Written in collaboration with Teresa Smith, Senior HCM Strategy Consultant at Kronos.
It’s been said that in the face of adversity, we discover who we really are. That rings true for businesses as well as individuals. But in the everyday grind of life at work and at home (and let’s face it, those things are not as separate as they once were), these valuable lessons sometimes get lost in the shuffle. This is especially true in the HR and payroll space where there's so much to do it can be easy to get stuck in administrative processes and lose sight of the powerful impact we have on the lives of everyone we work with.
These lessons aren't so much formally taught as they are gleaned from small and large feats and triumphs that human resources and payroll professionals conquer every day. Reflecting on the past several months of trials during a time of disruption can help us strive toward better business outcomes in the future.
In this blog, we're taking a second to pause and reflect on what we've learned about HR and payroll professionals in the first half of 2020. And clearly the lessons abound.
Lessons for HR
HR professionals have had to think on their feet, get proactive, and rely on technology more than ever as the disruption we've all experienced has continued to build. Here are some key takeaways that HR should focus on as they begin moving forward:
1. Employees can adapt to the situation at hand
Consider the relative calmness of life in January and February 2020. With everything that has happened in the world, it's probably difficult to remember!
Yet, as soon as it became clear that the global situation with COVID-19 was going to cause things to change in a drastic, life-altering way, many businesses went into “go mode.” Practically overnight, companies set new rules for employees — PPE, mask mandates, hand washing, social distancing, and temperature checks, to name just a few things. This became the new normal at work for many people. Although there might have been some resistance, employees have largely embraced the new social norms of work—norms that won’t be going away anytime soon.
As we've adjusted to life with COVID-19 in the mix, it's become apparent that workers have a strong penchant for resilience, and they can adapt to conquer barriers placed in their way. As employers, ensuring that change management plans are in place and that employees are regularly surveyed about their experience on the job goes a long way towards a positive employee journey that workers seek. The moments that matter at work really do count, and that's something business leaders need to keep front of mind and build into the HR technology they use.
2. Remote work is no longer considered a benefit — it's expected
In keeping with the resilience theme, many employees not on the front lines have had to adapt to working from home for several months. Balancing work and life simultaneously has become another type of new normal for many people, and the freedom to make appointments, work their way, and watch their kids is not something that many will let go of easily once offices reopen.
Prior to the pandemic, remote work was considered a benefit in many businesses, but it can no longer be considered so. Where companies used to attract top talent by touting remote work options, doing so today may seem downright silly, considering what normal has become. Expectations of increased flexibility have shifted.
Complete disruption has taught us many things relating to remote work, including that many jobs once thought to be tethered to a physical office space can be done effectively from home. Micromanagers might have a tough time with letting go, but flexibility and freedom to work their way is what employees will expect moving forward.
Considering that reality, some questions that beg answering during this time are: why force someone to commute to an office when they can get the same job done from home? How much productivity will workers achieve if they are forced into an environment that causes anxiety? What is the collective psyche of the workforce in terms of them wanting to return to the office? Are contact tracing tools available in case of an outbreak?
Consider these and other potential scenarios in your return to work plans so you can put your best foot forward with your employee experience, whether physical or remote.
3. Effective communication and collaboration are dependent on technology
Perhaps one of the biggest lessons HR has learned from the disruption that has occurred is just how important communication and collaboration mechanisms are within an organization. Not just any communication and collaboration methods work effectively—the right ones promote ease of use, are reliable, and are widely accepted by employees and managers alike as a source of truth.
Companies that had effective HR technology solutions in place were much better suited to weather the disruption of COVID-19, and those that did not learned quickly that these solutions are no longer a luxury — they are a necessity. Ensuring employees have a safe and easy way to log their hours, request time off, switch a shift, or complete a training online via their mobile device has become vitally important during the pandemic.
Also vital is two-way communication. Oftentimes companies prioritize getting messages out, but do not have a way for employees to send messages back to managers and human resources representatives. With the rapidly changing employment landscape, this has become more important than ever.
Lessons for payroll
A critical function of human resources, payroll is complex and the scope of this complexity is only heightened further during disruption. However, many organizations have adopted new strategies and modernized their payroll decisions. Here are some things we've learned:
1. Modern payroll practitioners support both compliance and corporate culture
Payroll professionals know the importance of keeping up with changing regulations. With disruptions like the current global health crisis, keeping up with new national laws like the CARES Act and managing state and local regulations around things like paid family and medical leave can be challenging because they occur on short notice. However, we've learned that payroll professionals are becoming more strategic in how they're managing these changes. In fact, they're redefining how they spend their days. More organizations are investing in efforts to track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and using tools to gauge the business impact of internal payroll processes, putting payroll at the forefront of organizations’ compliance strategies.
In addition to compliance, payroll is playing a key role in supporting rapidly changing corporate culture, including strategies that empower employees through options like self-service, education, and a modern approach to payroll that meets the needs of the employee and the business.
2. Time is money, and payroll pros see the benefits of integrating with timekeeping processes
While there are many new regulations payroll professionals must follow, we've also learned that other factors are equally important. With so many employees working remotely these days, it's more important than ever that organizations are closely monitoring and keeping records of the hours their employees are working and that correct wage rules are being applied. In addition, payroll professionals must properly account for non-working employees, including personal/vacation/sick time and both traditional and new forms of extended leave.
As a result, payroll professionals are turning to unified technology for both workforce management and payroll processing to build automated methods of paying their employees accurately and on time. We've learned that the benefits of a unified solution go well beyond ensuring compliance. It helps organizations safely capture time through things like mobile and face recognition technology, monitor and identify employees potentially exposed to COVID-19 with contact tracing tools, and accurately calculate payroll even with new complexities in wage and hour regulations. In addition, payroll professionals are both providing better employee experiences and monitoring and spotting labor cost trends that impact their bottom line.
3. With payroll's digital transformation comes a need for speed
Our recent disruptions have been a real eye-opener for payroll professionals around the importance of getting access to timely and accurate payroll data. Many are finding that their current systems are making it difficult to stay up on recent regulations and gather the right data together. They're spending too much time manually appending data in order to get payroll calculated and processed accurately and on time.
As a result, payroll professionals are considering their commitments to the employees they support and are taking a more streamlined, digital approach to their payroll process. They are moving away from older and disparate systems and are turning to a unified cloud-based solution.
Conclusion: HR and payroll professionals can weather the toughest storms
While recent disruptions have led to numerous challenges, we have seen HR and Payroll professionals be consistently resilient. They have adopted and adjusted business plans, processes and technology to help them adjust to today’s world of work and prepare them for any long-lasting changes that may impact the business down the road.
If you've not yet invested in a unified HCM solution, it isn't too late and you shouldn't stop looking because of the disruptions we've faced. Especially now, your technology choices can give you the time and space you need to try new, more efficient processes and make decisions based on data, letting your HR and payroll teams deliver critical insights that boost your organization’s success and create positive change.