How Payroll Connects To Agility

Noémie Heuland, CFO at Ceridian
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Finance chiefs need greater flexibility to address today’s challenges, from economic headwinds to rising interest rates, says Noémie Heuland, CFO at Ceridian. Rethinking your payroll can help.

Post-pandemic, the workplace is still experiencing upheaval—but finance teams can help mitigate the impacts of economic uncertainty and employees’ financial stress by having more agile payroll processes.

That’s the take from Noémie Heuland, CFO of Toronto-based Ceridian. Heuland talked with StrategicCFO360 about the results of the company’s latest surveys on how disruptions within organizations are impacting both employees and employers—and how finance teams can best respond.

Why should finance teams rethink payroll processes and systems in the post-pandemic workplace?

As we move past the pandemic, many companies are facing some sort of upheaval. From the shift to virtual work, to the uncertain economic outlook, to rising financial stress among workers, organizations need to be flexible and agile. Without the right payroll technology in place, organizations are going to be slow to adapt to these changes—or, even worse, unable to keep up.

During the pandemic, people got used to working remotely and they want to continue to have that flexibility moving forward. Ceridian’s Pulse of Talent survey found that workers see flexibility as the second most valuable attribute of a job, behind only compensation. As the workforce becomes increasingly dispersed and global, companies that want to be competitive in attracting and retaining talent need to operate seamlessly across borders.

Companies also need to be agile as we move into a period of economic uncertainty. So far this year, we’ve seen a growing number of layoffs and cost-cutting measures as companies grapple with rising interest rates and signs of slowdown. Whether they’re contracting or restructuring, companies need to ensure their payroll processes and systems can handle these changes.

And this economic uncertainty doesn’t only impact companies—it’s also affecting their employees. We recently did a study that found financial stress among North American workers is at the highest level since the 2008 financial crisis. Companies are going to need to have a plan in place to support these employees, with innovative solutions like on-demand pay that gives workers access to their pay as it’s earned.

Finance departments should be reviewing their payroll processes and systems to ensure they’re agile enough to provide accurate, timely and compliant payroll amidst these changes. If they’re not, finance leaders have a great opportunity to rethink payroll and invest in technological solutions for the future.

What advice do you have for CFOs looking to make their practices more agile?

We’re living through a period of rapid change in so many areas of our lives, and agility is more important than ever. CFOs who want to build agility in their department need to rethink their role and the role of their teams by moving beyond their traditional functions and playing a bigger role in the strategic direction of their company.

A big step in this process is embracing technology. In Ceridian’s latest Executive Survey, which polls 2,000 leaders from around the globe, respondents told us that outdated technology and a lack of technology were two of the biggest impediments to managing disruptions within their organizations.

Most companies have a long-term IT roadmap that guides investments. If you haven’t reviewed your plan since the pandemic began, it’s time to reprioritize spending for the new world of work that we’re in. It’s also a good time to look at existing technologies to see what still makes sense and what needs to be replaced.

Technology that can scale with the direction of your business and realize efficiencies will make your function more responsive and valuable during this period of change.

What trends are you seeing regarding increased transparency and accountability in DEI metrics, including pay equity?

Increasingly, senior executives are buying into the importance of DEI. They recognize the value it brings, and they’re getting more open about sharing progress and holding their organizations accountable by tying compensation to DEI outcomes. More than 2,400 CEOs at U.S. corporations have signed the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion pledge.

To make quantifiable progress in DEI statistics and pay equity—again, companies can leverage technology to effectively measure their progress and track its effectiveness.

What take-aways do you have for CFOs looking to future-proof their compliance?

We’ve talked a lot about change, and if there’s one area that’s in a constant state of flux it’s the regulatory environment. I said earlier that CFOs are increasingly involved in setting the strategic direction of their companies, and that includes turning compliance into a strategic function instead of constantly reacting to change. Compliance—especially for global firms operating in multiple jurisdictions—is time consuming and costly. You can mitigate some of those costs by ensuring that compliance is a part of the decision-making process.

The first step is to move away from a reactive approach and look forward to the regulatory changes and risks that could affect your company and create a roadmap for managing those issues.

Once you have a clear vision for compliance, there are many ways to make your compliance function more efficient, less costly and scalable. There are a host of regulatory technology solutions that can automate the process, handle monitoring and reporting, and ensure payroll is tax compliant across jurisdictions.

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