01 May 2022

Gemma Creamer, associate director – payroll executive division at Portfolio Payroll, provides an update from the recruitment sector on attracting and retaining payroll professionals

Throughout the pandemic, the payroll profession has been elevated, and is now recognised as a technical, business-critical function within every company, whatever the sector.

This has made the profession a more appealing career choice than ever. With its keyworker status highlighting its stability, recent investment in software, process improvement and training, plus lucrative salaries and remuneration packages, job opportunities in payroll offer an enticing career path.


Attracting payroll professionals

Portfolio Payroll’s recent Payroll Salary Survey discusses the power of the current candidate-driven market and the impact it’s having on payroll recruitment.

With reports of talent shortages at all levels of the market, businesses are encouraged to present competitive starting salaries, comprehensive benefit packages and working from home opportunities to secure the best in qualified and experienced payroll talent.

Salaries have risen at a phenomenal rate over the past two years and opportunities are plentiful. Payroll professionals can now secure higher salaries and are benefiting from a more diverse choice of career opportunities. Therefore, for a business to attract payroll talent, they must pitch remuneration at a competitive level.

Benefit packages continue to play a considerable part in the evaluation of accepting a job, particularly any initiatives linked to flexible working, well-being and mental health.

Most significantly, the pandemic has heavily inspired flexible working attitudes and is currently the most requested feature of an employment package. Only 15% of permanent roles are 100% office-based and almost one third of payroll professionals now work in a hybrid arrangement, between the office and home. The advice is that if you can offer remote working, you should. Not only does it meet candidate expectations of a better work-life balance, but it also widens your talent pool, enabling the opportunity to attract experienced payroll professionals without compromise.

Other areas to consider are professional development opportunities, with 82% of salary survey respondents stating they have training and qualifications in their package and 60% wishing to be rewarded with more personal incentives (e.g., meals, holidays, sporting events).

It’s also highly recommended that businesses embrace remote recruitment techniques (particularly video interviewing), to speed up the process and secure desired talent before they’re snapped up by the competition.


Retaining payroll professionals

More than ever, payroll professionals want to feel respected and valued by their employer.

The recent Portfolio Payroll Salary Survey revealed lower levels of salary satisfaction (-9%) than in previous years, and almost a third of those dissatisfied are planning to leave their current employment within three months.

This, combined with rising salaries, better remuneration packages and hybrid working now being ‘the norm’ mean employers should benchmark and adjust their current payroll salaries accordingly, to reflect market trends.

While the pandemic reduced the capacity for formal salary reviews, it’s recommended this is reinstated and a full overhaul of your company’s benefit package is prioritised. This is not only to retain your payroll staff, but all professionals across your wider business.

Employees are expecting more flexibility with hybrid working and requests should be genuinely considered and agreed where possible. It was noted by many payroll professionals that they believe their job can now easily be performed remotely, with the advent of paperless processing and effective software solutions.

Committing to additional headcount and budget, annual benchmarking, investing in professional training and an open door for new flexible or hybrid working requests are all effective retention strategies in the modern world of work.

If your business doesn’t review salaries, increase rates in line with market trends or embrace remote working, they will quickly lose their payroll talent.


Be prepared for growth and succession planning

There will naturally be attrition within teams as we are seeing more individuals pursuing new opportunities in what has been dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’. Therefore, succession planning is highly recommended. The pandemic was a stark reminder that if your company doesn’t have a plan for leavers and unplanned absences, you can be left struggling to pay employees and unable to meet a wide range of legal obligations.

Partnering with a specialist recruitment agency is the best way to ensure you can manage both short-term needs and longer-term capacity issues as and when they arise.

You must also remember that, as the business grows, your payroll team will need to grow too. Understanding the capacity and volume each payroll professional can process is vital to successfully achieve growth plans.


Accessing payroll opportunities

If you’re looking to get into payroll, we recommend exploring the extensive range of payroll courses and webinars on offer. The CIPP provides many courses and offers advice on many payroll topics. Additionally, many software providers have developed their own qualifications and courses. There is so much out there.

2022/23 looks set to be an interesting and exciting time for the payroll sector. There’s a need to build effective recruitment and retention strategies and focus on the importance of navigating the future of work. There is also the challenge of attracting new talent into the industry to ensure continued success of the payroll industry, as a whole. 


Featured in the May 2022 issue of Professional in Payroll, Pensions and Reward. Correct at time of publication.