Gusto introduces certification program for accountants

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Gusto, a provider of payroll, benefits and human resources for small businesses, is rolling out a certification program Thursday for accountants who want to be certified in providing the company’s services to their clients.

The People Advisory Certification will enable accountants to combine their financial advisory expertise with new services for clients in areas such as payroll, benefits and HR as "People Advisors." Gusto, formerly known as ZenPayroll, rolled out a Gusto Pro dashboard for accountants in April. It is announcing the new advisory partnership program at its Gusto Next online conference Thursday.

“We’re launching a brand new advisory service that accounting professionals can deliver to their clients called People Advisory,” said Will Lopez, the head of Gusto’s accountant community. “Gusto Next is going to announce all the tools and resources and methodologies that accountants can use to help support their clients in this new advisory service, which goes through payroll as the inroad. Prior to COVID, small businesses’ reliance on accountants has always been top of mind. Accountants are such an important factor in small business life that Gusto wanted to create an offering to empower the accounting profession to drive that relationship a little bit closer as it relates to payroll, benefits and HR.”

He sees even more need now in the midst of the pandemic. “When COVID hit, it basically accelerated the need for accountants to expand beyond their core offering to what we call People Advisory,” said Lopez. “Not only are they advising clients through the pandemic, but they’re also advising the company’s team. That’s what you’ve seen around the pandemic, but that’s going beyond their core service offering. Post-pandemic, People Advisory will be a way to signal expertise to their clients or prospective clients that they can support their clients not only around the general ledger and financial work or tax planning or tax prep or traditional accounting services, but now extend beyond into their teams.”

Accountants can earn the People Advisory Certification after completing a four-hour online training course.

“Why has payroll always languished as an advisory service?” asked Jaclyn Anku, partner education lead at Gusto. "What we heard again and again is that our partners don’t have the confidence, knowledge and skill sets to uplevel when it comes to advising clients on their teams. Therefore payroll has just remained an add-on service and not core to anyone’s work. To help accountants take that next step into People Advisory, we’ve developed People Advisory Certification, which is ... designed for our partners in their early days of partnership so that they can build their confidence around our people platform and help clients discover new features that will ultimately save them time and strength in their relationship with clients. It will also help build their domain expertise in payroll, benefits and HR. We know that’s not taught in accounting undergraduate or as part of the CPA Exam, so we really feel that unless someone is lucky enough to learn that knowledge on the job, this will help fill a very critical gap. “

The course shows an accountant how to apply skills such as building an organizational chart or survey in their work with clients. “They’ll learn to analyze the ‘people story’ that the numbers tell, so they can lead discovery about teams, and recommend practical tools and resources to help clients manage the employee journey,” said Anku.

Lopez foresees demand for these types of advisory services, especially as accountants’ small-business clients contend with the impact of the coronavirus and try to deal with the Paycheck Protection Program, which may be extended in some form by Congress.

“During the pandemic, Gusto has seen firms work tirelessly to keep clients’ businesses alive and their people employed,” he said. “The most successful firms are those who meet the current challenges with expertise that’s of real value to the company. And that’s been by advising on people — from helping make sense of PPP to excruciating payroll and furlough decisions. The need for accountants to advise on people existed long before COVID, but the pandemic has accelerated this need and crystalized it. Clients aren’t asking for new services that solve complex people problems. They’re demanding them.”

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