Technology advances allow global HR and payroll departments to become more strategic

Technology is becoming increasingly essential to the smooth running of human resources and payroll departments. Recent research from the CIPD and Cranfield School of Management shows that integrated IT systems enable HR professionals to show true contribution to business and allows them more time to focus on strategic business issues through actions such as in-depth performance and salary reviews. Report authors comment, “Key users must ensure that statistics, such as absence, leave and turnover, are available if employers are to achieve the knowledge and information sharing benefits associated with technology. This will enable HR to make more accurate decisions and provide a consultancy service to managers to enable them to identify problems and improve efficiency.”

At groundfloor, technology can also help provide organisations with essential facts and figures on their company’s operation. Martin Stockton, VP for global business development at leading global HR and payroll specialist, Patersons, explains, “Many international organisations are currently unable to provide accurate statistics on simple metrics such as how many staff they employ, let alone more complex queries such as how much they pay in social security contributions across a region. Being able to obtain this information automatically and in real time from one central source frees up HR and payroll to carry out more strategic tasks within the organisation.” Surveys have shown that HR and payroll administration typically account for around 20 per cent of the HR department’s time.

Global recruitment and selection for internal and external applicants can also benefit from advances in technology. Forerunners in web-based systems allow companies to take applications online via a website or intranet, to track applicants including keeping records of CVs, assessment tests, offer letters, reject letters and contracts. HR departments can create requests for hire, job descriptions and person specifications to upload onto a secure web server to share with colleagues around the world. They can automatically create rejection, short list, interview letters and offers of employment and contracts at the press of a button. Applicant searches become easier through one search of the entire company’s database by criteria such as education, age, country applied for, job applied for. This also helps to ensure that prospective employees who submit their application speculatively are included in the search, potentially saving both time and recruitment fees.

Major outsourcers will provide a very effective service when tasked with outsourcing a company’s total business operations but they are unable to provide specialist software for one area of the business, such as payroll or HR. This is where niche software suppliers and outsourcers come into their own, offering best of breed software covering services including payroll, HR, benefits, managed job boards and third party recruitment.

Patersons finds that there’s great demand for its single contract, ASP-based, CloudPay integrated solution for its clients who operate on a multinational basis with varying employee populations and varying historical payroll solutions. Organisations can provide a more consistent service to their employees internationally, improve administration by reducing the amount of double entry and manual activity required, provide one central system for payroll rather than separate country operations, enabling management to gain a full picture of key facts and statutory reporting information such as payroll expenditure, number of employees and absence statistics.

Regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which focuses on the accuracy and reliability of corporate information, encourage companies to choose new software to help them manage their HR and payroll operations. A solution that allows flexibility over business processes through flexible workflow, will enable the company to continue to use and develop its own best business practice. Workflow in web-based global HR software can also help to reduce admin-heavy paper-based tasks while employees can update their own details online via ‘self-service’. It also reduces photocopying/printing spend which can be considerable. Offices around the world can access HR data from one central point and information on HR becomes much more transparent for managers and country and global level. This saves time for HR staff who no longer need to rekey information into different systems and reduces employee time completing paper forms when they can complete information such as change of address and other personal details online. More sophisticated systems also allow staff to view and flex their benefits and complete absence and holiday forms online leading to improved response times and better planning across departments or business units. Employers can set access levels for staff to ensure that they are accessing and editing only what is suitable for the job function. It also reduces the need for IT capability in each country and the web-based software is updated and administered centrally, ensuring there is no disruption to the working year.

Organisations also seek specialist HR or payroll software to improve the accountability of these departments, for greater scalability of the HR and payroll functions, to take advantage of software available ‘for lease’ or via ASP-based models, to improve visibility of costs and to seek greater operating efficiencies. Many companies wish they could use specialist software for their HR or payroll but have bought into an ERP system such as SAP. However, certain software such as Patersons CloudPay will ‘sit above’ their existing ERP system and integrate with it, meaning that they can gain new functionality quickly without disgarding their existing IT investment. Being midway through a Transformation and HR delivery model is also not a barrier. With care it is possible to exploit the more flexible software packages, including Patersons’, at any stage in the transformation life cycle with great results.

Article was published on www.personnelzone.com September 2007

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