Paying your people matters – but who decides?

Unusually, I’m going to start this blog by asking you two questions:

Who are the strategic partners in your business involved in paying your people?

  • The finance department?
  • HR/people professionals?
  • Payroll?

How is your business adapting to the way it operates to survive in this age of Covid?

Survival is no longer related just to product costs, liquidity or supply issues. There’s a new demand for businesses to face: the employee has taken front row. Business now requires a ‘people centred’ approach to be successful.


So, how does this change the roles of Finance, HR/People Professionals and Payroll?

From a Finance department’s perspective, businesses are no longer able to dictate terms on an ‘inside-out’ basis, telling rather than listening. Instead, the emphasis has moved towards HR and people professionals. There is a clear need to listen to your people; after all, they are driving this change. It is a change that’s been a long time coming, certainly before Covid and international lockdowns took hold.

This raises yet another question. Where does Payroll belong in this digital age?

The answer? We need a collaborative approach between Finance, HR /People professionals and Payroll. Finance must consult with HR/People professionals, employees and Payroll in this increasingly dynamic time.


There are three key drivers behind changes in the workplace

1. Employees expect more

With new generations come new expectations. Employee experience now matters, and no wonder. Workaholic Baby Boomers are retiring. Women are now the norm in nearly every workplace. The Millennial manager prioritises work-life balance for themselves and their team with kids and eldercare needs to manage alongside work.

Add mainstream technological changes to these shifts and you can easily see how high the bar has been set. Employees expect standards in their working lives to reflect their domestic lives. They feel restricted or uninspired by employers who haven’t moved with the times. After all, we can order a pizza on our phones or transfer thousands of pounds at the tap of a screen. So why can’t an employee attend meetings remotely?


Miller Health, Doreen

2. Organisational culture has shifted

Expectations of flexibility in jobs have soared. This has implications for team structure, potential talent pools and management techniques. These changes are daunting and exciting in equal measure and need a joined-up approach to make them work effectively. Two-way communication is essential. Success will no longer come from telling people what to do. Businesses must now Ask, Listen and Act.

3. Digitalisation is everywhere

Employee data is easier than ever to find and analyse. With HR software available that can gather and present people data in easily digestible formats, HR can add precious insights to business planning. The role of HR managers is moving; from policy, procedure and compliance to that of strategic partner.

Despite these shifts, many organisations continue to work in a way that ties the hands of the HR department. Historically regarded as a cost centre, HR is now expected to manage employee expectations and deal with employee problems. However, they are expected to do so without access to the data and tools they need to truly make an impact in presenting the business case.


HR as a strategic partner for business success

By transferring the role of HR from cost-centre to strategic partner, organisations can start to fulfil the demands of today’s workforce. The simplest tasks are fundamental in all this. Paying people on time. Giving them working hours that let them balance their lives in a healthier way. Supporting them with the means they need to live contentedly. Until this is in place, culture and employee experience shifts won’t happen.

No longer an implementer, HR must work closely and strategically with other departments – especially finance – to deliver the human capital changes necessary to support organisational goals. With this shift in working practices must come a shift in business set-up – a set-up where all functions work together. As you’ll have heard me say before, we are all in this together.


Employee engagement is about more than money.

Is a pay increase all that employees really want?

If employees do not feel engaged and valued, there’s a chance they’re already costing the business with presenteeism. Deloitte estimates presenteeism is costing the UK economy as much as £29.3bn per year. Increasing pay will not fix presenteeism. Instead, it could increase the problem as employees come into work to receive their generous pay packets yet are disengaged from the work they do.

Discussion through two-way communication about these issues is likely to provide the solution and maintain employee morale. It’s for this reason that HR needs more access to people and organisational data, payroll, and financial data so they can take a more holistic approach to looking at the business and people’s needs.


The importance of employee wellbeing in business success

An employee’s financial wellbeing is closely related to their overall wellbeing. If an employee is worried about being unable to pay their bills on time, they won’t be able to give their best effort at work. And if a worker is unable to afford proper meals for themselves and their family because their pay is late, their attitude will be sluggish or snappy. In both cases, the accuracy and regularity of pay is essential to the employee’s physical and mental wellbeing.

Treating employees well is about more than pay rises and benefits packages, it is about the basics. Employees want a consistent salary/wage and to know they are secure.

I would suggest a few simple steps that you can take in your business to put employees at the heart of your organisation:

Miller Health, Doreen1. Give HR access to technology that will make their jobs easier. There are a wide range of specialist options available as this comparison of HR software shows. As well as automating laborious tasks such as data uploads and transferring employee records, HR software provides easy-to-access data such as absenteeism, retention and performance data. These platforms can give HR professionals easy access to analysis for an insight into potential problems or opportunities within the business. For instance, high levels of absenteeism within one department could indicate a range of potential problems. By asking questions and using other data points, the HR department may be able to isolate the situation and improve department productivity.


2. Give HR ready access to relevant financial data in order to help them make and validate action proposals. By reviewing this data regularly and aligning it with HR-specific data, HR can better understand the link to employee issues and become more strategic.


3. Review the role of payroll and its interface with HR. Does it truly belong exclusively to finance? Can HR become partners in its administration? A survey by S.D Worx (The Future of Work and People) found that ensuring a ‘smooth, efficient payroll’ is the biggest concern for HR professionals. It makes sense – with a solid integrated foundation, HR is then in the right position to deliver more strategic goals.


By giving HR wider access and collaborating more closely across the organisation, they can provide answers to questions such as ‘What is employee sickness costing us?’ or ‘How is workforce productivity changing and why?’. This in turn raises the value of the HR function, placing the employee at the centre of the organisation.


If you would like help developing an approach that truly reflects a “we’re all in it together” mentality, please get in touch.



Tel: +44 (0)333 900 9280

Email: [email protected]


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Dr Doreen Miller

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