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While many payroll tasks are now automated, payroll still requires human expertise. The ability to understand payroll data in order to gain insights and improve business efficiency is a sought-after skill. Payroll professionals willing to upskill can find new ways to work with the machines rather than against them.

Trends in the sector suggest that many opportunities exist for payroll professionals who can evolve to meet the moment.

Cloud computing, AI and other technology

Automation, cloud technology, employee self-service, and mobile apps are already making payroll managers’ lives easier, and this trend is expected to continue over the next decade.

Cloud solutions are making revolutionary changes to payroll services for both employees and employers. Cloud-based payroll software helps to automate, organise, and simplify payments.

Cloud systems have several advantages over on-premises systems, such as scalability and the ability to access payroll data from anywhere. Plus, they allow users to customise and upgrade their platforms according to the needs of the organisation.

The immediate benefit of using cloud services is to free up payroll professionals to analyse and interpret data, create complex reports, manage other software, and make better decisions.

Eventually, automation is likely to make manual payroll processes almost obsolete. As more payroll professionals get used to such tools, they’ll realise that this technology can make their lives easier.

Payment options

Internet technologies have made payroll systems much more efficient — and cheaper. But they have also created new types of payment systems. Some of these systems allow employees to fully manage their own salary or wage payments, including the ability to choose when they get paid without disrupting their employer’s processes.

For many, this is a game-changer.

How payroll professionals can prepare for the future

To cope with all these changes, payroll professionals will need to become lifelong learners. Some of the most important skills will involve understanding more about how payroll software works at both the practical and technical levels.

This will include greater fluency with automation, data analysis, and implementation. The goal isn’t for payroll professionals to become IT experts, but they will need some foundational skills to stay current.

On the other hand, because automation will remove many manual payroll tasks, so-called soft skills such as business partnering and collaboration will become more important. Payroll professionals will need to be comfortable both analysing data and communicating insights to stakeholders.

Data analysis is a skill worth throwing the spotlight on. Understanding payroll data at a deep level will be essential to a company’s success. Insights revealed will impact company decision-making, and may lead to further investigation into areas such as compliance and the overall efficiency of other related processes.

Another way to work with rather than against automation is to develop more than a basic knowledge of statistics. Payroll professionals must become comfortable with reading and interpreting data and statistics in ways that create genuine insights.

The upside of learning to gather and read payroll data is that payroll professionals will be able to see insights about how a company can change for the better and come up with solutions to enact those changes. They will also be able to spot process bottlenecks and how other manual tasks can be automated.


For over thirty years, Affinity has been a trusted partner for mid-market and enterprise businesses in Australia and New Zealand, empowering them to transform their payroll operations. With a focus on turning payroll from a cost into an asset, we have established ourselves as industry leaders in delivering innovative cloud-based payroll software and exceptional payroll services.