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Technology: the great enabler or the burdensome beast?

An engaged workforce is the driving force behind every successful business. And the HR team is at the forefront of ensuring good employee engagement, from supporting an effective performance cycle, delivering learning and development opportunities and ensuring fair and well communicated policies to support workers.

However, my experience is that all too often, HR teams are held back by clunky technology, poor systems and endless tedious administrative tasks.

Traditional HR tech, while being billed as the solution to these issues, often exist as an add on, creating a set of disconnected siloed systems, which still requires significant amounts of data input or administrative oversight. And every new tool is another system you must manually manage.

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Take onboarding a new employee as an example. Everyone who has been responsible for new employee onboarding will feel the pain of managing this process.

Typically, it is a laborious, expensive, complex and often, error-prone, job. It’s also the first impression a new employee has of their company.

We want them to feel great about the decision they’ve made to come and work with us, not face endless admin in order to get going.

Indeed, it can even take someone on the HR team an entire day to onboard just one employee, often involving dozens of software providers (from documents and emails to payroll, holiday booking systems and expenses), siloed applications and staff routinely performing manual administrative tasks that add limited value to their business.

But for me, the all-time worst thing holding HR and finance teams back is payroll. It’s the most important thing we do – paying our employees correctly and on time – but also the most unnecessarily time consuming and onerous of tasks.

It involves lots of people, lots of spreadsheets and too much back and forth.

Many organisations are also forced to deploy outsourced third-party providers to manage their payroll – especially if they operate internationally – adding further cost, time, complexity and error risk to the process.

Getting this right is obviously critical: if there is one way to damage relationships with employees, it’s not paying them on time, or the right amount (or both).

But running payroll can take several days out for HR or finance teams every month, leaving them less time to focus on more interesting or strategically important tasks.

So how do we ensure that HR teams spend less time on admin and fighting clunky processes, and more time doing the things that really make a difference to employee engagement?

The answer must be investing in better technology.

From onboarding, payroll, time tracking, holidays, expenses – the solutions now exist to bring all of these systems into one place, to allow technology to take the burden of the admin and to have more robust processes in place that take a fraction of the time.

With significantly reduced time spent on these administrative tasks, businesses can either recruit for larger HR, finance and IT teams, or they can invest in enabling them to perform higher level roles to support business objectives.

Doing so delivers benefits across the board: HR teams can focus on employee engagement and learning and development; IT teams can optimise the process of device and application management; and finance can focus on strategic growth.

In our own business, the CEO of the company runs payroll for our global workforce. It takes him five minutes. I invite anyone in a HR team reading this today to interrogate the status quo of slow, costly, clunky technology you are inevitably using. Challenge it and you’ll likely find you will save yourself time, your employer money and boost productivity.

Ted Eltringham is growth lead EMEA at Rippling