Changing role of payroll professionals is ignored by leaders Changing role of payroll professionals is ignored by leaders

Changing role of payroll professionals is ignored by leaders
09 Mar 2018

As payroll becomes increasingly automated and the shared services model progressively takes hold, a new type of professional will be required to handle the function’s changing role.

Unfortunately, most payroll leaders are responding too slowly to these shifts, warned Felicia Cheek, practice leader of The Hackett Group’s global time-to-pay advisory programme during a presentation at the Global Payroll Association’s UK Payroll Summit 2018 in London on 8 March. 

“Payroll leaders are focusing on their day-to-day activities of getting payroll out, which is not easy. But it also means they’re not working enough with their resources to develop them for the future and they’re going to need new skills,” she said.

In Cheek’s opinion, these skills comprise six main types:

  1. Taking a strategic approach: In other words, being able to develop a strategic vision and outline a future direction, anticipate market changes and address challenges;
  2. Creativity and innovation: This means being able to come up with novel ideas or combinations of ideas, recognising new patterns in data as well as having curiosity and a broad range of interests;
  3. Data savviness: Here it is about knowing how to process data and extract relevant information, being able to use analytics tools and methodologies and translate the resultant findings into actionable plans;
  4. Relationship management: This involves individuals having high levels of interpersonal skills as well as social and emotional intelligence, being able to positively influence decisions and behave in an open, approachable, collaborative way;
  5. Demonstrating business acumen: Professionals here need to understand key business drivers, requirements and priorities and be able to identify problems and come up with alternatives;
  6. Agility: This kind of person welcomes change, is comfortable with shifting priorities and able to deal with ambiguity.

“Payroll leaders need to think about this, and pretty quick, due to the impact of RPA (robotics process automation), which will happen pretty swiftly,” Cheek said. “Most companies are looking at accelerating the digital imperative and that means it’s important to spend more time on talent management.”

But she added that RPA technology would not necessarily be appropriate for automating all business processes. On the one hand, many could already be handled from within the payroll system, but on the other, if a given process had lots of exceptions, it could prove to be more effort than it was worth.

New governance approaches also need to be considered in this new world though as “we’re starting to see errors that weren’t there before”, Cheek pointed out.

“It’s about going through the thought process of what you’re doing,” she explained. “We’re seeing quite a lot of bots used for reconciliation processes, shadow payroll, tier one support and document production at the moment.”

The next step after going down the RPA route is likely to be artificial intelligence. Although the shift here would be further out, vendors were expected to start talking more about it over the year ahead, particularly in relation to time-based applications such as absence and leave management in order to predict how workers behave before and after holidays, for example.

 

Cath Everett, content editor of GPA.Live 

As payroll becomes increasingly automated and the shared services model progressively takes hold, a new type of professional will be required to handle the function’s changing role.

Unfortunately, most payroll leaders are responding too slowly to these shifts, warned Felicia Cheek, practice leader of The Hackett Group’s global time-to-pay advisory programme during a presentation at the Global Payroll Association’s UK Payroll Summit 2018 in London on 8 March. 

“Payroll leaders are focusing on their day-to-day activities of getting payroll out, which is not easy. But it also means they’re not working enough with their resources to develop them for the future and they’re going to need new skills,” she said.

In Cheek’s opinion, these skills comprise six main types:

  1. Taking a strategic approach: In other words, being able to develop a strategic vision and outline a future direction, anticipate market changes and address challenges;
  2. Creativity and innovation: This means being able to come up with novel ideas or combinations of ideas, recognising new patterns in data as well as having curiosity and a broad range of interests;
  3. Data savviness: Here it is about knowing how to process data and extract relevant information, being able to use analytics tools and methodologies and translate the resultant findings into actionable plans;
  4. Relationship management: This involves individuals having high levels of interpersonal skills as well as social and emotional intelligence, being able to positively influence decisions and behave in an open, approachable, collaborative way;
  5. Demonstrating business acumen: Professionals here need to understand key business drivers, requirements and priorities and be able to identify problems and come up with alternatives;
  6. Agility: This kind of person welcomes change, is comfortable with shifting priorities and able to deal with ambiguity.

“Payroll leaders need to think about this, and pretty quick, due to the impact of RPA (robotics process automation), which will happen pretty swiftly,” Cheek said. “Most companies are looking at accelerating the digital imperative and that means it’s important to spend more time on talent management.”

But she added that RPA technology would not necessarily be appropriate for automating all business processes. On the one hand, many could already be handled from within the payroll system, but on the other, if a given process had lots of exceptions, it could prove to be more effort than it was worth.

New governance approaches also need to be considered in this new world though as “we’re starting to see errors that weren’t there before”, Cheek pointed out.

“It’s about going through the thought process of what you’re doing,” she explained. “We’re seeing quite a lot of bots used for reconciliation processes, shadow payroll, tier one support and document production at the moment.”

The next step after going down the RPA route is likely to be artificial intelligence. Although the shift here would be further out, vendors were expected to start talking more about it over the year ahead, particularly in relation to time-based applications such as absence and leave management in order to predict how workers behave before and after holidays, for example.

 

Cath Everett, content editor of GPA.Live 

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