From XU Magazine, 
Issue 19

Payroll and HR: A perfect first step toward your SME’s digital transformation

Time, as they say, is money. And anything that can help an entrepreneur with a growing SME streamline multitasking should be embraced with open arms. Payroll and HR functions are a prime example.

Today, technology is taking out much of the complexity associated with digitising these functions in a fast-moving business landscape. Growing staff complements and complicated regulatory requirements used to mean small business owners spent hours poring over spreadsheets just to get salaries out on time – but not anymore.

Luckily, with the advent of cloud-based service delivery, even smaller businesses can make use of digital tools to simplify these functions. Most digital payroll and HR vendors, PaySpace included, have developed products and solutions appropriately scaled for even the smallest enterprise. But what makes Payroll and HR such high-priority items on the road to digitisation, and what do practitioners need to do to ensure they are prepared?

Payroll is NOT Peripheral

We are talking about a function that can sometimes amount to 50% of total business costs. Even the simple shift to becoming more efficient when it comes to managing employees’ leave days can make a remarkable difference to the bottom line.

Having been in the Payroll and HR industry for number of decades, it became evident to me right from the beginning that payroll and HR functions are among the most time-consuming and labour-intensive in business – and they are functions that every business, regardless of their sector or their size, need to perform along strict regulatory guidelines.

Businesses looking to take their first steps into the digital world would be hard-pressed to find a single area that can deliver ROI quite like payroll and HR can. In today’s cloud-first environments, there are no specialised pieces of machinery required, no in-depth training to go through or specialist skills to acquire, and no hefty infrastructure cost outlays. The software itself and every update it requires are delivered automatically, always ready to go when a business owner needs it.

Payroll and HR should align with the company’s strategy, and if focussed around developing and retaining talent, they can lead to boosted productivity company-wide. A cloud-based HCM solution empowers Payroll and HR teams to fulfil their critical role as a part of an organisation’s overall strategic vision, bringing it out of the shadows and into a place where its contribution to business wellbeing can be exploited to the greatest possible effect.

Your Employees Expect it

At this point in the game, a clear majority of the workforce is made up of digital natives – Millennials and younger generations. It’s expected that Millennials will compose around 75% of the workforce by 2030, and as a generation, they simply expect more from their employers in terms of employee engagement, management and relations. Their arrival in – and effects on – the job market, are another double-challenge that a savvy HR department will be able to handle only with the aid of technology.

Most companies today are struggling with growing levels of disengagement resulting from a mismatch between the processes in place and their expectations. In the South African context of hard-to-find talent and global competition for top candidates, the convenience, ease and efficiency of a business’s Payroll and HR functions become key differentiators that tell employees they are cared about, that their career paths are actively being promoted, and that they have the kind of support from their employers that will make for a mutually beneficial relationship in the long term.

HR Practitioners Need to Upskill, or Face Being Left Behind

Luckily for Payroll and HR practitioners, it seems unlikely for now that their roles will be made redundant by technology anytime soon. The human side of HR will always be of a social and interpersonal nature that simply cannot be replicated by machines. That’s not to say, however, that practitioners can simply sit back and carry on with business as usual as the digital disruption takes hold. New technologies necessitate new skills, and those that acquire them will find themselves in an excellent position to leave the repetitive tasks to computers while enhancing the human-centric parts that are so essential to good employee management and engagement.

Automated solutions are helping business owners do this more easily than ever before, taking care of keeping accurate records, generating reports, and responding to changes in the regulatory framework without missing a beat. There’s no need to become IT experts – that’s what your vendors are for. But a working knowledge of the systems available is essential to getting the most out of your organisation’s investment.

Many cloud-based payroll systems – including ours – are easy to link with other applications and software in your digital ecosystem, including Xero’s accounting software and various ERP software. This means that work is never duplicated, all related processes are streamlined and integrated, seamlessly transferring account numbers from one function to another with no manual entry required.

Why leave it there?

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