This article was updated on June 18, 2018.
A payroll administrator (PA) has an essential function in every business. These administrators help ensure that hours worked get recorded accurately, employees are paid on time and correctly, and the business is compliant with relevant taxes and other laws. In order to better understand what payroll administrators do and what motivates them, I recently spoke with Kelly Cardoza-Williams, who's served as payroll manager at the Boston-based Dana Farber Cancer Institute for the last seven years.
Here are five things you should know about PAs:
1. They Wear Several Hats
PAs are in a position that combines customer service with organizing payroll data and making sure that payroll systems are operating efficiently. As Cardoza-Williams explains: "I do customer support for employees, I analyze the payroll system, I manage staff [and] I answer questions as employees drop in. I organize and attend meetings, I keep up with regulatory and compliance issues, I work with auditors and sometimes I troubleshoot the IT system." Her favorite part of the job is sitting down and educating employees about their pay and benefits.
2. No Payroll Administrator Is Ever Out to Mess Up Your Paycheck
When you or your employees find a payroll-related mistake, you shouldn't approach your PA as if he or she is out to get you. "People can be upset when they come to us," explains Cardoza-Williams. "We need to sit back and listen, put ourselves in the employee's situation and look for opportunities to help them. But they need to look at us as people too, because we are. We're not here to make life difficult for employees; it's just the opposite, actually."
3. No News Is Good News for PAs
"When payroll is doing its job well, we often don't hear anything," explains Cardoza-Williams. "It's often said that 'payroll is a thankless job,' and it's true. You might hear 20 negative things and one positive thing. While an employee will definitely call us if their paycheck was wrong, nobody is calling us to say thanks that their paycheck was right. No news is good news. When the phone isn't ringing, we're doing things right."
4. PAs Have Deadlines and Need Your Help to Meet Them
Payroll is a collective business process that requires employees, managers and the payroll department to work together to share information and complete tasks on schedule.
"In terms of time reporting and time approvals, if employees aren't adhering to the guidelines we've set, then that may keep us here later," says Cardoza-Williams. "It's not even a communication issue, because we send out notifications to people regularly. But someone may feel that other things are more important." If you or your employees report your time in an inaccurate or delayed fashion, you may cause further delays and errors down the line.
5. There's a Payroll Employee Profile
Only certain types of candidates will truly thrive in the payroll department, according to Cardoza-Williams. "We need people who are detail-oriented and organized, who have the ability to analyze, who have an interest in the payroll field and are willing to keep up with new initiatives and who are also technically astute," she says.
Now that you have a better understanding of what makes payroll administrators tick, you should be able to have a more rewarding and engaging working relationship with these administrators.
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