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How to adopt payroll processes to a post-Covid-19 workplace

How to adopt payroll processes to a post-Covid-19 workplace

from  May 10, 2021 | 10 min read

Covid-19 has arguably been the greatest economic disruptor since the Great Recession of 2008, affecting entire industries around the world.

For one, the coronavirus pandemic has caused organizations to fast-track their digital transformation initiatives as social distancing guidelines force consumer activities to move exclusively online. Research by McKinsey & Company shows that in the Asia-Pacific region, the average share of digital consumer interactions increased to 53% since the start of the pandemic—up from the pre-pandemic levels of 32%.

HR departments have also had to re-evaluate their digitization projects to keep employees—most of whom are still working from home—safe and productive. According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report, 38% of senior executives surveyed in 2020 believe that digital technology (automation in particular) is the key to optimizing HR activities and promoting productivity.

HR leaders themselves have also had to adapt by engaging employees during a time of uncertainty as well as mental and emotional distress, all while ensuring payroll continuity.

Key payroll areas to focus on after the pandemic

With the lessons learned from the pandemic, how can you prepare your organization’s processes for the next business interruption? Here are a few core areas to look at.

Adjusting to a (potentially permanent) remote workforce

A survey by The Straits Times revealed that 80% of Singapore workers prefer remote work or flexible working arrangements despite local employers being given the go-ahead to bring their teams back to the office.

Workers in Malaysia have similar attitudes. According to a report from recruitment company Hays, 85% of job seekers in Malaysia said that remote working options had become more important to them since the pandemic. Flexible hours are also more desirable, structured hours less so.

These findings are hardly shocking—employees have long campaigned to be allowed to work from home. But what is surprising is the strong support from HR. According to a global survey by online publication HRD, 91% of HR leaders are keen on campaigning for remote work arrangements to continue in a post-COVID-19 world.

While it’s still unclear when things will go back to “normal,” organizations with traditional payroll infrastructure should consider bringing their Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) to the cloud to adapt to this new working climate. To do this, you will have to ask the following questions:

  • Do the critical members of your HR and finance teams have the infrastructure and contingency plans in place to work from home during a major disruption? For example, can they bring home their work laptops? Do they have the broadband connectivity to continue working?

  • Do you have the cloud-based applications necessary to ensure continuity anytime and anywhere?

  • Does the remote work setup account for data confidentiality?

HR and payroll centralization

Centralizing HR and payroll systems provides employers with more control over their reporting setups as well as better insights into all HR and payroll activities. For companies with international teams, this can be the key to consolidating all international payroll requirements under one application and preventing problems like payroll leakage, which can lead to excess labor costs equal to 0.5% to 2.5% of annual total payroll.

Centralization also makes HR and payroll teams more agile and responsive, allowing them to report and collaborate in real-time.

The challenge, however, is finding a single payroll provider that can centralize payroll on a global scale. According to a recent survey, while 69% of executives said they thought it was fairly or very important to achieve global payroll delivery through a single vendor, 45% said they don’t believe there is a single vendor capable of doing so.

Outsourcing payroll functions

Covid-19 has also reinforced the business case for outsourcing payroll, which offers two core benefits: efficiency and cost savings. Both will be crucial for any company navigating the uncertainty of a post-pandemic world.

Generally speaking, you have two options when outsourcing payroll functions. You can either co-source tasks, splitting them between your in-house HR teams and an external payroll services provider, or outsource specific tasks entirely.

Outsourcing makes sense if routine activities such as timesheet monitoring and payslip generation are eating into your staff’s hours. According to Statista, 27% of global SMEs co-sourced their payroll functions in 2019. Small businesses are the most likely to fully outsource payroll, with 15% leaving it in the hands of a provider.

Leveraging AI and automation

Leveraging AI and automation reduces costs, saves employee time, and reduces the risk of human error leading to payroll leakage. In fact, a study commissioned by the Ministry of Manpower and the Institute for Human Resource Professionals (IHRP) found that payroll was the HR function most likely to be displaced by process automation.

A good number of SMEs in Singapore and Southeast Asia are probably already using payroll apps with artificial intelligence (AI) and automation features like HReasily, Expensify, and Talenox. What they might not be doing, however, is integrating their disparate payroll apps and other HR functions into a single cloud-based accounting platform. This step is what allows HR teams to eliminate routine tasks from their workflow, freeing up time to focus on more strategic work.

Watch out for evolving laws

The post-pandemic outlook remains uncertain despite hopes of vaccination campaigns bringing the world back to normal. In the meantime, companies must be proactive and keep an eye out for any emergency policies and schemes—such as the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), which provides cash flow support to employers in hard-hit industries—as they are announced.

HR teams must be diligent in communicating clearly with employees and making sure that adjustments to policies are understood to manage uncertainty among employees as the pandemic situation evolves.

Now is the best time to future-proof your payroll processes

Even during times of crisis, payroll never stops, nor is it ever canceled. So long as organizations have employees, payroll continuity will always be a key priority.

Unit4 Prosoft can help you set up an environment where operations can withstand disruptions. We offer a centralized, end-to-end HR solution that can ensure employees across the region are paid on time in spite of flexible arrangements, and get the mental health breaks they deserve.

Get in touch with our team to learn more about how we can help your organization.  


Unit4 Prosoft

Unit4 Prosoft have been serving customers in Asia for 30 years and is trusted by over 1,000 businesses across the APAC region in the manufacturing, healthcare, retail, construction, and professional services industries. Unit4 Prosoft HRMS has modules that support every aspect of your HRMS programs and allows you to manage people’s entire hire-to-retire cycle with a central control center and database. Your people get the flexibility and freedom to have what they need—how, when and where they need it.