Is Technology Taking Over Payroll?

17th October 2017

Automated services are making the HR and payroll sector a more efficient and productive place. But robots aren’t about to take your jobs any time soon. Here’s why…

automated payroll


Payroll is perhaps the most data-intensive aspect of HR. Every pay cycle demands accuracy, timeliness and coordination of every transfer and process.

Whether you’re a small business or a huge multi-national, a high-quality payroll service is non-negotiable. Your employees work hard for you and expect to be paid regularly, without delay.

To ease the burden on payroll staff, automated solutions and software exist to manage these complex processes. The latest payroll software solutions are capable of collating all your payroll data and allocating the correct pay based on that data. Calculations, deductions, sickness and overtime can all be taken into account to ensure that staff get paid correctly and on time.

Automated systems are very useful when the set of inputs are known and the outcome is predictable. For example, calculating pay. An employee works a set number of hours and then pay is calculated  minus tax and deductions etc, resulting in a clear and simple outcome: wages.

When payroll gets complex for humans, it is usually due to a simple numbers game – more accounts and more modifiers to the calculations. For sophisticated payroll software, volume is never a problem.


There are many areas in payroll, and particularly HR, that humans excel at. Technology is ideally suited to circumstances where the inputs and outcomes are both known and obvious. Just input the data and let the software do its thing. But there are two clear complications that AI is utterly unsuited to.

The first is the unexpected. Software, even cleverly designed software, does not respond well to sudden changes and unforeseen spikes in demand. Human staff have the advantage of being able to act outside the parameters that make software possible. If you have a one-off process to undertake, or experience a sudden influx in payments, human staff can respond with greater agility than payroll software.

The second problem is data. Everything payroll software produces is a result of the data it is given. Outside of very specific examples, “smart” technology has a hard time interpreting data in context.

For a simple example of this, ask your smart phone to do a Google search. Odds are, you’ll have to clarify your needs before you get the results you want.

What this means is that payroll errors made by the larger workforce (something payroll staff encounter all the time!) will result in staff not being paid accurately, or on time. Human staff are able to interpret data with context in mind and be better judges as to the validity of that data. While systems can be worked for an advantage, the same thing won’t get past a payroll professional.

Finally, there is what you would call the good old ‘human touch’. The payroll department is a mystery to those not privy to its secrets, but it’s an aspect that impacts every employee’s working life.

When people have questions regarding something as personal as their payroll, staff want to talk to a real person. Even sophisticated chatbots, cannot replace the “human” element of HR, which is essential to staff wellness and positivity.

Despite the natural inclination to be weary of ever more complex software, payroll professionals should approach it with positivity. Technology, when well used, works in harmony with your goals both personally and professionally.

If it doesn’t save the business money and make your staff’s life better, it isn’t worth the investment. When your payroll team is free from repetitive tasks, more value-adding activities might finally get the attention they deserve.

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Amity from IRIS FMP is the Payroll Professional's Choice for HR & Payroll software

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