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3 Questions C-Suite Execs MUST Ask Their Payroll Team

To be able to continually improve and optimise Payroll as a C-suite Exec, you first need to understand the fundamentals of Payroll. A lot of the time, Payroll is simply left to run of it’s own accord. If the Payroll team knows what they’re doing, why meddle too much, right?

Unfortunately, this is not the case. It’s important for you to be aware of what’s going on in your Payroll team in order to keep everything running smoothly. Most C-suite Execs spend a lot of time asking questions about business cost and risk – but Payroll rarely hits the top of the to-do list because it doesn’t normally generate a lot of noise. Payroll is, however, one of the most significant cost centers for organisations and it’s also high risk.

It is difficult for Execs to mitigate risks and optimise the costs of something like Payroll without first understanding how it works in their company. They don’t need to understand the fine details, but they do need to have a top-level overview.

Here are some simple questions that you can ask your payroll team to get a better understanding of the risks with your current Payroll processes, so you can better minimise them and continually improve on processes.

1. Do we have a Payroll Business Continuity Plan? If so, when was the last time we tested it?

Payroll teams tend to say that everything’s fine - which could well be true until a key person is off sick or resigns. Suddenly, you’re left with a situation where no one is really confident regarding what to do or why they’re doing it.

The idea of a Business Continuity Plan for Payroll is to prepare in advance for these kinds of situations. The company must pay its staff on time, no matter what. It's also important to plan for what will happen if your Payroll system unexpectedly goes offline permanently as we've recently seen in the serious case of UKG's international outage.

The thing to remember is that a Payroll Business Continuity Plan isn’t worth the paper it’s written on unless it’s been tested. You can think of it as the Payroll equivalent of regularly testing your evacuation procedures with a fire alarm test.

2. What are the three things that you’d change about your current Payroll processes?

If you’re not moving forwards, you’re moving backward. That’s why it’s so important to regularly ask your team what they’d do to improve your current processes. This gives you the opportunity to take the best of their feedback and put it to work.

The idea here is to find out what takes the most time or is the hardest to do. Employees might say that they could solve these issues with a new Payroll system, however, that’s rarely the only solution. If you do make a change, it needs to be made for the right reasons.

Ask them to approach the question as if they were building the Payroll team and its systems from scratch. Would they set it up in the same way? If not, why not?

3. What are the three things that you’d change about your current Payroll systems?

Here, you can ask people to focus specifically on the functions and features that could be improved in your existing IT systems.

Be aware that Payroll can be protective of their systems. Why? A common reason can be they feel their deep and possibly unique knowledge of a critical system may give them job security. These systems tend to be complex beasts and if only a few core employees can totally understand them, it can make them feel indispensable.

Sometimes individuals think that if they share their knowledge and make the systems easier for all the team to understand, they will be less valuable to the company and their employment position could be threatened. The reality is very different, but that doesn’t change human nature.

On the point of human nature, it is important to assure your team that it is with the intent to help them and hopefully make their roles easier and more enjoyable that you ask these questions. Not only will you get some tangible responses, but it will also strengthen the relationship between upper management and the Payroll team.

Approaching your Payroll team with questions such as these can go a long way in improving your understanding of exactly how everything is running, which is massively helpful in risk mitigation and optimisation.


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