Shaping up for Success: Tackling Today’s Payroll Challenges

Historically, payroll has been overlooked somewhat by the businesses it serves, and only really gets noticed when something goes wrong. However, times are changing: the advent of advanced technology, automation, AI, and other innovations means payroll can now be a force for good throughout an organization. The first step on the journey, however, can be the trickiest: getting payroll noticed within a business and making the strategic presence of a modern pay experience felt.

It’s a topic that was discussed in detail at our recent Paymakers event in Barcelona, as Josep Elias, our Chief Strategy Officer, was joined by Annemarie Kalsbeek, CP Global Head of Pay Services at S&P Global. Annemarie was responsible for improving a payroll setup comprising 44 countries, more than 50 vendors, and a severe lack of processes and documentation – and has therefore faced many common obstacles head-on along the way. 

Together, they explored some of those common challenges that payroll teams face, and how these challenges can be addressed – in this blog, we’ll take a look at the key points.

The biggest challenges to great payroll

Every business and industry is different, so some organizations will struggle with certain challenges more than others. But in general, global terms, three themes frequently emerge within a broad spectrum of payroll teams:

  • Improving processes with automation: one of the main reasons payroll stays stuck as a transactional function is that its legacy processes don’t allow it to be anything else. If processes are ad-hoc, haphazard, reactionary, and mainly manual, it’s impossible to create a strategic modern pay experience
  • Delivering transparency and visibility: payroll is often only seen when something goes wrong, or another department wants to hand something to it; this culture is often because other departments can’t see and understand what payroll can do
  • Managing payroll change: a lack of payroll metrics makes it incredibly difficult to demonstrate pay and payroll’s potential to non-HR leaders. These leaders therefore don’t have the understanding of payroll or the confidence to commit to meaningful change

Four ways to drive payroll change

The ultimate goal for every payroll team right now is to make itself a positively represented, highly visible, and strategically indispensable part of the business. And there are four things payroll teams can do to help make that happen:

  • Be proactive: payroll is often the biggest spend within a business, so it should be the CFO’s best friend – make sure it has a seat at the table before being called upon because of a disaster. By building relationships and advocating for the modern pay experience across the business, CEOs and other stakeholders will come to understand how important payroll is, how it works, and how beneficial strategic pay can be. Education and communication are vital, but come hand-in-hand
  • Get payroll in good shape: start by speaking to people on the ground about where changes need to start, i.e. which countries have the most pressing issues. As Annemarie said: “Nobody knows that better than the people who are doing the work. You need to take them on the journey.” Alongside this, ensure that payroll team wellbeing is as good as it possibly can be. People with rigid, pre-defined jobs often don’t feel secure in their roles, while all the noise and escalations can also be very stressful. It’s essential that everyone feels that they have support from their co-workers and management
  • Focus on analytics and reporting: as Annemarie put it: “Data tells your story. Data is your friend – it helps you bring someone’s opinion back to facts.” Using metrics to benchmark and quantify performance improvements can demonstrate how payroll is moving in the right direction. It can also be used to explain how defects or errors were identified and positively resolved in the long-term
  • Invest in automation and flexibility: making the most of technology and automation can improve the speed and accuracy of payroll, and take much of the admin burden off payroll staff who can then add value in other areas. This flexibility can also extend to the interactions the workforce have with payroll: Earned Wage Access innovations such as CloudPay NOW can remove much of the perceived bureaucracy and negativity that employees often have around payroll

In summary

By focusing on transparency, technology, and your payroll team, you can drive meaningful, long-lasting change – not only for your payroll operation, but across your whole organization, too. You’ll be able to generate a greater understanding of the complexities of pay and payroll business-wide, deliver consistent payroll processes and experiences globally, and foster better wellbeing throughout your payroll team.

Want to know more about how to redefine payroll’s standing within your business, and how to embrace the modern pay experience? Talk to the CloudPay team today.

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