the freedom to pay individual employees when you want instead of syncing all your staff on the same schedule.
Gusto allows you to pay employees and contractors via direct deposit, printed check or prepaid debit card, which is on par with competitors. One particularly useful aspect of the system is the autopilot setting, which runs your payroll automatically each pay period without requiring any special input. As we found in our review of Paychex, some of Gusto’s rivals have recurring payroll capabilities too.
Gusto is launching Gusto Global, an international payroll program, in partnership with Remote. Beta testing is already underway in Canada, and the program will eventually support compliance management and international payments in over 75 countries. In the meantime, it’s possible to pay contractors in over 120 countries in their local currency within three business days.
In addition to handling payroll processing, Gusto takes care of all your payroll tax responsibilities. The vendor automatically calculates and pays your local, state and federal payroll taxes. At the end of the year, the service generates and sends all your employees and contractors their W-2 and 1099 forms.
Gusto integrates with almost 200 popular third-party products, like QuickBooks, Xero, Clover and Expensify. These integrations make it easier to gather data and gain insights into your business, which leads to better decision-making in the future. It also streamlines operations by connecting the various types of business software you use to run your company, such as Microsoft 365, monday.com, Shopify and Slack. [For another top contender when it comes to integrations, read our Rippling review or check out our Rippling comparison.]
In addition, Gusto has in-house integrations that cover areas like job posting/candidate tracking, California State Tax registration, time tracking and employee self-evaluation.
If you need additional HR support beyond payroll processing, Gusto can meet your needs. The software’s HR resource center includes custom employee handbooks, job description templates, HR policy templates and proactive compliance updates. You’ll also have access to organizational charts, onboarding tools and employee surveys. You can typically find assets like these in top HR software, but Gusto offers an all-in-one solution.
A huge bonus with the Premium plan is the ability to connect with certified HR professionals who can guide you through all sorts of people-management situations. If you’re not ready to hire an in-house HR person, this investment is a worthwhile alternative.
To complement its added HR services, Gusto makes it possible to offer a benefits package to your team. You can provide employees with health insurance, workers’ compensation and a 401(k) plan, plus dental and vision policies. These benefits are attractive to workers, and a comprehensive benefits package can help you retain team members.
Gusto allows you to offer employees health insurance from providers like Blue Cross Blue Shield and United Healthcare. Source: Gusto
We appreciate that Gusto partners with Gradvisor to offer 529 college savings plans that integrate with the payroll service. The contributions automatically sync with the system and employers have the option to give company contributions, which can also draw talent to your business. Another nice touch is the platform’s inclusion of free financial planning tools for individual employees.
Gusto has a number of helpful tools for employee onboarding. For example, you can create custom checklists for new hires and share documents securely for them to sign. All of these forms can be stored safely in your Gusto account.
Gusto makes employee onboarding easy with its streamlined format. Source: Gusto
Impressively, Gusto can even assist you with the recruitment process, guiding you through the process of creating job posts and tracking applicants. You can also use the platform to create custom offer letters. The software integrates with applicant tracking systems as well. Thanks to its other integrations, you can use Gusto to get new employees set up with Slack, Zoom and other accounts they may need on the job. We also liked that Gusto supports automated feedback requests and performance reviews. On top of that, it offers learning/development tools and the ability to personalize employee communications.
If you don’t currently use time and attendance software, employees can use Gusto to clock in and out on their mobile devices. Recorded hours automatically synchronize with payroll, while managers can approve timecards for payroll processing. Gusto can also track PTO and even monitor the time spent on specific projects.
All four of Gusto’s plans include its payroll and tax services and allow you to pay W-2 employees, 1099 contractors and freelancers. However, the plans vary in the added HR services they include.
The three main plans each have a monthly base fee and a monthly per-employee fee. Here’s how they break down.
The fourth and final plan is specifically for contractor-only businesses that don’t have any full-time employees. There is no monthly base fee for this plan; you simply pay $6 per contractor per month. The package includes unlimited contractor payments, contractor self-service options and 1099 forms and filings. International contractor payments aren’t standard, but you can add the ability to make payments to over 120 countries if needed.
We love that there are no contracts with Gusto. Regardless of which plan you choose, you pay for the service on a month-to-month basis and can cancel at any time. It’s also worth noting that payment isn’t taken until the first payroll is run, which is beneficial for startups facing the inevitable setup costs incurred with any new business venture.
Want to sign up for the Plus plan and receive guidance from Gusto’s HR specialists? For a fee of $8 per employee per month, you can add on those HR services and receive faster support.
Gusto is a cloud-based platform, so there is no software to download or update. You can use it right in your browser, and it’s mobile-friendly, so it’s accessible from any smartphone or tablet. The interface is clear, if rather monochrome, with dedicated tabs for running payroll, time tracking, custom-built reports (based on supplied templates) and compliance.
When you log in for the first time, the homepage walks you through the setup process, which entails entering your company address, adding employees, setting up federal and state taxes, linking and verifying your business bank account, and configuring your payroll schedule. If you already have payroll set up with another provider, Gusto can walk you through the process of how and when to switch your data over. If you’re setting up payroll for the first time, Gusto provides an online guide to help you get started.
Gusto representatives are available for support by phone and email Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. PT. Whether you sign up for the Simple, Plus or Premium plan determines whether you have access to the Basic level of support over those listed hours, Full support over extended hours (starting two hours earlier at 7 a.m. PT, mirroring the standard web chat hours), or Priority support for expedited assistance. The Premium package will also pair you with a dedicated customer success manager for personalized help. Even so, if you’re on the east coast or working long hours/weekends, the relative lack of tech support might be a concern.
To get a feel for the type of customer service Gusto provides, we called and emailed the company numerous times, posing as a new business owner. Though we did have to wait on hold to speak with someone during one of our calls, all our other calls were answered immediately when we reached out.
During our conversations, the representatives gave clear and detailed answers to all of our questions. At the end of each call, we had a strong understanding of how the system works, the services it provides, and how much everything costs. At no time did any of the representatives try to push us to sign up for the service. Some of the other payroll providers we contacted quickly tried to glean all of the specifics about our company and quote us prices. Gusto, however, seemed focused on making sure our needs were met first, which we appreciated.
We were also happy with the prompt response we received when we contacted the company via email. All of our inquiries were returned within a couple of hours and included detailed and helpful answers to our questions.
For self-guided assistance, the vendor also provides a complete library of resources on its website with tips for both using the payroll system and running a small business. A searchable database encompasses featured articles and tips, tax forms and compliance data, plus an app directory.
By default, you can’t pay employees outside of the U.S. through Gusto, though the vendor does offer an add-on to compensate international contractors in over 120 countries. This will be augmented later with the launch of Gusto Global, which will cover over 75 nations. For companies seeking an immediate change of payroll provider, the platform remains largely domestic for now.
It’s surprising Gusto doesn’t have a dedicated mobile app to complement its software. While users can access the platform via their mobile device’s browser, most business software companies these days provide Android and iOS apps. The Gusto Wallet mobile app is primarily intended to help employees learn how to save money, and it comes with limited time-tracking and paycheck features. Available on both Android and iOS, it also supports wage deposits into a basic cash account, a linked debit card, up to five savings pots and budgeting tools.
Another potential downside of Gusto is its cost. While the price of its Simple plan is in line with similar packages from other payroll services, Gusto’s higher-tier plans are more expensive. However, it is important to remember that those more expensive packages serve multiple functions for your business, and signing up for the most comprehensive plan is cheaper than hiring a full-time HR professional.
Lastly, we were disappointed to find that Gusto is not an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau, and that the company has an F rating. (Paychex, in comparison, has an A+ rating.) Gusto had 218 complaints filed against it in the past three years, with an average customer rating of 1.09/5 from 105 BBB reviews. It scores 3.5 out of 5 on Trustpilot.
To get an understanding of how Gusto works, we attended a live demo with a vendor representative who walked us through the software and answered our questions. During this demo, we got a sense of how easy the software is to navigate and how its features work.
We also contacted the company and posed as a potential customer to see what their customer service was like. We walked away from this phone conversation very satisfied with our experience. As part of our investigation, we compared Gusto to dozens of other payroll providers. This helped us see where the platform stood out and areas where it could improve.
During our evaluation of the top payroll services, we looked at each product’s payroll features, usability, pricing, customer support, integrations and implementation. To find the best payroll company for businesses seeking added HR services, we considered what human resources services and assistance each platform provided, such as recruitment help and benefits administration.
Use Gusto to run payroll, manage employee benefits and execute other HR services. Gusto makes it possible for companies to pay employees and contractors, and it takes care of your local, state and federal tax responsibilities.
Gusto can pay employees weekly if you’d like it to. As the employer, you can set up whatever pay schedule works best for your business, and you’ll be able to run payroll as many times as you want each month with no additional charges. [Read related article: How Frequently Should You Run Payroll?]
The cost of Gusto depends on how many people you employ and which plan you select — the lowest plan, for example, starts at $40 per month plus $6 per employee per month. If you don’t have any full-time employees, you can choose the Contractor package, which costs just $6 per contractor.
Various integrations and services enable you to post jobs on leading recruitment portals, track applicants, customize offer letter templates and e-sign documents, create bespoke onboarding checklists, and add third-party recruiting software integrations.
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Neil Cumins contributed to this article.