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AllianceHCM Payroll, Tax and HR

From back office to center stage: how payroll & scheduling are enabling the future of work

AllianceHCM partners with MakeShift

It’s time to shed a light on how invisible functions like payroll and scheduling are not only enabling the future of work but leading the way. Listen to the podcast below where our President, Matt Umholtz, talks with Adam Greenberg at MakeShift, about the how AllianceHCM provides businesses with the tools, resources, and services to keep moving forward.



Adam: Hi there, and welcome back for another episode of “Make the Shift.” I’m your host, Adam Greenberg. If you’ve been listening to us from the start, you know we’ve covered a lot of important topics that are top of mind for businesses around the world. From equipping you with insights to adapt to the new hybrid workplace, to corporate social transformation, creating high-performance teams, and most recently, using humor to build a culture of resilience within your organization, I’ve strived to help you make the shift to being a people-first business and to thrive in these unprecedented circumstances we face.

Today though, I wanna change things up and shine a light on the people and the technology that’s been helping businesses adapt to this disruption. And there’s been a lot of disruption, hasn’t there? Vaccine mandates, remote working, labor shortages, changing workforce policies, and the list goes on and on. But through it all, companies like AllianceHCM and people like my guest today, AllianceHCM’s president, Matt Umholtz, are working diligently to make sure your business has the tools, resources, and services to keep moving forward.

I think it’s time to shed a light on how invisible functions like payroll and scheduling were not only heavily impacted by all the changes we’ve witnessed, but are also enabling the future of work and leading the way. I think it’s time to bring the back office out onto center stage. Are you ready to make the shift? Let’s go. Hey, Matt, welcome to “Make the Shift.” How are you today?

Matt: I’m doing great, Adam. Yeah, thanks for having me on the show.

Adam: No, I’m glad we could find the time together. I really appreciate your time and friendship and partnership between our two businesses. Matt, before we get started, I just thought maybe you could just bring us up to speed and invite your listeners to learn a little bit about you. I understand that you’re dialing in from Texas today where you live with your family?

Matt: Yep, that’s right. Yeah, I’m here in Houston, Texas. As far as my family, I’ve got three little kids, so the weekends are spent at Irish dance competitions, soccer matches, baseball games, you name it. And just a few months ago, my wife who actually helped found our business with me about eight years ago, call it nine years ago now, she just left the business and is now spending the majority of her time helping wrangle the kids and helping the household run.

Adam: Wow. So you worked with your wife for eight or nine years?

Matt: Yeah. I’ll tell you a little bit more in a minute. We left corporate America and built the company and spent eight years running the business together. And it was an absolutely amazing experience. A lot of people say, “That’s crazy. How can you do it?” but we really made a conscious effort to stay in different areas of the business and not overlap. It was pretty routine where you’d hear, “Hey, Matt, you’re getting in my lane. You need to get out of my lane.” We definitely had the communication down. But, you know, our business has grown, and our family’s grown, and it was just time to give her what she loves and wanted to do, which is spend time with the kids.

Adam: That’s amazing. I think I’ve just identified my next podcast guest. So we’ll be reaching out to her to get her side of the story.

Matt: Oh, man, yeah, hers may be vastly different. But yeah, a little bit of background, I started my career with one of the giants, spent eight years in sales and sales leadership, left in 2012, built a company from the ground up. You know, looking back on my career, I really…no matter how much you performed at a big giant organization, you still kind of felt like a number at the end of the day. And I tell our team that, you know, my employee number was G257, and I tried to run from that as fast as I could.

So, you know, built a company to help our team and our clients never feel like a number. And had licensed technology for an eight-year period of building that company into a couple of acknowledgments on the Inc. 5000 list, and merged about a year ago with an organization called Alliance Payroll Services. And we rebranded both entities to AllianceHCM. And I did that merger because we have our own tech stack and have had it for over 15 years, and are able to do a lot of really fun stuff, you know, throughout the country. And now we’re one of the largest independent payroll companies in the United States, and we continue to grow and want to, you know, eventually, be the largest and stay there. So we don’t have any need to exit the business or go public or any of that fun stuff, we just wanna keep serving customers in a really unique and cool way.

Adam: That’s very, very impressive. And it’s a good segue because the world is going through tremendous change, and with that, a lot of business going through a lot of change. I mean, we haven’t seen anything like this for many, many years. The last 23 months has been bizarre, how we live, how we work, where we work, like everything seems to have changed. And a lot of these changes have had a direct impact on payroll. What type of impacts have you seen in terms of…? I know there’s a lot of disruption, so, what sort of disruption has this move from flexible work from anywhere cost? And how are you helping your clients through it all?

Matt: Yeah. It’d probably be easier to answer the question in the inverse of what has not changed, right? But, you know, the world we live in is vastly different than it was a couple years ago. I think we’re probably all a little tired of even saying that, right? Like, “This is the world we live in now.” But over the past couple years, what we’ve really seen a dramatic need for in the world is, you know, the compliance elements of the things that are going on in the world, so PPP, FFCRA, which is still…it’s not a thing anymore, as far as active payrolls, but the tax implications after the fact are a big deal. Employee retention credits, businesses can still qualify for those. And it can be a pretty significant windfall for organizations if they’re looking at those things, just to help them fast forward into the future and continue to grow their organization.

So, you know, we’ve really seen those pieces around the compliance continue to be a huge thing. And in 2020, the majority of our development efforts, as a software organization, went to the compliance side. And then, as we moved into 2021, we stepped quickly into massive staffing shortages and labor shortages throughout the country, employees wanting to leave their organization. Maybe COVID gave them some kind of realization that they didn’t like where they were, or they didn’t like how the company managed through that piece. So, we’ve seen, you know, a lot of people looking to leave organizations and join new ones. And we’ve just seen a lot of companies really struggle to find the right talent, and they’re looking for solutions to help bring in the right people, to train the right people, and be able to onboard them more efficiently into the organization.

In a culturally-diverse business where you’ve got folks that are working remotely, we’ve also seen a lot of organizations, you know, really try to put that culture forward and make sure there’s a cultural immersion into the business as somebody’s onboarding. I mean, if you think about it, the old days, you know, Adam, you could probably walk the halls and introduce yourself to every new employee. So as the CEO of an organization that’s got remote staff, like how do you share your vision, your mission, where the organization’s going, the organizational goals? Like how do you actually do that in a remote environment? Well, you have to leverage technology a lot of times, and you gotta do things differently. And we’re seeing companies really, you know, ask us to solve those challenges.

And then the other piece is really, you know, communications. How do you communicate with the team, individual teams, entire organization, as a CEO? Like how do you actually communicate with the entire organization, especially as the companies grow and maintain that channel down to the line level of your team? Like how do you do that? And companies are looking for, you know, tools to do it. I mean, you’ve got Microsoft Teams, and Slack, and stuff like that that can help, but there’s also other elements of technology that you could leverage, you know, to be more strategic in that communication and provide, you know, more clear and concise messaging out to your team.

Adam: I mean, there’s a lot there to break down, right? Like you basically summarized all the different stuff that’s going on. There’s the hybrid work environment, there’s the great resignation, there’s the lack of communication. And then you talk about the pandemic as causing all this. And if you think about that, has entered a whole new set of challenges, vaccine mandates, testing mandates, people not wanting to work in an office environment unless everybody’s vaccinated, people protesting the fact that they have to get one at all. And then there’s the HIPAA laws and the rules around, “Can I ask my employees to be vaccinated? How do I know if they’re vaccinated? Or if they’re not gonna be vaccinated, they’re gonna be tested, how do we keep track of that?”

Frankly, it’s a bit of a mess. But it’s an opportunity, as much as it’s pitting people a little bit against each other, it’s also a tremendous opportunity for us to come together. And technology plays a big role. And I know that your solution in organization, onboarding, off-boarding, cross-boarding, payroll, HR tech is a big part of what you do. Can you tell us a bit about what you’re seeing in the market and how you’re helping with solve some of those problems?

Matt: Yeah. Well, I’ll start with a question. I mean, when you used to started organizations, you probably remember a poster in the break room, and everybody sees it. I mean, you may even have it in your business today or, you know, your tertiary business that you’re sitting near to right now, you may have something like that. It’s OSHA guidelines and all this stuff. So, you know, in a remote environment, you know, you don’t have a break room. Like they can’t walk by and read that poster, whether anybody did or not, like, you know, you probably didn’t, right? It’s a compliance thing. So how do you distribute that information in a remote environment?

And, you know, we’ve seen the emergence, within our business, of needing to solve the problem for remote workers, just seeing compliance posters. It seems silly, but it’s a compliance thing. So, when somebody’s onboarding to an organization, they can click and read the poster and say that they’ve actually, you know, read it from a compliance standpoint. It’s just a check the box thing. But it’s different, right?

We’ve seen the need to have candidates apply very quickly because candidates, if they don’t have the ability to apply quickly through, you know, resume parsing, and, you know, text-to-apply, and things like that that we’ve really developed for our customers, then they’re gonna abandon, and you’re not gonna have the candidate pool. If a candidate doesn’t have the ability to onboard efficiently, they will bail, and they just won’t show up for day one.

We had one of our team member’s daughter tell us, “Oh, I’m not going to work for that restaurant, they don’t have a scheduling app.” And I know that’s a plug slightly for MakeShift. It’s the reality of, you know, if you don’t have modern tools, you know, the candidate pool is not going to come to your business. Like you have to have modern tools.

We had a new customer tell us they really wanted to look professional. They’re like, “We really need to just look more professional,” because it helps them get, and not only get, but retain the right talent, you know, just from having some, you know, technology tools at their disposal. You know, we’ve definitely seen the emergence of the applicant side becoming more efficient, onboarding side learning in the system. So, our customers really asked, “Okay, now we’ve onboarded somebody, but how do we immerse them in the business and get them trained up faster?”

Well, before they even start day one, they can go through a learning track and get all the compliance stuff, you know, the non-harassment stuff out of the way in there too. But then, after that, it’s, you know, “What are the job duties that I need to perform? What are the basics of the role?” and digitally go through that. And it’s stored on their record so you know they’ve done it, and you can reference it. But just being able to, you know, get that person up to speed faster.

And the second benefit is you look like you got your act together, right? I mean, I think we’re all amazed when we work with companies that are very large, and it’s like, “You’re doing what? How have you got away with that for 25 years?”

Adam: Yeah, true.

Matt: Yeah. I mean, we see it because we’re converting those customers from their manual process or legacy system. You know, sometimes it’s pretty shocking, we’re like, “Really, you know, how…?” It’s a different world now. It is the world, so, I think we can stop saying it’s different, it’s the world. And moving forward, it’s just, you know, how do you adapt with, you know, the world that we’re in today? And, you know, we’ve had other events like this. So, yeah, it’s not new to us, right?

Adam: It doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, this is the new normal. And it’s not even new, this has been going on for several years, and it doesn’t look like there’s an end in sight. Now, you hinted, in your answer, to where I was. I am in Mexico. I do also embrace the remote work theory, and I work remotely through the winter and warmer weather. And I also have a retail business, so I experience myself what it is that you’re talking about with staff needing to be compliant, needing to provide them with flexibility, and wanting to onboard them and get them productive fast. So I personally not only run a business in scheduling software and helping our customers solve these challenges every day, but I also, as a business owner, experience it directly. So what you’re saying really resonates.

And, in fact, there’s a great segue there because I’m in Mexico, and Mexico is famous for tacos. And our businesses came together because of a client, Fuel City Tacos, I believe, who needed an employee-scheduling application and wanted a world-class payroll application. So that’s how we met and how we came together. Do you wanna talk a little bit about that?

Matt: Yeah. So, Fuel City would not sound like they have good tacos, right? You know, Fuel City’s a great business. They’re in Dallas, Texas, for the most part. And in Texas, everything’s bigger, even our gas stations are bigger. So, this is like, imagine a convenience store on steroids. And a part of their business is best Texas tacos. So, they have some of the best-rated breakfast tacos in all of Dallas, Texas, and it’s in a convenience store, a gas station. So, you know, a little plug for those folks. But they’ve grown one heck of a business.

Adam: We love you guys. Thank you. Keep making great tacos.

Matt: Keep making great tacos. They were with, you know, one of those big nationally recognized payroll providers, that shall remain nameless, but they have a ticker symbol, if that helps. And a red logo. But, you know, the subtle, that was subtle. But, you know, they came to us because of really what we’re known for. I mean, we’re known for, you know, being a service business first and then technology-enabled. And as part of being a service business, we always wanna listen to what our customers are doing in the market and try to do the best thing for them. We’ve always had a real friendly integration strategy of, “If you love it, keep it, we’ll integrate with it. And if you hate it, we can help you replace it.”

I mean, these guys came to us, and they said, “We wanna replace everything except this one little piece of technology that we love, and that’s scheduling.” And it was the MakeShift product, and that’s actually how we got introduced.

As an industry, we’ve got two flavors of people. We have HR managers who want to replace everything and have a simple easy-to-use single-database product. And they have to go through change management because no system’s the same. So, you know, if their policy is written one way, and the system will only accommodate this way, they gotta go to this way, right? And that happens, and some people are of that school of thought. And that’s fine.

The other school of thought is, you know, we wanna integrate best-of-breed products. Like the MakeShift product for Fuel City, right? They wanted to keep it because they love it. And we have other organizations that really are of that school of thought. You know, they want a best-of-breed performance management system, or they want a best-of-breed, you know, industry-specific time-keeping system for their manufacturing environment, or whatever it may be. And, you know, 10 years ago, integration was tough, right? Integration was flat file, you import, export, there’s errors with that. But as technology has matured, APIs have matured in the ability to connect other systems. And we always joke, it’s, you know, our system was built open API from day one but others weren’t. So sometimes it’s like, we’re dependent on the other system to be able to integrate. So it’s just something you have to ask when you’re looking to integrate products. But we’re seeing a lot more, call it, malleability with software in the world to be able to connect. We’re seeing aggregators.

Like, on the personal front, you may see Zapier as a product that integrates tools together. In the HCM space, we’re seeing products like Tray.io and Marcado [SP] to be able to integrate two third parties very easily, almost like, you know, an aggregator of integration. So we’re seeing it become much more prevalent in the space that we live in where you can, you know, bring two systems together in an easy fashion. As opposed to, you know, “I gotta fire this system and move to this other one, but the one I have today is better,” right? You should never have to do that. Like, if you have a great system, keep it and find a partner that’ll integrate with that darn thing, whoever that may be. I don’t know if that answers the question or not.

Adam: It does. And I appreciate it. And I agree with you, by the way, completely. And we work with any systems. We’re very agnostic that way. We just wanna provide our own customers with a great experience, and so do you. We enjoy working with you guys. Now, just to change track a little bit, you know, I joked, you know, I’m spending the winter here where it’s warm, and we encourage our employees to work wherever they want, just do work, don’t go to work. But I am here towards the end of the year, and the year-end is also a heavy lift for payroll. What sort of stuff are you seeing this year in terms of activities that people need to do? Or what advice do you have, as people and businesses are ramping up towards the year-end?

Matt: Yeah. Well, first, I’ll say I love that mantra of, “Do work, don’t go to work.” I think that’s amazing. And, you know, with the shift to remote work, which we’ve all dealt with, and I think every industry had some element, even if you own a restaurant, your back office staff may not be in the building, right? They may used to come to the back office, and now they’re like, “I’m gonna work from home.” I think the first thing is really, you know, just being progressive. And we can’t fight the progressive mindset and be stuck in the old ways. You have to have a progressive mindset, and you have to be flexible. And then you have to also understand, you know, how to measure performance of a remote team member, right? The old days of walking around the office and looking in somebody’s office and saying, “Oh, you know, they’re on the phone, they must be doing work,” like that’s over.

So, you know, performance management and having metrics and understanding what your team is working on is just so stinking critical in this environment where people go remote. The companies we work with that are resisting it, they don’t have those things, right? Like they don’t have the ability to measure performance when somebody’s not sitting in front of them. And I’d argue that, if somebody’s sitting in front of you, that doesn’t mean they’re doing work, right? It just means they’re sitting in front of you.

Adam: In fact, they may be very unproductive because they had to get up early, they had to get to work, they’re at work, they’ve lost a bunch of productivity. I think my philosophy certainly, and I know you feel the same way, is we wanna drive better business outcomes for our customers and better outcomes for our employees, better outcomes for our business and our shareholders. And that just means measuring people on the work they’re doing and how they’re doing and what the outcome is versus, you know, how long it took them to do it.

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, at the end of the day, it’s just, you know, are they winning, right? Like is somebody on your team? Are they winning? And part of winning could be that they don’t have to drive into the stinking office every day, or it could be that they really want three monitors on their desk instead of two. I don’t know if they’re day trading or what, but they want three monitors. Okay? Get them what they need to be productive and win. You know, I mean, technology enablement’s been a big thing as people went to remote work. And people having tools at their home office is different than it used to be. And those things matter. I mean, I’ve got folks on my team, they’re like, “I need a printer that does these things.” Okay. I mean, if you need a printer that does those things, that’s fine. Like let’s get it for you.

Adam: Yeah, I love it.

Matt: Yeah. It’s like, “I don’t wanna do anything to hold you back. Let’s enable you to win and, you know, hopefully, you have a better attitude when you sit at your desk, wherever it may be in the morning, and you can crush it,” right?

Adam: Right. And, “We’ll stay out of your way, and we’re here to support you.” I love it. I think we have a lot in common. What else does Alliance have going on? What other activities do you have taking place maybe as we look into next year when there’s no more masks, and no more vaccine protests, and there’s no more COVID, and there’s no more climate change, and everything’s back to normal? What do you guys have going on that [inaudible 00:24:15]?

Matt: Yeah. Remember, Adam, we said that a year ago. You know, next year, we’ll probably be in the same state. If we predict that, then we’ll be prepared and happy when it happens, right? We’re right now looking at…from a compliance standpoint, we have this latest, you know, COVID tracking, really. I mean, it’s immunization tracking, “I’ve gotta put my vaccine card into a system for my employer.” It’s being challenged in the courts, but, you know, we’re really prepared to help our customers with that. So, that’s just a big thing right now. We launched a COVID tracker. It enables the employee to, you know, upload their vaccine card and then do the weekly testing. And we created some workflows and things around it. So, I mean, that’s kind of like a big short-term thing.

To help with remote work and remote interviewing, we embedded a video interviewing tool into our applicant tracking system. So it’s not a third-party tool. It actually gives the ability to record an interview right in the app and save it on the applicant record. And if you hire that person, and they become an employee, it memorializes with the record. And where that’s really helpful is the old days of sitting in the same room and doing a team interview really don’t exist much anymore, right? It’s more one-to-one than it used to be. Even though we can get a bunch of people on these screens, it seems to still be more one-to-one. So, an HR manager has the ability to go look at that recording and then coach on the actual interviewing questions and what, you know…you know, “I saw you asked this question. You gave a leading question here. What were you trying to get at? Let’s work on that. You know, situationally, you could’ve asked this,” whatever, I mean, just a coaching tool. So, we’ve got that going on.

And then we’ve got expense management we’re about to deploy. And we see a lot of expense reporting fatigue out in the market of, “I’m doing Excel, and now I’ve got more expenses because I don’t come into the office, so I’ve gotta expenses this, home internet, and my cell phone, and my work stuff.” So, we see more expenses happening that may be used to not. So, deploying a tool to help with that.

And then, for us, you know, 2022 will be a real heavy lift in moving the employee-facing parts of our application into a more thoughtful UI and UX that really admires and really nods to the experience an employee’s looking for, right, in an app. And that’s everything interactive with the employee from the applicant to the onboard to the benefits in their enrollment there, and really being thoughtful in how we design for the employee to interact with their admin team. Because, in a remote environment, or really in any environment, I mean, utilization is driven by how the thing looks and acts. And if you can’t drive utilization, you can’t get the ROI out of the back end, right? The admin fund stuff doesn’t matter if an employee won’t click the button.

Adam: Totally agree. Yeah. Completely agree.

Matt: Yeah. So, we’re just really being thoughtful around how we drive utilization to the employee level and increase it. We’ve got great utilization, but we want it to be better, and we wanna, you know, continue to, you know, be on the forefront of how that interacts with the employee’s life and how it helps an admin. Yep.

Adam: You got a lot coming out in 2022, very exciting. A lot of lift and a lot of exciting initiatives going on. That’s great.

Matt: Yeah. It’s a good time. We’re happy with, you know, where we’re at as a business. We’re happy, you know, with our customers and the feedback that they’re giving us on what we’re doing. It’s kind of like, you know, when you do things, and somebody says, “Hey, that’s good, I like it. Keep doing it.” It just motivates you to do, you know, that much more. And we really feel that way. Every little thing we do, it’s like, you know, “Hey, you guys are doing a good job. Keep doing, you know, this, or could you tweak this?” We have a user voice in our application where a lot of that stuff bubbles up. And just making sure we’re looking at it, responding to it, and developing for our customer profile.

Adam: I think you’ll agree, there’s no better compliment than a customer compliment. That’s great to hear, Matt.

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. I agree. Yeah.

Adam: Well, hey, listen, you got a lot on the go. You’re a very busy guy. I promised half an hour. We’re at 26 minutes. Do you have any final thoughts or any final comment that you’d like to make for our listeners as we wrap up today and as we help people make the shift?

Matt: Yeah. No, absolutely. You know, I think, just as we move into year-end and, you know, employees have been through, in their personal lives, a really challenging past couple of years. And I think just recognizing that as a business of, you know, we don’t know what happens when somebody, you know, hangs up Slack for the end of the day or shuts off Google Meets, or whatever they’re doing throughout the day. We don’t know what they’re going through personally. You know, personal changes are definitely inspiring the resignation era that we’re seeing right now. And it’s, you know, as a leader, just being in tune with that and, you know, having those one-on-ones every week with your team and not making them all 100% about business, but just understanding the humans that work for you because we’re all human, and we all have lives outside of work, just understanding, you know, what’s going on in their world and being compassionate, understanding.

If we’re talking to our teams, and we’re getting feedback, we have to act on it. And when we act on that feedback, we’re gonna grow better companies, we’re gonna grow better teams. And, you know, just understanding that we’ve gotta be progressive and listen right now more than ever to what our teams are telling us because they’re going through challenges. So, you know, challenges can be extremely positive or negative, right? But I mean, there are great things happening in the world, I don’t wanna imply there aren’t. But it’s just listening and reacting and making sure that we’re helping our teams because, at the end of the day, none of us have companies unless we have great teams. So, yeah, just being able to [crosstalk 00:31:01]

Adam: Well said. A company is not an entity unto itself, it’s a collection of people trying to make other people’s lives better through their products and services. And so I think you really nailed it when you said, you know, “It’s the time to be more empathetic, to be more authentic, to listen more and be supportive of each other so that we can get through this and have a better life.”

Matt: Yeah, that’s right. You said it, authentic. That’s a great way to put it. Yeah.

Adam: Fantastic. Well, hey, Matt, listen, it’s always great to connect with you. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us, for telling us what’s happening with Alliance and with your customers, and for being one of the good guys out there. We appreciate it. And we’ll talk to you soon on “Make the Shift.”

Matt: All right. You got it, man. Thanks for the invite and keep up the great work. We’ll see you soon. Bye-bye.

Adam: Thanks, Matt. Bye-bye now.

And that brings us to the end of our podcast. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and will join me next month as we continue to make the shift together. If you haven’t yet subscribed to our podcast, you can visit podcast.makeshift.ca. And do so right now. You can also look for @makeshiftapp and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And if you’d like to join me on my show or share your feedback with me, feel free to drop me a line at agreenberg@makeshift.ca. If you’re looking for an HR and payroll solution, check out AllianceHCM at alliancehcm.com. And if you need scheduling, you can reach out to the MakeShift team or me personally. Again, my email is agreenberg@makeshift.ca.

All of our links are in the show notes. Thanks for listening. I’m your host, Adam Greenberg. See you next time on “Make the Shift.”

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