Which Payroll Software Should You Be Using?
Once upon a time, payroll was done by hand. An employee would write down the time he “signed in” and the time he “signed out” for work each day on a card. That card was collected every week, and the company’s accountant would add up all the time and give the employee the correct amount of money.
Yep, it really was that simple back then. Photo Credit: Kheel Center, Cornell University
And then the future happened.
Today, we wish payroll could be so easy. In the future, though, there are taxes to consider (federal and state). There’s insurance, FICA, and a bunch of other deductions that need to be made. Beyond that, there’s the sad fact that we trust a machine’s ability to track time better than a human’s. This is why people have time cards that are swipeable and all of the calculations are done by machine.
The days of being able to do payroll quickly and simply are pretty much over, and it looks like the reliance upon computers and software to ensure that it gets done correctly isn’t going to abate any time soon.
Of course, not all payroll programs are created equal. There are lots of different software programs out there all claiming to be the best at helping you take care of paying your employees. How do you know which programs are the best for your company?
Is it Easy to Use?
Being able to do dozens of different things is great, but if you can’t figure out how to do any of them or if the interface is needlessly complicated, how effective can the software truly be? Look for software that is easy to use and doesn’t force you to navigate through a dozen different screens and menus just to see what time a person clocked in. You want a system that feels intuitive and that is easy to figure out.
Does it integrate well with your bookkeeping and accounting software? The last thing you want is to have to pay someone to enter all of the data from your payroll software into your accounting software because the programs aren’t able to talk to each other. If you love your accounting software, look for a payroll program that is part of the same family (or is at least compatible).
When it comes to time tracking, you want software that is going to be accurate. This will allow you to pay your employees based on every second they spend working for you. You don’t want to have to round because you will either round your employees out of lots of pay or wind yourself out of lots of unearned wage payments.
There are a lot of details in there, and you have to get all of them right! Image Courtesy of Patpitchaya/FreeDigitalPhotos
Accuracy also applies to tax rates, insurance deductions, etc. You need to be sure that you are operating on accurate information and using tax tables that are up to date. Good software will allow you to keep up to date on tax changes, insurance info, etc., easily. You might even want something that will look for updates automatically every time you start up the program.
You already know how important it is to back up your information. Backing up to the cloud or a web-based server is an important feature that you definitely want to be able to use. This will allow you to access your payroll information from anywhere, no matter what happens to the computers in your office.
Along with web access and cloud storage, you also want to make sure that you keep your business and your employees’ private information safe. Double-check every potential software program’s security features. Make sure that everything is up to date and that there are lots of checks in place to keep information from being compromised or stolen.
These are just some of the criteria that are important when seeking out payroll software for your company. What are some of the things that have been important to you or that helped you decide between the different programs that are available?
Erin Steiner writes about a variety of small business, personal finance, and even pop culture topics from her home in Portland, Oregon.
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