This article is part of a larger series on Payroll Services.
Namely and TriNet Zenefits are both cloud-based human resources (HR) systems designed to help you manage employee data, benefits enrollment, and payroll. Both provide a mobile app and an HR portal to let staff access pay stubs, request paid time off (PTO), and view the information in their personnel records. Namely’s customizable software and services are fit for bigger companies—you design a plan with only the solutions that your business needs. Plus, it also offers managed services, which lets it manage payroll and benefits administration for you. On the other hand, TriNet Zenefits is a greater fit for small businesses, as its services are simpler and more affordable.
Based on the providers’ strengths, we’ve determined their best-case scenarios:
- Namely: Best for midsize businesses wanting a fully customizable all-in-one solution with advanced HR features such as performance management and managed services
- TriNet Zenefits: Best for small and growing businesses that want an affordable, fully integrated platform with essential HR tools
Namely vs TriNet Zenefits Compared
$10–$27 per employee
HR Information System (HRIS)
Onboarding and PTO Tracking
Time and Attendance
Payroll and Tax Filing
(Federal, Local, and State)
$6 per employee monthly
$5 per employee monthly
if using own broker
(Includes ACA-Compliant Health Insurance)
Via third-party insurance carriers
Via TriNet Zenefits’ broker network
Available in higher tiers
Compensation Management and Employee Surveys
Available in higher tiers
Employee Directory and Org Chart
Company News Feed
Requires upgrade to the Zen plan
*Namely doesn’t publish its fees on its website and are available only upon request.
Takeaway: If you’re an SMB looking for affordable HR software, then you may want to consider TriNet Zenefits. Compared to Namely, its base plan costs only $10 per employee monthly and comes with essential HR tools that include employee data management, hiring and onboarding, time and scheduling, and PTO tracking.
However, if you’re a midsize business owner who needs a highly customizable HR platform, then Namely is the better solution for you. Its base system comes with robust HR tools that allow you to manage employee performance. If your company has a one-man or a small HR team, then Namely can help with its managed services.
Both providers offer:
- Employee self-service and mobile apps (iOS and Android)
- Online benefits enrollments
- Pay processing for employees and contractors
- Check and direct deposit pay options
- Year-end tax reporting (such as W-2s and 1099s)
- Digital signatures and document management
- HR compliance tools
- Reporting and analytics
- Robust integration options
- Live phone support and how-to guides
Interested in a payroll solution but don’t know where to start? Read our guide on selecting the right payroll solution for your business.
When To Use Each
Because of its affordability and essential HR tools, we recommend TriNet Zenefits if:
- You have a small business that needs a fully-integrated HR platform.
- You want transparent pricing with multiple plan options.
- You require fast implementation with zero setup fees.
|Easy to use||Payroll solution costs extra|
|Affordable base plan||Limited international payroll options|
|Fully-integrated and modular system||Occasional software glitches and slow load times|
|Comprehensive benefits administration with health insurance plans available in 49 states||Inconsistent customer support|
Namely is a fully customizable HR solution. Its core plan, called HR Fundamentals, is required. You then choose other features that your business needs as add-ons—payroll and benefits administration, for example. Or, you can add time tracking, recruiting, and compliance tools—it all depends on what your business needs. Namely also offers managed payroll services that lets you outsource your payroll and benefits administration. You have access to experts that provide employee benefits consulting and brokerage services. Thus, Namely is best if:
- You are a midsize to large business, or fast-growing one, looking for an all-in-one platform for HR, payroll, and benefits tools.
- You want a highly customizable platform that lets you add on services as needed.
- You have a small or one-person HR team that will benefit from managed services.
|Customizable platform||Not ideal for small businesses (those with less than 50 employees)|
|A wide range of HR tools in one solution||Pricing isn’t transparent|
|Ease of use||Lacks international payroll capabilities (you have to use a third-party service)|
|Offers managed services (payroll processing and benefits administration)||System setup and implementation takes a long time (average of six to eight weeks)|
Best in Pricing: TriNet Zenefits
TriNet Zenefits came out on top for pricing based on our evaluation criteria. Its transparent pricing, affordability, multiple plan options, and zero setup fees were rated favorably. TriNet Zenefits also has a reasonably priced basic tier, called Essentials ($10 per employee monthly), that provides you with core HR tools for managing employee data, electronic documents, hiring, onboarding, timekeeping, PTO, and benefits enrollments. However, you have to pay add-on fees if you want payroll processing, HR and payroll advisory services, and your own broker to manage employee benefits.
Pricing for Namely, on the other hand, isn’t its strongest point since it doesn’t publish its pricing online. You have to contact the provider to discuss your business’ requirements and request a custom quote. However, the representative that I talked to informed me about Namely’s minimum contract amount ranging from $10,000 to $15,000, depending on what services you sign up for. Comparing this with TriNet Zenefits, a business would need more than 83 employees signing up for the core plan to match Namely’s minimum contract requirement.
In addition, you have to pay setup fees in order to get Namely’s platform up and running—the amount of which wasn’t divulged by the representative. The provider doesn’t have multiple plans; instead, it offers an “HR Fundamentals” package as a starter tier to which you can add modules (such as payroll processing, benefits administration, and timekeeping).
When To Consider Namely
If you prefer customizability over affordability, then choose Namely. Its completely customizable solutions are an excellent choice whether you have a new business that hasn’t invested in other HR solutions yet or you have a midsize business with a small HR team.
Best for HR Features & Employee Benefits: Namely
Advanced HR tools
Both providers offer great HR tools. They both have an online employee database that syncs to other modules for payroll processing and benefits management. Both have mobile apps (for iOS and Android) and a self-service portal for employees to view pay slips, request PTO, clock in/out, and check benefits. There are even online onboarding and new hire reporting tools, including access to HR experts in case you need to get advice on compliance issues.
However, in our evaluation system, we gave it to Namely due to its more advanced HR tools including compensation management and managed services (for payroll processing and benefits administration). Namely also has a learning management module with over 300 training programs. Additionally, it offers tools for monitoring employee goals and performance reviews.
With TriNet Zenefits, you get compensation management, employee engagement surveys, and performance management, but only through its more advanced tiers. With its most expensive plan, TriNet Zenefits even offers a “well-being” module to help you measure, track, and improve workforce well-being and productivity.
For employee benefits, TriNet Zenefits’ and Namely’s offerings are similar. Both provide a flexible savings account, a health savings account, health insurance, life and disability, and retirement plans that are available through a network of either partner brokers or third-party carriers.
When TriNet Zenefits’ HR Features & Employee Benefits Are Enough
Although TriNet Zenefits’ basic tier lacks a performance management solution, it comes with essential hiring tools that allow you to send offer letters to qualified candidates, run background checks, and onboard new hires. In addition, you are granted access to TriNet Zenefits’ time and scheduling module—a functionality that is an add-on solution with Namely.
Best in Payroll Features: TriNet Zenefits
Automatic pay runs
Multiple pay options
Check and direct deposit
Check and direct deposit
Year-end tax reporting (W-2s and 1099s)
Federal, local, and state taxes
Calculates and files only (except for managed payroll services, which also handles tax payments)
Calculates, files, and pays
However, TriNet Zenefits was weighted more favorably since its payroll tax services include calculations, payments, and filings to federal, local, and state government agencies. This is unlike Namely, which offers only simple tax filing services. Moreover, TriNet Zenefits can handle tip reporting—enabling restaurants and similar businesses to capture reported tips easily.
Note that TriNet Zenefits’ payroll solution is an add-on to its HR plans—but, considering the features you get, it is still affordable.
When Namely’s Payroll Features Are Enough
Namely is an ideal option for those who have a payroll or accounting expert on staff who can manage payroll tax payments themselves. Or, if you’re looking for a provider to handle day-to-day employee payroll administration, then you can subscribe to Namely’s managed payroll services. Apart from full payroll service, it offers new tax ID registration and access to a dedicated expert who can help answer payroll-related questions.
Looking for something else?
Check our guide to the best payroll services for small businesses.
Best for Ease of Use, Customer Support, & Integrations: Tied
Initial setup and implementation
Applicant tracking, benefits and COBRA administration providers, identity management and single sign-on tools, international payroll solutions, employee recognition systems, learning platforms, employee feedback software
Applicant tracking, accounting, time tracking, learning management, employee management,
performance management, health and wellness, collaboration and productivity tools
Namely and TriNet Zenefits are both easy to use once you’ve completed the initial setup and system configurations. However, given that Namely has a more customizable platform, the time it takes to set up its system is longer than TriNet Zenefits’. On average, Namely’s implementation timeline is around six to eight weeks. TriNet Zenefits, meanwhile, requires only a couple of weeks—if not several days—for system implementation. But, TriNet Zenefits has a reputation for poor customer service, which brings them to a tie.
In terms of customer support, both providers offer live phone support, how-to guides, and an online help chat. Namely even has a community forum where you can discuss common issues with the provider’s other clients. TriNet Zenefits reviews, however, include complaints about the delays in responses despite their phone support. One review cited that they “had to sit on for 45 minutes up to an hour” just to talk to a human.
Software integration-wise, Namely and TriNet Zenefits each have a robust selection of partner systems. Here are some of the two providers’ integration options:
- Namely partner systems: JazzHR, Greenhouse, Workable, Lessonly, TSheets, Boomr, Simply Merit, Bonusly, Verified First, Workato, Zapier, Pingboard, and Google Workspace (formerly G Suite)
- TriNet Zenefits partner systems: BreezyHR, JazzHR, Greenhouse, Zywave, Lessonly, TSheets, Deputy, Bonusly, Checkr, Workato, Zapier, Xero, QuickBooks, Expensify, Asana, Slack, and Microsoft 365
Namely and TriNet Zenefits provide all the functionalities of a cloud-based HR system, including performance management, pay processing, benefits administration, and compensation management. To decide which is right for you, consider the size of your business, how complex your industry is (are there strict compliance requirements?), and what features you need.
For small businesses, TriNet Zenefits has fully integrated HR tools to help manage your workforce.
For midsize businesses, Namely offers a fully customizable solution to help manage payroll, HR, and benefits.