HR Tech Christmas Wishlist 2021

Every year I like to put together a small list of things that I’d like for Christmas, in the years gone past I might have been sat with an Argos Catalogue and a highlighter – these days my wishlist is somewhat different!

Here are the top 5 things on my Christmas wishlist for HR, Payroll & Finance

1. No More Furlough

It has to be at the top of the list, certainly by this I also mean no more covid although that seems to be a bigger wish than might be granted in the short term. The CJRS was a fantastic scheme for business support and an absolute minefield for HR and Payroll professionals. HMRC are being lenient at the moment on claims – and a recent conversation I had with one of the ‘big 3’ audit houses who also sit on the HMRC panel claimed ‘nobody got it right’. With over 400 changes in the guidance and calculations, sometimes as many as 6 changes being published in one hour (which were in conflict with each other!) the review of Furlough needs to happen now.

HMRC have also kindly confirmed that if you underclaimed for an employee at a period they are no longer an eligible person for furlough, and so in theory it would have to be repaid – helpfully they have also said that if you pay the employee the shortfall you can keep the furlough that you did claim (but can’t claim the extra). For example if I claimed £2400 and should have claimed £2500 I have to pay the employee the £100 to not have to repay the £2400 to HMRC.

It seems that HMRC are being lenient for now but will expect employers to have reviewed and repaid any funds that they have received in error, or made right any amendments for employees. The latest guidance was released on the 30th September 2021 at the time of writing this article – helpful on the last day of the scheme!

2. Employee Experience

When we purchase goods from Amazon online we get a ‘frictionless experience’. I love that phrase. Why do we not get a frictionless experience from our business systems? I’ve seen some great innovations in the employee experience space – such as Unit 4’s Wanda which integrates with Teams, or integrations with Office 365 through ResourceLink – all great for people who have access to devices running these integrated apps. I also think there are a number of providers who have really honed in on employee experience as a solution in itself – so rather than it being bolted onto the HR or Payroll system, a standalone application which focuses entirely on improving the employee experience. Number 2 on my wishlist is an Amazon grade experience for HR, Payroll and Finance Users.

3. Recruitment and Onboarding

We’re all fed up of hearing about the big shift in candidates at the moment (right now it’s a recruiters dream!). But lets start the candidate journey in a really positive way – I want to see engaging and interesting portals when I look for a new role (I’m not thinking about leaving don’t worry!), with AI helping me identify suitable roles, with SEO on the web pages to help candidates actually find the jobs rather than clicking through the sites of all the companies I want to work for – and I want the organisations front door to be appealing and welcoming, so that if I’m not quite the right fit for this role I am not put off applying for other roles. Treating people as people is so very important, especially when talent acquisition teams are busier than ever.

4. Complex Calculations

It amazes me how many of the mid-tier and tier-1 applications still cannot handle the processing of average holiday pay or have full National Living Wage compliance checks built into the system – Payroll should not have to be processing this manually in excel sheets and uploading into payroll – it is time for those providers to pull their finger out and make it happen!

5. Banking Integrations

Is BACS out of date now? I ask myself this all of the time. There are many organisations we work with where having an extra 2 days to process changes, or pay a supplier payment run later in the week would be massively beneficial – whether it be for the main payroll run, for advances/corrections or receiving accrued earnings, or paying suppliers or expenses – surely faster payments are now the go to method. We expect everything in an instant now so waiting for today 2+ days for our payments to clear seems like an eternity!

Most banks offer businesses faster payment facilities but the software providers still insist in only supplying BACS files as the payment process engine. Please Santa – can I have faster payments?

I’d like to also take the opportunity to look back on last years Christmas wishlist.

Firstly – I asked if Alexa could run my payroll (and in general have AI improve the payroll experience) – I have seen a provider now with Alexa integration to do just that. Search on the Alexa app for skills and you will see there are more cropping up. There aren’t as many AI developments in payroll as I would have liked but lets face it we’ve all been focusing on bigger fish!

I also asked for ‘Pay on Demand’ – I suppose similar to my request for faster payments rather than BACS but for employees, contractors or suppliers to be paid as and when the work is done does not seem like an outrageous request. From an employee perspective there are certainly more and more suppliers offering Earned Wage Access and more employees demanding it – I do think this will develop more in the next year with employers thinking of everything they can to improve employee experiences without a heavy price tag.

Finally, I asked last year to return to the office – in a wider sense I was asking for the world to return to normal so we could work our usual flexible way of some days in the office, some days with customers and some days at home. I think to a certain extent covid is still masking how many employers are prepared to offer truly flexible working in the longer term but with more digital nomads then ever before and a shift in mindset I am sure that we will continue to think of work as a thing we need to do rather than a place we need to be.

Let me know what you would like on your Christmas wishlist!

This blog has been written by James Proctor, Director of Professional & Managed Services at Phase 3.

James Proctor from Phase 3

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Written by : Assad Ahmed

Assad founded Phase 3 in 2004 and is responsible for the strategy, growth and finances of the business.

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