How & Why to Automate Payroll In 2023

In this guide, you’ll learn how to automate payroll, plus uncover the benefits of payroll automation and discover leading payroll software providers.
automate payroll
Time Tracking Fundamentals
Understanding Labor Laws
GPS Tracking
Tracking More Than Time
Time Tracking Benefits
Choosing A System
Implementing A System
Time Tracking Fundamentals
Understanding Labor Laws
GPS Tracking
Tracking More Than Time
Time Tracking Benefits
Choosing A System
Implementing A System

Reduce Payroll Processing Time & Costs With Workyard

If you’ve ever processed payroll manually, you know it can take forever! And it’s no surprise that this time drain can be especially tough for small businesses as many are often run by few people wearing many hats. 

So, if you’re in that boat, it’s easy to feel that admin creates a time vacuum, sucking up all the hours and energy you’d love to redirect in other areas. And that’s why it’s a great idea to automate payroll. 

In this article, we’ll dig deep to learn why you should automate payroll, how payroll automation works, and how you can benefit from automated payroll. 

What Is Manual Payroll Processing?

Before we dive into the nitty gritty of payroll automation, let’s start by taking a look at the difference between manual payroll processing and payroll automation. Like so many other aspects of our lives, manual payroll processing is one of those things that people had to do unassisted until technology came along. 

Sure, technically, we could painstakingly sweep the floors, grow our own food and prepare it by hand, and walk to the store every time we needed groceries— but thank goodness vacuums, microwaves, cars, and Uber Eats made life more convenient! These are all examples of how technology revolutionized daily activities that used to be manual, inconvenient, and time-consuming. And the same is true for manual payroll processing. 

Because, when we talk about manual payroll processing, we mean that every single aspect of payroll is done, unassisted, by you. It starts with manually calculating each employee’s gross pay, taxes, and deductions. To do that, you’ll have to keep track of everyone’s salaries or hourly rates along with any bonuses or time off, or holiday pay they’ve earned. And once you’ve slogged through all of that, it’s time to create and issue paychecks. 

When you think about all of those steps, it’s easy to see that manual payroll processing requires a lot of manual data entry and calculations. And it’s no surprise that all that data entry can be time-consuming and prone to errors. It also forces you to be personally responsible for maintaining accurate and detailed records of employee pay, deductions, and taxes.

And while employers are, of course, required by law to keep detailed, accurate records anyway, it’s a lot harder when all those details are solely left up to you, without the assistance of a software program that can flag errors you may miss. That’s why many employers find it helpful to automate payroll. 

What Is Payroll Automation? 

There’s no doubt about it — manual payroll processing is tough! So, how does automated payroll differ in comparison? And how can it make your life simpler? 

Simply put, payroll automation is the process of using technology to streamline and simplify payroll processing tasks. Manual payroll processing requires a member of your team to comb through lots of details and tedious tasks, such as calculating employee pay, deductions, taxes, and benefits. 

But automating payroll allows you to leave your payroll to software programs which can help you avoid repetitive and time-consuming manual tasks like data entry, payroll calculations, and recordkeeping.

There are lots of different ways to automate payroll. For example, you can use payroll software or cloud-based payroll services, which can automatically process payroll and generate employee paychecks and tax forms. The software can also manage other aspects of payroll, such as tracking employee hours, calculating overtime, and managing benefits and deductions. 

How to Automate Payroll 

It’s easy to see how automating payroll can make your life easier and streamline your business. But how can you start enjoying the benefits of automated payroll software? What do you need to know before you can implement automated payroll in your workplace? 

In this section, we’ll take a close look at each step of the process — from identifying your payroll needs to finding the right automated payroll software for you. 

Identify Payroll Needs

Have you ever been in a situation where you really wanted something to work out? Whether it’s a first date, an apartment you’re applying for, or a new project you want to try, it’s so easy to envision a scenario where everything goes just right. Because you can imagine it going so well, it can be really disappointing if the situation doesn’t go your way. 

But sometimes, for one reason or another, things just don’t work out. When that happens, it can be sad and confusing, but sometimes it simply means that something isn’t the perfect fit for you. And even though it may be disappointing in the moment, it’s always better to wait and find something that will be exactly what you need. 

That’s a lot like the process of trying out different automated payroll platforms. There are plenty of payroll platforms out there but every option won’t be right for you. In fact, if you choose the wrong one, it may actually make your payroll process worse! So, before you dive in and get lost in the overwhelming plethora of options out there, take a step back and ask yourself about your payroll needs. 

Every business is different. From the type of industry you work in to the number of employees you have, every business has different needs that will be reflected in your payroll processing. You can begin to narrow down your payroll needs by considering a few key things. 

Number of employees

How many people does your business employ? The number of employees you have will play a significant role in determining your payroll needs. The same is true for the nature of your workers’ employment. 

Are they full-time? Part-time? Freelance? Each of these roles can have slightly different payroll needs which will affect the type of automated payroll processing software you need. 

Payroll frequency

How often do you pay your employees? Some businesses pay their employees weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or upon completion of specific projects. Your payroll processing needs will differ depending on your payroll frequency, so it’s a good idea to factor this into your payroll software selection process.

Types of compensation

Just as the number of employees and their type of employment will affect your payroll processing needs, the type of compensation you offer your employees is an important factor too. 

Often, a company will employ workers who receive varying types of compensation, so one size can’t fit all. For example, some employees are paid at an hourly rate while others are salaried workers and others work on commission. 

Each type of compensation requires different calculations and reporting. The need to accurately calculate, report, and process these paychecks will influence the type of automated payroll processing software you need. 

Tax obligations

Every business is regulated by a variety of tax obligations, all of which may vary according to your location and industry. As a general rule, however, most businesses are required to comply with federal, state, and local taxes, along with any applicable payroll taxes

Knowing which tax obligations are relevant to you is crucial for choosing automated payroll processing software. So, before you decide on a software platform, ensure that your payroll processing system can handle these tax obligations.

Employee benefits

Determine the employee benefits you offer, such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off. Each benefit requires different calculations as these benefits will affect your company’s policies and payroll. 

Make sure your automated payroll software can handle these calculations and seamlessly factor them into payroll without adding extra work for you. 

Compliance requirements

In addition to complying with federal, state, and local tax obligations, along with processing employee benefits, your business also has to meet the compliance requirements for your industry and location. 

These can vary from one industry to another but they typically involve minimum wage laws, overtime regulations, and labor laws. So, make sure you choose a payroll processing system that can comply with these requirements.

Technology requirements

Last but not least, your business’ tech needs will also determine the type of automated payroll processing software your business needs. This can vary depending on your industry and the type of company you run. 

For example, some businesses are more inherently high-tech than others and will need automated payroll processing software that can keep up with their needs. By contrast, some businesses are a little more low-maintenance in the tech department and, therefore, may not need overly complex automated payroll processing solutions. 

So, don’t forget to factor your technology requirements into your choice of payroll software. Consider how much you need features like online access for employees to view pay stubs, direct deposit options, and mobile payroll apps that employees can access on the go.

Select Payroll Software 

Once you’ve identified your company’s payroll needs, you’re ready for the next step: choosing your payroll software. There are a wide range of software platforms that can help you automate payroll and we’ll explore those in greater detail a little later on. 

But for now, let’s imagine that you’ve chosen an awesome software platform that perfectly meets your needs. So, once you’ve found your payroll software, how do you get it started? What will automated payroll look like in your company? 

Enter Data

When you set up your automated payroll software, the first thing you’ll need to do is enter data. Payroll processing software can be a tremendous asset and save you a lot of work in the long run, but you will need to do some initial data entry to get it set up. 

So, during this step, you’ll need to input some details like the number of employees you have, their rates of pay, and how often they get paid. Once you provide the software with all the information it needs to get going, your automated payroll process can begin running smoothly. 

Set up a Payment Method 

The beauty of automated payroll is that it can pay your employees on schedule without you having to do all the work. So, don’t forget to set up a reliable payment method that your software can use to process paychecks. 

Configure Tax Information 

In addition to the initial data entry required to set up your payroll processing software, you’ll also need to configure some relevant tax information. Forms like EIN, I-9, and W-4 will help you stay compliant with tax regulations associated with your employees’ paychecks. 

Suppose there are other tax regulations or forms associated with your specific business or industry. In that case, you may need to fill out some extra information to ensure your payroll software can adequately process all taxes related to payroll. 

Train Employees 

This one probably sounds like a no-brainer but don’t forget to show your employees how to use the new payroll software! One great thing about automating payroll is the simplicity; the software handles the admin for you and employees can easily log on and access their information. 

This saves you and your team a lot of time, so make sure your employees know how to access the payroll software, review their information, and input any additional info they’re required to upload.

Process Payroll 

Once you’ve been through all these steps, you’re ready to take your first run at automated payroll processing! Make sure you’ve entered all the relevant data, configured all the tax forms you’ll need, and helped your employees get familiar with the software. 

Following a payroll checklist will help you feel confident that you’re ready to go and that your payroll can now be processed automatically without any hassle. 

The Benefits of Automating Payroll 

It’s no surprise that automating payroll is easier than doing it manually! But let’s dig a little deeper and take a closer look at the many practical benefits of implementing automated payroll software in your business’s daily operations. 

    • Save time 

Automating payroll can save significant amounts of time compared to manual payroll processing. This frees up valuable resources for other business operations and allows you to redirect your time and energy in more efficient ways.

    • Increase accuracy

Manual payroll processing requires you to keep up with a crazy amount of tedious details, all of which are vitally important. And when you’re also trying to oversee other aspects of your business, it can be difficult to keep up with all those details. 

Automated payroll reduces the likelihood of human error, which can result in incorrect calculations or tax filings. This ensures that employees are paid accurately and on time and helps avoid costly penalties or legal issues.

    • Stay compliant

Automated payroll can help businesses comply with complex tax and employment laws. This ensures that businesses remain in compliance with changing regulations and reduces the risk of legal issues.

    • Improve data security

Automated payroll systems often have robust security features that protect sensitive employee data. This reduces the risk of data breaches or other security issues.

It can be difficult to provide that same level of data security when you’re processing payroll on your own so this feature can be very helpful for any team leader who’s concerned about online privacy and security. 

    • Improve employee satisfaction

Any good business knows that your employees are your most valuable assets. And for everyone to work well together, your employees need to feel valued and respected. 

Accurate and timely payroll processing can go a long way in cultivating a positive relationship with your employees. When your employees are compensated fairly and on time, it shows them that you value their work and can be trusted. 

Automating payroll can help with this because it makes it easier to process paychecks and ensure that everyone’s wages, benefits, and taxes are being processed accurately. And when employees feel that they can count on you in this regard, it’s easy to see how accurate and timely payroll processing can improve employee satisfaction and morale. This can improve retention rates and help attract new talent to the business.

    • Improve reporting

Automated payroll systems can also often offer detailed reporting capabilities that it’s tough to generate manually. These reports can provide insights into payroll expenses, employee compensation, and other metrics. This can help businesses make data-driven decisions and improve overall financial management.

Key Features to Look For in Automated Payroll Software

Now that we’ve taken a look at the benefits of automated payroll software and the steps for choosing the best automated payroll platform for you, let’s take a look at some of the key features you’ll want. 

Every business has different needs that may vary according to your industry and the type of service your company provides. As a result, the features that are most important to your business may differ from the features that someone else prioritizes. But regardless of individual preferences, every good automated payroll processing platform should include a few key features such as: 

    • PTO tracking 

Tracking paid time off is just as important as tracking employee attendance, so make sure you choose an automated payroll processing platform that can easily track and record PTO. You shouldn’t have to keep up with all the little details that go into manual payroll processing and the same is true for tracking employee PTO. So, before you settle on an automated payroll program, confirm it’s equipped to give you a hand with recording paid time off. 

    • Tax compliance

The software should automatically calculate and withhold federal, state, and local taxes, as well as report and file payroll taxes on behalf of the business.

    • Customization options

When it comes to automated payroll processing, one size doesn’t quite fit all. Customization options will allow you to tailor the software’s settings to fit your payroll processing needs. This will guarantee that you can adequately accommodate and process various pay structures and employee benefits, such as hourly or salaried pay rates, bonuses, and benefits.

    • Time and attendance tracking

These features are especially important for anyone who employs hourly workers. Because payroll is tied to hourly employees’ attendance and participation, your automated payroll software should have the capability to track time and attendance. 

    • Employee self-service

Employee self-service options are also crucial to ensure that your employees can familiarize themselves with the software and access their information. Any good payroll processing software platform should offer an employee self-service portal that allows employees to view their pay stubs, access tax documents, and make changes to their personal information.

    • Reporting and analytics

Because reporting and data insights are awesome benefits of automated payroll, it’s important to select a software platform that offers robust reporting and analytics capabilities. This feature will make it easier for you to track payroll expenses, employee compensation, and other related metrics.

    • Mobile access

Apps just make everything easier, so your automated payroll platform should offer mobile access. This option will help you conveniently process payroll from your phone and allow employees to access their payroll information on the go.

    • Software integration

Software integration is another essential feature for any payroll platform worth it’s salt. No matter what industry you work in, there’s a pretty good chance that you already rely on other forms of software to help with aspects of your business such as accounting and payroll systems. If your software can’t sync, that only makes your daily life harder, so make sure the payroll platform you choose can integrate seamlessly with your other software platforms. This will help you streamline payroll processing and avoid data entry errors.

    • Security and compliance

Last but not least, your payroll processing software should also offer robust features to protect sensitive employee data and guarantee compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

Automated Payroll Platform Examples

Payroll Software
Best For
Key Features 
Businesses of all sizes
✅ Employee self-service app
✅ Live customer service
✅ Personalized price packages to suit your business
Reduce risks and payroll errors with a streamlined automatic payroll platform.
New and small businesses
✅ Affordable price plans
✅ User-friendly interface
✅ Automatic payroll, taxes, and end-of-year filing
Automatically calculates and syncs your team’s hours, PTO, and holidays with payroll.
Medium-large businesses looking to grow
✅ Live support
✅ Remote cloud access
✅ Customized dashboards
Streamline, automate, and organize payroll using a platform that automatically integrates payroll and tax information with your HR and accounting software.

How Workyard Can Help 

Designed with field workers in mind, Workyard’s automated payroll processing platform addresses the unique needs of small businesses and construction workers. Thanks to its precise GPS tracking, the Workyard app takes the guesswork out of hourly reporting by automatically clocking your employees in and out when they arrive and leave a job site.

By automatically uploading hours and mileage, and sending automatic smart alerts for any potential payroll errors, Workyard can streamline your entire payroll process. The Workyard app also features accounting and payroll integrations which can sync seamlessly with the software you already use. Whether you use QuickBooks, ADP, or Gusto, Workyard is uniquely equipped to provide you with reliable time, attendance, and payroll data from the field. 

So, what are you waiting for? Sign up for a free trial of Workyard’s integrated payroll app today!

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