‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ they say. And that logic is often applied to payroll technology. Changing or replacing your organization’s payroll provider or solution can seem fraught with peril. But in this age of constant change, and with Covid-19 showing us that we need to be ready for anything, doing nothing is now the bigger risk!
Key topics discussed
- Investment in technology and strategies to replace legacy systems that can’t keep pace
- The need for prioritizing the employee experience when it comes to payroll
- Automation and its business benefits
- The relationship between the transformation of payroll alongside time and attendance
- Balancing business continuity and resilience with cost savings and complexity
UNLEASH was delighted to recently host an exclusive roundtable discussion with leading payroll providers SD Worx and guest speaker, Fiona Campbell-Downes, HRBP and HR Services Lead of AG Barr. This FTSE 250 UK soft drinks company are behind many household brands like IRN-BRU, Rubicon and Strathmore. Fiona kicked off the lively session with an insightful overview of their journey to date.
Historically we had outsourced payroll before, but the accuracy wasn’t there which really affected the employee experience. So we knew we needed to make a change with the end user at the heart of it. Our decisions have been about far more than cost savings. We have focused on the purpose of payroll and how its linked to the overall perception and performance of the organization.
– Fiona Campbell-Downes, HRBP and HR Services Lead, AG Barr
AG Barr’s approach was to prioritize its payroll transformation rather than leave it to the ‘end’ of other digital HR initiatives, with the employee experience as a key driver. Fiona explained how automation has been an important part of the process. The “calculation engine” as she refers to it is what powers AG Barr’s ability to automate many aspects of payroll – then only have to manually manage by exception. And then she points out, they have been able to interrogate and understand any discrepancies and really maximize their global payroll performance.
The unstoppable rise of automation
Automation was an important part of the transformation of the other HR leaders in the discussion as well. One referred to it as their ‘black box’ that took care of the basic administrative tasks and freed their team up to focus on more transformative and strategic activities worldwide.
Self-service payroll is also an area that has been accelerated by the pandemic, highlighting less “human interaction and more technology interfacin” as one attendee put it. But again, the developments here are very context specific.
Some organizations’ people are ready for these steps – even demanding them – but others still see it as a “big step”. As Fiona commented “we have to take our stakeholders on a journey here” and HR has to factor in when these steps are taken and how they’re communicated internally. Some people will still want face-to-face training or live webinars to talk them through the changes for example. Otherwise you won’t deliver the end-user experience you’ve been hoping for. And the importance of that cannot be underestimated. As one HR leader reflected, “payroll problems can drive attrition if you’re not careful”.
Helping your people understand what’s in it for them and what you’re doing for them – and why – when it comes to their pay, is key to success. It’s our job to adapt to our audiences and make sure the communications are fitting. For me, it’s about creating your purpose, knowing your audience and giving options as to how people want to tap in and access that information.
Compliance remains key
Of course, the business drivers vary from organization to organization, with compliance often at the top of the agenda. There are so many changes in payroll legislation and rules – with the changes around furlough being a high profile recent example – the demands can mean that outsourcing solves that challenge.
Multi-national payroll is also a common driver for transformation and outsourcing. Being able to scale, often quickly, across different countries, and managing the requirements of each can be a full time role (or roles) in itself.
When time and pay are inextricably linked
AG Barr is also transforming its time and attendance technology now too. And the HR leaders were all in agreement about the overlap between time and payroll. Particularly following shift changes and hybrid working in the wake of the pandemic, businesses need flexible contracting and the ability to track and mange time in a much more agile way. This of course impacts pay directly.
The time and attendance transformation is often left until after payroll but the conversation concurred that there were real benefits for it to happen in parallel. Steve Knapman from SD Worx reflected that employee experience is a real driver for the two to be addressed at the same time, with growing requests for drawing down pay on demand.
We’ve moved past online payslips being revolutionary. Now there are new capabilities around simulated pay, pay on demand and the visibility of payroll as a whole. Which again, drives the building of a business case for transformation and outsourcing. Getting beyond traditional payroll reporting and moving towards a more analytical approach, forecasting, understanding trends, seeing where organizations can reduce costs – these are real bottom line benefits for businesses as they look at reducing costs and streamlining operations.
Steve Knapman, Enterprise Payroll Specialist, SD Worx
Elevating the position of payroll
And this is where the opportunity for payroll to be seen as a more transformative and strategic function comes in. There are a number of conversations that we have hosted and been part of at UNLEASH with payroll leaders from around the world and they are all in agreement. The advances in technology are taking the function beyond the transactional – which it is automating – to the top table conversations in the organization.
The pandemic has thrust payroll into the spotlight and we’re seeing the market for payroll solutions and outsourcing grow exponentially. Organizations like AG Barr are showing how integrated, outsourced solutions are creating more powerful employee experiences and creating analytics and dashboards that are driving real business decisions. This combination of efficiency and effectiveness makes it a very exciting place to be, especially with the right partner – and plan – in place.
Join us for our next payroll roundtable discussion here with more conversation on this business critical topic! Meet your HR and payroll peers in a privileged and private online setting. Full details here.
Why join an UNLEASH Roundtable?
Amid the current disruption, HR leaders need to get ahead of the exponential trend where work, technology and how work gets done have changed forever. But how should we approach the relevant questions, given the radical uncertainty we continue to face as the pandemic becomes more protracted than anyone imagined? Our exclusive Virtual Roundtables are designed to explore where business leaders are focused now, key challenges and prioritization for the rest of the year, and what matters most in planning for what’s next.
How to take part:
Apply to get a seat at future UNLEASH Roundtables via our Events Calendar today. Please note that all attendees are screened. Your company name will be shared with other participants to help us create the most useful discussion possible.
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