The way forward

20 August 2018

This article was featured in the September 2018 issue of the magazine.

Helen Livesey, senior business director at Hays Payroll Management, sets out how payroll professionals can drive forward their development

As a key strategic priority for many organisations, the opportunities for payroll professionals are numerous and varied and many employers continue to increase their headcount in recognition of the importance of investing in payroll. 

As the profession becomes more prominent, so too are payroll professionals becoming more ambitious to raise their profiles and get ahead in their careers. Our recent research, supported by the CIPP, revealed that in order to do this payroll professionals and their employers need to invest in skills development to ensure their payroll teams have a thorough understanding of the many changes impacting the profession. 

The research, which forms the basis of our Hays Payroll Report & Salary Guide 2018, explores how payroll professionals can invest in their own progression to accelerate their careers, and how employers can best support progression plans. 

For more information about the report, or to download a copy, visit 

Here are some of our key findings for payroll professionals to consider for supporting their development.

  • Prioritising your development – As payroll becomes increasingly complex – in large part due to the increasing number of new legislations impacting the profession such as the General Data Protection Regulation and auto-enrolment – payroll professionals with legislative and operational awareness of the impact of these changes will see increased demand from employers. 

In order to get ahead professionals should build their knowledge of current and upcoming legislation. One way to stay on top of these changes is to utilise CIPP’s legislation-specific resources, such as training, webcasts and roundtable discussions. In fact, our report found that over half (53%) of employers would offer a higher base salary to a candidate with a CIPP qualification, suggesting that for those looking to move up a salary band, investing in this may be a financially rewarding step.


...payroll professionals and their employers need to invest in skills development...


Unfortunately, the majority of professionals reported experiencing barriers to learning with the top three obstacles being that they are worried about:

  • the impact upon their time and workload (65%)
  • a lack of personal funds (63%), and 
  • a lack support whilst studying (26%). 

Though many employers do support professionals in taking on additional learning, professionals looking for new roles should prioritise finding out if employers they want to approach do offer financial support or flexible hours to support further qualifications. 

  • Varied experience – In addition to qualifications, varied payroll experience is highly in demand by employers. Over a third (37%) of employers who hired payroll staff in the past year reported that applicants were lacking in sector-specific experience. Payroll professionals looking to gain this experience should look to speak with their manager about additional on-the-job training, or access to external courses where possible.

Additionally, employers looking to attract talent may offer the opportunity for professionals to work alongside other departments in the business, so professionals should be mindful of this when looking for a new role. This kind of opportunity will help any payroll professionals become more commercially aware and therefore more strategic decision makers, with a better understanding of wider business challenges. 

  • Align expectations – Payroll professionals are ambitious. Nearly half (43%) expect to be in a role just one to two years before they are promoted; and 20% think promotions should occur after only six months to a year in a role. However, there is a clear mismatch between these expectations and employer attitudes towards progression, as 47% of employers believe payroll employees should be in a role for two to five years before promotion and only 4% think a promotion should come after six months to a year.

Whilst employers should be mindful of their ambitious workforce and be transparent with regards to profession opportunities, professionals also need to be clear about their ultimate career aspirations and work to meet these set objectives. 

  • Securing a pay rise – There is good news for payroll professionals looking to increase their salary over the next twelve months as 53% of employers anticipate their payroll employees will see an average salary increase of up to 2.5% in the year ahead, while 20% foresee salary increases of up to 5%. The predicted increases follow payroll salaries rising by 4.2% in 2017, the highest overall increase in the accountancy and finance sector. 

For professionals who are looking for a new job or promotion this year should ensure they are being paid in line with others at their level, understanding what typical salaries are and what their potential earnings could be. 

It’s evident that payroll will remain a constantly changing landscape in need of skilled and experience practitioners, and professionals who capitalise on this will remain in demand by employers.