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How HR can rethink payroll planning for gig workers: Q&A with Colin Brennan

Written by Colin Brennan, President, Global Solutions and Services, Alight Solutions

In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, why do organizations need to evaluate, today, how the typical pay period impacts gig workers?

COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way people work and has required many companies to make difficult choices about their workforce. One of the by-products of furloughs and layoffs may be that people switch to gig work while waiting to be called back to their companies or find new opportunities.

Additionally, the surging demand for delivered goods is creating more opportunities for gig workers employed by retailers, restaurants, and on-demand service providers. But living paycheck to paycheck can be difficult, and when these gigs require hours that are less structured, waiting two weeks to be paid is not desirable. That’s why it’s important for employers using the gig model to ensure quick and stress-free methods of payment for those workers and on their channel of choice. This includes more frequent payments that go directly to workers’ digital wallets like Venmo or Apple Pay.

In what ways can AI, machine learning, analytics, and new distribution channels help employers meet the growing expectations for convenient and timely payroll among gig workers?

Payroll is ripe for disruption. While processes have stayed largely the same, we now have the technology to calculate paychecks when new time-related data is collected.

Were also excited about AI-powered machine learning that can identify payroll anomalies using an algorithm that relies upon historical data and not just the expertise and judgment of payroll analysts. For example, our intelligent assistant, Eloise, assists payroll teams in performing quality assurance and preventing and predicting costly errors in payroll. Through pattern recognition, we can quickly scan new inputs for errors based on previous payroll payment history, including employee earnings, deductions, and taxes.

On the delivery side, speed is critically important, especially with termination rules in select states and other legislation that impacts global payroll. New technology enables companies to meet these rules without having to have check stock on hand, which can create risk. Among the new tools we’re using with Daily Pay is eChecks, which allows employers to email links to workers so they can access funds immediately. This is possible even for workers who don’t have direct deposit.

Why should employers consider changing the pace of pay as the gig economy continues to grow and attract workers?

We’re in the midst of the experience economy, where most goods and services are accessible from mobile devices and transactions are seamless. People expect that same level of convenience when it comes to payments. As workers move from job to job and follow difficult schedules, it may be difficult and impractical for employers to onboard new employees onto their payroll system. Moving to more rapid calculation and payment methods will not only save on costs, but those employers will be viewed as destinations for industry talent.

How can HR rethink payroll planning, hiring of gig workers, in today’s uncertain environment? Can there be a practical use of payroll tools in these scenarios?

HR must be focused on being fast and lean, especially when it comes to operations. Many companies run gig workers through their AP systems, but this means they never enter the HR system. Knowing where your talent sits is becoming increasingly important and gig workers play a key part in this system, including rapid onboarding and offboarding. Companies need nimble processes that run in a paperless fashion, pull in data collected via the application or recruitment process, and drive mobile as a channel to bring people into the organization. One such company is Utmost, which has developed software that allows employers to see the extended workforce, including gig workers, in one view as an extension to their Workday HR system.

How can a holistic experience in compensation, tax deduction, and benefits assist gig workers during a crisis?

A comprehensive view that includes compensation and benefits can be helpful to gig workers during normal times as well as during a crisis. If a growing percentage of the workforce continues to move to gig work, employers will have to find strategies to find and keep the best talent and quickly. Employers that can provide engaging experiences that will cultivate gig workers and their skills will be in an advantageous position. While the actions taken and administered will be different, providing additional HR administrative services such as benefits will allow employers to attract and retain the best possible extended workforce.

What’s on the horizon in the payroll and cloud space, and what strategies should employers embrace, now and in the future?

The future in payroll and cloud is about speed, agility, and colleague experience. Companies will continue to compete for both full-time and gig workers, and their payroll and HR systems must drive engagement. They should provide the same user experience to the colleague that you expect them to deliver to customers. Employers must use robotics and AI to automate service, provide 24*7 support, and leverage the data to make key decisions. Companies that harness these tools will move faster and draw better talent for growth than their competitors.

Originally published by on May 27, 2020

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