Using payroll software report tools effectively

A commonly overlooked feature of payroll software applications is reporting: what information do you need to export, in which format and how often?

A typical payroll software application might process thousands of pieces of data every minute, and can offer powerful insights into your business – if you know how to extract that knowledge.

There are several levels of reporting offered by payroll software, according to Jonathan Legdon, business development director at NorthgateArinso, which offers the integrated ResourceLink HR and payroll package.

The reporting levels vary in sophistication depending on the data you want to run. Firstly, there are the standard, ‘out-of-the-box’ reports common to most payroll software. “These would cover common area across all businesses, such as costs, payments and deductions, pension schemes,” says Legdon. “In some vertical markets, where there is specific legislation, there may be other bespoke reports, for example in higher education.”

Above this, there are the more ‘ad hoc’ reports, which might, for example, allow an HR manager to extract information about which employees are on a particular bonus scheme, or how many are earning above a certain threshold.
The top level of reporting on ResourceLink, says Legdon, is effectively “a business intelligence dashboard, which provides a ‘rolled-up’ view of the entire estate”, depending on the access rights of the manager.

“This would present a traffic-lighting system so an HR manager or director could see at a glance if there were any problems that needed addressing. If, for instance, there was an amber light against ‘absenteeism’, he or she could click through for more detailed information.”

Understanding the functionality

ResourceLink is used by entertainment group Loewy. Getting the best possible results from the reporting functionality in the software depends on understanding what is possible and what knowledge you want to achieve, says Beverley Mallon, head of HR.

“Rather than reporting on things just because we can, we use the reporting tools within Resource Link to manage employee information more efficiently,” she says.

“So we can look at employee trends over time much more quickly – we’d have done the same sort of reporting before, but rather than taking days, it can now be done in minutes, and we can slice the data in countless different ways.”

If used well, reporting tools can give HR a great strategic advantage, adds Keith James, HR and payroll officer with Southwark Council, which uses Aquire software in conjuction with its SAP system.

“Strategic planning and review depends on having accurate information, and that’s why reporting tools are so important,” he says.

“We’ve reduced the time taken to prepare annual budgets, and they’re more accurate – but the real benefit is in understanding how many staff are deployed where and what the reporting lines and structures are.”

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