As remote work has shone a spotlight on payroll, the field is no longer the "poor relation" of the people function.
It has never been more crucial for payroll to embrace technology.
Trust and partnership between payroll and their technology supplier are fundamental for the implementation of new solutions.
If there’s one part of HR that demands calm and continuity, it’s payroll. But with change now part of the ‘new normal’, there are bigger drivers to innovate in payroll than ever before.
Changing shift patterns, increased internal mobility, quicker employee turnover rates are all factors putting a strain on the ability of organizations to accurately track and manage their pay data, particularly across different global geographies.
Which is why UNLEASH was delighted to welcome an expert panel to unpack all things payroll. With global responsibility spanning over 80 countries and decades of experience, Annemarie Verwaaijen, Senior Director of payroll at Visa, Samantha Williams, Global Payroll Director for Pearson, and Christine Keily, Chief Tax and Payroll Officer at Immedis, brought strong opinions and new ideas to this entertaining discussion.
Payroll are the doers, no matter what you throw at us, we get things done. But we’ve been challenged to be even more flexible than ever before and adapt to changing legislations, furlough, downsizing and now along comes the ‘Great Resignation’ too…
But despite the ‘can do’ attitude of payroll never diminishing, the panel opened with some reflections on how things have changed in the last 18 months. A key theme for each of our panelists is their team and how to keep them engaged and up to speed whilst working remotely.
But more than this is the shift in the profile of the payroll professional. “It’s gone from backoffice and a process just to be managed – to being given frontline service status post-COVID-19” reflects Christine Keily. So many CFOs and CHROs have leant on payroll throughout the pandemic. Because as people’s working locations have changed, so have the legislations and jurisdictions around their pay. It’s incredibly nuanced in a way that most employees collecting their pay slip every month probably don’t even realise…
Key changes to payroll include
- Access and connection for outsourced payroll teams often in countries around the world
- Lack of real-time collaboration resulting in more tickets and queries than ever before
- The entry of chatbots and new ways of communicating with staff
- Data security becoming tougher as people work from home
- A lack of standardization around processes as they’re carried out away from the office
- A need for enhanced reporting to connect the dots – especially between HR and Finance
This last year has highlighted a real need for better tracking and reporting of where people are working so we can always stay compliant with how we pay them.
The potential of partnering for automation
As Samantha notes, “nobody automates alone” and there has never been more of a need for payroll to embrace technology as a profession. There is often discussion in the broader HR tech community that HR transformation can never be considered complete without the transformation of payroll technology too.
Yet it is often seen as such a huge risk, it can be tempting for organizations to take the approach of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…’.
Which brought the panel unanimously onto the subject of trust between a payroll buyer and their technology suppliers. “It’s a partnership” reiterates Samantha “so if you are changing your technology you need to meet the actual delivery team as well as the sales team.”
“Small ripples of a couple of dollars can make a big impact” reflects Annemarie, so it is imperative that change management and the right controls are in place from suppliers. Visa is currently 75% of the way through an RFP for its global payroll and it’s an incredibly complex project with nuance at local levels. And managing how their vendors make changes is critical. “There can be no shades of grey!” says Annemarie vehemently!
Always have a backup plan
The subject of trust continued into how payroll continues to build its profile in organizations from the transactional to the transformational. The power of proactively managing key stakeholders by working to have business continuity plans in place has really come home to roost since the onset of the pandemic. For example when the Delta variant hit certain countries hard, Visa already had contingency plans in place to ensure payroll could always continue. And by having this ready to show senior stakeholders across the business, the payroll team consolidated the trust the business has in them to deliver. Brilliant, practical advice for any payroll team in any organization regardless of industry, location or size.
The future is bright
Despite the various threats the pandemic has thrown at payroll, there is a strong sense of optimism too. The panelists and attendees alike agreed that payroll has shifted its perception away from being the ‘poor relation’ in organizations’ people function.
As payroll is becoming a more prominent part of the employee experience and absolutely central to enabling remote working, it’s important we have a distinct voice separate from HR and finance. Ultimately the pay slip is a key way that organizations get to know their employees and we have an opportunity to build on that to impact critical agendas – from diversity and inclusion to pay equity and financial wellbeing and beyond.
With #payrollisanindustry continuing to trend on social media and topics like financial wellbeing accelerating rapidly up HR’s ladder of importance, there is an opportunity to take on a far more strategic role, both within HR and the company as a whole. Annemarie urged attendees to take their ‘seat at the table’ and also closed out the session with a suggestion…
Just as HR evolved as a new, more people-friendly version of personnel, so to payroll has the opportunity for a ‘rebrand’ with Annemarie mooting the idea of ‘rewards delivery’ as a new moniker. The attendees absolutely loved this idea, with many commenting they were going to pitch it internally straight after the session!
It underpins the dramatic changes in payroll as a profession and a business function in the last 18 months. And despite some of its legacy reputation, it is proving an exciting and vital place to be. And we can’t wait to see what happens next as the innovation and transformation continues.
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