HR automation is undoubtedly a winning factor for fast-growing organisations. But to truly get the desired ROI from these digital investments, SMEs must proceed strategically. It is imperative that their challenges are fully addressed with innovative solutions while keeping in mind their organisational growth curve. Certain guiding principles will be key in implementing the right platform and this is exactly what we unlock in this exciting interview with Nilendra Weerasinghe.
Nilendra is the Chief Strategy Officer of PeoplesHR and comes with over a decade of investment banking experience where he led M&A advisory teams in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. He has been very successful in building teams from the ground up and leveraging HR Tech to thrive in competitive business environments. Nilendra is an ardent fan of technology and is a keen researcher on how HR tech can help unlock a hyper-efficient workforce. In this exclusive conversation, we explore key challenges, impactful case studies, driving employee engagement and more.
What are the biggest pain points that SMEs in India face when it comes to HR and payroll management? How can automation help alleviate these challenges?
When it comes to challenges, I believe there are three critical areas. Today, the word that is synonymous with SMEs the world over, and particularly in India, is growth. Organisations that operated with 15-20 odd people are now growing two or threefold, if not faster as the business expands and thrives in the current economy. This brings me to the first pain point where SMEs which are growing in headcount opening multiple offices in various locations inevitably find it impossible to monitor and manage their workforce.
Secondly, we’ve also noticed that most SMEs that operate with limited or no technology in key aspects such as attendance and payroll face a huge burden around manual documentation and inaccuracies that come with it. As they develop HR policies, procedures and manuals, managing and enforcing this for an expanding workforce will naturally be difficult. This results in the third pain point where HR professionals in these SMEs spend a lot of their valuable time on house-keeping matters rather than directing their efforts to matters of strategic importance.
This is where HR automation comes in. What we are offering with PeoplesHR Turbo is a scalable, cloud-based solution which is a tailor made edition of our enterprise-grade product made with SMEs in mind. The scalability of our platform blends well with the rapid growth journey of these SMEs. We also strongly believe that they should not compromise on security and compliance. Essentially, what we do is provide an HR tool stack that can cater to the growing needs of SMEs and address their unique challenges while maintaining enterprise grade data security and compliance.
Coming to your solution, PeoplesHRTurbo, what makes it unique compared to other HR and payroll automation solutions in the market?
There are two areas that we want to differentiate on and add value when serving our customers. Firstly, it’s around support. A common misconception is that users will adapt to new software on their own terms but in HR, it doesn’t happen that way. hSenid Business Solutions, which is the company behind PeoplesHR Turbo has been in the HR Tech domain for 26 years, and a key learning is that we must handhold our customers who are the HR professionals and empower them to get the best value out of their digital investments. When we drive adoption, that’s when the client gets their true ROI and that’s what makes them happy.
The second is our express implementation offering. While for large-scale enterprises, we take 2-3 months to go live but for dynamic organisations like SMEs, we don’t believe this works. Because their need of the hour is a tool that gets the basics right and can be launched fast. We worked on this especially when designing the configurations and customisations in our initial customer sample, and we’ve come up with a standardised 7 days maximum timeline for going live. If the customer is very responsive when providing and uploading data, even a three-day window is possible. We want to enable SMEs to achieve their goals from HR digitisation and that’s why we’ve shifted away from a long-drawn process and offered a super-fast launch instead.
Can you share some examples of how PeoplesHRTurbo has helped SMEs improve their HR and payroll processes?
We have worked in the manufacturing industry across South Asian countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Maldives and what we’ve seen is that smartphone adoption and tech savviness might not be as high as we would like it to be. So for one of our manufacturing clients with a large workforce on the factory floor, we’ve thought out of the box and provided novel solutions, like kiosks. These ATM-like boxes, with core HR functions such as time and attendance, viewing payslips, claiming benefits and reimbursements are set up in the hallways and other common areas. By offering an ATM-like kiosk experience, we cut through some of the barriers and drove HR tech adoption amongst employees.
The other example I have is from the not-for-profit sector. For NGOs, capital or spending efficiency is as important as for other organisations, but in their case, the priority is to allocate their funds to their beneficiaries or meet their objectives. We’re currently working with several NGOs that have grown from one location to pan-India. And if we look at the function of payroll, it becomes challenging to invest in a lot of HR admins to take care of these multiple locations. So we’ve put in a lot of time and effort in offering a compliant, centrally processed payroll solution that can adapt to this larger network, with maybe one staff handling all of it. This inevitably supports NGOs in spending the optimal or least amount of funds on administrative duties.
As SMEs are all geared towards scaling up and also increasingly work with a distributed workforce, how can HR Tech drive employee engagement?
When it comes to catering to the needs of this increasingly hybrid workforce, several areas have become important. First, we have the rising need for a mobile-first approach where all the basic HR functions can be easily done through the click of a button on a single app. We also have gone an extra step to increase social interactions on this app whether it’s wishing birthdays and anniversaries or even using emoticons to express yourselves. When implemented carefully, this tool can become an important driver of employee engagement for distributed workers because it streamlines mundane operations while enabling more peer interactions.
The second key area is the value of AI-powered chatbots. It cuts down the back and forth with the HR function and empowers employees with the right answers and tools to their queries. This inevitably ensures smoother workflows. Simultaneously, it reduces the administrative burden of the HR function.
One more thing that we’re currently working on as part of our product roadmap is to capture tasks that can be married to enterprise social networking. Among SMEs, conversations have been known to take place on several available messaging platforms. But the future is about safe, secure, ring-fenced environments where these sensitive organisational discussions happen. This is also a critical action area that HR automation must accomplish and that’s a direction we’re moving towards. When HR platforms offer a consumer-grade experience to employees enabling efficiency and connectivity, that’s where digitisation can really make a difference within organisations.
How can SMEs in India get started on their journey with HR and payroll automation? What advice would you give to businesses that are considering implementing PeoplesHRTurbo or a similar solution?
This boils down to three important points. With data security being a rising concern, my first advice would be to not compromise on data security and compliance. SMEs might feel it’s more for large corporates but this is not the case as it affords the same risks to their growth and reputation. In this era, security and compliance have been democratised to a great extent where solutions like ours offer enterprise-grade security at a fraction of what the cost used to be. PeoplesHR Turbo is built given our familiarity with enterprise-level needs and we have packaged it in an affordable manner for SMEs.
Second, I would recommend always thinking ahead and going for a scalable solution. This is critical to avoid disruptive implementations later on, as HR requirements evolve and the organisation grows. With PeoplesHR Turbo, we provide the full capabilities of the HRIS suite from a hire-to-retire lens, taking into account the complex needs of large enterprises.
And finally, it’s important to carefully evaluate the support offered by a vendor not only in terms of implementation but also on an ongoing basis. As new employees change and the organisation evolves, a steady and guiding hand to ensure that SMEs make the most of their HR tech investments is critical.