How People Advisory Is Revolutionizing Payroll

Gusto Editors

Do you want to know how to help your clients improve margins, set up for long-term growth, and retain happy employees?

Gusto is committed to helping you bring value to your clients and become indispensable to them, so we’re thrilled to partner with CPA Academy to talk about advisory in accounting. The webinar “How to Use People Data to Deliver Advisory Insights,” featured accounting expert Will Lopez. Will discussed how offering full-service payroll can launch your advisory services.

Will Lopez is the head of Gusto’s accountant community. He has dedicated his career to supporting accountants and small businesses. Before Gusto, Will founded AdvisorFi, a modern accounting firm, which used technology to help automate business processes and provide financial coaching for small businesses.

Being values-based serves you and your clients

Gusto’s mission is to shift how you do business with your clients by transforming payroll. We’re here to partner with you—to support you as the industry shifts towards automation. One of the ways we’re doing this is by revolutionizing payroll. Our objective? To turn it from a routine process into a gateway for advisory services. By leveraging payroll and people data, you and your clients can harness higher-level thinking and a more informed perspective to make well-rounded business decisions.

Happy businessman shake hands with female client at the office.

Partnering with Gusto opens the opportunity for you to provide values-driven services and can set you apart from the competition. We want your clients to feel three things when working with Gusto: peace of mind, a great place to work, and personal prosperity.

Peace of Mind

This is all about making business operations easier, from hiring to onboarding to training to benefits. It means having experts at the ready to solve tough challenges and knowing that you can rely on them when needed. It means streamlining processes to make them so simple you don’t have to put a lot of thought into them.

“When you think about peace of mind, at least the way we try to think about it here at Gusto, it means making it easy for your clients to build great teams [and] to stay compliant in the process.”

– Will Lopez

Everyone wants more peace of mind these days. How can you offer that value to your clients?

Great Place to Work

The hiring landscape is competitive, and the most talented people will choose great places to work. A great place to work means having accurate, on-time payments, great benefits, good communication, trusted HR reps, and more. Most small businesses don’t put a lot of thought into these things. An advisor can be there to help them through it. 

Personal Prosperity

We can’t talk about being a great place to work without talking about money. Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

“Our clients are trying to free themselves up to help build a great place to work. … This great place to work really is a place where employees can feel valued … [and] energized. … [It’s a place where they] can really build and save towards personal prosperity in both the short-term and long-term.”

– Will Lopez

If they have a choice, they will work for places that understand they aren’t disposable and they have short and long-term needs to tend to. 

Why your clients need more happy employees

The shift toward valuing employee well-being, prioritizing work-life balance, and seeing people instead of just numbers has been a long time coming. Business owners can no longer afford to neglect their team’s well-being. People are picky. They want to know their job supports their entire well-being and sees them as more than a cog in the wheel. 

But even though busy business owners might truly want to provide more than the minimum, some might not know how. They may think they can’t afford it or be overwhelmed at the thought of implementing new policies. Some are struggling just to stay afloat or are grappling with changes in their industry. This is your opportunity to step up to the plate and help them make their businesses great places to work.

“Each aspect of our product really plays a role in keeping your clients’ teams happy, healthy, [and] successful. … I think what’s become increasingly clear to the accounting profession at large is that payroll really is just the start of something great … because it’s through offering payroll as a service that you now have access to your clients’ people data and they start thinking about you as far more than just an advisor to their financials. They start thinking about you as their people advisor, and COVID has really accelerated a lot of this.”

– Will Lopez
Happy businesswomen listening to coworker's explanation.

Despite this opportunity, getting CPAs truly ready to take on such a role has been tough. Why? Will laid out three reasons:

“[Firstly,] there’s really been no training for accountants to become experts on people operations without literally being tossed into the deep end of [being an] HR advisor. … Secondly, there’s been no way for accountants to signal their expertise on people or people operations to current prospective clients, leaving a lot of opportunity on the table. … Thirdly, there’s been no streamlined way to really onboard with Gusto and become an expert on the clickety-clicks of payroll, benefits, and HR.”

– Will Lopez

While there’s been a lot of opportunity on the table, there hasn’t been a structure or framework to take advantage of it. In the past, unless CPAs were willing to completely switch gears and become certified HR or benefits advisors, they had to stay put. But as Will said, abandoning accounting altogether or trying to juggle two highly specialized roles isn’t the only way forward.

Enter Gusto’s People Advisory Certification, which collapsed the learning curve towards being an advisor and made it manageable. It equips CPAs to confidently advise on Gusto’s people platform, benefits, crafting more efficient workflows, and more.

“This could have easily become a Gusto certification, but that’s not what we wanted. We wanted to roll out a people advisory framework that you can apply to guide clients on building a great place to work and allow you a mechanism to monetize new revenue unseen before by the profession.”

– Will Lopez

Just like we want you to make your client’s businesses great places to work, we want to make working with us worthwhile.

Why people advisory will sustain you in the long-term

Let’s face it—pretty much everyone has too much on their plate. Why add something else to it? Why invest in more training for something you’ve never done before, something you probably didn’t get into accounting for? Is it worth the trouble?

The answer to that is yes. Stepping into a people advisory role is worth the work because it can give you more security. It’s the type of security that can withstand the oncoming automation revolution because it doesn’t hinge on technology. 

“If you anchor your value to technology—like Gusto, … QBO, Xero, whatever the case may be— you’re actually anchoring your value to something that could be detrimental to your own value and expertise.”

– Will Lopez

You’ve probably noticed by now that technology changes rapidly—that it improves rapidly. So anchoring your value to the software you use has risks. Let’s say you become an expert in a tech platform, going so far as to allow it to dictate the way you charge, what you build, how you brand yourself, and the way you bill. If shifts happen, you’ll be scrambling to reorient yourself. Will pointed out that this happened with bookkeeping a decade ago. Shifts toward automation left CPAs struggling to find new ways of doing work and staying in business. This is much like payroll today. 

“As payroll, benefits, and HR workflows get better, if you anchor your value there, you’re going to experience low margins, fee pressures, and commoditized services. I’m sure you’re already seeing it around payroll. That’s why people advisory now exists. And so anchoring your value to tech … is no bueno. But with advisory offerings, the more you go this direction and start throwing a wedge between the technology and your value, the more you’re actually going to achieve higher and higher value. You’re going to go up that ladder of value.”

– Will Lopez

The more you identify and leverage the qualities that no machine can replace, the more you’ll be able to withstand any changes you won’t see coming. Navigating complexity, especially human complexity, is something that you can bring to the table. This is especially true when you’re bridging gaps between previously separated processes, such as accounting and human resources. Your strength lies in the ability to put numbers into context, like hiring shifts or a client’s goals. Your ability to get on the phone with them, ask the right questions, and identify objectives is something a machine simply can’t do.

Three people discussing daily tasks in the office.

However, as Will explained, there’s previously never been a clear way for accountants to step into this role. That changes right here, right now, with Gusto’s People Advisory program.

“People advisory services is the next step that you would take with payroll. And so you start reflecting your value around this. And by doing that, you end up firming up your expertise and focusing on people guidance with clients. You end up delivering trust and added value, driving up revenues, capitalizing on new revenue that you’ve never achieved before associated with the payroll offering, and obviously, anchoring your value to advisory. Hey, it’s bueno. It’s good stuff.”

– Will Lopez

Gusto’s platform will help collapse the learning curve that you’ve been up against for too long. It’s a fast track to stepping up your game to provide the offerings that increase your value.

If you need more evidence for why taking this step is worth it, look no further than the numbers. The benefits you can provide to your clients are significant. By helping them make their business a great place to work, they could increase their bottom line significantly.

“Happy employees are more productive by 20%. … Employees who are happy at work take ten times fewer sick days. … Wellness goes up for their team. … 30% to 36% of employees would actually give up $5,000 a year to be happier at work. Trust goes up. And then lastly, happy salespeople sell 37% more, … so revenue goes up for your client.”

– Will Lopez

Learn more about revolutionizing payroll

Taking on a new advisory role probably wasn’t on your list of things to do, but becoming one has immense benefits. By not tying your value as closely to tech, you’re creating security and expanding your opportunities. Your clients need help making their businesses great places to work. It’s the only way they’ll thrive in a competitive hiring landscape. Providing them full service payroll is a great way to launch into the advisory services that they need so much.

Gusto’s mission is to create a world that empowers a better life. We’re here to help you thrive now and in the future. Don’t forget to check out our other upcoming articles based on the same webinar: A 4-Step Framework to Develop People Advisory Insights, Exploring Gusto People Advisory Reports & Integrations, What Are People Planning KPIs?, and Gusto’s Employee Happiness Survey and Why It Matters.

Becoming a Gusto Partner can make your life easier. Get payroll and HR support for your team and our new advisory revenue stream for your practice through our people advisory platform. As a Gusto partner, you’ll also get tools to help you expand your accounting practice and offer your clients new insights, plus a free payroll subscription for your own accounting firm. Sign up today!

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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