Following on the heels of significant technology advancements that have changed the way organizations think of everything from marketing to human resources, it is now payroll’s time to transform from back office necessity to strategic contributor. And just as the systems companies use to manage those other key functions have evolved from on-premise software installations to cloud-enabled integrated solutions, legacy payroll systems are ready to transform as well.
The problem is that changing solutions in any function is too easily seen as too risky, a decision-making issue that tends to plague the essential function of payroll even more than others. Any interest in improving the payroll solution is easily dampened by the unfounded fear of payslip errors, upset workers, and compliance violations. Yet the need for better processing, analysis, and outcomes remains.
Any successful campaign for change within small companies or large corporations requires a strong business case and ready answers to likely objections. However, overcoming inertia in payroll takes more than a compelling cost-benefit analysis: there must be a reason for decision-makers to want to say yes. Whether change is on the horizon or you’re looking to begin a conversation about payroll transformation, here are five ways to influence decision-making and make sure your ideas and opinions get the consideration they deserve.
1. Understand the Status Quo
Before you can properly explain the benefits of a solution change, you must understand the challenges currently facing your payroll organization. However, it’s not enough to list delays caused by outdated technology or highlight processes that could be automated. You need to understand why these issues exist, meaning which aspects of the current system create them, as well as why they persist — meaning why they are allowed to continue.
Although the reasons for changing payroll systems may be evident to you and even urgent for your team, there may be an equally valid reason for why a change hasn’t been approved. For example, perhaps HR is in the early stages of a HCM transformation project that’s taking precedence. Understanding the why doesn’t mean you can’t start the conversation about payroll, but it can help frame the conversation in a way that’s more likely to be received well by your co-workers.
2. Address the Costs
It can be tempting when making a business case for system change to talk around or gloss over the costs of making a switch. But it’s a fact that transitioning to a new technology platform costs money and resources that business leaders are unlikely to want to part with.
Having a realistic discussion of the costs of your idea can help create trust between your team and the decision-makers. By showing you recognize key financial stressors and understand their impact on the decision-making process, you’re creating the opportunity to have a real discussion about the prospect of payroll transformation, versus a one-sided pitch meeting. Keep in mind that even if the current system costs are excessive or inconsistent, they are known — in contrast to the unknown costs of a new solution, which amplify any uncertainty around making a switch.
3. Explain the Broader Benefits
Most members of a global payroll team are able to itemize the benefits of a cloud-based, unified, automated, integrated payroll solution in terms of how it could address their own needs. The greater challenge — and the more effective argument — lies in expressing how that solution could make a positive difference to the broader organization.
Learning to do this requires a deeper understanding of your company’s business goals and strategic objectives, both for related functions and across the organization. For example, if HR is working toward improving the employee experience, you might highlight how automated payroll processes can save time and enable team members to respond more quickly to employee queries. If the company leadership is looking to use data analysis to better understand performance differences across regions, you can show how payroll analytics can inform their understanding of time and resource input in different locations.
4. Gain Influencer Support
Sometimes your best advocate for payroll transformation may have little or nothing to do with your day-to-day. Perhaps the CIO is a champion for automation and instantly understands how RPA in global payroll can support the larger needs of the organization. Maybe the head of HR is campaigning for their own system change and recognizes that a streamlined, integrated HR and payroll solution could be important for the future of your organization.
Gaining an influential internal supporter can not only amplify your voice, but also add another dimension to your case for change for key decision makers. And depending on where your support comes from, that champion could be the difference between your case being discussed around the right table or dismissed at the door.
5. Show It Working
One of the best ways to have your campaign taken seriously is to show you’ve taken it seriously. Demonstrate how you’ve thought it through, what the end-state looks like, and how your organization can get there. Create options for resource planning and include costs. Work through realistic timelines and alternative rollout plans. Show that you understand change management is complicated and challenging, and even how prospective vendors can help guide your project through.
The point is not to solve every potential problem and find an easy path to success, but to show that you recognize the reality of changing payroll systems and will endeavor to identify and create solutions to the issues that will invariably arise. Keep the focus on your end goal, the changed payroll state, and the benefits it offers to everyone involved and the broader organization. By addressing the big issues and being open to the unavoidable questions, you’ll create the opportunity for a real conversation about the need for and value of better payroll — and make it that much easier for people to say yes.