The spread of modern technology and its ability to provide us with instant information and communication has, for better or worse, transformed our world. While in the virtual sense we are undoubtedly more connected than ever before, people overall are interacting less. This decidedly digital phenomenon is gaining increased scrutiny, and earlier this year prompted The New York Times to declare that “human contact is becoming a luxury good.”
This drop in personal interaction extends to the workplace, with effects that business and HR leaders are only beginning to understand. Although our increasingly digitized, globalized labor force — and their employers — benefit enormously from the flexibility made possible by technology, we’re having to adjust to less direct, less personal communication, collaboration, and service. Finding a tenable balance requires deciding at what point the disadvantages outweigh the possibilities, and how team collaboration factors into the new normal.
Working Through Change
From email to video conferencing to file sharing, digital communication in the workplace has revolutionized the ways in which a globally dispersed and culturally divergent workforce can work together. Traditional challenges like opposing time zones, limited local labor pools, and even language barriers have been conquered by the internet, the cloud, and the ability to work from anywhere at any time.
However, as the way we work becomes increasingly digital and automated, a new challenge emerges, in terms of how we build and maintain relationships with colleagues and customers that can foster the kind of effort, loyalty, and service that supports long-term business goals.
Particularly in the fields of human resources and payroll, business is ultimately extremely personal. People’s livelihoods depend directly on global payroll and HR teams doing their jobs, accurately and on time. Consequently, there’s a fine line to be drawn between becoming reliant on technology and being able to rely on people.
Making Collaboration Count
Leading organizations are paying more attention to the importance of collaboration and the need to use technology to optimize key processes without replacing the personal touch. In payroll in particular, the diligence of the practitioners who are processing data and checking calculations is often the key to ensuring successful payroll delivery.
If there is a question about the implications of a regulatory change, companies need an expert who can assess their unique circumstances and advise on the best way forward. If a persistent data error needs a permanent resolution, the payroll practitioner who understands both the processing workflows and the customer’s requirements can devise a solution that works for both sides.
In fact, it is technology that enables the kind of team communication and problem-solving that is needed to facilitate better payroll across a global organization. Similar to the various group chat applications we all use every day, modern cloud-based payroll platforms can include a direct collaboration tool that is visible to everyone involved in the payroll. Customers can ask questions, providers can respond in real-time, and everyone can view the communication history.
An automated email confirmation that a help ticket has been created offers little reassurance for team members working against a deadline or facing an issue they don’t understand, but the ability to send a message directly to the people working on a payroll enables customers to take action. The exchange doesn’t have to be in person or face-to-face, but it does need to be timely, direct, and conducted with the understanding that everyone involved is committed to the successful execution of that payroll. That kind of effective collaboration creates results and builds trust among colleagues and customers.
Prioritizing Personal Service
If human contact is becoming a luxury item, we're in danger of commoditizing personal service. The benefits of advanced, automated payroll solutions are compelling, but the technology is only half of the story.
For a function as personal as payroll, it's important to know who you are working with and to build a relationship with them. Developing a collaborative culture is essential when bringing together employees and remote workers of different backgrounds and with different skills and areas of expertise. The value of working as part of a team can equal the value of advanced technology, and in fact, one performs best when combined with the other.
A forward-thinking approach to global payroll management includes regular review meetings where real communication happens, for example, in which teams review performance KPIs and outcomes, and discuss what they mean for processing efficiency, improvement plans, and overall goals. Payroll will never be a luxury, and personal connection and collaboration in payroll shouldn't be either.