Would you work with a robot?



Technology’s all very well till it bites you in the bum.


Imagine  Beth, Sally, Fiz and Sean facing up to a robo-panty stitcher in Underworld. If you don’t watch Coronation Street – Underworld’s Weatherfield’s top employer – thoughtNetflix appears to have impaired its recent productivity and its  human resource  is proving problematic.

If you think about what we do in payroll, we are increasingly at risk. Real Time Information introduced us to the Application Programming Interface and APIs are now as familiar as Apps. Without APIs , RTI would not have happened. Many argue that unless we can apply the same technology to auto-enrolment, that great project may yet fail.

But these interfaces are but an overture to the technology of the blockchain. Imagine a world where transactions do not have to be validated, where code is agreed at outset and disputes are unheard of. Nothing is checked and nothing reversed. This is the vision of efficiency that excites banks , regulators and software developers.

But what does it mean for those administrating payroll? It means simple choices, move up or move on.

I’m old enough to have done O-level English. Our set text was some novel by Thomas Hardy. I don’t remember much except one scene where the corn threshers are confronted by a machine that’s operated by two men. There are 20 threshers and none of them know how to manage the threshing machine.

The apocalyptic vision of mass redundancies was overplayed in 19th century agrarian England as threshers were re-deployed in more productive work. There was some displacement to towns and a lot of discomfort but automation led to a reduction in rural poverty and was a step towards the self sufficiency which saw us through two world wars.

Working with robots may be the only way that payroll will be able to meet the increasing demands being put upon it.

All the more reason for payroll administrators to “upskill” (that may be the first and last time I use that dreadful word!).

Payroll people have the opportunity to upskill in lots of ways but perhaps the easiest is knowledge sharing of “financial education” as the buzzphrase has it. Payroll people are the guardians of all kinds of financial secrets about how tax, national insurance and now pensions work.

Sharing these secrets is a lot harder than it sounds. The CIPP are pioneering training to convert payroll administrators and managers into financial educators.

I have been working  with the CIPP on a couple of pilot sessions  – you may have been to one yourself. If you have you will know about David Joy’s muppotometre and understand the Dominos Effect (as it effects the price of pizza. If you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about , then you should contact Vickie Graham of the CIPP for details!

Turning staff on to managing their finances better is more than an employee benefit. While at the top of the financial tree, issues may be about tax avoidance, for most workers, the primary issues are about paying the bills, avoiding pay-day loans and making sure the pension pot builds up. For most workers, the benefits of  financial education are about contentment. A happy worker is a productive worker , while financially destitute staff are likely to be less productive and more prone to the kind of illnesses that keep us from  work altogether.

So while robots are likely to take work from payroll and make unskilled administrators redundant, the challenge and the opportunities are also there. The payroll manager of today is the financial educator of the future.

We talk of the knowledge economy and nowhere do we need knowledge shared more than we do from our top pay rollers. For unlike the traditional providers of this information , payroll are trusted. The staff of Underworld depend on you!




About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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1 Response to Would you work with a robot?

  1. Alan Chaplin says:

    I suspect we need to start rethinking the world of work generally.Ollie for example and others in his generation may find that their professions are destroyed by robots not once but many times in the coming decades… http://www.davidbakeronline.com/ has done a lot of work in this area and presents it very well

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