5 Ways to Reduce Payroll Costs

In the face of rising costs or shrinking revenue, it’s natural that a business would look to reduce payroll costs and make do with a smaller budget, fewer resources, or fewer people.

Or maybe you’ve reached a turning point in your business, and it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor by taking a bit more profit or investing costs elsewhere into fresh ideas. The reasons to cut back on payroll costs are endless, and so are the possibilities for doing so.

Before diving in, it’s imperative that you fully understand the root problem or outcome you’re seeking to solve. More importantly, you’re going to need accurate payroll data so that you can closely examine what areas of the business cost you the most.

It could be that you’re underutilizing your staff, allowing unnecessary overtime, or a myriad of other reasons. Armed with payroll data, you’ll have the insights needed to take full advantage of the five ways to reduce payroll costs that we’ll cover below:

1. Reduce Employee Turnover

Attrition is incredibly costly to a business. Avoid the costs of interviewing, hiring, and training new candidates by retaining the ones you have.

For starters, encourage your staff to take time off – vacations, long weekends, you name it. Burnout is a real problem in all industries and is a large cause of attrition. Also, if your company pays out unused PTO or vacation hours, then someone leaving could be a major hit all at once. These are only some of the employee retention strategies you should apply.

If they don’t have PTO accrued, consider offering unpaid time off. It can reduce burnout, turnover, and help you reduce payroll costs. Consider also offering other incentives like flex scheduling. Parents and caregivers will often highly appreciate some wiggle room in their schedule to accommodate their personal obligations and happily cut back hours to do so.

people using smartphone

2. Focus On Cross-Training Employees

Another creative way to cut costs is by cross-training your staff. Having highly trained people who can wear a lot of hats is invaluable in keeping costs down. If you focus too much time, energy, and resources training people in one sector, then they end up leaving a major knowledge gap if and when they leave.

They also have leverage in the equation since they know how crucial they are to the company. You may find yourself in some intense salary negotiations and have no choice but to increase your payroll costs to keep them happy.

Cross-train early and often so that the business’s best practices, culture, and workplace procedures are not lost if key employees leave the company.

3. Automate, Streamline, and Outsource Trivial Tasks

Issuing paper checks is costly and time-consuming. ACH processing is inexpensive, quick, and easy for both the employer and the employee. If you’re still issuing paper checks, it may be time to explore direct deposit options and an automated system that allows employees to download their pay stubs.

Consider outsourcing some of the easier or monotonous tasks, or invest in software that can eliminate roles and responsibilities altogether. Remote workers are in ample supply these days and are often just as educated, skilled, and productive as your local staff.

4. Optimize Your Employee Schedule

Reducing hours is always an option, albeit not a popular one. However, if your company is truly in need of cutting some costs, it’s worth exploring. Cutting or eliminating overtime can have a powerful effect on reducing payroll costs as well.

Use employee scheduling software like ZoomShift to identify any unnecessary overtime. It allows you to cross-reference and easily compare labor costs on the fly so you can adequately staff each shift. If you compare it to the average daily revenue, you can optimize your staffing efficiency even more.

This is yet another area where cross-training comes in handy because newer staff can often cover shifts during slower days for a fraction of the cost of your veteran staff. If overtime is unavoidable, it may actually reduce costs to hire someone new. Even temporary hires can alleviate expensive overtime costs during busy periods.

man sitting on chair wearing gray crew-neck long-sleeved shirt using Apple Magic Keyboard

5. Find Creative Solutions

There’s endless room for creativity when it comes to reducing payroll costs. Cutting labor expenses is never the popular choice, but often you can do so in ways that don’t have an immediate or guaranteed impact.

Make adjustments to voluntary benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, and flex spending accounts. Consider choosing plans that have a slightly higher deductible or convert pension plans over to profit-sharing plans.

Declaring a four-day workweek is popular in many countries and is an easy way to reduce payroll costs overnight. If that’s not an option, you could consider rotating shifts where some people are off every other Friday.

Offer reductions in salary in exchange for commissions. Some employees would appreciate not having capped income potential and will work harder if they have an incentive.

If possible, allow your staff to work from home. Remote workers mean less overheard office costs, and if they get the job done well, you won’t feel tethered to hiring locally. You’ll have the flexibility to outsource where necessary or hire workers that live in less expensive cities and will take a lower salary.

Changes to benefits, scheduling, and salary can naturally cause a bit of anxiety, and how you communicate them is important. Be honest and remain open to feedback. Tie change to the bigger picture of the company and remind them of your long-term goals. Insights like that and allowing employees to feel heard goes a long way to keeping employees happy and successfully reducing payroll costs.

What other creative solutions for reducing payroll costs have you implemented? Tell us in the comments below:

Sam Molony

Sam Molony is the marketing strategist at ZoomShift, the leading employee scheduling software. When Sam's not publishing or promoting new content you can find him playing his guitar or baking.

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