18 April 2021

Datagraphic’s Glyn King looks at how one unexpected and turbulent year has accelerated payroll’s acceptance of technology and how it can help the profession evolve

In my experience, payroll is one of the most flexible areas of a business when adapting to change. But even the most experienced payroll manager will have found the past year particularly challenging.

These unpredictable and unprecedented times have caused the most significant shift in the way we work; and it appears many of the changes are here to stay, as workplaces have adapted to new ways of working.

In the last year, I’ve seen attitudes towards technology use – to help payroll teams complete tasks more effectively – positively accelerate by at least three years. It has forced many to change the way they approach technology decisions from ‘I’m not sure’ to ‘let’s do it now’.


Embracing technology

At Datagraphic, we’ve seen first-hand the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on payroll teams and the change in attitude towards technology. Crises tend to intensify and speed up trends, so it’s encouraging to see so many payroll professionals being positive and accepting of technology and embracing it to enhance their role.

Payroll teams wanting to move to a more digital way of working have found the pandemic has been the catalyst to force the change into action. For others, it’s been a case of evaluating their current processes and looking for more efficient and smarter ways of working.

Payroll teams are starting to understand how the use of technologies, such as robotic process automation, can help remove the manual and administrative processes of the role, giving them time and mind-space to focus on higher value tasks. Not only have payroll teams realised automation technology would help them become more productive and efficient, they also see how technology solutions don’t have to be disruptive or require lengthy change projects.


...we’ll start to see more powerful, intuitive and complex technologies enter the payroll space, leading to more game-changing solutions...


Using technology to adapt to new ways of working

To maintain a normal level of service to employees, you’ve had to quickly adapt to new compliance and legislation changes while managing the shift to working from home and handling remote payroll.

New ways of working require a level of agility and flexibility. Technology can help you access systems and communicate with employees, whether you (or they) are working in the office or at home.

I’ve spoken with payroll managers who have chosen to use digital technology to automate the production and distribution of payslips and other pay documents, resulting in their department becoming a complete paperless service. They no longer rely on office equipment, allowing their team to complete all their work from home if needed.

I’ve also seen teams pre-empt employees’ needs for information about the government furlough scheme and have used technology to make sure this information is accessible 24/7 on the device of employees’ choice. Making it easier for employees to interact with payroll reduces enquiries into an already busy and stretched payroll team.


What’s next for technology in payroll?

Attitudes towards using technology in payroll have become increasingly positive, and payroll teams are starting to fully understand the benefits and opportunity it can bring to their role. As a result, I think we’ll start to see more powerful, intuitive and complex technologies enter the payroll space, leading to more game-changing solutions that will improve the way we work.

We already see the impact automation technology is having – giving payroll teams the time to focus on more strategic parts of their role – and it’s exciting to see how technology could further impact and benefit payroll in the future.

But it’s important to remember technology will not replace your role. The knowledge and experience you offer is never going to be redundant. What’s more, the additional time and space gained thanks to technology will provide you with the opportunity to play a more strategic role and make a real difference to your organisation.

It simply means that your role in payroll is likely to change. You’ll spend more time managing systems, learning new legislation, and improving employee experience, than updating spreadsheets and printing and handing-out payslips. 

If you’re looking for more information and advice on how automation technology can improve payroll tasks and help your teams become more efficient, I think you’ll find our latest whitepaper – Robotic Process Automation in Payroll – really useful. Download it here: http://bit.ly/RPAinPayroll.


Featured in the May 2021 issue of Professional in Payroll, Pensions and Reward. Correct at time of publication.