Jun 15, 2010
Why can’t we get along with payroll? What makes them so different? It really does not matter when Payroll reports up to HR and when they report up to Finance. There always seems to be some friction. Often we like to think that they are just “different” people. HR people are strategic and nurturing and outgoing. Payroll people, well, are like accountants. They are introverts, task oriented, and live in a cube with a spreadsheet. It’s true that there may be some substance to the stereotypes, but at the end of the day, it’s not the type of people we are that causes friction, but our different and unique work experiences.
The payroll experience is definitely one of structure. There are specific rules that one must comply with, specific deadlines, and all of this must be driven by high quality data. HR would like to think that we abide by the same philosophical rules of compliance and process and data quality, but I don’t think our HR world operates in quite the same sphere of severity that payroll does. Lets face it, there is much less flexibility in interpretation for getting your taxes right versus your EEO reports (you simply can’t go “undeclared” for taxes). payroll processes means that if an employee is not in the system when they run paychecks, or if a timecard is still wrong, that payroll still has to run. When HR talks about data quality, we’re often not sure how many people are even employed in the organization on any given day. If payroll if off by $1 for every employee, they will get a mean-spirited phone call for 90% of the population. When we can’t run an accurate headcount, our executives sigh and give us a $1M project to figure it out.
Our core values might be the same, but their consequences are drastically worse when they don’t perform. We don’t like to admit it, but we are the cause of so many of payroll’s problems. There is always another new hire, or some off cycle spiff that has to get processed. Because payroll data is often downstream from HR data from a process perspective, and we don’t understand payroll’s consequence severity, we are not always tolerant of their deadlines and rigid processes.
So be nice to your payroll people. They might be downstream from HR from a data process perspective, but from an employee engagement perspective, payroll is one of our key influencers. Nothing makes employees unhappy faster than bad payrolls.