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Let’s talk about 2021: A word from our Executive Director

At the start of a new year, it’s a prevalent time for organisational leaders to look back on what happened previously and start to envision the year ahead. 2020, I’m sure we can all agree, was a year like no other.

Globally, and locally here in Australia, we’ve gone through a rollercoaster of a time. Highs, lows, stolen freedoms and plans thrown by the wayside. We’ve seen many workplaces and families ripped apart across state border lines as we grapple with the uncertainty that the future holds.

Yet, we’ve proven resilient, and in the workplace, we’ve shown that it’s possible to fundamentally change how we live and work in a very short time period, indeed.

2020 was a year of disease and disruption, but an absolute stellar year for digitisation and transformation. The scale and pace of digital change we saw in 2020 was hurried, but much leaves our lives for the better.

Therefore, I think it’s fair to say we can kick off 2021 with a positive view for the newly established remote workforce. Remote working was something strongly advocated for prior to the pandemic, but slowly implemented as businesses dragged their feet bleating that they couldn’t “trust workers to work from home”.

However, remote working has now largely continued outside of lockdown. Why? Because the business case is now proven – staff can be trusted to work from home and realise cost savings for the business. This has also benefited campaigners of workforce diversity, including opening of flexible work arrangements for those unable to accommodate archaic 9-5 work schedules. The onus is now on HR business leaders to best keep the workforce active, engaged and motivated.

Another benefit we’ll realise is a greater investment from the C-Suite into the human capital and HR function. 2020 was glaringly obvious to all business leaders that their people have a direct impact on the bottom line. Until remote workers were set-up at home or accommodated with various government funding models; some organisations were unable to continue. The stampede to the remote workforce also revealed huge gaps in processes, communication models and capacity – these flaws will now be addressed by the business, and thus provide greater support and coverage to staff teams.

In regard to payroll…

Slapdash errors made during the mass disruption of business early on in the pandemic is something that will likely bite many organisations in 2021. The fast (and relatively free-flowing) roll-out of various Job Keeper packages of 2020 will trip up some payroll teams who may have underpaid or overpaid workers. The accumulated substantial cost of payroll miscalculation will need to be reconciled against lay-offs, affected entitlements, annual leave and Award rate payments especially in the hospitality and retail sectors.

It’s the realisation of these risks and the day-to-day challenges that will see Australian senior business leaders become interested in HR and payroll. And at the same time, there will be a push to move core business processes to specialist providers, such as the payroll function who are able to meet compliance obligations with expertise.

And for those of us preparing for the unexpected…

With vaccines being rolled out and a potential return to ‘normal’, we should be creating a ‘flexible first’ workforce. Having proven that employees can be trusted to work remotely, some staff should be given the power to decide when and how they work.

Being able to choose how and when we work has brought huge advantages to all. This is especially so to those who care for children or family members, have invested in career development programs or who live with health conditions that can be better managed in a home environment.

This also benefits organisations by being able to reduce management strain and overhead, and improves performance with employees being outcome driven as opposed to demonstrating “presenteeism”.

Lastly, let’s try to keep an open mind…

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that agile approaches to transformation and disruption are best to be built into people, processes and technologies. Core agile principals such as welcoming change, continual improvement, communication and feedback have been core to successful businesses in 2020.

Honesty, transparency and communication builds commitment and loyalty. 2021 will see the top businesses transform into more open business cultures, that have a focus on how people are feeling and stress management.

With this comes an elevated culture of ambition, collaboration and emotional intelligence. It is essential as we rebuild our economy and work environments – leaving people like myself excited about the great changes we’ll put into work in the upcoming quarters.

To a great 2021!

Brett Cowan

Executive Director

Businesses can email or call 1300 287 213 for free first-step advice on how to ensure your payroll processes can safeguard your payroll compliance. Follow us on Linkedin or sign up here to receive our articles direct to your email inbox.


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