Payroll: The Unsung Hero of HR

January 25, 2023

Table of Contents

Is Payroll the most undervalued function in your business?

In any organisation, one of the most important functions will be to timely and accurately remunerate employees for the work they are hired to do – so why do so many organisations appear to place so little value on those who work tirelessly to perform the role of payroll – a career that can be so rewarding for the people who enjoy it?

What does it take to be a great payroll professional?

As well as the obvious skills such as attention to detail, accuracy and time-management, more and more employers are requesting in-depth specialist knowledge.  Advertisements call for comprehensive understanding of auto-enrolment, salary sacrifice and benefit-in-kind implications.  Saying nothing of their demands for staying on top of tax code changes, the recent back-and-forth on National Insurance contribution levels, statutory payment legislation and compulsory deductions.

Payrollers will need to be flexible in their approach to working hours, with different deadlines demanding more focus at certain times of the week/month, late nights and early starts are commonplace in the routine of the payroll professional.  Task orientated, deadline driven and committed to ‘getting the job done’ requires a certain type of personality, and it’s not always that easy to find!

But that’s just part of their job, isn’t it?

Despite consisting of predominantly process-driven activity, payroll teams need to remain agile.  Changing regulations and ad-hoc requests for updates from employees interrupt the normal flow of work, and cannot be ignored.

Consider the last 2-3 years and the impact this will have had on payroll teams the country over.  March 2020, Covid-19 causes the nation to head into unchartered territory with regards to mandatory shutdowns and the introduction of something called ‘furlough’ and later exacerbated by ‘flexi-furlough’.

With laws being made, passed, and updated almost overnight, organisations made quick decisions to adopt the scheme, but quickly forgot or misunderstood the impact this would have on their payroll preparation and processing.  Teams had to work quickly to implement complex changes in pay and legislation, as well as tackling the new ways of working that organisations were adapting to in general.

Payroll is the unseen side of HR – until it goes wrong.

Numerous transactions, conflicting and inconsistent contracts and payment terms and tight deadlines are all run-of-the-mill challenges payroll professionals work with every day.  Complex rules and changing legislation mean they also need to continually recertify and update their qualifications to ensure compliance.

All this activity happens during the course of their work, and they often go unnoticed as their colleagues operate around them – until something goes wrong!  Then, as if by magic, the payroll team are out of the shadows and in the spotlight.

Why it is so important to get it right.

Particularly in light of the current climate with the cost-of-living crisis raging on, it may be more important than ever to help employees understand factors affecting pay and benefits and highlight the importance of getting the payroll basics right.  There are few times when payrollers are rewarded for their accuracy and with no wiggle room, payroll is right – or it is wrong, and employees don’t care about reasons why they are out of pocket due to other people’s errors.

Where does payroll accuracy accountability sit?

Blame is often placed at the door of the payroll professional, but if the information they receive is incorrect or out of date, how can they be expected to process an accurate payroll run?

Organisations need to be better at managing the quality of processes and adopt a mindset of continuous improvement to their payroll operations.  Setting KPIs (key performance indicators) to track and measure their performance and points of failure should be a matter of standard practice.  Perhaps going as far as taking a 6-sigma approach to payroll and introducing a “right first time” KPI to monitor error rates and where in the data flow process things can be improved.

How can payroll professionals help change the record?

Regularly considered reactive and transactional due to the nature of the work, payrollers perhaps need to find ways of demonstrating how they add value by being more proactive in their approach, providing solutions to common and potential issues.  By nature, payroll staff are more introvert, focused on doing the task at hand, but sometimes less dynamic when it comes to creative problem solving.

Teams need to look to replace their traditional methods of payroll processing and preparation with technology.  Streamlining process and helping to reduce or eliminate human error and lengthy manual processes.

External payroll providers will also need to combine providing great client service with being a stickler for the strict rules and regulations they must adhere to.  They need to manage client demands with what’s actually feasible and compliant.

So, to payroll teams everywhere (who are probably too busy to read this article!)  we say a huge THANK YOU!

If your organisation needs HR advice or support, including managing your payroll, Vero HR can help. We will provide you with dedicated HR Services to effectively manage your workforce and assist with all your HR requirements.  Contact us today to find out how we can help your business.

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