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Workday payroll works for national commercial insurer

Executives at a national insurer say Workday's cloud payroll system lets them continually and quickly update the software with new features, such as a dashboard for employees.

When national property and casualty insurer EMC Insurance Companies recently updated its Workday payroll system, the firm added a dashboard where employees can check their electronic pay stubs in real time.

A singular advantage of Workday's SaaS architecture is that it gives the vendor the ability to continually and quickly deliver upgrades such as the dashboard.

"Workday is always rolling out new options and availability," said Clarissa Pohlmeier, HR process supervisor at EMC.

The dashboard lets employees compare their current paycheck with their previous one, a capability that often eliminates the need to ask the HR department about any differences.

Clarissa Pohlmeier, EMC InsuranceClarissa Pohlmeier

Employee dashboard lightens HR staff workload

"That helps us considerably. We often get that question: 'Why has my paycheck changed?'" Pohlmeier said. "They now have that visibility themselves."

With 2,400 "members," or employees, spread across about 30 states, EMC (not to be confused, of course, with the giant multinational data storage vendor now called Dell EMC) has been using the Workday payroll management system since July 2014. About half of the workforce is in Des Moines, Iowa, the insurer's home base.

EMC has been established on the HR tech vendor's full human capital management (HCM) platform for more than three years. Payroll has been integrated with recruiting, performance management, advanced compensation and other modules since the HCM suite went live.

Payroll platform evolution

Angela Kirby, EMC InsuranceAngela Kirby

Long before starting with Workday, EMC ran payroll from its own mainframe, on a homegrown payroll system. Then, it moved to a stand-alone, on-premises payroll program from Workday competitor Ultimate Software, said Angela Kirby, payroll manager at EMC.

Now, "it's all cloud," Kirby said. "That's a very good thing."

"From the payroll end of it, some of the things we really like are that it's all in one system," Kirby added. "It all flows directly from the HCM side into the payroll system. We can go fix something at its source and then immediately recalculate the payroll. We're not importing from separate systems."

Workday touts unified platform

Laurent Botella, senior director of payroll and time product strategy at the software vendor, emphasized that the Workday payroll system is an integral part of Workday's overall unified technology approach, which it calls the "power of one." There is one UI and a single line of code over multiple applications.

The key benefit for many Workday customers is easier automation of tasks according to their organizations' specific needs, which, in turn, saves on manpower costs, Botella asserted.

It's all cloud. That's a very good thing.
Angela KirbyEMC Insurance

"That's what really makes Workday different: a single platform and a consumer-grade application," he said.

"We build from the beginning a very, very configurable system," Botella said. "We have a lot of customers, when they were running payroll before, they needed five, six, eight people. When they bring Workday in-house, they move from six or eight people to two people."

As for new updates with features like the employee payroll dashboard, Botella said Workday makes a point of communicating with customers about the timing of upgrades.

For example, he said, four or five weeks before the next major update, planned for March 2018, Workday will migrate the new data into a sandbox in which the customer can get comfortable with new features.

Self-service

Meanwhile, at EMC, payroll staff time also has been reduced by the Workday system because employees can enter their tax selections on the self-service application, Kirby said.

"That's something we didn't have before and is great to have that all documented in the system and flowing straight into payroll," she said. "We in payroll are not having to do that entry."

Also, in the payroll software universe, localization, especially for tax purposes, is critically important.

When EMC first went with Workday, the payroll system didn't support every municipality, or even every state, Kirby said.

"Since that time, all of that has been opened up where employees can do their own entry within Workday," she said. "So, we're in Pennsylvania. We're in Ohio. And people move across the street, and they have new taxes."

Another new function of the Workday payroll system is that employees can set up their own direct deposits.

Cloud boosts self-service

Kirby noted that Workday's underlying cloud technology has enabled employees to do a lot of self-service tasks on their own, at home, on their own devices. At annual enrollment time, employees can sit with their family and make benefits and other choices online and see how they affect their paychecks, she said.

For employees, that's not hard to do, Kirby said.

"We have a lot of people who are tech-savvy, and they were anxious to have the availability of something like this. But like with anything, there's some education, but Workday is very intuitive," she said. "And we find, for many people, it's very easy to walk through and figure it out."

This was last published in December 2017

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