Barron Guss, President and CEO, SimplicityHR by ALTRESBarron Guss, President and CEO
While Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) continue to help companies with outsourced HR management tasks, their role has become even more crucial amid the current global pandemic. In these times of economic instability, employers are looking to evolve their businesses, simplify their processes, and find cost-efficient solutions.

Founded in 1969, simplicityHR by ALTRES is credited with pioneering the PEO industry from an unlikely location, the shores of Honolulu, Hawaii. Throughout the years, the mission of ALTRES has stayed true - "Making Business Simple."

In an interview with Manage HR, Barron Guss, President and CEO of simplicityHR by ALTRES, highlights how his company brings a world of difference to the PEO space and why we selected them as one of the Top 10 PEOs in the country.

Can you give us a brief understanding of how your company has evolved over the years?

In 1979, I recognized the need for a revolutionary solution that would help employers with payroll and related bookkeeping and the myriad of new employer responsibilities that were being placed upon their shoulders every day. We were soon called upon by our clients to keep pace with all the burgeoning laws and requirements like I-9 compliance, sexual harassment training and investigations, the provision of workers' compensation and safety programs, health insurance, and lifestyle benefits 401(k). All of our services and programs were customized and right sized to the individual needs of each client. Our PEO gave these businesses the expertise they needed for compliance and new freedom from the non-revenue and non-productive burden of employment administration.

We not only pioneered the industry in Honolulu but also across the nation. We grew our business to the continental U.S., and we were part of the wave that created the popularity of outsourced HR services across the country in the 80s and 90s.

In 2008, we saw the cloud revolution coming, and we knew we needed to extend our HR and payroll services to the web. Our goal was to develop a simple HR information system that was accessible anytime and anywhere, and that would provide time-saving features for all our clients. That's how our journey to develop HR Symphony®, our proprietary HRIS was born.Today, the HR Symphony provides our clients with all the employee lifecycle tools they need in one integrated cloud-based HR Ecosystem®. Due to our transformation from an employment administration company to a technology innovator, our clients and operational teams have achieved increased efficiency, and we've taken our service levels to a higher standard.

Can you elaborate on your company's latest pivot during the past year?

Everyone has experienced COVID-19 and its effect on everyday life. Like many, our company had to assess the terrain in front of us and make course adjustments on the fly as we navigate the unchartered territory of doing business in the pandemic.

With Congress’s rollout of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), our payroll experts and in-house software developers immediately went to work building a configurable PPP Loan Report Generator within HR Symphony to assist our clients applying for their PPP Loans and forgiveness with a "click" of a button. Our "applicants" received a comprehensive suite of custom reports and certified affidavits to provide their small business administration (SBA) lenders in an easy-to-email "Zip file" format.

While tomorrow’s business landscape may look and feel different, our commitment to our clients will remain the same


In addition, we took our commitment to our clients and their employees a step further by providing a return to work toolkits with written policies, best practices, signage, and helpful tips to make the return to work a bit easier. But we weren't done yet. We built a daily temperature logger into the HR Symphony that reminds employees to log their temperature daily and asks them to answer a set of health-related questions before leaving home and possibly bringing the COVID-19 infection into the workplace.

These kinds of innovations and commitment to our community make us stand out from the rest.

What has been one of your company's proudest accomplishments?

During the PPP rollout, we worked tirelessly alongside our congressional representatives and colleagues from the PEO industry, to provide feedback on the program and its implementations. This consultative approach led to many adjustments and clarifications to the guidelines released by the SBA and the U.S. Treasury during the initial weeks of the program.

Addressing current issues like these in Washington, D.C. are among our proudest accomplishments as well as our highest priorities.

In what ways have you been able to support the broader community beyond your employees and clients?

In times of uncertainty, it's up to business and community leaders to come together, innovate, and act.

In response, we've made our expertise available on all levels to the broader Hawaii community. Our team and employment experts launched the simplicityHR COVID-19 Employer Resource website (simplicityHR.com/COVID-19) for all local employers and employees to navigate this complicated and ever-changing landscape. Valuable resources, including communication tools, templates, employment news, and daily insights, are being used with more than 10,000 inquiries coming to the page each week.

Additionally, "Community by ALTRES" sprang into action following the devastating economic impacts of COVID-19 in our most vulnerable communities around the state of Hawaii. Over a ten-week period, our Director of Philanthropy, Siana Hunt, organized weekly outreach efforts in five locations. She partnered with community-based nonprofits to distribute more than 360,000 pounds of fresh, locally raised produce and staples. In total, we distributed more than 13,500 family grocery bags. Since there is no relief in sight, our efforts will continue through July and August.