At the HR Technology Conference in Chicago this week, Mike Gioja, Paychex Senior Vice President, Information Technology, Product Management and Development, sat down with other HR tech veterans to discuss how payroll—a profession practiced almost as long as there has been money—is being innovated to meet the needs of employees in the 21st century.
While payroll may be the most mature function within HR, it is certainly still among the most important. As panel moderator Holger Mueller from Constellation Research put it, a 99.9% success rate in most processes would be considered excellent, but with payroll you’d get a much different, and passionate, response.
So, how can a mature process with such a low threshold for error be innovated? Here’s what the panelists had to say.
The Employee Perspective
Paying employees used to be basic. You handed them a paper check, in person, and that was it. But along with changes in consumer technology, employees began to expect the same level of access and insights into their pay.
Today, employees “want to do it when and where they want, mobile first,” said Mr. Gioja. “They want access to everything that affects their paycheck, from tracking time, to their compensation history, to the ability to contribute to their 401(k) and get answers to their payroll and benefits questions.”
Panel member Cecile Alper-Lerox of Ultimate Software agreed with the move toward mobile-first utilization, and added that the process of paying someone is at the crux of the trust between an employee and employer. Payroll is where employers have the opportunity to show employees how they can make the most of their pay, according to the panel. Imagine, for instance, being able to remind employees to maximize their 401(k) contributions to take advantage of an employer match.
Better Employee Management through a Better Payroll Process
When it comes to managers, the panel felt there were many areas where payroll has begun to give them unprecedented access and control over the process. For example, ADP’s Don Weinstein discussed the ability to make decisions based on productivity vs. cost.
According to Mr. Gioja, by giving managers information around critical areas such as time, health care, and the number of full-time equivalent employees, mobile-first payroll now gives front-line managers the ability to engage with the process and their people proactively—throughout the pay period.
It’s a Great Time to be a Payroll Manager
What will it be like to be a payroll manager in the future? Well, for starters, that wouldn’t be the title, according to the panel. All agreed that payroll managers would take on a more strategic role over time.
The need for this evolution was echoed by a payroll manager in the audience, who said that her biggest pain point was wishing she were more involved with aspects that affected the company as a whole, such as acquisitions, rather than focusing entirely on the day-to-day of payroll processing.
That process will become a non-event, according to Jim Konandreas of Ceridian, due to better communication across the entire pay period.
Mr. Gioja explained how payroll and labor will still be primary HR functions, that there will most likely always be regulations, and that they’d be more likely to impact your payroll. “While payroll technology will make it easier to take care of the nuts-and-bolts of the process by streamlining onboarding, offering self-service, dealing with regulations, and allowing managers to do it anywhere from their phones, it will also open many opportunities for payroll managers to take a leadership role within their organizations.”
Payroll is Big Business (Too)
The panel also discussed how advances in payroll may affect midsize to large businesses with the ability to offer more flexible ways to pay employees, especially with the growth of the “gig economy” lead by such companies as Uber and Airbnb.
Advances like same-day ACH functionality, which Paychex now offers, are adding to the flexibility. According to Mr. Gioja, payroll technology for midsize to large businesses will be “more cost effective, more flexible, and give you the data you need to demonstrate a strong ROI.”
Payroll Service is Also Evolving
While new payroll technology is helping payroll professionals, tech-savvy employees, and do-it-yourselfers, is client service keeping pace? Mr. Gioja pointed to our own service model, which gives clients the ability to choose the level of support they want, from a simple way to enter payroll on your own, to taking advantage of social media and a 24-hour help line, all the way to working with a payroll specialist and, for clients using Paychex across their HR functions, a full-time relationship manager.
Payroll is In Good Hands
And those hands are yours. Payroll providers like Paychex are giving owners, managers, and employees unprecedented flexibility and opportunities to take payroll beyond gross-to-net calculations to help drive your company and its employees to even greater levels of success.