Zenefits to Z2: What You Need to Know

By: Brian Westfall on November 30, 2016

On October 18, HR software vendor Zenefits released the most significant update to their platform yet: Z2.

Featuring changes to the look and feel of current applications, along with wholly new functions, services and mobile apps, Z2 represents a major shift from what current users and prospective buyers have come to expect from the Silicon Valley startup.

We spoke to Zenefits directors of product, Itai Turbahn and Chen Fang, and Zenefits director of communications, Kevin Young, to learn more about what’s new with one of Software Advice’s most popular HR software systems.

“We needed to find a way to not only address HR and benefits, like what we’ve done previously, but to also incorporate third-party apps in a meaningful way to provide a true all-in-one solution for small businesses.”

Kevin Young, director of communications, Zenefits

Do you use Zenefits at your company? Let us know what you think of Z2 by leaving a review here.

Now There’s an App for That

The Zenefits you’ve heard of, read about or used extensively still exists in Z2. At its core, this is still an HR system with applications for things such as personnel tracking, benefits administration, hiring and onboarding, compliance and PTO tracking. It’s still free, and Zenefits still only charges a per employee fee for optional additional services (which we’ll get into later).

Where things begin to differ with Z2 stems from Zenefits’ decision to broaden and become a one-stop shop for small businesses. This leads to Z2’s most notable addition: a third-party app store to connect Zenefits with platforms such as Salesforce, QuickBooks, G Suite and more.



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App dashboard in Zenefits

If your business has an account with any of the available partner integrations, Z2 allows you to integrate Zenefits without the IT support that many small businesses lack.

If you’ve ever connected your Facebook account with another website, for example, Turbahn says this process should be just as simple. Logging in with your Zenefits credentials pulls all of the relevant information from the third party, and the third party can push information back into Zenefits.

Your account information from those third parties then feeds into Zenefits administrative workflows where it’s relevant for the workers that you choose. In the example below, Emily Anderson is a candidate going through the hiring process.

With Z2, G Suite integration allows you to set up Emily’s work email, Eshares integration allows you to grant company shares into her account and Salesforce integration allows you to create her profile and set her role—all within your onboarding workflow and without leaving Zenefits.



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Integrated hiring apps in Zenefits

Any changes made to an employee’s information within Zenefits will automatically update in any integrated platforms.

It works in the reverse as well. If your company uses Slack, for example, you can integrate Slack with Zenefits to create a Zenefits Slackbot. Employees working in Slack can do things such as request PTO without logging in to Zenefits. Managers can approve PTO in Slack as well.



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Slack integration in Zenefits

At launch, Z2 brings 17 integrated partner apps to Zenefits in seven different categories:

App category



G Suite, Office 365, Salesforce, Slack

Payroll accounting

Intuit Quickbooks, Xero

Expense reporting

Abacus, Expensify

Stock option


Performance management

Lattice, Zugata


Greenhouse, Jazz, Lever

Employee engagement

Blueboard, Bonusly, Officevibe

Turbahn says Zenefits is working to grow the number of integrated partner apps quickly “to hundreds, and hopefully one day, thousands.” The ability to integrate a proprietary app through this system is not available yet, but is “high on the pipeline” for future updates.

Shopping for Benefits Is Now Like Shopping for a Home

With Z2, Zenefits seeks to add more transparency to the benefits shopping process, so small businesses have more information surrounding the over 10,000 plans available to them in the system. Young says inspiration came from an unlikely source: home shopping.

“Prior to sites like Zillow, the process to find a home was kind of opaque for the user. I would go to a real estate agent and tell them what I’m looking for, and then they would go off in their proprietary MLS system and pick the five to 10 listings that they thought best met my needs. I didn’t have visibility into everything that was available to me. It’s similar with benefits for a business.”

Kevin Young, director of communications, Zenefits

After you enter the number of employees and dependents that need benefits, Zenefits populates a list of compatible plans that you can filter by a variety of factors such as plan type, average premium and coinsurance percentage.



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Medical plan filtering in Zenefits

When you dive in to preview any plan, the Zillow inspiration comes into play. Z2 adds an in-network provider map with each offered plan, so you can ensure you have adequate coverage for your workers. Orange dots show the in-network providers for that plan, while blue dots show the addresses for your workers (pulled from your employee directory).

The map works with multiple locations as well. So if coverage for a certain plan is pretty good for your headquarters in San Francisco, but terrible for your remote office in Tulsa, you can look elsewhere.



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In-network provider map in Zenefits

The ability to drill down with this map into types of providers (generalist versus specialist, dentist, optometrist etc.) isn’t available yet, but Turbahn says they hope to add this level of granularity in the future.

Read how one small business increased their offer acceptance rate 50 percent with Zenefits here.

Payroll Integrator Becomes Payroll Provider

In the past, Zenefits only allowed users to integrate other payroll providers with their core platform. Now with Z2, the vendor enters the game themselves for the first time in the form of Zenefits Payroll.

It’s an in-suite payroll application that pulls vital information automatically: recorded hours from employees clocking in and out, approved time-off requests, deductions for elected benefits options and more.

When payroll managers log in to Zenefits Payroll, a message center in the corner notifies them of important updates. It can be a simple reminder that a payroll run is coming up or something more specific, like a certain jurisdiction tax rate that’s been updated.



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Pay run breakdown in Zenefits

Within the pay run itself, users can click on individual employees and then on line items within each employee record to see how their pay breaks down. There’s also a timeline showing every update within Zenefits that’s impacted your payroll since it was last run (e.g., an employee getting a raise).

Currently, Zenefits Payroll is only live in California, but Fang says the vendor has been beta testing with customers in every state since January. Their goal is to release Zenefits Payroll in more states every quarter.

An On-Call HR Advisor and New Mobile Apps

Rounding out Z2’s desktop offerings is a new paid service app called HR Advisor, meant to help small businesses lacking in-house HR expertise. The app offers a content library with important HR news and guides, tools to do things such as create salary benchmarks and job descriptions and access to an on-call advisor to answer any questions or concerns.



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HR Advisor in Zenefits

Zenefits’ mobile apps for Android and iOS have been updated as well with Z2. The apps allow workers to check their pay stubs, find coworker contact information, request time off, clock in and out of shifts and more. If you enroll in benefits, the app also allows employees to access their insurance cards and check the balance in their flex accounts.



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iOS app for Zenefits

The apps are strictly employee-facing for now, but Turbahn says they hope to add administrative functions in the near future.

Pricing and Next Steps

As mentioned earlier, the core Zenefits applications are still free, but some of the new additions in Z2 such as Zenefits Payroll and HR Advisor charge a per employee, per month fee.

Here is how the pricing breaks down between Z2’s free and paid offerings:


Free apps

Paid apps


HR & Compliance

Hiring & Onboarding HR Management Business Intelligence Documents Mobile ACA Compliance Integrations

HR Advisor



Payroll Connect Vacation & Time Off

Zenefits Payroll Time & Attendance

$35/month + $5/employee/month $5/employee/month

Benefits Administration

Medical, Dental, Vision Life & Disability COBRA Administration Broker Services

Commuter Benefits FSA HSA

$5/employee/month $5/employee/month $2.5/employee/month

Source: Zenefits

Whether you use Zenefits already, or were considering it while researching different HR systems, the Z2 update marks a substantial change that you’ll want to keep an eye on. Stay tuned to Software Advice for more information.

In the meantime, head to our Zenefits profile to leave a review and learn more information.