The pandemic brought on a seismic shift in how and where we work, with hybrid and remote work replacing the traditional five-day, in-office workweek that defined modern business for a century. Businesses have had to overhaul operations to accommodate and compete. And now, they’re facing historic inflation, a looming potential recession, and a tightening labor market, making it even harder for businesses to operate with confidence. 

Businesses need help. New research from Gusto found most small and medium-sized businesses (69%) are not fully confident about navigating an economic downturn. Over half (56%) of businesses want guidance on processing payroll, payments, and tax forms while staying compliant, which is especially critical when hiring across state lines. While compliance is foundational, business owners also need support around culture building: 21% of business owners surveyed said one of the most valuable types of advice would be around building company culture and engaging employees. And, businesses want this advice from their accountant: The majority (83%) of owners said that it was important that their accountant offers proactive business and people-oriented advice in addition to financial and accounting support. 

Accountants are uniquely positioned to provide the advice businesses say they want and need. That’s why in 2020, Gusto launched People Advisory to empower accountants to deliver guidance inclusive of financial and people strategy. Today, at Gusto Next, we’re taking that commitment to the next level with the launch of three new products – Gusto Academy, People Analytics, and Gusto Connect. These tools will arm accountants with the knowledge, insights, and community to better deliver the holistic business advice businesses require in a fast-changing economy. 

Gusto Academy and Gusto Connect are available today, with People Analytics coming soon.

Gusto Academy

There are nearly two job openings for every unemployed person. The tight labor market for employers has meant businesses have needed to do more to retain and attract new talent. Gusto research shows that 69% of businesses have improved pay or benefits over the last year — with more than half making these changes specifically to retain existing staff. These measures have been paying off — nearly 80% noticed their employees were less likely to leave, while 66% said employees were either more productive or provided better customer service. 

However, questions remain from business owners about how to continue winning in a tight labor market — particularly around determining what benefits to provide. Just over half (52%) of businesses said they need help developing an affordable benefits package, yet only 10% currently turn to their accountant for it. They’re willing to pay for this support — 38% said they’d pay an additional 10% or more to their accountant if they offered benefit advice. 
The data is clear: There’s a gap that accountants can and should fill in advising on their clients’ talent strategy and culture. That’s why we’re launching Gusto Academy, to empower accountants with the knowledge and skills to step into this people advisory role and grow professionally. Through Gusto Academy, accountants get free training and CPE credit on:

  • Payroll essentials through our newly launched Gusto Payroll Certification, covering the entire payroll cycle from onboarding to offboarding and everything in between. It also prepares accountants for some of the complexities of remote and hybrid workforces, with training on advanced issues like state tax registration via the “Hiring in a New State” course.
  • People Advisory powered by Gusto’s people platform, giving accountants the power to generate powerful insights and turn them into recommendations around headcount changes, cost of labor, and revenue per employee. This helps clients strategically invest while better understanding their people — ultimately helping them build businesses where employees thrive.

People Analytics

Once accountants build their knowledge and confidence on how to advise on people-focused matters, they also need to be armed with the data to provide proactive recommendations on their clients’ businesses. Business owners who received this kind of advice were 55% more likely to say their accountant made their business more competitive, as well as 30% more likely to say they were more productive, compared to those whose accountants focused only on compliance-related tasks.
People Analytics is a new suite of tools that provides actionable data on clients’ businesses to drive powerful, people-focused recommendations. By accessing People Analytics through Gusto Pro, accountants will now have at their fingertips:

  • An at-a-glance view of key client people metrics like team growth rate, total payroll cost, payroll cost per employee, and benefits cost per employee.
  • Compensation benchmarking using anonymized data from the 200,000+ businesses on the Gusto platform, allowing accountants to confidently recommend compensation for roles based on industry, experience, and geographic location — especially critical for remote or hybrid roles. Thirty-five percent of businesses said this was one of the most valuable services advisors could offer. 
  • Financial insights on key client business metrics like revenue, expenses, and profit via QuickBooks Online integration (with others following soon).

Gusto Connect

Accountants have navigated a world of change at a rapid speed over the last two years – for their clients and for their own practices. Gusto Connect is a new online community that brings accountants together so they can share their lessons learned, insights and best practices with their forward-thinking peers — all while earning rewards and prizes.

Together, Gusto Academy, People Analytics, and Gusto Connect enable accountants to become holistic business advisors and expand their sphere of influence with clients. This evolution can lead to significant revenue and firm growth — 44% of owners would pay more for people-related advice – from 10% to 20+% more. It’s also a big differentiator — 41% of businesses also said they’d consider switching to an accountant offering this type of advice, and that rose to 52% among professional services firms.

Client and firm growth

Embracing People Advisory has been “incredible” for Wyatt Kneaper, CEO of Lighthouse Accounting Group in California. As a full-service accounting firm, Lighthouse serves a wide range of clients, from sole proprietors to businesses with over $50 million a year in annual revenue. 

Leveraging Gusto’s payroll software and People Advisory, Lighthouse has increased its revenue by more than 125% year-to-date, while saving 160 hours a month in reporting on financial metrics.
“Overall, I encourage any accounting firm to run with People Advisory — don’t walk, run — and embrace it as a culture within the organization as a whole,” Kneaper says.

The opportunity ahead

The way we work and what that means for businesses have been forever changed by the course of the pandemic. Complexity in operating a business will only increase, and owners will turn to their accountants for their financial and people-related needs. 

Accountants have a large and meaningful opportunity ahead. They are trusted advisors with line of sight into their clients’ financials, and now into their people operations with People Analytics. By expanding their services and providing businesses with the full value of financial and people-focused advisory, they’ll take their clients as well as their own careers and firms to new heights — evolving and driving the profession forward.

Jaclyn Anku Jaclyn is the Partner Education Manager at Gusto. She started her career as a small business consultant and is passionate about teaching small business owners financial literacy and arming them with great advice. Before joining Gusto, she led business education for accountants and bookkeepers at Xero. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Oakland, CA.
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