19 Jan 2021
HRD speaks to Nick Southcombe, CEO of Frontier Software, on the importance of effective payroll
HR is increasingly becoming a field of visionary strategists. Thought leaders are striving to optimise working environments to extract even greater business outcomes. But to achieve such lofty ambitions, HR need to have a solid foundation from which to work.
Getting the basics right is fundamental. Without them in place, organisations will struggle further down the track, and a fundamental part of those basics is payroll.
“I don’t think we see payroll discussed enough in the HR space,” says Nick Southcombe, CEO of Frontier Software. “There’s no denying, it’s a fundamental part of the HR function, even now. If we’re not getting that right on a week-to-week basis, then everything else is going to collapse.”
Southcombe has seen firsthand the importance of having effective payroll systems in place – particularly of late. 2020 has served as an object lesson on why payroll and supporting payroll teams is so important.
“If we put aside its primary function to pay people, payroll is a key contributor to employee confidence. COVID-19 definitely led to a lot of employee and business uncertainty alike. Having an effective payroll system in place can have a considerable stabilising effect. If people know they’re going to be paid properly and on time, then that’s going to have a tangible, positive impact on employee wellbeing and engagement.”
There are several key advantages of having an effective payroll system in place – automating processes, tracking data, centralising information and maintaining compliance all enable businesses to pay staff accurately and on time.
Southcombe reminds us, beyond staff wellbeing, there are wider business and reputational implications too. The deluge of high-profile payroll issues that have hit the Australian press in the last couple of years have served as something of a trial by fire for the companies involved, but also shone a spotlight on the critical elements that drive payroll efficacy.
“Obviously errors aren’t normally made in malice, but they can have significant repercussions. If people aren’t getting paid properly, it’s a PR disaster, not to mention the potential for future legal action. If you’ve got the right partner working with you on the tech front, you’ve got that peace of mind around compliance as well.”
Southcombe is also quick to point out that tech is very much a tool – and accordingly needs to be handled by the right people.
“I think that’s a really critical facet of HR’s involvement in payroll. You’ve got to be making the right hiring decisions about who comes into the payroll team, or else your potential for error is going to rise exponentially. Qualifications, demonstrable knowledge and relevant experience are practically a given these days.”
Looking ahead, Southcombe believes that there will be an increased focus on incorporating tech in order to handle daily payroll activities, but it doesn’t mean that HR departments will be able to simply “set and forget”.
“HR and payroll playing a strategic visionary role is a great thing. I’m a staunch advocate for it, and I’m encouraged that it’s becoming a reality. But we also need to be grounded and pay attention to the details as well. Once we know payroll is functioning properly, we know that we can start to dream bigger for the business as a whole.”
Frontier Software won a Gold Medal in the Payroll Systems Category for the 2020 HR Service Provider Awards
Originally published in HRD Magazine in January 2021