How to boost the strategic profile of the payroll department How to boost the strategic profile of the payroll department

How to boost the strategic profile of the payroll department
30 Apr 2015

The upper echelons of any company can be a crowded place. Numerous heads of department and directors vying for visibility at the same time, all pushing for attention. Against this backdrop, it is understandable why many payroll departments might feel it’s hard to compete for glory. But that need not be the case.

Payroll isn’t just important, it’s the department on which every single other team relies. No payroll, no staff. It’s vital for employee engagement as the entire organisation expects pay and bonuses to run without a hitch and any disturbance to this can have a huge negative impact. All of this means that it’s not just of strategic importance, it’s absolutely vital to the smooth running of any business.

But almost every department can make a claim for its own critical place within the organisation. How does the payroll department rise above the noise? There’s no quick fix for this, no inside tricks. In fact, in a business world where many feel that making the most noise is the same as having the best profile, it’s worth remembering that actions speak louder than words.

The overarching principle is deceptively simple, but it can be hard to deliver on. In order to boost its strategic profile, the payroll team needs to contribute strategic value. Not shout about it, but do it. This means knowing what’s important to the business and ensuring that processes and practices reflect this.

Don’t shout like an individual, collaborate like a business leader

While department leads tend to focus on their own teams, senior management looks at the entire company. They want to see a smoothly running whole, not groups working in isolation and pockets of siloed activity.

This makes inter-departmental collaboration a priority for the entire business and opens the door of opportunity for the payroll department. In fact, the payroll team has an advantage, as it already works frequently and closely with two other teams - finance and HR.

Collaboration could mean sharing resources or information or simply regular contact to ensure cohesion. If the head of payroll takes charge, ensuring and overseeing smooth collaboration with the finance and HR different teams, then the benefits follow.

Effective collaboration means less time wasted, more efficient use of resources, and better work all round - all important factors for a successful business. Though payroll may sometimes be forgotten in the context of business strategy, a team which drives on-the-ground efficiencies rarely is. It’s these benefits that are noticed by senior management and the department head who drives them won’t escape notice as a strategic leader.

Demonstrate bottom line impact

Perhaps the most direct way to prove strategic value within an organisation is to boost its financial health. While adding to the company coffers will obviously always be smiled upon, so will making sure that you’re minimising unnecessary expense. This means working as efficiently as possible.

One way in which many organisations work more efficiently is to integrate their departmental IT systems. Rather than having HR, finance, and payroll systems operating separately, integrating them all - or even just two of them - can yield serious benefits in the efficiency stakes.

This requires the leadership and collaborative mentality already mentioned and once integration has taken place there are immediate advantages. Put simply, integration reduces duplication of effort. Prior to integration, much of the same data is separately entered into each department’s system, but an integrated approach removes this.

In turn, this means unnecessary workload is reduced, manual data entry errors are minimised - helping to limit business risk - and each team sees quicker, more accurate results. The head of payroll can therefore directly implement strategic benefits for other departments as well as their own.

Another knock-on benefit of integration - and a strategically important one - is improved flow of management information. Having one system which provides data for multiple departments means that management decisions can be made as soon as data has been entered once. No more waiting for disparate systems to be updated.

In the fast-paced, data-led world of modern business, swift decisions are critical, and those people who enable them are perceived as vital to a company’s success.

Embrace measurement and analytics – make them easier

The business world fundamentally runs on data. Vast quantities are produced, analysed and stored every second, all containing potentially useful information and insight.

However, data is only useful when it can be accessed, inspected and analysed. In both the business and consumer worlds, more and more information is being explored on a minute-by-minute basis. For consumers this might be monitoring their diet and exercise levels, but for a business it could be examining website traffic or scrutinising payroll data.

The trend among business leaders is towards immediate access to all business information, so make sure that this includes payroll data. It must be available, understandable and relatable. Regular updating is a key part of this, but it’s also worth examining the current business intelligence tools that are available. These can drastically improve how easy it is to interpret and understand any kind of data.

While the IT department may look after companywide technology investments, the exploration of new tools is open to individual departments too. A business intelligence solution that’s useful for payroll may be handy for other teams too, and being the first to find and use that solution could be (in) a strategic feather in the cap.

Lead the way technologically

Good technology has in fact been the keystone of business for years. The benefits it can bring are almost limitless, from improving efficiency through intuitive tools to enabling remote working and flexibility for staff. However, it’s vital to remember that the high-level motivations behind any new technology investment are almost always the same. Better and faster work, with lower costs.

The technological options available are numerous, but the word on most people’s lips is ‘cloud’. Make sure you’ve assessed whether moving the payroll system into the cloud is the way forward for your organisation. The benefits include the ability to communicate, access, and store data, and manage business processes from anywhere with an internet connection.

Clearly the cloud is perfect for promoting agility and efficiency, and is particularly useful if your team works from multiple locations. However many organisations have reservations around the security of their payroll data.

The critical factor for showing you have your finger on the pulse of the business isn’t to move to the cloud, but to make sure you conduct a full assessment of whether or not the cloud is right for you.

The final decision is not as important as making sure you thoroughly and visibly interrogate the options, and then contextualise your choice in terms of business priorities - efficiency and cost-effectiveness. This context is the underlying key to boosting the payroll department’s strategic profile. Bear this in mind when any decision is made.

Actions really do speak louder than words, so make sure it’s clear to the senior team that your actions are aligned with the business’s priorities and you can’t go wrong.

By Jonathan White, head of sales, Sage HR and Payroll

 

The upper echelons of any company can be a crowded place. Numerous heads of department and directors vying for visibility at the same time, all pushing for attention. Against this backdrop, it is understandable why many payroll departments might feel it’s hard to compete for glory. But that need not be the case.

Payroll isn’t just important, it’s the department on which every single other team relies. No payroll, no staff. It’s vital for employee engagement as the entire organisation expects pay and bonuses to run without a hitch and any disturbance to this can have a huge negative impact. All of this means that it’s not just of strategic importance, it’s absolutely vital to the smooth running of any business.

But almost every department can make a claim for its own critical place within the organisation. How does the payroll department rise above the noise? There’s no quick fix for this, no inside tricks. In fact, in a business world where many feel that making the most noise is the same as having the best profile, it’s worth remembering that actions speak louder than words.

The overarching principle is deceptively simple, but it can be hard to deliver on. In order to boost its strategic profile, the payroll team needs to contribute strategic value. Not shout about it, but do it. This means knowing what’s important to the business and ensuring that processes and practices reflect this.

Don’t shout like an individual, collaborate like a business leader

While department leads tend to focus on their own teams, senior management looks at the entire company. They want to see a smoothly running whole, not groups working in isolation and pockets of siloed activity.

This makes inter-departmental collaboration a priority for the entire business and opens the door of opportunity for the payroll department. In fact, the payroll team has an advantage, as it already works frequently and closely with two other teams - finance and HR.

Collaboration could mean sharing resources or information or simply regular contact to ensure cohesion. If the head of payroll takes charge, ensuring and overseeing smooth collaboration with the finance and HR different teams, then the benefits follow.

Effective collaboration means less time wasted, more efficient use of resources, and better work all round - all important factors for a successful business. Though payroll may sometimes be forgotten in the context of business strategy, a team which drives on-the-ground efficiencies rarely is. It’s these benefits that are noticed by senior management and the department head who drives them won’t escape notice as a strategic leader.

Demonstrate bottom line impact

Perhaps the most direct way to prove strategic value within an organisation is to boost its financial health. While adding to the company coffers will obviously always be smiled upon, so will making sure that you’re minimising unnecessary expense. This means working as efficiently as possible.

One way in which many organisations work more efficiently is to integrate their departmental IT systems. Rather than having HR, finance, and payroll systems operating separately, integrating them all - or even just two of them - can yield serious benefits in the efficiency stakes.

This requires the leadership and collaborative mentality already mentioned and once integration has taken place there are immediate advantages. Put simply, integration reduces duplication of effort. Prior to integration, much of the same data is separately entered into each department’s system, but an integrated approach removes this.

In turn, this means unnecessary workload is reduced, manual data entry errors are minimised - helping to limit business risk - and each team sees quicker, more accurate results. The head of payroll can therefore directly implement strategic benefits for other departments as well as their own.

Another knock-on benefit of integration - and a strategically important one - is improved flow of management information. Having one system which provides data for multiple departments means that management decisions can be made as soon as data has been entered once. No more waiting for disparate systems to be updated.

In the fast-paced, data-led world of modern business, swift decisions are critical, and those people who enable them are perceived as vital to a company’s success.

Embrace measurement and analytics – make them easier

The business world fundamentally runs on data. Vast quantities are produced, analysed and stored every second, all containing potentially useful information and insight.

However, data is only useful when it can be accessed, inspected and analysed. In both the business and consumer worlds, more and more information is being explored on a minute-by-minute basis. For consumers this might be monitoring their diet and exercise levels, but for a business it could be examining website traffic or scrutinising payroll data.

The trend among business leaders is towards immediate access to all business information, so make sure that this includes payroll data. It must be available, understandable and relatable. Regular updating is a key part of this, but it’s also worth examining the current business intelligence tools that are available. These can drastically improve how easy it is to interpret and understand any kind of data.

While the IT department may look after companywide technology investments, the exploration of new tools is open to individual departments too. A business intelligence solution that’s useful for payroll may be handy for other teams too, and being the first to find and use that solution could be (in) a strategic feather in the cap.

Lead the way technologically

Good technology has in fact been the keystone of business for years. The benefits it can bring are almost limitless, from improving efficiency through intuitive tools to enabling remote working and flexibility for staff. However, it’s vital to remember that the high-level motivations behind any new technology investment are almost always the same. Better and faster work, with lower costs.

The technological options available are numerous, but the word on most people’s lips is ‘cloud’. Make sure you’ve assessed whether moving the payroll system into the cloud is the way forward for your organisation. The benefits include the ability to communicate, access, and store data, and manage business processes from anywhere with an internet connection.

Clearly the cloud is perfect for promoting agility and efficiency, and is particularly useful if your team works from multiple locations. However many organisations have reservations around the security of their payroll data.

The critical factor for showing you have your finger on the pulse of the business isn’t to move to the cloud, but to make sure you conduct a full assessment of whether or not the cloud is right for you.

The final decision is not as important as making sure you thoroughly and visibly interrogate the options, and then contextualise your choice in terms of business priorities - efficiency and cost-effectiveness. This context is the underlying key to boosting the payroll department’s strategic profile. Bear this in mind when any decision is made.

Actions really do speak louder than words, so make sure it’s clear to the senior team that your actions are aligned with the business’s priorities and you can’t go wrong.

By Jonathan White, head of sales, Sage HR and Payroll