Top executives don’t recognize value of payroll

The majority of payroll professionals don’t think C-suite leadership recognizes the strategic value the payroll function can deliver to an organization, according to a new survey.

The 2019 State of Payroll study, conducted by the American Payroll Association on behalf of technology provider Kronos Incorporated surveyed 651 payroll professionals from North American businesses of various sizes and industries. It found that 78 percent of the payroll professionals polled view payroll as a strategic business function that can provide critical insights, engage employees, and support organizational goals. However, payroll professionals believe they lack support from senior executives, contending that just one out of five C-level executives (22 percent) view payroll as capable of being a catalyst to support strategic business growth.

Outdated technology may be one indication of executive apathy. Nearly half (45 percent) of the survey respondents said the payroll solution at their company is at least six years old, while 27 percent said their payroll solution is 10 or more years old.

Processing payroll takes more than an entire day at 72 percent of the organizations surveyed, while 50 percent of the payroll professionals polled said they still do not track key performance indicators, a percentage that’s virtually unchanged since last year’s study. Ten percent of payroll professionals said they don’t even know basic performance metrics like the cost of payroll per employee.

“The payroll function is primed for disruption,” stated Martin Armstrong, vice president of payroll shared services at Charter Communication, and an advisory board member of The Workforce Institute at Kronos. “With modern solutions now automating many of the previously manual, time-consuming elements of each pay cycle, payroll professionals have an opportunity to transform into data analysts, strategic consultants, and even educators. Organizations that empower their payroll teams empower their entire organization.”

The top must-haves in a new payroll solution cited by the respondents in the latest poll include security access options based on user role (94 percent), on-demand reporting (89 percent), frequent compliance and regulatory updates (85 percent), real-time reporting and analytics (84 percent) and employee self-service (82 percent).

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To improve data quality, eliminate duplicate data-entry and achieve real-time visibility, 60 percent of the respondents prefer a payroll solution unified with time and labor management and/or human resources.

“Savvy payroll professionals are ready to contribute strategically right now,” said Stacey Kervin, senior manager of the HCM practice group at Kronos, in a statement. “They’re sitting on a wealth of data that can inform business decisions, but it’s nearly impossible to analyze without the proper technology. Their HR colleagues are focused on delivering a great employee experience to boost recruitment and retention, but employees are perpetually frustrated trying to access and understand pay data or update critical information like their tax withholdings. By unifying payroll into a single solution with HR and workforce management, organizations will elevate payroll professionals into strategic contributors that play a key role supporting the modern workforce.”

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