Executives around the world are looking for continuous process improvements and new ways to enhance organizational effectiveness. It’s an evergreen topic and one that deserves ongoing consideration and attention. Markets fluctuate, competitive pressures necessitate constant change and business goals evolve. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than within human resources, a critical corporate function constantly challenged with demonstrating its value and measuring what matters. Factor in global presence and the imperative grows even taller, as HR teams seek to orchestrate their activities across time zones, language barriers and local labor laws. All the while, payroll tackles similar challenges, working diligently to satisfy country-specific requirements and ensure employees get paid accurately and on-time. Two seemingly separate needs, both handling workforce information day in and day out, maintaining and updating records, managing requests, and ultimately, promoting a positive employee experience across the board.
Depending on the project, HR and payroll spend an excessive number of hours coordinating data collection and verification, making adjustments, calculations and transferring information as needed. Even organizations in the U.S. with enterprise solutions in place, struggle to automate across global locations, relying instead on manual updates and spreadsheets and resulting in more mistakes and higher costs back to the employer. Historically, it seemed impossible to share workflows, and as a result, the HR and payroll landscape became increasingly fractured and decentralized, unable to bridge the divide – until recently.
Today, advanced technologies allow for the movement of data around the globe through automation across the cloud. With the shift towards digital transformation, comes the opportunity to simplify and streamline systems through integration – but change happens slowly, as evidenced by last year’s Payroll Operations Survey from Deloitte, which showed only 6% of companies use robotics as part of their processing.
There remains an amazing amount of information available that no one ever thought to get from the other, and a unified, automated approach between HR and payroll makes it possible to review and refresh what already exists while gathering anything missing. At the same time, recent regulations, such as GDPR, put new guidelines and restrictions in place, reinforcing the need for a fresh look. From a data security perspective, integrations enable teams to monitor the access to and movement of data from a single source, as opposed to many. In the case of one multinational financial services company, integration and automated workflows reduced reliance on manual interventions, improved reporting, and maintained compliance that meets regional standards while providing significant process improvements.
With a global, unified platform, people and processes work collectively, managing both the day-to-day and unexpected tasks in real-time. Shared workflows open up collaboration and communication, regardless of location, removing the guesswork for scheduling and using built-in functionality for reporting and validations. Once the current workload becomes integrated and automated, incremental activities get built on top of that base, contributing to improved efficiency and outcomes.
There is no doubt that technology serves as the core of any integration, in this instance, with the tools and automation embedded on a global basis, rather than country by country. But there is another critical factor to consider in achieving these workflows because beyond the immediate stakeholders is the impact of HR and payroll have on the employee experience. Freeing up the tedium associated with disparate systems, HR and payroll professionals offload the process-heavy tasks and focus more on meaningful initiatives – reinvigorating their roles and responsibilities and bringing inspiration and innovation to the organization.
For the multinational mentioned above, integration worked to centralize payroll data across jurisdictions, adding authorization and validation online while eliminating the need for different providers, forms, and documentation. As a result of simplification and automation, the teams introduced online payslips and offered employees the opportunity to use self-service tools to maintain personal data.
Without the stress of each country’s run deadlines and the looming threat of errors, payroll can build out and introduce new options like payroll cash advances to help employees in between paychecks. On the HR side, having access to global payroll data boosts visibility across the workforce and supports internal recruitment and talent mobility programs – at a time when PwC sees a 50% increase in international assignments on the horizon. Through integration, the capabilities of HR and payroll expand, linking the two with employer brand management while workers benefit as well, signaling a win-win for the organization.
Of course, as executives know all too well, there is always new and more work to do. What serves the organization today may not tomorrow, and HR and payroll need to remain agile. Deloitte refers to this mindset as “harmonizing” rather than the more frequently used “optimizing,” noting that “A transformative integration … may identify opportunities to more efficiently deliver HR services, including technology-enabled improvements and process redesign.” Having already touched upon improvements to service delivery, the focus shifts to process, which underpins the success of the product and the people involved with HR and payroll.
Often, through a series of workflows engines or mapping, metadata about the process gets captured, indicating where inefficiencies take place and offering a clear line of sight into potential improvements. An instance of this happening might involve first-time approval rates and the effectiveness of moving HR data into the payroll process. By analyzing the success of the task, HR and payroll learn about the accuracy of existing data as well as anything missing that would be required for future runs. No surprise that same multinational now sees a payroll accuracy rate of 99.99% while bringing cost savings across functions.
As this practice progresses, with HR and payroll updating and automating as needed, the organization gains more profound insights into the overall efficiency of its integrations and shared workflows. Through better data management, integrity improves, along with standardization, transparency and ultimately, process design, leading HR and payroll teams to harmonious, productive co-habitation.
The HR and payroll markets continue to innovate and enhance all aspects of workforce management, and with that, so must global employers. The rapid advancement of automation, integration and workflows correspond directly with an organization’s capacity to adapt and adopt quickly in the future. Like the employee experience, digital transformation never stops, and the ability to integrate HR and payroll offers global organizations the chance to evolve with workforce needs in near real-time, positively impacting their product, process and people.