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TriNet review

A full-service, cloud-based payroll solution

Our Verdict

Most small to medium sized companies aren’t in the position to set up their own HR department, and this is where the services offered by TriNet come in. TriNet is a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) meaning that the company offers a wide range of services beyond payroll, and the solution packages come with a host of extras that tie into this background. This is an important consideration for companies thinking about using TriNet as it bundles these services together, making the solutions package more expensive in the process. This will represent good value for some companies, though others may want a more stripped-down, affordable payroll solution.

For

  • A full-service solution designed with small, growing businesses in mind, ones that are ready to expand their HR services
  • Hosted in the cloud, so accessible from any web browser and across various devices
  • The payroll platform comes with tax administration and a robust employee portal, and pairs with their benefits administration, expenses and time-tracking services

Against

  • TriNet is not yet accredited with the Better Business Bureau (though it does have an A- rating)
  • The TriNet payroll solution does come with a wealth of HR applications, so there is a significant cost implication

TriNet has been in business since 1988 and has cultivated a product range suiting small to medium businesses. The main selling point is to free these businesses from the complexities of Human Resources, and it bundles in human capital expertise, benefits, risk mitigation and compliance with its payroll services. TriNet does not offer any stand-alone payroll solution packages. This may be off-putting in terms of expense to some very small companies, but growing companies should find that the full service offering makes good financial sense. The one way it does tailor the solutions though, is towards specific industries, and so there are bespoke solutions for finance, manufacturing, non-profits, retail, etc. According to TriNet, the company processes the payroll for around 325,000 employees in the United States to a total value of $325 billion in 2017.

TriNet is deployed via the cloud, and so can easily be accessed from any web browser by any employee, the payroll and HR solutions neatly combine in a single system. A dedicated account manager is on call – the hours do not cover weekends, but there are extended hours during the week, from 6am to midnight Standard Eastern Time, so West Coast companies should still enjoy good access. This support manager can help with all the payroll and HR features included in the package. The payroll feature is easily navigable. Setting up employees is as easy as uploading their I-9 and W-4 forms, and TriNet will automatically inform the relevant state and federal bodies. Similarly with end of year tax responsibilities – W-2 and 1099 forms are dispatched with equal efficiency. The addition of a mobile application means that employees can log in and effectively attend to their own basic queries, saving time between colleagues and departments. This really is a full-service solution for companies that need something resembling an HR department but may not yet have the resources to form their own on site.

Features

  • Supports online processing, direct deposits and paid time off tracking
  • Can help with your W-2 preparation 
  • Backed up by a full suite of HR services
TriNet specs

Payroll processing: All payroll information is cloud-hosted, and payroll runs are all processed efficiently online

Payroll reports: 20 report templates are available

Payment options: a choice of ways to pay employees, from direct deposits to paper checks to prepaid Visa debit cards

Payroll tax: all payroll tax necessities are handled at every level, including completion and filing of essential forms such as W-2 and 1099

Operating Systems – iOS, Windows and Android

Hardware – not applicable as deployment is through the cloud

Free Trial – Offered to new customers, typically one month

Payment Options – As explained above, plans are constructed to be bespoke for each individual business and pricing information is not made public

Support – 6am-midnight Eastern Standard Time, Mon-Fri

TriNet isn’t like many of its industry peers in that there isn’t a range of tiered pricing plans. Instead, TriNet charges per employee per month. On the surface, this may seem more expensive but it does have the advantage of giving small businesses a fixed amount that they can budget for each month (some companies, for instance, take a percentage of each payroll) and it allows for unlimited payroll runs (again, some companies charge per payroll run or limit the amount of payroll runs that can be processed monthly within their plans).

Since quotes are tailored to specific customers, pricing is not made public, though some online examples suggest something within the region of $125 per employee per month for companies with up to 49 employees. Again, this may seem a significant amount to spend, but bear in mind that the payroll solution from TriNet is just part of their expanded HR solutions bundle.

As with most modern payroll solution packages, TriNet is deployed via the cloud, negating the need for onsite software installation and maintenance and bringing all the advantages of this set up: namely remote access at any time from any web browser across multiple platforms and devices, even outside of regular office hours.

The payroll feature is undeniably versatile, and once the initial data entry with basic employee details has been completed (payroll information, including tax, benefits and personal bank information for direct deposits) it can be run in any number of ways. As well as determining the automated scheduling (weekly for hourly paid staff, monthly or bi-monthly for salaried staff), payroll processing can take place at any time. Employees can be paid by check, direct deposit, or onto a prepaid Visa card, and payroll taxes are automatically calculated and withholdings are sent to the relevant city, state and federal tax authorities. TriNet of course has a range of reports that can be created at any time, though in general the number of templates is not quite as impressive as some of the rivals such as MyPayRollHR. The employee portal is a definite boon, allowing any employee to see their paystubs, adjust their banking information and a host of other mundane tasks that would otherwise take up valuable company time.

(Image credit: TriNet)

Design and usability

  • Cloud hosted deployment means easy access to payroll services
  • Comprehensive HR solutions dashboard with customizable set up
  • Dedicated account manager

The initial interface of TriNet is clean and colorful but not distractingly so, and the dashboard is customizable with a number of widgets. Users can choose from the number of columns they prefer and then it’s a simple case of dropping and dragging the available widgets down into the empty containers. The widgets can be such things as outstanding overtime approvals or employee time cards, and they can be moved to any area of the screen depending on your priorities. There’s a Payroll tab on this screen, an extra click given that the payroll feature is just part of the integrated, full-service HR solution package.

The first inevitable step is the task of data entry, uploading all employees’ personal and banking information, for which our dedicated account manager can be of assistance. Included in this set up process is the initialization of the payroll schedule. TriNet allow you to run payroll either weekly, bi-weekly, bi-monthly and monthly. It’s also possible to arrange different pay schedules for different employee groups, which is a welcome versatile addition. When set up is complete, you’ll have your payroll dashboard.

The payroll dashboard, like the main dashboard, is split up into several pertinent components, including the flagging up of any tasks that we have to complete, any looming deadlines for upcoming payroll runs, and any deadline relating to wider HR issues that may affect payroll, such as vacations. There’s a handy sidebar on the left where you can access these HR issues in more detail should you want to, and this is also where you can click through to features such as the payroll reports section and the tax compliance assistance center. Starting the payroll process begins with logging employee hours worked since the last payroll run, though for an unchanging, salaried workforce, this will likely not change month to month. There are also fields and prompts to enter information about overtime, bonuses and any deductions, expenses or garnishments.

Once the information is entered to our satisfaction, we can begin to run payroll. It may seem off putting that the payroll functionality is running kind of in the background to the main HR solutions package, but it’s just a matter of clicking through one tab and then we’re essentially on a payroll-focused dashboard, and there’s the added bonus of this section being already integrated with information more usually kept by the HR department.

Performance

  • Payroll processing is very straightforward
  • Will automatically calculate and withhold federal, state, and local payroll taxes
  • Reports can be chosen from a range of twenty templates

As with most cloud-hosted payroll solutions, running the payroll with TriNet is a straightforward, intuitive task. To begin with, TriNet does the hard work in the background, and as long as it has the correct information for each individual employee, it will automatically calculate and take out the relevant taxes for city, state and federal authorities and submit them. TriNet further has the capacity to handle year-end tax documents, which includes electronic W-2 forms and it integrates seamlessly with TurboTax.

One excellent feature that we don’t find in every payroll solution software package is TriNet’s Expense Management feature. This tool allows employees to import expenses directly from bank accounts, credit card statements or simply by taking a photo of a pertinent receipt. Once payroll has been run, there are a number of reports that can be created, though as mentioned, the selection that TriNet offers isn’t as many as some of their competitors. There are 20 templates (though they are customizable, it should be noted) that help provide the user with analysis of their labor and other costs. Whichever report you choose to produce (and they can be run by, for example, department or individual employee), they can easily be exported into most of the major accounting software programs or downloaded in a variety of file formats – PDF, CSV, etc. Overall, it’s a slick, well-functioning payroll process that is backed up by the TriNet package’s expansive HR features running in tandem.

Verdict

The main thing to consider when looking at TriNet payroll solutions is that the payroll function is always bundled with TriNet’s HR tools and resources. For some businesses, this will be a huge plus, but these will be companies that are having to tackle growing HR responsibilities but may not yet have the inclination or resources to create their own internal HR department.

For smaller companies, or for companies that have their HR needs under control, then buying a more stripped-down specific payroll solution will be better as the charge for TriNet’s HR tools is factored into the monthly subscription fee. That said, the tools are undeniably useful, and they provide background information that can be weaved into payroll runs, that process itself being as intuitive and efficient as TriNet’s competitors. Industry-specific, dedicated account managers are a very welcome inclusion in the subscription price, and for a growing company that doesn’t want any grinding of gears when it comes to upgrading their payroll with an HR resources inclusion, it’s a sound choice.