Staff turnover is a reality, and payroll staff are just as easily enticed away as staff in the organisation’s other departments, perhaps even more so. Payroll is the only department where doing your job perfectly, and never making a mistake is just seen as doing your job. While there may be some upsides to injecting fresh blood into your payroll department, are they outweighed by the downsides of an experienced staff member walking out the door?
Among the downsides are the intangibles. These include the departing employee’s knowledge of the workplace and its nuances, the strain on the remaining team members while a new recruit is found and onboarded, and the potential impact of their departure on team morale. These considerations have to be managed, be it by human resources or the payroll department’s manager.
Then there’s the tangibles, the cost of bringing a new payroll colleague on board and training them to the point that they are a fully functioning member of the team. In a market that is at or near full employment it is expensive to both find and recruit new skilled staff. The internal costs can be measured in the time the payroll head will need to spend drawing up a job description, liaising with HR and finance on advertising the role, screening the applications and interviewing the shortlisted candidates. External costs could include agency fees, advertising and social promotion costs.
All in all, it’s a hassle worth avoiding if you can. There’s a maxim in sales that says it’s easier to retain an existing customer than to go out and find a new one. It’s also easier to retain a member of your payroll team than to go out and find a new one. So how do you do this?
- Pay and compensation is still high up the list of reasons why payroll staff change jobs. Your payroll staff are in a unique position within your organisation in that they know how much everybody is being paid. Meanwhile Glassdoor and other job comparison sites have made the rates of pay in different roles, organisations and locations far more transparent and easier to access. The bottom line is that paying your payroll employees well makes it harder for competitors to poach your top performers. It’s about the money, but it’s also about feeling valued. If your payroll staff know that what they are being paid is at or above what they could make elsewhere, this factor will be removed from their list of reasons to leave.
- Flexibility has become more important than ever for many employees, and that includes your payroll staff. Many feel the Covid lockdowns proved that they can do their job as effectively away from the office as in it, and there can be disparity between an employee’s view on how much time they should spend in the office and how much time their manager thinks they should be there. If you want to hold on to a key payroll staff member who wants to work more from home, ask yourself why you want to see more of them in the office? Is it because you don’t trust them to do the work from home? Is there evidence that backs up this viewpoint, or could it be that there is an element of micromanaging going on?
- Recognition: Your payroll staff perform a critical function in your organisation. Do they feel appreciated by their colleagues and their bosses? Recognition is a key factor for job satisfaction among all staff, but it could be argued that it is even more important for payroll staff who have to do their job perfectly for them to just be doing their job. Are your payroll staff getting regular positive feedback? A kind word or public recognition for a job well done costs the company nothing, but it is a powerful motivation tool for the employee. If a payroll employee feels their skills will be appreciated and recognised more at another company with the same compensation and flexibility, that might just tip the scale for them to hand in their notice.
- Opportunities To Progress: Pay, flexibility and recognition all feed into your payroll staff member’s job satisfaction, and for many employees those criteria are all they need. But others may be more ambitious and feel that they have learned all they can in their current role. This can cause headaches if there are no vacancies elsewhere in the department. But oftentimes an ambitious employee just needs a new challenge, something else to sink their teeth into. Identifying new projects or opportunities for these employees is important to help them feel their careers are progressing. It could be as straightforward as providing them with additional training opportunities, or bringing them into the fold when planning developments in the department.
- Effective Management: The culture of the department is set by the manager. Whether that is time keeping, communication or pride in their work, employees will take their cue from their manager and payroll employees are no different. To manage effectively, the head of the department needs to enjoy a degree of autonomy, to be trusted in turn by their bosses to run the department in the best interests of the organisation. The best bosses are the ones that have their reports’ confidence. Knowing your boss is fair and unbiased, and wants you to be happy in your work is a powerful motivating tool. Empowering the payroll head, and making them feel supported by their bosses, will pay dividends.
It is not always possible to retain staff. Sometimes they leave for reasons beyond your control. Maybe they’ve decided to change careers, move away or maybe the time has come for them to retire from the workforce altogether. These can’t be helped. But in other circumstances it is up to the employer to ask themselves what they can do to prevent a valued payroll employee from wanting to leave in the first place, and if they decide to go, why? For this reason an exit interview is a must, and one conducted in such a way that the exiting employee feels that they can be frank and honest in their answers. Sometimes the truth hurts, but isn’t it better to know so the issues can be considered and if needs be, addressed for the future harmony of your payroll team?
Even if you tick all the above boxes, there are some criteria that are out of your control such as decisions to move location or health and family considerations. In these circumstances it is good to have a little back up to help make the transition smooth and maintain operational consistency while you find your payroll teams replacement and that is exactly what our Emergency Payroll Cover is for. If you want more information on it, please just get in touch!