PEO: Pros & Cons of Using a Professional Employer Organization

definition of PEO

For small and medium-sized businesses, providing robust HR services while controlling costs is a constant challenge. Most SMBs lack the in-house expertise and bandwidth to manage all the complexities of HR compliance, benefits enrollment, payroll processing, recruiting, and more. That’s where a professional employer organization (PEO) can provide vital assistance.

What is a PEO?

A PEO, or professional employer organization, is a company that provides HR outsourcing services to small and medium-sized businesses. PEOs administer key HR functions like payroll, benefits, compliance, and more for their clients.

If you are wondering “What is a PEO?”, this article will explain everything you need to know about how PEOs work and their benefits:

What Does a PEO Do?

PEOs take over critical HR responsibilities from clients. Key services PEOs provide include:

  • Payroll Administration – PEOs handle payroll processing, tax filings, and year-end tax reporting. This saves clients time on payroll compliance.
  • Benefits Management – PEOs offer access to robust benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, and workers’ compensation at competitive rates.
  • Compliance Expertise – PEOs stay current on employment laws and manage compliance filings like new hire reporting, unemployment insurance, and labor law postings.
  • Recruiting Assistance – Some PEOs provide support with talent acquisition, background checks, and onboarding.
  • Training and Development – PEOs provide management training and employee development resources clients often lack.
  • Safety and Risk Management – PEOs manage OSHA compliance, workplace safety programs, and workers’ compensation claims.

In essence, PEOs become a full outsourced HR department for small businesses lacking in-house HR expertise and bandwidth.

What are the pros of using a PEO?

There are many advantages of PEO services for SMBs:

Cost Savings

PEOs leverage their large group purchasing power to secure affordable rates on health insurance plans that small businesses typically can’t obtain on their own. This provides significant savings on benefit costs. They also reduce payroll administration expenses by automating processing and filings.

Workers’ comp insurance also becomes more affordable through discounted group policies. PEOs eliminate the need to purchase standalone HR systems since they provide integrated platforms for things like compliance, payroll, benefits management, etc. Their HR expertise helps avoid costly fines from non-compliance.

Reduced Liability

PEOs take over key HR compliance functions that mitigate significant legal risks if mishandled. This includes proper management of wage/hour laws, harassment claims, terminations, workplace safety programs, and ever-changing local, state and federal regulations. PEOs have the expertise to navigate these complex areas and reduce potential for lawsuits.

Access to Talent

Many small businesses struggle to recruit talent on their own. PEOs expand applicant pools by providing integrated access to online job boards, social media recruiting, and large candidate databases. For specialized roles where recruiting is a challenge, PEOs can leverage their networks and resources to source qualified candidates. They also handle administrative screening, onboarding and background checks.

Increased Productivity

With PEOs managing payroll, benefits enrollment, HR platforms, and compliance paperwork, clients are freed from these administrative burdens. Leadership can devote more time to core business priorities like sales, operations, and strategic initiatives rather than HR administration. PEOs become an extension of the HR team.

HR Expertise

PEOs provide specialized HR expertise that small companies typically lack internally. This includes compensation analysis, performance management optimization, employee relations guidance, safety program development, organizational change management, and compliance advice. PEOs become a strategic HR partner.

In summary, PEOs provide vital economies of scale and expertise to elevate HR capabilities and reduce risks for small businesses at an affordable cost.

What are the cons of using a PEO?

While PEOs offer many benefits, there are a few potential downsides to consider:

Loss of Control

Some human resource responsibilities shift to the PEO, which can feel like a loss of control for some business owners used to managing HR internally. Areas that may move to the PEO include policy setting, employee relations, performance management, and aspects of talent acquisition. Having clear service agreements and expectations helps avoid issues.

Limited Customization

PEOs offer packaged services and systems that may not be customizable to meet specialized needs of every client. For example, their performance review process may not align with a company’s desired approach. However, many PEOs are willing to tailor offerings to client needs as able. Open communication about unique requirements is key.

Transition Process

Switching over payroll systems, benefits administration, HR data and other processes to the PEO platform takes some transition time upfront before starting to realize benefits. Proper planning and project management prevents major productivity disruptions during the transition.

No Cost Savings Guarantee

While PEOs often lead to cost reductions in benefits, services, technology and compliance, the pricing models are complex. Unique client needs could potentially increase costs in some areas depending on circumstances. Understanding the full pricing model and doing the math is important.

Vetting Required

Not all PEOs are created equal. Thorough due diligence is required to find a compliant, financially stable PEO aligned with your business needs and culture. Checking references, reviews, longevity and scope of services helps avoid choosing the wrong partner.

Termination Difficulties

Ending a PEO relationship can be messy if the process of extracting data and systems is not planned out in advance. Developing a transition plan helps smoothly transfer HR functions back in-house or to a new provider if a partnership sours.

While most clients are satisfied with PEOs, carefully evaluating fit, having clear expectations, and planning for the future will lead to the best experience when outsourcing HR.

What is the PEO Business Model?

The PEO business model is based on “co-employment”. The PEO becomes the employer of record for tax purposes by entering into a contract with the client.

Day-to-day leadership still resides with client organizations. The PEO simply takes over administrative and compliance responsibilities. This model enables small companies to compete with larger competitors in hiring and retaining top talent.

How Do I Choose the Right PEO?

When evaluating PEOs, look for:

  • Industry Expertise – Seek PEOs with experience in your specific industry and business size to ensure a good fit.
  • Service Offerings – Ensure the PEO provides the exact mix of HR services your business needs.
  • Customer Service – The PEO should be responsive, assign dedicated staff, and proactively share HR insights.
  • Technology Platform – Assess the PEO’s online portal and make sure it integrates well with your payroll system.
  • Cost Structure – Compare multiple PEOs on total costs for the services you require.
  • Compliance Record – Verify the PEO has a strong track record with no major compliance violations.

Finding the right PEO takes research but is well worth it. A PEO becomes an invaluable HR partner helping SMBs contain costs, minimize risk, and build great teams.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *