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15 Traits to Look for When Hiring a Payroll Professional

In Hiring Strategy — by Sandra Sommerville

Hiring a payroll professional

Most business owners understand that efficient payroll could be crucial to the success of their organization. However, with an intricate regulatory landscape to navigate, payroll remains a highly specialized, complicated process. Payroll staff must be able to handle the demands of their job, or risk errors, costly compliance penalties and, ultimately, unhappy employees.

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Hiring a specialist ensures all your business’s payroll responsibilities are attended to – but how do you identify the right candidates and what skills and traits should they possess?

  1. Numeracy
    Payroll focuses on calculation so it goes without saying a payroll specialist’s mathematical aptitude and numerical skills will likely translate to greater accuracy and fewer compliance issues.
  2. Compliance
    Compliance is fundamental to the payroll process. To avoid penalties, specialists should have an excellent working knowledge of the rules and regulations affecting payroll in their region.
  3. Communication
    The complexities of payroll are confusing to those unfamiliar with the process. Payroll employees will be called upon to explain the workings of payroll to personnel at every level of an organization, making communications essential to their role.
  4. Customer Service
    Payroll duties frequently crossover with customer service duties. Payroll specialists must be able to interact with clients, HR staff and other employees with courtesy, patience and understanding, and be ready to address questions on a range of related topics.
  5. Timeliness
    Payroll employees work on strict deadlines to ensure wages are issued accurately and on time. With potentially large numbers of employees depending on them, payroll specialists must be able to adhere to a schedule while maintaining a high performance standard.
  6. Confidentiality
    Payroll staff have access to sensitive personal data and must be able to exercise discretion in all aspects of their role. Payroll managers and other specialists should ensure their staff members also understand their confidentiality obligations.
  7. Administration
    The daily tasks involved in payroll processing go beyond general office duties. With this in mind, payroll specialists should be versatile administrators with a range of clerical skills.
  8. Initiative
    Business owners need their payroll process to be as efficient as possible, so payroll specialists should show initiative in all areas of their role. Practically, this includes identifying the areas their systems could be improved or creating solutions to existing problems.
  9. Software
    Software is integral to modern payroll. Specialists should have a working knowledge of standard platforms, like Excel and Office, and also be proficient with industry-leading software like QuickBooks or Sage.
  10. Analysis
    The payroll process presents a variety of complex challenges. Small issues can quickly snowball across the wider business infrastructure so payroll specialists must possess the analytical skills to identify both problems and opportunities quickly.
  11. Qualifications
    There are no essential “industry standard” qualifications for personnel entering payroll positions. That said, relevant accreditations to look out for include: any math-related courses (secondary or university-level), and credentials from established institutions, such as the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals or the American Payroll Association (which offers the “Certified Payroll Professional” certificate and the “Fundamental Payroll Certification”).
  12. Experience
    Beyond relevant qualifications, prior payroll experience should be high on the list of essential criteria for the specialist you hire. For example, you may need someone with a background working for a large company, or alternatively, someone with a specific understanding of your region’s compliance requirements.
  13. Reliability
    Payroll employees take on a huge amount of responsibility and perform roles which are crucial to your business operations. Your reputation and ultimate success partly depends on your payroll employees’ dependability and trustworthiness.
  14. Leadership
    Employees managing payroll must be able to lead effectively. Depending on the seniority of their role, payroll specialists may need to coordinate a team of employees, advise HR staff or be called upon to brief company leaders – and should be ready to do so with confidence.
  15. Adaptability
    Changes in the political and legal landscape can happen quickly – and significantly affect the way your business delivers payroll. Your staff should be able to adapt to new regulations on the horizon and maintain a high level of payroll performance.


Author’s bio :

Sandra Sommerville, Group HR Manager at activpayroll

Sandra is the Group Human Resources Manager with 18 years’ experience in Human Resources and senior food retail operational management. Her role at activpayroll is key in driving business growth and change, growing talent through training and development, encouraging, recognizing and mentoring people to reach their full potential.

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