Australian SMEs looking to use automation to reduce payroll work

Employment Hero

Wednesday, 01 May, 2024

Australian SMEs looking to use automation to reduce payroll work

Research from Employment Hero reveals AI and automation could be the silver bullet to ease the pain Australian SMEs go through when processing payroll.

The employment platform, which serves approximately one in five of Australia’s private businesses, found that for 73% of respondents, it takes longer than a day to complete a pay run. After surveying 535 Australian SMEs, the research found that for 95% of respondents, payroll takes up to three days and for some it can take five days or longer.

“It’s madness that in 2024 it takes days to complete pay runs for Australian businesses. With the software and automation available, running payroll should be a matter of hours. Using technology to free up this time allows accountants and bookkeepers to put their skills and experience to better use — something that our data showcases they’re keen to do,” said Phil Bernie, GM, Payroll at Employment Hero.

In response to ongoing payroll pain, many SMEs are looking towards AI as a potential solution, where 89% would find it somewhat or significantly appealing to cut down payroll processing to minutes through the use of AI or automation. The top three aspects of payroll that respondents would like to see automated include pay calculations, payroll reporting and creation of payslips — all cited by a third of respondents.

Among Australian SMEs, the top three payroll challenges were listed as troubleshooting payroll errors (33%), chasing clients for payroll data (31%) and dealing with complex legislation (29%).

Overall, 81% of respondents expect that the use of AI and automation will somewhat or significantly increase across their organisations over the next 12 months. As AI and automation advances, 51% of respondents see it as an opportunity to improve their data analysis skills and 45% to enhance their payroll expertise, with 41% saying it could increase opportunities for professional development.

“It’s heartening to see support for AI and automation among Australia’s business owners, bookkeepers and accountants,” Bernie said. “We know that a lot of fear and reticence is often felt in the face of increased automation. However, as we continue to see the benefits of AI and automation in our daily lives, I think we’re beginning to appreciate how it can also truly revolutionise how we manage employment.”

The survey was conducted by Cint with fieldwork in Australia from 6–19 February 2024. The survey ‌was 10 minutes in length on average and the total number of eligible respondents was 535.

Respondents worked in accountancy or bookkeeping businesses, managed or outsourced payroll services businesses, and in professional services providing payroll services (technology/HR consultancy businesses or financial and advisory practices). The data concerning the length of a pay run refers to the subset of respondents who said they were involved in provisioning payroll services (456 respondents).

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