All payroll people do is push a button. Right?
I had some trepidation about attending my first payroll conference. My passion is about transforming HR after all. But last year, when Anna Sefuiva joined the Elephant team, she convinced me that payroll wants to transform too. That payroll wants to be recognised for the value it adds. That payroll wants to be a strategic business partner. And that if we ran a conference about this – there would be lots of payroll people who want to be part of it.
In the end we had 40 people attend. Not quite as many as hoped, but every change has to start with the innovators and early adopters – and bring the others on board. Change is scary for many and trying to transform HR has created an enormous split in those who want to keep doing what they are doing, and those that want to reinvent HR (for more about that click here).
I’m pleased to say that I was absolutely blown away by the conference. I’ve worked with some great payroll people but I admit I was still thinking of payroll as mainly transactional. Even by mid-morning on Thursday my perceptions and assumptions were rapidly changing!
On Thursday evening I participated in the #nzlead discussion on Twitter. I made the comment that the payroll team at Coca-Cola do surveys to measure the value they add. How many HR teams do that? I instantly had replies from 3 forward thinking HR people who all said that payroll couldn’t add value – they just processed pay.
I’m here to tell you – no, they don’t!
I have a new found respect for what the game changers of payroll are trying to do. I was really inspired by the presenters and the discussions with attendees. The 2 days for me really exploded the ‘payroll just press a button’ myth. I can now see how payroll can be business partners, can add value and can have a fantastic career.
How can payroll change the game?
Over the next few months I’m going to ask those that presented to write up what they spoke about this blog. However to give you a flavour, here are some of the key things I took away about how payroll can change the game.
- Lisa Bell from Frontier Software talked about outsourcing vs insourcing and global trends. She said that to be strategic, payroll needed to focus on rightsourcing to resource their function the most effectively. I could see this applying to HR too.
- Angela Cameron from Consult Recruitment talked about building payroll talent pools. She questioned why payroll wasn’t included placement in grad programmes and how we need to start selecting for the industry – not on experience, but on the whole person.
- Cody Forde from Coca-Cola talked about making sure you develop yourself and your team, and then your managers and measure the value that payroll adds. I loved his quote ‘a manager who doesn’t have a succession plan for their own role is putting the company at risk’.
- Leila O’Sullivan and Melvyn Lucas talked about how hard it is to get into payroll and the misconceptions out there. Both these issues need addressing if payroll is to be recognised as the specialist function it is.
- After lunch we talked curly payroll issues. Chris Hogg from LangtonHudsonButcher and Janine Cooksley from Westpac adeptly handed the myriad of questions and issues thrown at them as well as attendees sharing what they do! It was clear that the level of knowledge needed of employment and case law is immense.
- Eugene Harvey from HRIT and Chris Casanelia from BNZ talked metrics and HR technology. Payroll can add real value in both these areas by advising the business and utilising the next generation of technology tools.
- The payroll debate was fantastic with cases made for why payroll should sit in finance (Louise Peters from Downer talked about the function and personality style matching) or for why it should sit in HR (Pene Barton from Chorus got very passionate about what the Chorus HR & payroll teams have achieved together). But Susanne Carter from Fulton Hogan won the day with her arguments about payroll needing to be its own entity. In the discussion that followed, it was raised that in the 80’s Personnel and Payroll were equal before Personnel reinvented itself as HR and became the juggernaut it is today. Why did payroll get left behind?
- Nikki Iuli from Croxley shared how she works with her payroll advisor to provide business advice to the management team including payroll updates and lunch time sessions.
- Our case studies from Paul MacKenzie at Platinum Payroll, Sharon Swindale at Fletcher Building and Mary Johnstone, GM HR at Downer cemented a lot of the ideas discussed through the conference about using information not data, planning what you want to achieve and partnering with the business to give broad range advice.
- We finished with an update on tax and allowances (yes on a Friday afternoon, and with it being Friday 13Th). Mike Williams from Deloitte shared when tax does and doesn’t apply – again demonstrating the specialist knowledge payroll needs to know.
I suspect that many payroll and HR people out there still see payroll as a transactional button pressing department. Those that attended the conference are going to try to start discussions to change that and at Elephant we’ll be working on ways to involve the HR community in this too.
If you do want to be involved, feel free to follow this blog where we’ll keep exploring this further and think about how your HR and payroll teams could work closer together.
Because let me tell you, payroll is much more than pushing a button!