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Professional Employer Organization

Proliant's Ultimate PEO Guide

Embark on a journey to optimize your business operations as we delve into the advantageous realm of outsourcing payroll, unlocking efficiency and ensuring compliance.


What Is a PEO Service Provider?
What does PEO stand for? PEO stands for a professional employer organization. A PEO is like a trusted partner for businesses, handling crucial HR tasks so you can focus on what you do best—running your company. By entering into a co-employment relationship, the PEO becomes responsible for tasks like payroll, benefits administration, and HR compliance. A PEO can also assist with maintaining compliance with federal and state employment laws. This allows you to reduce administrative burdens. It's like having a dedicated HR team without the need to build one in-house. Choosing the right PEO can streamline your operations, boost compliance, and enhance overall workplace efficiency.

What Is an HCM System?
An HCM (Human Capital Management) system is a powerful tool that helps businesses manage their most valuable asset – their people. It's a one-stop platform that combines HR, payroll, talent management, and other workforce functions, streamlining processes and boosting efficiency. With an HCM system, you can automate tasks like payroll processing, employee onboarding, and performance reviews, making it easier to support your team and drive organizational success.

Differences Between PEOs and HCM Providers

Navigating the business landscape involves crucial decisions, and choosing between PEOs and HCM providers is one such choice. Understanding the differences between PEOs and HCM providers is essential for finding the right fit for your business. PEO vs payroll services, which one is right for your business?

Ownership and Control
With a PEO, organizations relinquish control over functions like payroll and benefits administration. Organizations may not only be limited to which employee benefits they can choose, but also may run into challenges resolving employee issues. 

On the other hand, an HCM leaves all the HR duties to the business, where they are given the tools to effectively manage their employees. HCM solutions focus on streamlining administrative processes, such as recruitment and talent acquisition, onboarding and training, payroll, and more to drive increased productivity, boost employee engagement, and enhance overall business value. By utilizing an HCM, all decisions and efforts remain in-house. 

HR Compliance
One of the major advantages of partnering with a PEO is their extensive knowledge and experience in navigating HR compliance. They are well-versed in various employment-related laws and regulations, including ACA and other employment rules. 

Conversely, while HCM software may be capable of identifying issues, it may not have the expertise of consultants to assist organizations with HR compliance. It’s essential to understand how the HCM provider is structured to handle compliance.

Customization is a key factor that sets apart PEOs and HCM providers. While PEOs offer comprehensive bundled services, HCM providers focus on customizable solutions. PEOs provide an all-in-one package, including HR, benefits, and payroll, simplifying processes for businesses. 

On the other hand, HCM providers allow businesses to tailor their solutions to specific needs, giving more flexibility but requiring a more piecemeal approach. Choosing between them often depends on whether you prefer an integrated package or a personalized, modular approach to managing your workforce.

To further explore the differences between PEOs and HCMs in order to determine which is best for your business, check out our Contrasting the Choice of PEO vs HCM Solutions infographic.

PEO vs HCM Infographic


Advantages and Disadvantages of a PEO

What are the benefits of a PEO and the disadvantages? Let’s discover if a PEO is right for your business.

Advantages of a PEO

1. Payroll Savings
Partnering with a PEO can reduce payroll processing and related accounting costs. PEOs offer the convenience of automating the payroll process and managing withholdings, W-2s, and garnishments.

But be careful of hidden fees with PEOs. Always look for a PEO that provides payroll services at a straightforward fee. Avoid PEOs that charge separate fees for each payroll service they offer, including quarterly and annual payroll reports.

2. Compliance
Failure to keep up with compliance laws can come with costly fines. A PEO can help businesses navigate potential fines by providing access to reliable advisors who stay informed about regulatory updates and recommend any necessary changes.

3. Recruiting
A comprehensive PEO should provide extra services, like recruitment assistance, and grant access to skilled recruiters who can assess a company's employment requirements. An experienced recruiter can help find the perfect individual for the ideal job, saving HR departments time and money.


Disadvantages of a PEO

1. Loss of Control
By hiring a PEO, businesses give up control. For example, companies must work with vendors selected by the PEO, including insurance carriers. Companies must also follow strict policies to ensure compliance with things like talent management. 

2. Lack of Customer Service
When working with a PEO, customer service may seem sluggish or lacking a personal touch. Businesses do not have a dedicated support individual and need to communicate with whichever representative is currently available, which can lead to frustration. 

3. Upset Employees
Employees may have reservations about belonging to a PEO, mainly if it means changing the insurance policy. Employees may also hesitate to rely on an outsourced company for their HR needs.

Advantages of an HCM Solution

An HCM solution supports payroll and HR operations, including recruiting, onboarding, retention, and compliance. Let's take a look at the benefits of an HCM.

1. Streamlines Processes to Save Time
HCM systems enhance the productivity of HR and Payroll managers by limiting, even removing completely, those timely tasks of everyday routines, employee requests, and paperwork. By automating routine tasks and providing access to information wherever they are, an HCM system empowers managers to focus on more meaningful work.

2. Improved Compliance Management
Employers, regardless of their size, are required to navigate through a complex set of rules, including:

  • Federal, state, and local payroll tax requirements
  • State wage and hour rules
  • The federal Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA)
  • The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA
  • State and local paid time off rules
  • Minimum wage laws
  • And more

HCM systems enhance the productivity of HR and Payroll managers by limiting, even removing completely, those timely tasks of everyday routines, employee requests, and paperwork. By automating routine tasks and providing access to information wherever the

3. Improved Employee Engagement
HCM solutions serve as a fundamental tool for nurturing employee engagement. The use of an HCM allows employees to take control of their information and find answers to common questions, such as:

  • What is my PTO balance? 
  • How can I request PTO?
  • Where is my last pay stub?
  • What are my benefit options?

By offering employees a secure and convenient way to access their information on any device, the employer gains a sense of transparency and trust, leading to increased employee engagement and satisfaction.

4. Creating a Well-Educated Workforce
An effective HCM can offer training opportunities for every level of an organization. Training opportunities may include:

  • Live group training sessions 
  • 1:1 training sessions 
  • Educational webinars
  • On-demand training recordings

A great HCM should also provide employees access to valuable resources that enhance their understanding of their company offerings and technology solutions, including:

  • Admin/Supervisor/Employee User Guides
  • Commonly used company forms
  • Solution tutorials

Reasons Companies Choose a PEO

Companies choose a PEO for its ability to provide comprehensive HR solutions, reduce costs, mitigate risks, and support strategic growth. Let's take a deeper look at a handful of reasons why businesses opt for a PEO partnership:

HR Support
PEOs provide guidance on complex HR issues, helping ensure compliance with ever-changing employment laws and regulations.

PEOs offer solutions that can benefit a short-term, cost-effective strategy for small businesses that need HR resources in place. Learn how much money you lose by not using digital HR technology

Risk Management and Compliance
PEOs assume a shared responsibility for employment-related risks, reducing the burden on businesses. Assistance in navigating complex compliance issues ensures adherence to state and federal regulations.

Access to Benefits
PEOs leverage collective bargaining power to provide access to employee benefits at lower costs and offer a wide range of benefits, including health insurance, retirement plans, and more.

Focus on Core Business Activities
By outsourcing HR functions to a PEO, companies can redirect their focus and resources toward core business activities to improve efficiency and productivity.

Access to Technology and HRIS Solutions
PEOs often provide advanced HR technology platforms and Human Resource Information System (HRIS) solutions. Learn more about what exactly is an HRIS, and how an HRIS can benefit your business.

Focus on Strategic Growth
Companies partnering with PEOs can concentrate on strategic business growth without being overwhelmed by administrative tasks. PEOs become valuable partners in achieving long-term business objectives.

Reasons Companies Choose an HCM Solution

Companies choose HCM providers for their ability to deliver tailored HR solutions, industry expertise, advanced technology integration, and a focus on scalability and flexibility. These factors collectively contribute to a streamlined and practical approach to HCM, empowering businesses to thrive in a competitive environment. Here's a more in-depth look at the compelling reasons why companies opt for an HCM provider:

Tailored HR Solutions
HCM providers offer customizable solutions to address specific HR requirements based on industry, size, and business goals. Tailored solutions allow businesses to adapt and scale their HR processes effectively.

Industry-Specific Expertise
HCM providers often specialize in serving particular industries, bringing in-depth knowledge and understanding of sector-specific HR challenges. Industry expertise ensures compliance with regulations and best practices relevant to the business.

Focused HR and Payroll Services
Companies seeking specialized HR and payroll services use HCM providers for their expertise. Dedicated services enhance accuracy and efficiency in managing payroll, time and attendance, and related functions.

Access to Benefits
PEOs leverage collective bargaining power to provide access to employee benefits at lower costs and offer a wide range of benefits, including health insurance, retirement plans, and more.


Advanced Technology Integration
HCM providers offer advanced technology solutions, including cloud-based HRIS platforms and integrated software suites. Cutting-edge technology streamlines HR processes, improves data accuracy, and enhances efficiency.

Scalability and Flexibility
HCM providers design their solutions to be scalable, accommodating businesses' growth and changing needs. Flexible service models allow companies to choose and adapt HR services based on their evolving requirements.

Focus on HR Analytics and Reporting
HCM providers emphasize analytics and reporting features, providing businesses with valuable insights into workforce trends. Data-driven decision-making enables strategic planning and enhances overall HR management.

Integration with Existing Systems
Businesses with established systems prefer HCM providers that offer seamless integration with existing technology infrastructure. Integration ensures a smooth transition and cohesiveness in HR and business operations.

Regulatory Compliance Solutions
HCM providers offer robust compliance solutions, helping businesses navigate the complexities of ever-changing employment laws. Proactive compliance measures reduce legal risks and ensure adherence to industry regulations.

Employee Engagement and Development
HCM providers focus on fostering employee engagement and development through training, performance management, and feedback systems. Strategies to enhance the employee experience contribute to higher retention and satisfaction rates.

HR Support
Companies with a global footprint choose HCM providers with capabilities for managing HR processes on an international scale. Global HR support ensures consistency in HR practices across different regions.



How to Leave a PEO

Transitioning away from a PEO is a significant step that requires careful planning and execution. Here's how to gracefully exit a PEO partnership:

Review Contractual Obligations
Begin by thoroughly reviewing your existing contract with the PEO. Understand the terms, conditions, and any obligations related to termination. Take note of notice periods, financial commitments, and any steps outlined in the contract.

Notify the PEO Provider
Initiate open and transparent communication with your PEO provider. Notify them of your intention to terminate the partnership well in advance and follow the notification process specified in your contract.

Prepare for Transition
Develop a comprehensive transition plan that outlines the transfer of HR responsibilities back in-house or to an alternative HR solution. Clearly define roles and responsibilities during the transition to ensure a smooth handover.

Retrieve HR Data and Documentation
Work with the PEO to retrieve all relevant HR data, employee records, and documentation. Ensure the secure transfer of sensitive information while adhering to data protection regulations.

Communicate with Employees
Communicate the upcoming changes to your employees transparently and promptly. Please provide details about the transition plan, how it will impact them, and any changes in HR processes.

Ensure Compliance
Confirm that your transition plan includes steps to maintain compliance with employment laws and regulations during and after the exit from the PEO. 

Evaluate and Adjust HR Systems
Evaluate your HR systems and processes to ensure they can seamlessly take over the responsibilities previously managed by the PEO. Adjust and optimize your internal HR systems as needed to accommodate the change.

Settle Financial Matters
Settle any outstanding financial matters with the PEO, including fees, penalties, or other financial commitments outlined in the contract.
Ensure a clear understanding of the final financial settlement and obtain written confirmation.

Monitor the Transition
Track the progress of the transition and address any unexpected challenges promptly. Regularly communicate with your internal HR team or the new HR service provider to ensure a successful transition.

Seek Legal and HR Expertise
Consult with legal and HR experts to ensure the exit process complies with all relevant laws and regulations. Obtain professional guidance on potential challenges and best practices for a successful transition when needed.

Exiting a PEO requires careful consideration of contractual obligations, effective communication, and strategic planning. By following these steps, your business can navigate the transition smoothly, ensuring a successful exit from the PEO partnership.

To learn more on how to leave your PEO, including recognizing the 5 signs that it's time to make a change, check out our Leaving a PEO eBook

Leaving PEO eBook


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main difference between a PEO and an HCM provider?
A PEO typically offers a co-employment model, sharing employer responsibilities. An HCM provider focuses on providing technology-driven solutions for HR functions, often without assuming co-employment status.

What factors should I consider when choosing between a PEO and an HCM provider?
PEOs are suitable for businesses that either have little to no HR solutions or seek general comprehensive HR services. 

HCM can best support specific strategic initiatives and industry needs. HCMs are sought after by businesses that may need greater control over HR costs or have dissatisfaction with the quality or responsiveness of PEO services.

Can my business exit a PEO partnership if needed?
Yes, businesses can exit a PEO partnership. The process involves reviewing contractual obligations, notifying the PEO, developing a transition plan, retrieving HR data, settling financial matters, and ensuring compliance during the transition.

How can HCM software benefit my business?
Using an HCM system brings numerous advantages to businesses, providing them with the flexibility, expertise, and Technology needed to manage their human capital effectively. The tailored approach and focus on technology-driven solutions make HCM attractive for companies seeking efficient and customized HR management. It's ideal for businesses looking to manage HR in-house or those seeking specialized HR technology without a co-employment relationship.

What are the typical challenges businesses face when leaving a PEO?
Challenges may include contractual obligations, financial settlements, employee communication, and ensuring a smooth transition of HR functions back in-house or to an alternative HR solution.

How can businesses maximize the benefits of an HCM provider?
To maximize HCM benefits, focus on effectively utilizing features, optimize HR processes, stay informed about HR trends, and ensure ongoing collaboration with the HCM provider for continuous improvement.

Conclusion and Key Takeaways

As businesses navigate the dynamic landscape of HR management, deciding between a PEO and HCM becomes pivotal. Each approach has distinct advantages, considerations, and implications for compliance and overall business operations.

Key Takeaways

Co-Employment vs. Independent HR Management
PEOs operate on a co-employment model, sharing employer responsibilities. HCM solutions empower businesses to manage HR independently.

Compliance Collaboration vs. Sole Responsibility
PEOs actively manage shared compliance, providing expertise and mitigating risks. HCM solutions provide businesses with tools and technology, many with built-in safeguards and audit systems that identify issues early to manage compliance independently.

Customization and Industry Specificity
HCM offers greater customization, allowing businesses to tailor HR solutions to industry-specific needs. PEOs may provide more general solutions.

Technology-Driven Solutions
HCM solutions leverage advanced technology for streamlined HR processes and compliance management. PEOs often rely on their teams for hands-on management.

Scalability and Flexibility
PEOs are scalable, offering solutions for businesses of various sizes. HCM providers also focus on scalability, providing tailored solutions for growing enterprises.


In conclusion, the decision between a PEO and HCM involves careful consideration of the unique needs, priorities, and goals of the business. Whether opting for a collaborative co-employment model with a PEO or choosing the autonomy of HCM, companies can leverage these HR solutions to optimize workforce management, enhance compliance, and foster strategic growth. Businesses can position themselves for success in an ever-evolving business landscape by making informed decisions based on key considerations.