Before I started at Ultimate Software, I had a little bit (a very little bit) of payroll processing experience. Working at an accounting firm, I had helped small business owners complete their tax deposits and 941’s. (On paper.) I also assisted with navigating foreign terms such as fringe benefits, FUTA, and NYS-45, all of which enabled them to focus solely on running their business.
I pivoted early in my career and fell into product development – first small business accounting software, and now mid-enterprise HCM Software. Moving from small business accounting software to working with significantly larger organizations opened my eyes to the true complexity of payroll and payroll systems.
Thank you, Payroll Professionals!
I’ve focused on payroll for most of my tenure at Ultimate, and I’ve met hundreds of payroll professionals during that time. I’ve been lucky to hear about what they love about their job, what keeps them up at night, and the things that would make their lives—and the lives of their employees—easier.
Based on this experience, I’ve learned that payroll professionals are the unsung heroes of many organizations. Most employees simply don’t think about what it takes to produce the check that appears in their account every two weeks. But with 78% of Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck, payroll professionals understand the criticalness of getting paychecks right. They perform a variety of audits to ensure the payrolls are accurate for just that reason. They are payroll wizards, working magic behind the scenes to ensure employees have the means to live their lives.
Meanwhile, compliance in the USA and Canada continues to face rapid transformation. Many of us mere mortals don’t realize the sheer number of statutory requirements that can impact one’s paycheck, including things like:
- The number of deductions withheld (Taxes and garnishments, and benefits, on my!)
- What is used to calculate the taxes (Is this earning taxable, is this deduction pre-tax, and for what state, locality, or province?)
- Overtime (What is the regular rate of pay? Does this include the bonus? Is this based on an eight-hour day or a 40-hour week? Is this their seventh consecutive day of work? Are they required double time?)
- Job loss (If an employee recently quit or was laid off, there are regulations on how quickly they need to get paid)
- Meal breaks (Did the employee receive their meal break? Are they owed an extra hour of pay?)
- Home location (Two people might live on the same street but be taxed differently. Thank you, Pennsylvania!)
The number of laws seems to be limitless and ever-increasing. There are new laws by state, province, locality, and even exact locations, like in the case of airports. For many payroll professionals, it can seem like as soon as they have the process down, new employees are hired in new locations and an entirely new set of regulations must be learned.
There are many clear regulations, but there are also payroll nuances that you can’t predict or understand unless you’re an experienced payroll professional. My mother has a payroll and accounting background, and we’ve spent many car rides and dinners discussing the various ways we could handle unusual situations.
Improved Employee Experiences
In addition to keeping up the complicated aspect of actually paying people, many payroll professionals are also looking to improve their employees’ overall experiences.
Creative solutions include providing mobile access so they can check their status on their phones, or providing detailed insights into their paychecks. As an added bonus, the detailed insights provided by best-in-class solutions help employees solve their own queries—such as “Why did my check go up?” (Oh! I hit my 401k limit!) or “Why did my check go down?” (I see – my last check included a quarterly bonus)—so payroll professionals don’t have to be everyone’s detective.
Finally, some innovative payroll systems are now designed to grant employees access to accrued wages sooner via On Demand Pay or through their virtual wallet. These solutions can have an incredible impact on employees, enabling them to respond better to unexpected expenses.
National Payroll Week
Just as with every other business function, payroll is impacted by market, industry, and technology trends and disruptions. But unlike many other aspects of the business, payroll must deal with the added complexity of keeping up with statutory requirements—and doing so on a very frequent basis.
It’s National Payroll Week, y’all. Have you spent enough time thinking about your payroll profession? Maybe it’s time to send them some flowers or a bottle of wine—or even just a quick, “thank you.”
To learn more about how emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence are overall best practices are changing the future of payroll, register for our upcoming live webinar: “The Evolution of Payroll.”