[IMGCAP(1)]As an accountant, your business clients rely on you to provide sound advice and expert service on topics ranging from basic bookkeeping to strategic financial management. However, clients are increasingly turning to accountants to counsel them on issues that often fall outside of the accountant’s traditional scope of expertise, including seeking advice on human resource functions and other important employment issues.   

Managing the HR function for a business is a discipline that demands detailed information gathering, meticulous recordkeeping, close attention to legal and regulatory compliance, and a high level of privacy protection. Technology has made it easier than ever before to streamline this complex process, helping to ensure greater data accuracy and providing opportunities to increase employee engagement in the process.

The following are four benefits of cloud-based HR services that accountants should discuss with their clients:

1. Greater employee engagement: Engaged employees are a fundamental key to business success and the utilization of online HR services can help boost the level of their engagement. One of the best ways to help businesses improve the quality of their workforce, and reduce turnover and cost-per-hire, is with tools that enable a more efficient, paperless recruiting and applicant tracking process. New-hire management tools that often come with online HR services are designed to help with that process as well as manage recruitment, employee orientation, form completion, and employment eligibility. Another way online HR services can help with employee engagement is through employee development tools such as performance review forms, event scheduling, and tracking. Employees who feel valued and motivated are more productive. They also place a high level of importance on the opportunity to improve their skillsets and advance within the company. Online training programs that are part of HR applications can help provide that benefit and further boost employee engagement.

2. Increased HR compliance: Trying to keep up and comply with laws and regulations that can change frequently is a common source of stress and confusion for business owners. Cloud-based HR services can help by providing reporting, compensation summaries, census data and required regulatory reporting, with audit trails. They can also help reduce a business owner’s workload on issues such as COBRA and State Continuation Coverage by offering access to plan information, the ability to add new plans, and enter qualifying events online.

3. Promotes communication: Web-based HR solutions can help businesses eliminate inefficiencies and inaccuracies that may occur when people manage data residing in multiple places. Centralized data administration makes it easy to share organizational directories, automated notifications and reminders, employee profiles, forms, procedures and more. This approach works because data is not tied directly to a physical location or device. Users can access what they need on a variety of devices, including traditional Internet browsers, tablets, and phone apps—all it takes is an Internet connection. Data can be stored in one central system and is easily customizable. Business owners can also assign multiple users as needed.

4. Improves accuracy and productivity: Online, self-service HR management is technology’s response to stacks of paperwork, expensive employee mailings and manual HR administration. Trying to manage HR data and communications from multiple places can quickly become inefficient and costly, whereas online HR services provide a central location to manage it all while minimizing a business owner’s workload and costs. For example, in the area of benefits administration, a business can enhance accuracy and productivity giving staff the ability to track enrollment, usage and costs. A feature like this may also provide payroll deduction calculators to help employees make decisions about their coverage. Many of these solutions offer customized user screens and access to options such as paperless payroll, policies, forms and organizational directories, making it convenient for managers and employees to access the information and resources they need. By managing human resources online, your clients can save time building and maintaining reports by automatically generating total compensation summaries, census reporting, the EEO-1 report, and OSHA 300 and 301 forms.

Having the knowledge to help your clients take advantage of technology like this will make it easier for them to run their business, and enhance the value you provide as their accountant.

Tom Hammond is senior director of product and program management for Paychex, Inc., a provider of integrated solutions for payroll, HR, retirement, and insurance services.

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