Christina Holloway, head of managed services at Moorepay, explores the multifaceted nature of a career in payroll, debunking some of the myths commonly associated with the sector
While the world of accounting and finance, and more specifically the route of a payroll professional, hasn’t necessarily been given the glamorous image enjoyed by its marketing, sales, and HR cousins – it’s a crucial role which every organisation sees as a quietly consistent and absolutely essential function.
Fulfilling an unswerving purpose, the sector plays a key role in taking charge of remunerating employees for their efforts and supporting people to maintain financial stability.
And what’s more, with a pathway of recognised qualifications supporting progression through the ranks, it is a career choice worthy of consideration – whether you are looking to take your first step into the specialism or intend to bring broader career experience to the field.
Taking into account the fact that employees, more often than not, work to earn money – it stands to reason that, should payroll cease to exist, people would most definitely notice. This makes payroll a crucial element of any company and a desirable job role — one which truly makes a difference to people’s working lives.
What can people expect from a career in payroll?
Contrary to popular belief, while data entry, tax and national insurance requirements, and processing monthly pay each play their part in the day-to-day role of a payroll professional, they certainly are not the sum of a career in the field.
In fact, there are a number of other responsibilities which help to create a diverse and enriching environment for those working within the sector.
The implementation of innovative technologies to streamline, simplify and improve processes is one such project which may cross the desk of a worker – at every level of seniority. Likewise, compliance with the latest legislation around pay, and keeping abreast of the latest updates, is likely to impact on the working processes of employees from administrator level through to line manager and beyond.
The consistent goal of people in this line of work, can sometimes be incorrectly labelled as mundane – but this is far from the case. Changes in working patterns, maternity and paternity leave, sickness absence, and subsequent partnership working with members of the HR team help to vary the working week while still retaining a focus on successful outcomes for teams who require their pay on time, and in full.
Nevertheless, a regular schedule of activity does, too, come with its benefits. While there are, from time-to-time, the inevitable stresses and strains which come with any role, having consistent goals in place means payroll departments know exactly what is expected of them. This makes workloads easier to plan, with adequate allocation of time for tasks. This reduces the need for overtime, offering a desirable work life balance for many.
Skills and experience
But what skills and experience should someone working in payroll have?
Payroll is open to almost everyone, with positions suitable for professionals at every level of their career. But that does not mean there are not requirements to fulfil; in fact, there are some core skills those working in the sector could benefit from.
First of all, being trustworthy is absolutely invaluable. Payroll colleagues have access to financially sensitive information, which must remain confidential. Depending upon the structure, salaries can prove a topic of controversy – especially in organisations where pay is not banded – so discretion is a must.
While mistakes do happen, when it comes to pay, mishaps can have serious consequences – so possessing accuracy and attention to detail is an important skill for any budding payroll professional.
In addition, teamworking, the ability to communicate well, and IT proficiency are also a recipe for success, as are GCSEs – especially maths — making these desirable traits for any potential candidate.
For those taking their first steps into a career, payroll provides roles at a range of levels – with trainee opportunities accessible to school leavers willing to learn on the job.
Once familiar with the requirements of the position, there is often opportunity to access additional qualifications which will help payroll professionals to build upon their skills, and progress up the ladder — eventually pursuing more senior roles.
And for people who have transferable skills and qualifications related to the field, especially in payroll, accountancy, and bookkeeping, they may find they are able to enter the profession at a higher level – boosting their career progression, and learning, in the process.
An often-underrated career choice, payroll has excellent progression potential – without the requirement of a university degree.
With entry level opportunities in place, the industry caters to a diverse talent pool who wish to access employment at different stages of their professional journey. The nature of the work also lends itself to flexibility, with part-time opportunities not uncommon.
Working in payroll
So, what does it feel like to work in payroll?
Ultimately, for those working in the profession, the role is much less about number crunching and more about supporting the people who work for their organisation.
The trust and responsibility payroll colleagues build up as part of their position plays a part in helping employees to maintain a feeling of security and stability within their roles, while also cultivating financial wellbeing within their personal lives.
To some, the word ‘payroll’ may simply evoke a process, but for those working in the sector it is often a gateway to so much more.
About the author
Christina Holloway is head of managed services at Moorepay