Payroll trends and predictions for 2020

Technology, cloud computing and social media will bring big changes to payroll

A payroll practitioner is on the bus to work. She logs into the payroll application via her smartphone using a retinal scan or fingerprint ID. She’s set to run the first payroll of the day as one of her project groups has completed a parcel of work and needs to be paid. She arrives at the office to generate a report for the vice-president of HR on short-term and long-term disability costs. She orders paycards, reads up on a new employment standard, then reviews the output for the second payroll of the day.

Although this whole scenario may seem far-fetched, it is likely an accurate depiction of a day in the life of a payroll professional a decade from now. Thirty years ago, many employers still paid workers in cash via pay packet and, just 10 years ago, web-enabled payroll solutions were a game-changing innovation. Today, biometrics, payroll on-demand, web-based applications and analytics are upon us. What is causing these dramatic changes?

3 macro-trends: globalization, demographic shift and technology

According to The Conference Board of Canada, three mega-trends are driving the transformation of the working world — globalization, population aging and diversity and technological innovation.

Globalization: In this increasingly fractured, complex and challenging world, organizations operating on a global scale have to deal with issues of varying legalities, customs, cultural differences and expectations. Through this global market, companies can acquire important new skilled labour, but they’re also required to learn how to effectively leverage diverse perspectives and manage local employment standards along with their geographically dispersed HR and payroll teams.

Shifting demographics: Today’s workforce is comprised of four distinct generations, a mix that is having an impact on work styles, career goals, motivations, learning, benefits and reward and recognition.

The impact of this convergence of unique perspectives means a one-size-fits-all approach no longer fits. Employers must become open to providing programs, benefits and accommodations that suit the individual.

The aging boomers, many of whom delayed retirement due to declining investments, are still working but don’t necessarily want the traditional full-time grind. The boomers’ children — or Millennials — are another large group not necessarily interested in traditional work arrangements.  Many employees will be on contract by the year 2015, creating new challenges as employers try to deal with employees acting as free agents with potentially unique terms of employment, according to the Society for Human Resource Management in the United States.

Technological innovation and communications: Technological innovations will change the way HR and payroll professionals work by reducing administrative tasks, automating workflow and streamlining processes for increased efficiency. This means  technology must be interconnected, highly intuitive, easy to use and very secure. The following are 10 of the key emerging technological trends already shaping the HR and payroll function:

Technological growth: Accelerating exponential technological growth means more inventions, greater uptake rates, ever-growing internet usage and new training needs. 

Mobile and smartphone technology: Business software cannot help but be influenced by the advent of the smartphone, mobile solutions and the savvy users operating them. Imagine running payroll through a mobile device, any time, from anywhere, or sending a link to executives through which they can access workforce reports immediately and in real-time. Applications for payroll, HR and time and attendance will allow employees to input time from anywhere using a laptop or smartphone and also be paid via mobile payments. 

Technology convergence: Companies have traditionally made large investments through suppliers to integrate disparate solutions. As technology converges, employers will be able to demand the full spectrum of payroll and human capital management business processes within a single, fully integrated solution.

Cloud computing: Cloud represents the internet and all the complexities of hardware, software and communications networks operating in the cloud. The software as a service model will gain popularity as those offerings provide value by integrating HR, payroll, workforce management and benefits while eliminating investments in in-house technology. 

Self-service: A personalized, self-service experience for employees and managers will result in a boost in employee engagement, improving data quality and service levels.

Time and attendance: Adoption of time and attendance solutions will minimize payroll errors and automate workforce management processes such as time tracking and scheduling. These solutions can reduce costs by eliminating time theft caused by late arrivals, early departures and buddy punching. The systems can incorporate biometric time clocks — a class of employee time clock that uses a person’s biological attributes such as handprint and retinal scans for identification —  rather than a card or other external device. While these solutions have evolved over time, biometrics solutions will become the norm.

Analytics and dashboards: As HR and payroll solutions become more integrated, user-friendly and leverage web technology, new solutions will emerge to deliver insightful analytics. This data will enable organizations to understand workforce metrics and trends within their divisions, and against peers within their industries, leading to more timely workforce decisions.

Green technology: This will become even more prevalent as information capture, government reporting, electronic signatures and other changes enable companies to eliminate paper reporting and payroll stubs. 

On demand: Technological developments could result in payroll processing any time, from anywhere, on any device, including just-in-time audit, exceptions and adjustments and maybe even employee-directed.

Communication: Social media plays an important role in setting the norms by which younger generations wish to communicate — leading to changes in service and support for employees. Younger workers believe in real-time access to almost anything, including their work, and have more faith in technology to manage private affairs than other generations. They communicate through social channels — even their pay and benefits information are part of this — and how payroll professionals interact with their demographically evolving clients will change to incorporate new media.

Payroll professionals can adapt, as they always have, by keeping up with technological innovations and industry trends, and understanding that their internal customers’ needs and wants are evolving and, as such, they too need to evolve. 
The increasing pace of technological innovation means new challenges, growth and exciting new opportunities for payroll professionals.

Shelley Ng is vice-president of product management at payroll services provider Ceridian Canada in Toronto. She can be reached at [email protected].

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