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Discussing the Future of HR Software with Patrick Sayers

The Evolution of HR Software: An Interview with Patrick Sayers

Paypro is happy to share an exclusive interview with Patrick Sayers, president of Newcastle Research, a research and advisory company focused on the Human Capital Management market. Patrick has multiple decades of HR industry experience and was kind enough to provide his take on the future of our industry.

Take it away, Patrick!

Patrick Sayers_Newcastle Research_Headshot
Patrick Sayers – President – Newcastle Research

Paypro: Hi Patrick. It nearly seems as if 2020 and 2021 were one-in-the-same. Before we know it, 2022 will have arrived. With this in mind, what is your general take heading into 2022? Now that the pandemic has changed the way many organizations operate, do you anticipate further changes or will we all have a chance to catch our collection HCM breaths?

Patrick Sayers: Hopefully we’ll continue to see progress towards getting the pandemic under control, and assuming that’s the case, I think what we’ll see in 2022 is that businesses are able to take a more proactive stance toward evaluating the tools that they use to operate their business.  And what I mean by that is businesses were forced to be reactive in 2020 and that continued into 2021.  The pandemic was a stress test for every moving part within businesses across every industry, and what we saw was that many of those essential moving parts simply couldn’t handle a disruption of that scale.  So you’re right, the pandemic has changed the way many organizations operate, likely forever.  The good news, I think, is that businesses are now more prepared.  I think organizations have a different perspective on how critical tools like an HCM solution are in supporting their workforce.

Paypro: Recruitment and Talent Retention remain a hot-button issue across many organizations. Do you see AI playing an increasingly important role in employee onboarding, development and retention?

Patrick: AI is a big buzz word in the industry right now, but practically speaking, what helps users most is more common sense automation to reduce friction when they need something and making processes simpler and more user friendly, not necessarily super advanced features like AI.  So for recruiting and retention, specifically, what helps the employee experience most is just having a product that just works well.  And ideally is available on their own devices with an app so they can have all their info accessible in their own hands when they need. If an employee is trying to fill out a loan and needs copies of their pay stubs they want to be able to simply go into a system and pull a PDF. All of that starts from the basics – a strong software platform built on single database to eliminate errors and frustration with excess data entry, and with the features to streamline the employee experience.

Paypro: Remote Workforce Management remains a hurdle many organizations have struggled to fully deploy. How do you envision HR better supporting the remote workforce during 2022 and beyond?

Patrick: I think it’s a big undertaking and like most big undertakings organizations will start to prioritize the must haves relative to things that are nice to have, or maybe that they thought they needed but then ended up not using so much as they expected when they were forced remote by C19. One common theme I see in a lot of cases is the importance of strong architecture at the core of the software platforms. The majority of the marketplace thinks they are buying a single platform cohesive software solution but a lot of the back end architecture is not clean. They are multiple different products bolted together on the back end from M/A activity or just poor construction made to look cohesive on the front end – which they will during a demo. The impact on the end user comes down stream in a variety of ways because those are the products that are the hardest to maintain for the software engineers and thus have the most errors, are the least intuitive, and hardest for customer service departments to support. So as an example from my recent projects, organizations aren’t getting as lured in by flashy looks any more. They are a little more focused on getting a stable platform that will work and won’t let them down when something unexpected happens.

Paypro: As Q4 nears its closure, many organizations will be evaluating budgets, consolidating vendors and looking to make changes during the coming year. Do you have any advice for those seeking a new HCM partner?

Patrick: I talk to customers about this a lot, and the #1 piece of advice I can give is to weight customer service very heavily.  Organizations tend to gravitate towards features and functionality when they evaluate vendors, and don’t get me wrong, that’s certainly important, but it’s much easier for an HCM provider to improve the functionality of their product than it is for them to improve the quality of their customer service organization.  It’s very, very difficult for an HCM provider to go from providing below average customer service to average customer service, or to go from providing average customer service to providing exceptional customer service.  That takes more than dollars.  It takes a fundamental shift in culture.  It’s very easy to sit through a demo and fall in love with some bell and whistle, but don’t lose sight of how important customer service is.

The obvious follow-up question is ‘What’s the best way to evaluate customer service?’  Customer retention is the purest metric to evaluate how happy an HCM provider’s customers are with whatever product or service they’re selling.  There’s a very high correlation between customer retention and the quality of customer service.  Customers vote with their dollars.  Happy customers stay and unhappy customers leave and look for another HCM provider.  I know this seems really obvious, but it’s amazing how often customers lose sight of the importance of this metric during their search.  I encourage the customers I’m advising to think of this metric as the foundation of their evaluation.  In some cases, I’ll even encourage customers to weight this above functionality.

Paypro: Thanks so much for your time, Patrick. Are you able to share any parting words of wisdom, optimism or perspective for those seeking to create a better workforce experience?

Patrick: I want to circle back on the reactive vs. proactive idea from the first question.  I talk to hundreds of HR professionals throughout the year, and typically, if they find their way to me it means they don’t love their current HCM solution.  And what I’ve noticed is that the most common roadblock between them and a better HCM solution isn’t budget, or getting buy-in from different parts of the organization, or even time.  It’s just taking that first step.  Many organizations recognize that they’re not happy with the system they’re using, but they just don’t know how or where to begin to find a better solution.  I talk to HR professionals all the time who are unhappy with the system they’re using and I ask them how long they’ve been dealing with the issues and often it’s years.  This will sound self-serving because Newcastle Research helps organizations evaluate HCM solutions, but really, even if an organization doesn’t engage with Newcastle formally, I still like to chat with them and get them moving in the right direction.  I like to see companies start to take steps to improving their situation.  So my last piece of advice is be proactive.  I know it’s daunting, but if you’ve recognized that your current system no longer works for your organization, start to take steps toward finding something better.

About The Author

Ingrid Principe

Ingrid is the Content Marketing Manager at Paypro, managing both inbound and outbound marketing initiatives for the company. She has 15+ years’ of extensive marketing communications experience, leveraging brand awareness and strategic partnerships to increase sales revenue for a diverse group of B2B brands.

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