Self-serve payroll requires training, education

Employees want easy options – but post-implementation must be thorough
By Liz Bernier
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/06/2016

Employees like to have options — and having options at the click of a button is all the better. Which is why self-service payroll can be a popular option. 

It’s not a new development, according to Janice MacLellan, vice-president of operations at the Canadian Payroll Association in Toronto — self-service functionality has been in place in many organizations for well over 10 years. 

Employers look to self-serve to help streamline processes, and often it’s about human resources using self-service to allow employees to be more engaged, says MacLellan. 

“It gives them faster service in terms of making small changes… and also it keeps managers more involved and eliminates some not-very-efficient paper processes.” 

Companies are constantly looking for more productive ways to accomplish tasks, and self-serve is a natural fit, says MacLellan.

Range of functions 

But there’s a broad range of functions it can be used for. 

“There are various levels of manager and employee self-serve functionality,” she says. 

Sometimes it’s used to give employees access to pay statements and tax forms, for example. At the other end of the spectrum, it allows managers to sign off on timesheets and vacation approvals. 

“It runs quite the gamut and it’s really dependent on the organizational culture and how much they want to redeploy some of those processes,” says MacLellan. 

The Canadian Payroll Association’s most recent census survey shows that 45 per cent of payroll practitioners are doing both the payroll and the human resources function within their organization, according to Janet Spence, manger of compliance services and programs at the Canadian Payroll Association in Toronto. 

“So they’re moving away from manual processes and automating things like time and attendance and making sure that all the payroll needs are taken care of,” she says.  

“There is increased flexibility for both the employer and the employee to handle these sorts of changes, and also in a timely fashion as well.”

The other trend — and the reason there’s been such an increase in self-serve in the last five to 10 years — is the younger workforce, says MacLellan. 

“They’re much more (used) to this type of technology and, in fact, they’d probably cringe if they had to fill out a lot of paperwork,” she says.  

“So again, from an HR perspective and in terms of engaging employees, making this type of technology available and enabling self-service is attractive to that workforce.”

Numerous benefits

There are a number of benefits to self-serve above and beyond the speed and ease, says Rachel De Grace, manager of advocacy and legislative content at the Canadian Payroll Association in Toronto. 

“Definitely one of the benefits is that there’s less risk of error (that could occur) when you have someone re-keying in information that’s been documented on paper,” she says.  

Having employees type information in themselves minimizes the risk of error — having the employee spell out his own address or banking information, for example, minimizes the chances any information will be incorrect, says De Grace. 

There’s also the question of information security, says MacLellan. With self-service, there is actually increased security because papers aren’t exchanging hands and being passed from person to person. 

“It reduces the risk of security breaches or privacy breaches,” she says.  

Education, training 

critical to implementation 

But when implementing self-service, the most critical aspect is implementing proper training and education, says De Grace. 

“Training is absolutely key, not only in terms of training employees but also training the payroll staff, the HR staff, the IT staff — those who are responsible for owning the system to ensure that the system is first and foremost compliant with government legislation,” she says.  

Also, the training needs to take into account the level of financial literacy of employees, says MacLellan. 

“Employees who are new to the workforce or new to Canada, as an example — we often make the assumption as we roll out implementation of self-serve functionality that they’ll understand the language and the lingo. So again, it’s about making sure they’re well-trained and they understand when they complete a particular data field what it means and what the impact is,” she says. 

HR and payroll can’t assume a base-line level of literacy amongst employees. 

“Many people don’t really understand some of the terms that appear on their pay statement,” says MacLellan. 

For employers that are looking for new systems and moving away from manual systems, there is the implementation phase to look at as well, says Spence. Having a well laid-out plan, testing, proper training and documentation and rules are key for each department. 

“Also, you have to obviously gain employee and manager buy-in as well,” she says. 

Depending on the size of the organization, employers may want to consider a phased-in approach to rolling out a self-service system — not rolling out the system or the capability for the entire payroll at once, says De Grace. 

Another critical consideration is managing post-implementation, says Spence. While the people onboard at the time of implementation tend to benefit from  a very thorough training and implementation program, what often gets forgotten is after the fact, on an ongoing basis, new employees don’t receive that training, she says.  

“That training needs to be embedded into all new employee training and onboarding, the documentation needs to be available to all new managers,” she says. “Otherwise, the success of their original implementation will, in a couple years’ time, go off the rails.” 

Mobile workforce

Self-serve is becoming more and more of an expectation, says MacLellan. 

“Certainly self-serve in payroll has evolved to include access through mobile phones. When it was originally launched into the market, it was typically for employees who were in-office. But given the mobility of the workforce… the technology has now enabled the use of smartphones to input some of this data,” she says. 

“Self-serve is a good thing. Its success is simply dependent on being well-prepared and ticking off all the boxes when it comes to training and documentation.” 

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