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Change is the only constant. Here’s how payroll management can stay ahead of the game by attracting – and retaining – the best talent

The pandemic has fundamentally shifted company culture, forcing companies to institute work-from-home arrangements, which include anytime, anywhere flexibility. 

This flexible future has upturned payroll management, which can no longer rely on outdated manual systems. It needs to automate, save to the cloud, adhere to legislative changes internationally, while staying on top of cyber-security concerns and shifts in technology. 

At the same time, companies need to recognise the importance of their employee value proposition (EVP). And while many insist teams return to the office, forward-thinking businesses are adopting flexible arrangements, and piling on “sweeteners”, to attract and retain the best talent. 

Increasingly, this means being able to work from anywhere in the world. In a ‘Great Resignation’ environment, retaining talent is the ultimate HR challenge. A year ago, employees started quitting their jobs in record numbers. A Microsoft study found that 41% of the global workforce were already considering leaving their employer, and those intentions are becoming a reality already.

Microsoft said employees want the best of both worlds: over 70% of workers want flexible remote work options to continue, while over 65% are craving more in-person time with their teams. To prepare for this, 66% of business decision-makers considered redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments. 

“The data is clear: extreme flexibility and hybrid work will define the post-pandemic workplace,” it announced.

Months later, the Wall Street Journal reported the percentage of Americans leaving employers for new opportunities is at its highest level in more than two decades.

How quickly that changed. This year, the newspaper reported that many of those who quit jobs during the pandemic had regrets. And a large number of workers have returned to previous employers. The so-called boomerangs accounted for 4.5% of all new hires among companies on LinkedIn in 2021, according to the professional networking site, up from 3.9% in 2019.

Companies that take their EVP to heart are thriving. A company’s EVP, the unique set of benefits that an employee receives in return for their skills, capabilities, and experience, is about defining the essence of your company – how it is unique and what it stands for.

On 9 May, Airbnb announced its employees can work from home, forever, without losing pay. The holiday rental provider, which takes its slogan ‘Belong Anywhere’ to heart, evoked a wave of traffic to its careers page, with Fortune reporting nearly a million enquiries within days. 

In an increasingly complex workplace environment, payroll processes are expected to stay abreast of these global trends, to enable companies to attract and retain the best staff, serve their needs, and thrive.

How companies manage their payroll matters more now than ever because businesses are faced with a level of payroll complexity that many have never faced before. 

A white paper from Sage, titled ‘Payroll and HR in SA: Rising to the challenges of change reveals some key insights into the local market, having interviewed 600 small businesses (with under 99 employees) and 400 medium-sized businesses (with 100 to 1,999 employees) during August 2021 to find out how they’re navigating increasing complexity in payroll and while also dealing with new challenges around remote working and data security. 

It revealed that with access to some of a business’s most sensitive and valuable information, payroll and human resources (HR) professionals are sitting on a “goldmine” of insights that can enhance business strategy, streamline compliance, and attract and retain the best talent. Few use it to support business decisions and meet candidate and employee demand for greater flexibility, competitive benefits, and easier access to HR data and information.

But, without a specialist system, those insights remain buried under a growing pile of admin.

With growing payroll and HR complexities, businesses need better reporting analytics to inform strategy and planning, faster reporting to provide timely information, tighter data security to improve compliance, and a streamlined payroll process to reduce errors, cut costs, and increase employee satisfaction, which are offered by Sage’s specialist cloud payroll and HR systems. It also provides ease of integration, online support, access from anywhere, automated tax calculations, and direct links to banks and tax authorities.

As a global market leader, Sage provides technology to small- and medium-sized enterprises to be able to manage the HR payroll processes, as well as their finance and accounting. We’re trusted by more than three million customers worldwide. 

HR plays a strategic role within an organisation, advising decision-makers on the recruitment training exchange and driving company culture. It needs to be able to adapt to the changing payroll landscape, due to new work arrangements, training requirements, sick leave, and other complexities. 

From our research, 89% of respondents recognise the importance of keeping up to date with the latest legislation. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they struggle with the complexity of payroll taxes, while 50% find it difficult to explain tax calculations to their employees. 

Unsurprisingly, 88% of businesses that were already using cloud-based payroll and HR management systems were better able to adapt to remote or hybrid working arrangements. As custodians of some of the business’s most sensitive information, 31% of payroll and HR professionals – especially those using cloud systems – focus more on cyber-security than they did a year ago.

Most (70%) payroll and HR professionals plan to switch from manual and offline systems to cloud software in the next year, citing data security, time management, and a shift to remote and hybrid working models as the main reasons.

Employees no longer want to be seen only as workers; to succeed, they want to be seen as a person in an organisation fulfilling a task. This trend in the future way of working creates complexity, in a multilateral legislation environment. 

And companies must ensure they have payroll technology that can support these complexities. DM/BM


Author:  Gerhard Hartman, VP: Medium Business, Sage Africa & Middle East



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