What is “People Planning” in Accounting?

Gusto Editors

Are you looking for more ways to assist your clients while also adding value to your firm?

Your clients need more than bookkeeping services—they need a trusted financial advisor who can guide their business towards success. When your firm can offer clients people-planning services, you’ll improve your ability to assist them while also establishing your value as their accountant. 

Gusto, along with our partners at CPA Academy, delivered an exceptional webinar all about people planning and providing invaluable people-based services for clients. We presented our webinar titled “People Planning: Advising Your Clients with People-Focused Advisory Services,” and you can watch the full presentation here

In this article, we’ll share valuable highlights from the Head of Gusto’s Accountant Community Will Lopez and the Director of Marketing at Jirav, Blake Oliver. You’ll learn all about people planning, people-based services, and the importance of offering financial data for your clients. 

People planning and accounting firm services

Will Lopez and Blake Oliver outlined different services accounting firms typically offer their clients to add value to their firms. Most accounting firms offer payroll processing services, but firms can add additional value by providing forecasting and people-related services, such as HR consulting. Will noted that forecasting and HR consulting are both great services your firm can offer, but HR consulting requires expertise:

“Forecasting is also really an amazing service to provide … because that’s where a lot of the advice comes to life and a lot of the analysis comes to life. … HR advisory is a little bit of an expertise, and it’s not really formed out in such a way where you can democratize the knowledge set that comes around HR consulting, so it’s a very technical expertise.”

Will Lopez

When accounting firms offer HR consulting services, they need in-house HR experts or allocate HR consulting questions to a people platform that includes technology, software, and a People Advisory program, such as Gusto

Your firm can add more value while assisting clients through offering people planning. People planning helps your clients by handling compliance, meaning that the business aligns with laws and regulations: 

“The way I think of people planning is that it’s shifting the compliance burden off of our clients so they can focus on their core business. … The basic thing [is:] How do we help our clients not have to focus on that kind of stuff? … It’s the employees, … the onboarding, … the off-boarding, and the notices, perhaps that come in from the [Franchise Tax Board] or the [Employment Development Department].”

Blake Oliver
Young businessman looking at co-worker during explanation of document.

When your firm offers people planning, your clients can focus on their businesses rather than worrying about compliance. To offer people-planning services to your clients, your firm needs to work with a people platform. People platforms are significant because compliance differs from state to state, and you need a technology and software stack that knows how to adjust accordingly. 

“People planning starts with a people platform. You need to roll out a solution, or the client needs to be utilizing a solution, or the [business] needs to be utilizing a solution that helps take a lot of the compliance edge off. … Living in the United States … [is] like living in 50 different countries. There’s a lot of compliance, regulation, and legislation at each state level. The only way you could really scale well … is to make sure that the underlying foundation of the data is formed out in such a way that compliments everything.”

Will Lopez

Working with a people platform is critical for offering scalable people-planning solutions, especially when assisting clients located in different states that have their own distinct regulations.  

Offering payroll and HR consulting services through a people platform 

Payroll and HR consulting are both critical services your firm can offer clients. Will Lopez noted the importance of providing payroll and how it functions as a starting point for other services:

“Payroll is pretty much the core system of record for a company’s team. … What we do is we surround payroll with [technology, software, and people advisory], and because everything flows through payroll, everything stays in sync. You surround it with everything that the business needs to attract, retain, develop, … [and] care for their teams. [You provide] benefits, automation of the filing of state, local, and federal forms and taxes, the HR component to things, PTO tracking, … medical, dental, vision, commuter, 401k, et cetera.”

Will Lopez

It’s critical for your firm to offer scalable payroll solutions, and your firm needs a people platform to support your clients:

“When you keep payroll centered and you have a [software] solution that can scale the people-planning portion of it to a point where you could offer it to all your clients seamlessly, you have to have a people platform, which is basically supporting the employee journey along the way.”

Will Lopez

An effective people platform can assist your clients with payroll, benefits, and HR services. Although you may not have an expert HR consultant at your firm, you can help your clients with HR by partnering with an all-in-one people platform, such as Gusto. Gusto provides accounting firms with expert partner advisors who can assist your clients with HR, payroll, and so much more. Will noted that you can maintain your position as an advisor to your clients while working with Gusto:

“As a professional, you may not be savvy on everything [related to] benefits … [and] HR. What Gusto does is integrate everything that you would need. … Working with your partner advisor over here at Gusto, you will be able to … [extend] benefit options to your clients. … That keeps you in the position of being [a] transformational advisor.”

Will Lopez
Male office worker giving explanation to co-workers.

It can be challenging and cumbersome for accounting firms to offer all of the services included in an effective people platform such as Gusto, but you don’t need to worry about having in-house HR or benefits experts to provide your clients with people-based services. You can offer your clients these services through Gusto, and you can add more value to your firm in the process. When you can provide HR, benefits, and other services through a people platform, you can include the services in your engagement letters and add more value to your services as a transformational advisor.

“I create a lot of value in my engagement by including this kind of stuff that I’m going to help them with in that engagement letter. I can actually offer this and say, ‘Look, I will help you figure out what health insurance your employees need, and maybe you pair that with the Gusto benefits packages that are available. Then, I’m going to also do the financial protections to show what we can afford to offer.”

Will Lopez

With Gusto, you’ll be able to seamlessly provide scalable people-based services for your clients so that you can add more value to your services as an advisor. 

Presenting financials and forecasting in accounting

An effective people platform can further assist your clients by offering employee KPI data, such as average revenue per employee and profit per employee. When you offer your clients KPIs, you’re articulating the business’s finances as it relates to their employees, so they can project their workforce needs with more accuracy. 

“As a professional, [you’re] trying to make things relatable … to someone who may or may not have your expertise on something that is technical. Putting a face to the financials is our way of basically saying you’re going to take their data [and] you’re going to forecast out what [they] need as far as workforce planning, et cetera.’”

Will Lopez

Proper forecasting and financial planning are crucial for your clients. Employees are your clients’ greatest asset, but they’re also their costliest expense:

“The center idea of this is that our people are … the greatest asset on the balance sheet. … They’re the ones that generated the revenue. … They’re also … sometimes the biggest cost on the income statement. When people are your greatest assets and you put a face to the financials, you hone in this idea that what you’re trying to do in the forecasting modeling work and stacked on top of a people platform is … provide the peace of mind because you’re getting all the right data points in place.”

Will Lopez

Offering valuable KPIs and other financial data related to employees is essential to your clients so that they forecast their hiring needs in the most economical way possible. Your clients’ ability to properly plan their hiring needs based on financial data will help them make better hiring decisions, so they don’t hire too many employees–or too few. Having too few employees can put pressure on workforce teams, which can be detrimental to their success. 

“When you forecast properly, it really helps [your client’s] place become a great place to work because you’re hiring [workers] at the right time, [and] you’re empowering them at the right time. … You’re helping them make the right decisions, which everyone can appreciate because not a lot of work falls on one person, … which is kind of how businesses tend to do things.”

Will Lopez

Offering effective financial data through a people-based platform will help your clients make better hiring decisions to optimize their work environment and productivity.

Learn more about people planning

Offering people planning and additional people-based services is critical for your clients, but accounting firms typically don’t have the resources to have in-house experts to meet their clients’ needs. Fortunately, accounting firms can partner with people platforms such as Gusto to offer critical people-based services and financial planning data to their clients. When you work with a people platform, you can provide invaluable assistance to your clients while also adding more value to your firm.

If you’re ready to learn more about people planning, read Part Two and Part Three of this webinar article series. You can also watch the entire webinar here

When you become a Gusto partner, you get exclusive access to tools and resources to support your clients into the future. Streamline payroll and benefits, and start advising your clients in valuable new ways. Join Gusto’s Partner Program 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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