Over the next few years, new technologies will add more and more automation and other capabilities to payroll software. Here are some of the ways machine learning and AI will be able to improve and enhance payroll over the next few years.

Chatbots to deal with queries

In large companies HR and payroll staff can be bogged down answering routine queries from employees that take up a considerable amount of time and resource. Chatbots can address many of these, giving employees instant responses and only needing to refer complex questions to a human. Future chatbots will be likely to use machine learning and/or AI in order to become smarter over time, increasing their ability to provide answers to complicated queries and scenarios. But even today’s basic conversational chatbots can fulfil an extremely useful function, giving employees the quick responses they need and freeing up payroll staff to get on with the company’s bigger tasks.

Smart shift patterns and rotas

At the moment some advanced payroll systems have the capability to build rotas, based on employee’s standard working hours. Some also allow employees to communicate with each other, for instance to request a shift swap. In the future this capability will become more and more sophisticated, being able to take into account everything from the weather to employee’s individual performance at different times of day. It will also be possible to predict staffing requirements and notify HR if more staff are needed. AI could also impact positively on the bottom line by analysing payroll data and picking up on substantial increases in overtime, notifying the business that it needs to hire more staff, but saving money over all.

Keeping on top of compliance

Staying on top of the law takes a lot of time and effort, but the results of not doing so could be extremely damaging, both financially and in terms of reputation. In the future AI will be able to carry this burden, tracking changes in rules and regulations, seeing how these changes will affect the organisation’s payroll and HR systems, and alerting that department so they know they need to take action, rather than finding themselves caught out further down the line.

More efficient data management

A lot of businesses already have employee self-service, with staff filling in their own timesheets and sending them off for approval. Future systems may be more thoroughly automated, with approval only needed in exceptional cases. Smart devices may provide better data on when employees are on-site, making ‘same-day pay’ a possibility for ‘gig economy’ workers. In businesses where workers ‘clock in’ and out, machine learning will also be able to track activity in the company and compare it to the number of workers on site, to see if there are any anomalies that may point to a fault in the clocking-in system or workers gaming the system.

Looking at the big questions

AI may also be used to give employees more relevant, personalised experiences as they self-serve and when they have queries.  AI’s analytical capabilities will also enable businesses and organisations to become more efficient across the board, for instance giving insights into the performance of different departments and able to make strategic recommendations in terms of staffing. It can even be used to predict when staff might be intending to leave their jobs – IBM say their ‘predictive attrition program’ has 95% accuracy. This would empower companies to make positive interventions at the right time in order to retain valued employees and reduce churn.

To sum up, overall new technologies will take on increasing amounts of the heavy lifting in terms of managing, analysing and reporting on data. Meanwhile humans will deal with the unexpected, something computers, however sophisticated, struggle to cope with, as well as focusing on the more strategic and business-focused elements of their jobs. Undoubtedly payroll employees worry that robots will soon be handing them their P45s. But though skill sets may change over time, people will always be needed in payroll – providing the human touch in what will always be one of the most necessarily sensitive departments in any business.

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