16 May 2021

Daniela Porr, senior product marketing manager, Workday, unmasks the superhero at the heart of business

Payroll departments have always been essential when change needs to be implemented. They are the keepers of important data and can form a bridge between finance and human resources (HR), using unique insights and skills to solve whatever is needed. They have been helping their firms navigate a changing world of work long before the pandemic crisis, but never has the work landscape changed so much and so rapidly as this past year.

With the unprecedented and abrupt changes in early 2020, compliance-related confusion was common amongst employers – but payroll handled it. They swooped in and made sure that employers were compliant, that employees were informed, and that everyone continued to be paid correctly and on time.

At the heart of the business – between HR and finance – payroll professionals continue to use their unique insights and skillset to navigate a challenging and changeable work landscape. In a single day they can tackle:

  • Facilitation of information sharing – Payroll is often the bridge between finance and HR, translating necessary information into numbers for one side (finance) and policies for the other (HR).
  • Confidentiality – Much like HR and finance, payroll must consider privacy and confidentiality. Payroll helps ensure the security of employee information.
  • Compliance – Payroll partners with HR to ensure compliance, managing coronavirus job retention schemes and changes to statutory sick pay.
  • Communication – Communication with employees is important, and like HR, payroll must take this into consideration in all interactions.
  • Reconciliation – On the finance side, processing payroll involves knowledge of some accounting functions. Payroll must deal with tasks such as reconciliations and general ledger postings, which are core responsibilities of finance.
  • Internal controls – Payroll must have strong internal controls. Much like finance, there are strict legal and audit procedures that payroll must follow.

Who are you going to call?

Plain-clothes superheroes in their organisations, payroll professionals often fly under the radar – yet are ready to unveil their powers and come to the rescue as soon as there is even a hint of difficulty. They often fill several roles:

  • Emergency call operator – On a regular basis, payroll gets emergency calls and emails from employees and managers needing help with a deadline (such as overdue timesheets).
  • Road traffic officer – All roads lead to payroll. Like drivers who need to follow the rules of the road, payroll enforces the requirements and eligibility for pay and time off policies.
  • Firefighter – When the unexpected occurs, as we have witnessed in recent times, payroll fights fires and figures out that final pay.
  • Detective – Payroll uncovers the root cause of calculation errors.
  • Repair person – Payroll knows how to get the job done and will fix any processing issues to get pay out on time.
  • Teacher – Payroll promotes education and training on timekeeping, compliance and legislation to the workforce to ensure the data flowing to payroll are accurate and timely.
  • Strategic advisor – Given that it is dealing with the largest single expense in most organisations, payroll holds critical data to provide strategic insights into people, processes and costs.

Despite the vast array of roles, the tools payroll has at their disposal are not fit for the superhero work they do. Payroll professionals can find themselves bogged down in manual work and corrections due to little automation. Key data is spread across disparate systems, making it difficult to consolidate and securely provide the right data to decision makers. On top of this, siloed systems make remote work less efficient, secure, and a less collaborative experience.

So, how can organisations help their payroll professionals build their superpowers and tools, to share insights and create networks that will in turn make the organisation more agile and efficient?


Technology to the rescue

Technology can act as a superpower. It can help address the increasing pressures on the payroll function by using unique, real-time insights, and mending the disconnect between finance and HR. Historically, all three areas have operated as separate silos and on disparate systems, which can feel like kryptonite to payroll – and the whole business – as it doesn’t keep payroll in the loop with the latest data. In turn, this impacts the business as it loses out on the wealth of experience and insights to which payroll has access.

A one-system platform, like Workday, will create a harmonious relationship between all three. It will strengthen the data held and help payroll tackle challenges with more accuracy, allowing for shared processes and collaboration. Adding automation as an additional superpower frees up time for more heroic – or strategic – work.

Payroll is evolving to a more strategic function and demonstrating its worth in the crisis. Payroll professionals deserve to have the best tools for the job at hand, to help them ensure the integrity and stability of the entire organisation – and that’s exactly what Workday does. 

Featured in the June 2021 issue of Professional in Payroll, Pensions and Reward. Correct at time of publication.