Payroll professionals are often
frustrated by the lack of recognition
the function receives for the important
role it plays. Tom Washington explores the
reason for this frustration and asks
how technology can make a difference
It generates no income, is very rarely seen or heard,
and very few outside of the function have an
understanding what is actually involved in it. But
when payroll goes wrong, everyone knows about
it. So while it is a profession on which so many of
us rely to survive, payroll is having a tough time
getting the recognition it deserves.
The function itself is often associated with or as a
part of finance or HR, and being recognised as a
profession in its own right is one of its biggest
challenges. Add to that the ever-changing legislative
complexities and advances in technology, payroll
professionals certainly have a tough task on their
hands. Moreover, the current financial environment
has resulted in a greater scrutiny of payroll costs and
liabilities. As never before, payroll professionals are
relied on to produce comprehensive reports to be
analysed by the management team.
A payroll manager at a well-known investment
bank, who asked not be named, emphasised the
importance of the role and says that payroll is often
seen as a processing task that anyone can do, but it
should be recognised alongside that of an accountant
or HR professional.
“People are funny about their money. How much
we get paid is a very personal issue and determines
how we live our entire lives; the respect that this
deserves is enormous and should be treated as such.
We all react differently to pay issues depending on
our circumstances and it is an important skill for all
payroll people to be able to adjust their communication style depending on the
situation,” she says.
She claims that for the payroll function to be recognised for the work it does, a
specific qualification needs to be available as is available in the UK and US.
“Whenever I have to recruit for payroll people it is so difficult to find the quality
that is required particularly in the finance industry. While the Payroll Management
Certificate Course through the Association of Payroll Specialists has gone a long
way to ensure more payroll people are qualified, until we have an official tertiary
qualification that incorporates not just the technical skills but more importantly the
personal skills required for payroll we will not be recognised as a profession nor
will we attract the right people to actually choose payroll as a career,” she says.
Craig Osborne, managing director at Sage MicrOpay, says that the payroll
environment is a dynamic one, particularly in relation to legislative compliance.
“Payroll professionals have to understand legislative changes, how it affects their
payroll processes and how they will need to apply it to their payroll processes. A
recent example is the introduction of the Paid Parental Leave legislation.”
To assist payroll, there must be continual improvement in automating processes
and reducing processing costs. That’s where technology comes in.
A key sticking point, according to the payroll manager, is that many employers
fail to integrate their payroll and HR systems. “For some reason, all the big
companies I have worked for have chosen different HR and payroll systems, so
there is no interaction between them at all. Why, this day and age would you not
think it’s important enough that the HR system has full integration or even some
interface with the payroll system? There’s people out there double-keying and doing
reconciliations between two systems and it’s ridiculous.”
Recent findings from ADP payroll research
show that just over 35 per cent of respondents
have integrated HR, payroll and compensation
solutions. This figure is considerably low,
particularly when compared to the 83 percent of
respondents that cited integrated functionality as
either ‘critical’ or ‘highly important’.
The State of HR-Payroll-Compensation
Integration: 2010 study also revealed that almost
half of the survey respondents are still using
spreadsheets or even pen and paper (44 per cent
and two percent, respectively) for planning
Terrence McCrossan, division vice president,
marketing and strategy, ADP National Account
Services, said of the findings: “Integration of these
key systems and processes simplifies payroll and
compensation changes throughout the year,
reduces errors, and improves visibility for
management, HR practitioners and employees.”
Furthermore, Sage MicrOpay’s Osborne says
that technology can assist payroll professionals in
relation to managing through automation their
payroll function to provide ease of use tools and
ensuring a seamless process. “Due to the
cumbersome nature of payroll in relation to
capturing data and processing, the automated
reporting now available allows a user to produce in-
depth and customisable reports for the purposes of
the organisation’s reporting requirements,” he says.
“Paying employees correctly and on time is a
critical part of the business function and as the
payroll professional is of chief importance in the
delivery of this, they are seen by c-level
professionals as a valuable part of the business.
The right technology will not only ensure that the
payroll process is managed and audited, but in
addition, save the organisation time by managing
the payroll process to improve efficiencies.”
So with payroll battling on all fronts to boost its
reputation and gain recognition for the role it serves,
employers should be mindful that sensible use of
technology can go a long way in helping its cause.