Starting a business? Great software options for HR, payroll management.

Human resources work takes up a huge chunk of a business owner’s time. Payroll and other HR software can streamline these administrative tasks, cut back on paperwork, improve organization, and save your small business a lot of time and money.

Nikki Fox/Daily News-Record/AP/File
Chad White, owner of Class-Tech-Cars, works on the computer at his home-based small business, in Timberville, Va.

Managing payroll and taxes, scheduling, administering health benefits — tasks like these can take a major bite out of a small-business owner’s workday.

Human resources work, in fact, makes up 25% to 35% of an owner’s time, according to a 2014 study by SCORE. Payroll and other HR software can streamline these administrative tasks, cut back on paperwork, improve organization, and potentially save your small business a whole lot of time and money.

Here’s some popular software that could help you run your small business more effectively.


Bamboo HR





Bamboo HR

Type of service: Online benefits

Cost: Starts at $99 monthly minimum

How it works: Bamboo HR offers a 100% web-based human resources system for small and midsize businesses. The software lets you track training, benefits and time-off requests and allows you to store information and forms. You can keep employee info — for example, job and salary history — in an online directory and store company forms, applications, documents and performance reviews online.

The cost of the service depends on the number of employees you have. You can try it free for seven days before signing up. The service starts at $99 monthly minimum.

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Type of service: Online payroll and benefits

Cost: $29 per month, plus $6 per month for each employee

How it works: Formerly known as ZenPayroll, Gusto offers payroll, benefits and workers comp insurance to more than 30,000 U.S. businesses. Features include automatic tax filing and processing for local, state and federal payroll taxes, the ability to pay employees via direct deposit or check, and the option of offering health benefits to your employees through the platform.

The company serves businesses with one to 100 employees, including dentists, law firms, gyms, coffee shops and startups, says Steffi Wu, who handles communications at Gusto. In 2015, the company saved small businesses more than 1.2 million hours by filing their local, state and federal payroll taxes automatically, Wu says.

Gusto software integrates with your existing accounting software applications, such as FreshBooks, Xero and Intuit QuickBooks, as well as Capital One Spark Business. The cost to use the payroll and benefits service is $29 per month, plus $6 per month for each person. For example, a small business with 10 employees would pay $89 per month, but you can try your first two months for free and cancel at any time.

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Type of service: HR, online payroll and benefits

Cost: $12 per person per year (base price)

How it works: Namely is a human resources, payroll and benefits software platform focused on midsize organizations in several sectors, including tech, media, e-commerce and nonprofit. The company supports small businesses with 50 or more employees and currently serves more than 400 clients with 70,000 employees on its platform, says Matt Straz, founder and CEO.

Besides managing payroll and benefits, Namely offers paperless onboarding of new employees, employee management software with performance reviews and cascading goals, the ability to create custom surveys and get ongoing feedback from employees, and a social news feed to keep your company connected on big news, milestones, anniversaries and birthdays.

Namely’s technology helps with Affordable Care Act reporting and helps business owners satisfy complex payroll and benefits requirements, Straz says.

Namely aims to handle payroll, benefits and employee management in an “intuitive” way that will encourage employees to use it daily, Straz says. By bringing these under a single umbrella, the company says, clients can save money.

The base price of using Namely’s HR platform is $12 per person annually and does not include payroll or benefits administration.

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Type of service: Health insurance comparison platform for small businesses

Cost: Free

How it works: Launched in 2012, SimplyInsured offers a free platform to compare quotes and estimate out-of-pocket costs before purchasing health insurance for your employees. The company says it can save small businesses $500 to $1,000 per employee annually. The secret is scope, according to CEO Vivek Shah.

“Traditional insurance brokers will show you a couple of plans,” Shah says, but they won’t have access to the widest range of plans on the market. “Because of that, we can find customers a plan that’s $50 to $100 a month cheaper.”

SimplyInsured focuses on “really small” small businesses; its average customer has fewer than 20 employees. These businesses are hard for traditional brokers to serve because of their small size, Shah says.

After you enter your company name, email address, business phone number, ZIP code and number of employees, SimplyInsured analyzes the plans available in your area and lists the top results based on the lowest monthly cost. Quotes are immediate, and you can complete an application for a health plan in about 10 minutes, Shah says.

On the results page, you’ll see the total monthly premium per employee; deductibles; cost of doctor visits, prescription drugs and hospitalization; co-payments for doctor and specialist visits; and major illness costs.

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Type of service: Online human resources software

Cost: Free

How it works: Zenefits is a big player in the online HR space, but the San Francisco company is facing an investigation by the California Department of Insurance about its licensing practices.

The company offers an online dashboard that allows business owners to manage all of their HR in one place, including payroll and taxes, retirement plans, and stock options; it also helps with onboarding new employees, managing benefits and insurance, and tracking attendance and vacations.

The system is completely automated, eliminating paperwork. Even better, the software is free. Zenefits gets paid by benefits providers on the platform when you sign up (although you’ll still have to pay the providers for your benefits).

The platform is also useful for employees; they can view and sign job-offer letters, access pay stubs, review and enroll in health plans, and request vacation.

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Steve Nicastro is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @StevenNicastro.

To get more information on and compare funding options for your small business, visit NerdWallet’s small-business loans page. For free, personalized answers to questions about starting and financing your business, visit the Small Business section of NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor page.

This article first appeared in NerdWallet.

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