Will Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Cost Payroll Professionals Their Jobs?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is becoming increasingly prevalent in the workplace — especially in payroll departments. As a result, this automation solution could potentially cost payroll professionals their jobs. According to studies, Robotic Process Automation (RMA) is quickly becoming the preferred choice for businesses worldwide who want to optimise processes associated with the successful completion of tasks that can be automated. This specific solution, when combined with the intellectual capability of humans to interpret data, make decisions, and solve problems are enabling businesses to efficiently automate tasks, streamline processes, optimise workflows and improve productivity. Subsequently, companies can potentially deliver improved services regarding speed and consistency — but at what cost?
In this brief guide, we will analyse the detrimental effects of Robotic Process Automation in the workplace.
Robotic Process Automation Defined:
Robotic Process Automation (RMA) is essentially a specialised software program designed to effectively handle and automate tasks (especially those that are repetitive) that can result in transforming the efficiency of the payroll process. Contrary to belief, it is not a physical robot! The software is simply a program designed to act as a virtual-based assistant to the human payroll employee. It does not replace payroll software already utilised in payroll departments; rather, it is a program designed to carry out the tasks of those software programs in place of people. The process involves the work of both the Robotic Process Automation software and the people within the business. The software is designed to handle the tasks involved with repetitive data leaving the payroll experts to perform the tasks that are considered to be more “complex”. Examples of these activities include the interpretation of information, analysing information, discovering problems, coming up with solutions, checking calculations and of course, the decision-making process.
The Robotic Process Automation Advantages:
As technology continues to evolve, it is an inevitable fact that Robotic Process Automation will become increasingly prevalent among businesses and organisations. Naturally, there are many advantages and risks associated with this move. However, before delving into these risks, here are the main benefits of this type of automated payroll process:
• According to research, payroll is considered to contain multiple administrative tasks that take up significant amounts of time (in terms of work performed by humans). Each and every single cycle requires the payroll administrator to ensure high-accuracy checks and calculations, an exceptional level of timeliness; and coordination across all payrolls. These repetitive tasks take up great amounts of time and resources. If mistakes are made, they can be quite costly too. Robotic Process Automation in payroll reduces the amount of time it takes to perform these repetitive tasks, coordinates information efficiently, and reduces the chances of mistakes occurring.
• Human payroll professionals must have an opportunity to analyse the high levels of data delivered immediately after completing payroll tasks. If payroll is automated, the payroll employee assigned to this task needs to have the time required to undertake the analysis and manage the information and extended processes that stem from that analysis.
• Robotic Process Automation systems are designed with artificial intelligence that is dubbed “self-learning”. That means that if changes occur within the payroll department, new laws are put into place, and new policies are put into place, the RPA software has the ability to adjust immediately and execute tasks accordingly.
The Robotic Process Automation Risks
As with any form of technology — especially those that could detrimentally impact the jobs of professionals — there are several risks associated with Robotic Process Automation. We are all aware of the fact that robot-based software is designed to never deviate from the logic programmed within it and its configured algorithms.
However, there are many complications that may arise as a result of replacing payroll employees with the programs. These include the following:
• If an outdated Robotic Process Automation payroll system is utilized and there is a process change that occurs within the business, the software may fail in its performance in keeping up with that change. This will push the company to upgrade — which could be quite costly and may happen at the most inconvenient of times. By using people to handle process changes, they can be adapted quickly, easily, and with minimal costs. Also, systems can only be as effective as the data fed into them. If there are problems with the data feeds, this will inevitably result in data errors in the automation process, and these may not be identified until much later when a human payroll professional analysis the output.
• The most basic of the Robotic Process Automation systems are highly literal. This means that the program simply does as it is instructed, without the level of consciousness in which a human payroll expert would possess.
• If the processes of the software solution in RPA is not appropriately programmed and/or mapped, all of the activities in which it performs may be done incorrectly.
• Human payroll processing has a lot of variability; however, when mistakes are made, they are typically only present in one area — not system-wide. If a mistake is made with Robotic Process Automation, though, it could result in system-wide problems which could detrimentally impact the processes, productivity, and funds of a company.
Will Robotic Process Automation software replace humans in payroll? The answer, in short, is “yes”. While there are numerous advantages associated with utilising this type of system, there are many risks involved that may be avoided by dependence upon human performance. However, this increase in RPA processes may also increase some employment requirements. For example, it is likely we will see a sharp increase in the number of payroll analysts or payroll data experts who will be specialists in analysing RPA efficiency and accuracy. Despite the creation of these new roles, the overall payroll employee requirement per business payroll function will still likely reduce as processes are automated to be more efficient. According to a study conducted by the BBC, payroll positions are 97% likely to be automated in the next 25 years1. A large number of other administrative roles are likely to become automated, too. We must take a proactive role now in keeping this from happening so that we do not scramble to find people who are capable of taking reactive positions later when automation fails.
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This article was written by Nick Day, Managing Director at JGA Recruitment — the leading Global Payroll and HR Recruitment Specialist Employment Agency.
If you are looking for expert talent in the fields of Payroll, HR or Reward, then please call me or email me and I would be delighted to discuss how we can help.
Nick Day, Managing Director, JGA Recruitment
JGA Payroll & HR Recruitment
Tel: 01727 800 377