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With A Career In Payroll, You Don't Have To Choose!

With A Career In Payroll, You Don't Have To Choose!

Whether you have chosen payroll as a conscious career choice, or you have fallen into payroll; regardless, you are in payroll! You should be proud. As I like to always say; once you roll into payroll, you never roll out of payroll! Why is that? I have been asked this question a lot lately by colleagues, friends and family.

I personally started my payroll career on June 7, 2006 when I was looking for jobs after dropping out of university. It’s all I have ever done as a real, professional job and I can guarantee you that I will be in global payroll until the end of my career. It’s a marriage.

This begs the question: what makes me stick in payroll, what makes everyone stick in payroll? And with that, how do we market a payroll career so positively that it starts to be a real career choice from the outset. Just like you would want to be a police officer, fire fighter, pilot, nurse, doctor, accountant or lawyer - well, those last two I am not sure of.

Perhaps, I will just explore this while reflecting on my own payroll career thus far.

Your skills and experience are always in demand

As long as people need to work to earn money, people will need to get paid. While gig-workers are certainly increasing, let’s face it: the global workforce still prefers to be on a payroll. This offers (relative) stability in terms of income and employment protection, and a steady income with social security benefits. Also, as many of us need a mortgage to buy a house and banks prefer a steady income, with employment agreements underpinned, the need for payroll is imminent.

Long story short, payroll professionals within organisations and payroll providers are needed to manage this payroll process. And while we in payroll know that payroll is the sexiest and most rewarding job in business, for others it is still an unexplored area. Therefore, there is always more demand than supply. Just look for payroll roles on LinkedIn and you’ll find hundreds of roles, refreshed daily, weekly and monthly. With paying other people, you never have to be without a job yourself. I have personally always found this a very comforting thought.

You do not have to choose a functional area

I always knew that I wanted a career in business, and much like my father, to “go to an office”. I also always had a thing for technology, so working with a computer was a must. But aside from that, I truly didn’t know what to do. This is the reason I dropped out of university at the time; it felt pointless, and I was clueless of what I was learning and what it meant in practice.

I would advise everyone to start a career in payroll (although that might shake up demand and supply, but oh well). If you work in payroll, you get to exposed to:

  • HR. You deal with people, and interact with the workforce to deliver an excellent employee experience and be there in moments that matter. You get to design and deploy HR policies and provide labour cost insights to support strategic workforce and location strategies. You support employees through unwanted leave or impactful moments in life (i.e. birth, illness, divorce, death in service) and how that impacts their pay.
  • Finance. For any organisation, the cost of labour represents around 60% of the P&L. You, in payroll, work to ensure that all transactions flow into payroll, through payroll and out of payroll right into the financials, without any errors, delays or inconsistencies. You get to support account reconciliations, financial planning and support the business to be more cost effective. You crunch numbers, and on average for each employee paid, touch at least 1.000 unique data elements per year. Do the maths.
  • Legal. You are most likely dealing with one or more service contracts that are underpinned by detailed, global and local data privacy requirements. As part of those service contracts, you also manage service levels through key performance indicators and governance meetings. You are exposed to international labour law in terms of employment and contracts throughout the employee lifecycle, and need to translate those into processable data points.
  • Tax. When I worked at a Big 4, the accountants and corporate income tax people were the big boys. I always laughed at that, as to me, the employment tax piece of the business is the single most important and impactful area to manoeuvre in. You get to interpret bilateral tax treaties (a true guilty pleasure for me!), totalisation agreements, coordination rules for social security and then all the local tax and social security roles around the world. You can secure the (income) tax position of your organisation, and avoid any risk of audit findings or non-compliance.
  • Technology. Payroll is a process effectuated by people in which technology and sourcing is balanced. Increasingly, technology plays a pivotal role in ensuring efficient, effective, automated and scalable global payroll operations. You get to work with the best Software as a Service (like Payzaar), test integrations, work with APIs, deploy AI and influence the overall IT ecosystem to advance your business. Not to mention the vast amounts of data you are exposed to; you can become a payroll data scientist.

I think you get my point here. I have been exposed to all of the above from day one of my payroll career until today: day 6.446. And the best is yet to come.

You are not bound to any industry or organisation

I have worked for many different companies in various industries: retail, tech, professional services, energy, people services and all international, global companies of various sizes (from 50 employees to 90,000 employees). All the roles I held were in payroll, from processing or managing a payroll, to consulting about payrolls, to ensuring customer satisfaction, to business development. Your possibilities are endless - like really, endless.

This is very enriching as each organisation and industry comes with its unique challenges and perspectives which all help you to evolve professionally and personally.

You deliver what matters to people, business and governments

You matter as a payroll professional. You matter to people who work as the initial reason they “come to work” is to get paid. You matter to governments as the single most important dataset used to drive policial decisions comes for payroll tax returns, and at least 60% of their revenues are generated  out of collected taxes and social security contributions through payroll.

You cannot find a profession that has more impact in these areas than payroll. I find that very motivating and know that my peers do too. This drive to get payroll accurate, complete and timely is ingrained in our DNA - we do not stop until it is done. We do not stop until all those employees' questions are answered. We do not stop until all payments are released, and bounced payments are initiated. We do not stop, because if our performance drops it has an impact. We matter, you matter.

In conclusion

In summary, a career in payroll, whether a conscious choice or a chance entry, brings joy and a sense of purpose. The versatility of payroll spans over HR, finance, legal, tax, and technology, building a professional skill set that is in high demand, and is rewarding. With continuous global demand, job security and diverse opportunities are a given. Payroll professionals play a crucial role, impacting individuals' lives and contributing significantly to governmental decisions.

The real question is not why should you be in payroll, but why should you not be in payroll?

I am a Global Payroll Professional, and a passionate one too! After managing global payrolls across the world for about 20 years, I found there must be a better way of doing this. I joined Payzaar - the global payroll management platform everyone needs and can easily implement.

Oh yes, we are just fun to work with too - Let's chat about the Payzaar Experience!

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