We all know what time of year it is – we’re rapidly rushing toward year end, tying up a bunch of loose ends, and wishing we could just focus on the holidays. On top of all that, when we find a second to breathe and put on our leadership hats, we get hit with a tidal wave of all the latest 2020 HR and payroll trends articles from our favorite thought leaders telling us what we should be watching and caring about over the next year if we want to be competitive in our fields. That’s a ton of noise to cut through, right?

Now I’m not saying it’s not important to keep track of trends – it’s critical – it’s just hard sometimes to see how all those ideas of varying sizes actually affect you on a practical level. That’s because a lot of the articles we read about HR and payroll trends just introduce concepts and leave it up to us to decide how to apply them.

This is not one of those articles.

Instead of focusing on the thousand-foot view of what’s on the horizon, I thought this year I’d take a different approach. I’ve taken a look at some of the biggest trends we’re hearing today and have reframed those into 6 practical ways – 3 for HR and 3 for payroll – that you can apply day to day thinking to these trends so you can kick things up a notch for you and your team in 2020:

HCM buyer's guide banner - addressing HR and payroll trends

Hot theme for HR in 2020: Making it personal

When it comes to 2020 HR trends I’m seeing a lot about personalization. Whether it’s being talked about by that term directly, as a component in an “employee experience platform,” or as part of a holistic HR strategy, personalization at its core means one thing – understanding the different roles of the people at your organization and capitalizing on the moments that matter to them with your HR technology choices. Okay, okay, I lied, two things, but they’re basically two sides of the same coin.

I know what you’re thinking. “Yeah, that sounds great, but doesn’t ‘personalization’ actually mean ‘tons more administrative work?’” Not necessarily. Here are some ways to get there without putting extra tasks on your plate:

  1. Use AI tools and people analytics: These get talked about as HR trends in their own right (see, like, all the articles I’ve linked so far), but when used for personalization they’re extremely powerful. As part of a unified HCM system, the right AI can use machine learning to look across your whole employee lifecycle, identify issues like flight risk or absence, and automatically deliver predictions and recommendations to you. Then you can dig into targeted results with people analytics tools to create visualizations for managers so they can be proactive and personalize their approaches for the different people on their teams. The best part is that the AI’s automating the analysis for you so you can focus on taking action instead of investigating. The key is finding an AI that’s extensible so it can consider more than one issue instead of only a single problem.
  2. Empower employees with self-serve access: These ideas have been making the rounds for a while, but there’s a reason for that. There are over 9.3 billion mobile connections being made as of this year. Just a few days ago on Black Friday, mobile purchases accounted for 56 percent of all digital orders. This is where the workforce lives now. A key part of personalization is ensuring your HR technology adapts to the devices your people use. They should be able to swap shifts, see pay stubs, check their performance, enroll in benefits, and handle any other moment that matters to them in their work life right from their phone. And again, this comes with virtually no effort for you as an HR professional – you’ve just got to pick an HCM system that automatically adjusts its screen layout based on device type and provides a range of employee self-service options. If you’ve been pushing this HR trend to the back burner, 2020 is the time to give it the priority it deserves.
  3. Get HR insights that anticipate your needs: The last big thing to remember with personalization is not to forget about yourself! I know most HR folks focus first on everyone else in their organization, but you should make sure that you get the benefits of personalized HR technology too. How? In 2020, make sure your HCM system is helping you with your key moments. Look for a solution that’s working toward using the intelligence built into it (think of the AI we mentioned earlier) to understand the tasks you perform regularly, when you typically perform them, and what you need to efficiently accomplish them. Think about open enrollment for instance – wouldn’t it be nice if your system knew when your organization typically starts that process and served you up best practices and steps to follow before you had to go searching for them?

Hot theme for payroll in 2020: Making time for strategy

Let’s face it – even just keeping the lights on in the payroll department is an intensive process, but yet you know you’re sitting on lots of powerful insights that could help the organization. That’s why for 2020 payroll trends I thought I’d focus on how you can highlight your strategic value to your organization. Earlier this year, we worked with APA and identified a big perception gap between payroll teams and the rest of the business around this, so the new year is the perfect time to take that on.

Of course, again we’ve got to be sensitive about people’s workloads here. These suggestions for 2020 will help you shine strategically as a payroll pro while you keep those perfect paychecks heading out on schedule:

  1. KPI tracking = continuous improvement: One of the things that surprised us from the APA research was that over half the teams we surveyed don’t track payroll key performance indicators (KPIs). Getting a foundation of data under you is critical, because you can’t improve what you can’t track. Luckily, if you use the same people analytics processes we touched on earlier, this can be easy to set up. A unified HCM system automatically collects a wide range of data points like payment errors, manual/voided/stopped payments, total payroll processing time per cycle, and the latest compliance standards. Building some data visualizations and dashboards collecting things like payment types, error rates, processing times, and other KPIs important to your payroll processes will make things even faster to track on an ongoing basis and put you ahead of what’s going on day to day.
  2. Haste ≠ waste: Here’s another fun fact we’ve uncovered that goes against conventional wisdom – faster is better. We talked about this recently at our fall eSymposium session on our research with APA. It turns out the companies with the lowest payroll error rates are the ones that close out their payroll faster. How’s that possible? Automation. Work in 2020 to remove manual processes and let your HCM system do the heavy lifting for you. It also has the added benefit of freeing you up to focus on the strategic data we just talked about.
  3. Unification = the way forward: Sorry to harp on our research so much, but there were just so many good results. Last one, I promise. Over 60 percent of the people we surveyed said their payroll processes had to be unified with their timekeeping and HR systems. If you’re still doing payroll off in your own corner of the world it’s just not the industry standard anymore. Change is tough, especially in payroll because it affects so many things, but consider doing all you can to make sure you’re a key part of your organization’s wider HCM approach as you decide how to handle 2020 payroll trends.

Conclusion: 2020 will be an exciting year for HR and payroll

Hopefully I’ve been successful in giving you a bit of a different take on how to look at 2020 HR and payroll trends. As you can see, once you focus on the actions you can take things become a lot clearer. The other thing that’s probably clear by now is that if you want to stay on top of trends, improve your processes, and become a strategic leader, you’ve got to have a strong HCM system in the background tying everything together, capitalizing on the moments that matter to your employees, and allowing you to cut through all the latest trend noise without undermining your many other responsibilities. Need to know how to get there? Check out our HCM Buyer’s Guide.

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Published: Wednesday, December 4, 2019