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The low-hanging fruit of transformation

In 2020, business transformation expert Paul Markovsky joined RB Somerville, a Canadian utility and energy infrastructure leader. His primary responsibility? To drive some significant business efficiencies.

It didn’t take Paul long to spot the first opportunity.

Somerville was emailing and posting paystubs to around 1,000 employees at job sites across Canada – anywhere from big cities to remote locations in the mountainous region of Alberta. 

There was a constant risk of this confidential information being lost or intercepted.

Meanwhile, the six-strong payroll department was overstretched. On a weekly basis, they would have to print the paystubs and work out how to distribute them to the various sites. It was clear to Paul that Somerville needed to find a better way.

Then he came across Payreq. 

Fast-forward several months, and Somerville paystubs were no longer being shared by post or email. Every team member had anytime access to their pay documentation. And the payroll department wasn’t wasting time on print, post and email logistics. Meanwhile, Somerville was saving an incredible 15% on payroll costs.

But perhaps the most striking part of the Somerville story is just how easy it can be to kickstart a business transformation with the right digital solutions applied to the right problem.

Read on for the full story.

The pains and strains of email and post

RB Somerville has been installing and maintaining infrastructure such as oil and gas pipelines and utilities systems for more than 60 years. At any given time up to 1,000 team members, many on short-term contracts, are working on projects across Canada.

As soon as Paul – a Lean Six Sigma process-improvement Black Belt –  joined the Somerville team, he started working with senior leadership to find opportunities to optimize processes.

He explains: “It was immediately obvious that the distribution of paystubs needed to change. Our employees were often based in small camps set up near projects in remote locations. Sometimes we would courier the paystubs. Other times we had to email them to site superintendents who would print then distribute them.

“It wasn’t a secure way to be handling confidential information.”

The payroll team also had to send some paystubs to people’s homes via snail mail. The different delivery methods added up to a lot of administrative work. Factor in the Wednesday afternoons dedicated to printing out paystubs, figuring out which delivery method to use for each person, then arranging logistics. The cost to Somerville was significant.

“As soon as the payroll team implemented Payreq, they wanted to move everyone they served onto the system. They couldn’t believe how much time it saved them.”

— Paul Markovsky, Corporate Manager

Changing the game

So Paul set out to find an information-sharing solution that could work alongside the construction industry accountancy software that Somerville relied on. That’s when he came across Payreq.

He said: “At first the payroll team was a little bit reluctant because it’s change, right? But they 100% understood the need, and what was happening on Wednesday afternoons did not make sense for the company. So we rolled Payreq out.

“The Payreq people did a great job with the training and the documentation. I was walked through the solution then I took over and helped the payroll team for the first three or four weeks. Stuff like, ‘here’s where you move your folders, here’s where you input information’. Then after that the team just thought it was fantastic. They loved it and they continue to.”

Around 1,600 Somerville team members are now on the Payreq system. There are also another 500 more employees from two businesses in which Somerville has a joint share. Paul explained: “As soon as the payroll team implemented Payreq, they wanted to move everyone they served onto the system. They couldn’t believe how much time it saved them.”

A 90% take-up rate

According to Paul, rolling out Payreq to the people in the field was easy. “Most of our team are younger people who are used to getting everything and anything on their phone,” he explains.

“Take up was about 90%. Those who didn’t were mainly on very short contracts – and maybe a few old-school people who had been working there 45 years. Now we don’t mail out paystubs to anyone anymore. With new hires, we simply give them instructions on how to get their paystubs via Payreq.”

In short, Somerville has handed control over paystubs to the workers themselves. They can log on to the Payreq app and go back and look at historical pay information at any time. Meanwhile, Wednesday afternoons have been freed up for the payroll team to work on other tasks. Payreq is also being used to send out important communications, and plans are afoot to use it to distribute end-of-year T4 tax documents.

15% a year in payroll savings

When you add up the savings in print and post costs, as well as administrative hours, the savings attributed to the move to Payreq are significant. Paul explains: “The original estimate, when we were running through the numbers, was a reduction in payroll costs of about 15% a year.”

Payreq has also helped Somerville reduce its carbon footprint. Paul clarifies: “The move has significantly reduced our reliance on paper, print and transport. This is important for us but it’s also important for the organisations we work for. They are very mindful about showing that they are reducing their footprint in any way possible from an ESG standpoint.”

As for the challenges associated with implementing Payreq? Paul admits to being stumped on this count. “Looking back, I can’t think of any problems we’ve had. When we do need anything, the response is really prompt. I see Payreq as this really efficient managed service.”