Professional September 2021


The future of payroll skills roundtable

The CIPP policy and research team recently hosted this roundtable which was led by Samantha Johnson LLB(Hons) ChMCIPPdip, CIPP policy lead

Participants Brian Sparling ChMCIPPdip , Ceridian Catey Palmer , Deloitte John Cronin , Subio Lesley Daniel BA (Hons) ChFCIPP, Applus UK Ltd Lisa Orton MCIPP , PWC Nick Day ACIPP , James Gray Associates T he pace of change in payroll over the previous twelve to eighteen months has been unprecedented. Payroll teams are familiar with change; technology, legislation and business strategy are all areas where we have had to adapt and remain agile to continue to deliver an accurate and timely service. However, the challenges of working from home, managing the coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS), processing Covid-related absence, and reacting to the changing demands of often struggling business, have seriously tested the skills of payroll professionals. Despite this, payroll teams have delivered; and it is testament to the skills, knowledge and behaviour of those teams that meant we kept the UK paid in 2020 – and continue to do so. The CIPP continues to look to the future of payroll, so we invited payroll professionals and experts from across the industry to discuss the future of payroll skills as we begin to emerge from the pandemic. The discussions were prompted by questions

John Cronin: Terms such as AI and chatbots mean different things to different people. There are already layers of AI that are in operation now, but we don’t think of it in those terms. These changes need to be about positioning, not what it takes away, but how it enhances the profession. Payroll is the bridge between finance and HR (human resources) in many aspects, and technology can change what payroll professionals mean to an organisation and increase their value. LO: Business needs to consult payroll teams when implementing this technology. They are the teams delivering these functions now, and consultation will help them buy in to the new technology and understand how it can rebrand payroll professionals as strategic. How will payroll skills need to change to adapt to technology? ND: As technology advances, so do payroll skills. The skills don’t become less in demand, they become more difficult and complex. Recruitment in payroll is more challenging now because there are so many facets to the payroll profession. Individuals should also be mindful that as technology changes, so these skills can become outdated. Technology creates an opportunity to develop those hybrid skills, leadership in particular – individuals with these softer skills are easier to place.

focused on four key areas. 1. Payroll skills and technology Will technology remove transactional payroll tasks? Nick Day: Large employers will adopt this technology, but the rate of adoption will be smaller in those businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees. Senior leaders in the payroll industry want to see payroll play a more strategic role. Removing these transactional tasks will help to do this and will raise the profile of payroll. Lisa Orton: In 2019, we migrated to a cloud- based system. This was a godsend during the pandemic, which helped us explore new ways of doing things and removed some manual tasks. However, it is economies of scale – you cannot invest large amounts of money if you only have a small payroll. How will artificial intelligence and chatbots shape future payroll skills? Catey Palmer: The risk is that this technology undermines our message. Payroll is a complex industry and indicating that we can replace payroll professionals with technology implies that we are just data crunchers. Brian Sparling: Chatbots and AI will have their place. Some 75–80% of queries in Ceridian could be answered by technology. However, that technology needs to really work to drive a change in human behaviour to embrace it.

| Professional in Payroll, Pensions and Reward | September 2021 | Issue 73 16

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