The global pandemic has highlighted inefficiencies and challenges that many organisations have not been prepared to address. Businesses need to evolve rapidly and put the practices and systems in place to keep up with the accelerated rate of change. This was true before the pandemic and has become more of an imperative to combat existing challenges that have only been exacerbated.
Without the right payroll technology in place, organisations won’t be able to grow or support large scale changes, such as mass hiring to address new business needs, new compliance updates, or system upgrades. Antiquated solutions and processes also present security issues as some payroll teams continue to work remotely.
According to Deloitte’s Payroll Benchmarking report, one of the most important key performance indicators of payroll performance is the number of errors and days it takes to resolve these errors. The effort wasted on payroll corrections not only creates more work for payroll teams to fix these mistakes, but also takes up time that could be spent on value-added, strategic initiatives.
Author and HR technology industry analyst Brian Sommer states, “In the past, payroll systems were designed for a different time, not for an environment or world where every time you turn around, there’s another mass change that needs to take place.”
Many organisations today are still restricted by traditional practices and outdated technologies, “Those working with spreadsheets and manual data may have had the time in the past, but now people are not always able to get into the office to do work,” Sommer added.
Instead of considering payroll as a task-oriented administrative function, organisations can take a strategic approach to inform business decisions such as improving workforce composition and optimising operational costs. Adopting smarter solutions that are agile and able to adjust rapidly to align with the socio-economic conditions is a key enabler for this shift. Here are several challenges of an increasingly complex payroll landscape and how organisations can address them with innovative solutions.
Regulations are being created in various regions at a faster pace, threatening to put organisations at risk of non-compliance. Between government grants, stimulus solutions, and relief programs, organisational compliance has become an even bigger challenge. While these grants and stimulus solutions enabled many companies to survive while keeping employees on payroll, the changes in legislation require time and resources for teams to interpret, understand, and apply the changes correctly.
Paying the workforce accurately, on time, and in compliance with jurisdictional requirements is also a challenge every organisation faces, especially those that are expanding, contracting, or restructuring. The cumulative effects of these challenges can lead to payroll errors, resulting in costly penalties and fines. As well, if payroll isn’t done correctly or on time, employees can lose confidence in their employers’ ability to pay them. Our Australia Pay Experience report found 29% of all employees reported they had received late payment at least once in the last year, and of those respondents, 40% cited disorganisation within the company as a reason while 23% believed there were issues with direct deposit. A poor pay experience can contribute to disengagement and turnover and can lead to a damaged employer brand reputation in the long-term, making it more difficult to hire and retain people in the future.
Action: Organisations will need to leverage technology that helps automate tax rules in various jurisdictions. This will help reduce errors and noncompliance so talent can spend more time focusing on strategic initiatives that drive the business forward.
Today, organisations need to do more with less, and as economic downturns occur and disruption puts further strain on the workforce, payroll teams will have a heavier workload and greater pressure to deliver payroll accurately and on time.
There is also an increased risk of absenteeism as these essential employees may become ill due to a crisis such as COVID-19 or a need to take care of sick or vulnerable family members. Organisations must determine whether they have enough staff to address legislation in multiple regions, deliver pay accurately and on time to remote employees, and fill talent gaps when people leave.
Action: If payroll talent isn’t given the technology needed to do their job efficiently and with fewer errors, they will spend time fixing issues associated with manual data entry and processes. In a recent Constellation Research analysis, Holger Mueller, VP and Principal Analyst says that the best practices of running payroll when ready and needed are now archaic, stating that real-time payroll is “now a standard for both employees and managers who want and need to make smart payroll-related decisions.”
Integrating payroll, time, and HR data into a single system can help cut down on reporting time and make data management much easier for payroll teams – avoiding the “payroll crunch” at the end of the pay period. Organisations can leverage payroll software that continuously calculates and updates payroll data immediately, cutting back on wasted time and helping to reduce the number of errors.
The pandemic has challenged companies’ understanding of what roles must be done in a physical location and which work can be done remotely. A Gartner survey found that 82% of CFOs and finance leaders intend to implement remote working arrangements some of the time post-COVID-19.
As both companies and employees normalise remote work and processes become more digital, organisations are able to more easily operate across borders. However, global operations present new payroll challenges as companies need to adhere to various regional legislative requirements.
Action: The dispersed workforce will need to be paid correctly and on time, every time, no matter the location from which they’re working. Not only will this help organisations remain compliant, but it can also contribute to a better employee experience and in turn, retention. Additionally, centralising payroll processes and data to get streamlined reporting across all operating regions can help companies gain a holistic view of payroll rather than aggregating data from disparate systems across locations.
Financial wellness should be a focus for employers in times of change and uncertainty as the workforce needs greater financial flexibility. Prior to the pandemic, our Australia Pay Experience report found a very small number (18%) of employees were not stressed about their financial situation. Employees are now experiencing acute levels of financial stress due to the pandemic which can have a negative impact on business performance, from disengagement and higher benefits costs, to an increase in sick days and turnover.
Action: Deloitte’s Payroll Benchmarking Survey found approximately 60% of employees are leveraging self-service through mobile applications, performing tasks such as viewing their pay and updating their personal information. Mobile HR and payroll solutions can empower employees to take control of their records and provides greater visibility into their pay so they can raise concerns or ask questions. Providing this visibility can build greater trust between employees and their employer, providing a clear differentiator for organisations to attract and retain personnel.
Economic conditions are putting financial stress on organisations and forcing them to shift priorities. Sommers says, “When the work from home mandates kicked in, the [pandemic] had an uneven effect on companies depending on the country you were in and the ability to access data remotely.” Many organisations were scrambling to focus on stability and resilience, for example, understanding the role of essential workers and putting the systems and procedures in place to support business operations while keeping employee well-being top of mind.
Today, cloud solutions deliver up to 3.2 times the ROI of an on-premise solution because of the efficiencies they provide. Despite this, only 39% of companies globally were using cloud-based technologies for payroll functions prior to the pandemic. While the recent crisis has presented many challenges for companies, it has also created significant opportunity for leaders to rethink how payroll has been done in the past and invest in solutions for the future. The pace of change is only accelerating, which means organisations will need to be better equipped to address these key challenges as well as new ones that may arise.