25 May 2022

Dylan Martinez ACIPP, senior product manager – payroll at Moorepay explores how technology could revolutionise the way payrolls are processed

As a product manager, I repeatedly ask myself two questions: What jobs do people want completing to improve their situation? How can we make use of advances in technology to do that?

Technology has catapulted forward, and our collective expectations have soared with it. What we all want – and now expect – is immediacy.

We live in an age where trends like on demand pay, cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), robotic payroll automation and application programming interface integration are already happening to one degree or another, and changing the way we manage payroll. Running payroll for a small UK company while on a beach in the Mediterranean is possible and already happens. With that as a starting point, where do we go from here?


Real-time pay

One employee expectation is growing fast: the ability to access any money already earned immediately.

On demand pay, which allows employees to take a portion of their earned pay early and pay interest for the privilege, is already here. The financial squeeze we’re all feeling is only going to make this option an even more attractive benefit. Alongside it is the awareness to provide employees with advice to help them with managing finances. But is it far enough or, rather than asking for an employee to demand their pay, could payments be more frequent or pro-active?

Casual workers, who are paid daily, expect to be handed their pay at the end of that day; why does this not happen for everyone else? While Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and The Pensions Regulator aren’t yet geared up to cope with that scenario, technologically there’s no reason why it couldn’t happen.

Banking is digital and Bacs is being replaced with faster payments. Why exactly are employees waiting a full week, or month, to get what they’re due? It doesn’t quite make sense anymore – and employees know that.


Digital trust

Deductions are taken from our earnings to invest directly into our pension pots or pay taxes to HMRC. Could this happen for other transactions as well? No more depositing payments into our bank accounts and paying it back out again to our mortgage and utility providers. We could simply cut out the middleman.

For this to happen safely we have blockchain technology. Blockchain technology is a de-centralised, distributed ledger that records the origin of a digital asset – in this case, payments made from our earnings. By design, a blockchain can’t be modified and gives a secure alternative for verification of payment transactions, compared to high street banks.

Blockchain technology could remove the need for a sizeable portion of credit checks and facilitate business to business transactions. Plus, employees gain the trust of vendors who know they’ll receive secure payments direct from employers, rather than from an employee’s account.


Extended reality

As our shopping bills increase and retailers consider ways to help their customers, while maintaining their businesses, there’ll be a move to online shopping, but not as we know it. Rather than seeing a list of your favourite groceries in the Ocado app, you’ll walk around the virtual store, picking things from virtual shelves in an interactive experience, which will mimic your behaviour in-store.

This is the perfect place to pull out your virtual self-service app, look at your payslip, and virtually offset your shopping from your next pay packet. A virtual stroll to the virtual gallery sees you picking up a work of art at a bargain price in the same manner. Humans are highly visual creatures and we’ve evolved to prefer visual cues to make decisions about what to eat, where to sleep, who to trust. Taking that experience into an extended reality metaverse and paying effortlessly, direct from payroll, may be a logical step.


‘Hey, Alexa’

We ask them to switch our lights on and start the robot vacuum; what more can we expect from Alexa or Siri? It will be possible to ask Siri to initiate a pay run, or Alexa to pay employees via apps; ‘Hey, Siri, pay Frank Smith 30 hours at his standard rate this week’.

Adding some AI in the app will allow employees to have answers to questions like, ‘Alexa, how much extra cash will be in my pocket after tax if I work those two extra shifts?’ or, ‘how much longer would it take to pay off my mortgage if I decrease to a four-day working week?’ No-touch computing in a variety of forms is already here, and soon, our lives will look increasingly like an episode of Star Trek.

We can look forward to more freedom, transparency, convenience, security, and efficiency. Where will we go from here? Where nobody has gone before. 


Featured in the June 2022 issue of Professional in Payroll, Pensions and Reward. Correct at time of publication.