Welcome to the Willamette Chapter of the American Payroll Association

We are a dedicated group of Payroll and HR professionals, dedicated to increasing knowledge and technical expertise within the Payroll/HR field. We welcome all who strive to keep current with changes to Federal and State regulations and further our payroll expertise. We meet in the evening on the third Thursday of every month and provide a great place to network with other associates. Please enjoy your visit and come back often to see what’s new!

Accountemps Monthly Newsletter–October

What You Should Know About the Latest in Payroll Technology

Digital transformation is a term that can make some payroll professionals ill at ease. At the very least, it means learning a new platform. But it can also mean some payroll job responsibilities will be automated — a cause for worry about job security.

The current wave of digital transformation is especially disruptive, and payroll departments across the country are affected — but it’s really nothing a savvy payroll specialist should be suspicious of.

Technology has and will continue to change the way you work, but it will also create new opportunities. Motivated professionals can ride this wave and land themselves a more rewarding — and possibly higher-paying — job than before.

Robert Half’s Benchmarking the Accounting and Finance Function 2018 report offers a definitive overview of the current state of IT within the world of finance. To get ahead in your field, here are four trends in payroll technology you should know about:

1. Adoption of cloud-based ERP — The latest Benchmarking data shows more and more companies are moving to cloud systems. Seventy-five percent of the U.S. finance professionals surveyed say their company has already made the transition or plans to do so in the near future, compared to 72 percent in 2017 and 62 percent the year before that. For payroll teams, this may mean leaving their existing software platform and adopting Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems in the cloud.

Cloud-based systems make it easier to share data, work remotely and stay up to date on the latest tax codes. Companies also like this shift because there’s less equipment to buy and maintain. Going forward, having hands-on experience with Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite, Oracle, SAP and other ERPs will be a major asset on any payroll resume. Excel is still the top planning and budgeting tool, beating out the likes of Cognos and Hyperion, but our annual benchmarking study shows reliance on Excel is declining slightly — it is used by 63 percent of respondents this year, compared to 69 percent in 2017.

2. A move toward data analytics — Powerful new systems like cloud-based ERP software generate vast amounts of data, which, in turn, can offer an unprecedented level of insight into a company’s operations. This means a shift in many back-office teams — away from purely functional work and toward a more strategic role. Payroll is a treasure trove of financial and HR data, and management will expect staff to make sense of big data by using payroll analytics tools.

3. Increased process automation — Automation has removed much of the rote work from finance and HR teams. A prime example is the self-service benefits portal, which has made it possible for employees to track their own time, update personal information and manage their benefits without ever having to contact another person. Automation has streamlined payroll processing and reconciliation, freeing up staff time for higher-value tasks. It also improves accuracy.

The down sides, according to some of the executives surveyed, are the high cost and learning curve of the automation software. But there’s no doubt that financial automation is the present and future.

4. The rise of artificial intelligence — Yes, artificial intelligence is related to automation, but it’s a lot more than that. As part of digital transformation, AI algorithms detect patterns and shifts in big data and analyze them so humans can make sense of it all. Thanks to self-learning, also called deep learning, AI systems can evaluate their past performance to improve future predictions. If you have a weather app on your phone (and who doesn’t?), you’re benefitting from the powers of AI.

In terms of payroll, AI excels at analyzing all sorts of variables — employee classification, age, withholding amounts, and so forth — and can improve accuracy by detecting nonobvious errors in paystubs. Then there are chatbots, which can handle routine employee queries.

With automation and AI, the payroll department of the future will undoubtedly have fewer clerks and data enterers. At the same time, staff will still be needed to perform more cognitively demanding and creative tasks. Humans excel at handling nonroutine situations. And don’t forget about the human experience that’s at the heart of talent management and payroll. No matter how fancy a company’s AI program is, people will always crave human interaction in the workplace.

The bottom line

The entire finance industry, including payroll, is undergoing a digital transformation. It’s not a matter of if, but when. No one knows exactly what this field will look like in 50 years, but one thing’s for sure today: The answer is to not be suspicious of payroll technology. Instead, use it to your advantage so you can become a smarter, better informed and more valuable payroll professional.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 300 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services can be found on the Accountemps website.

Accountempts Monthly Newsletter–September

How to Build a Career in the Payroll Department

With low unemployment and more than 200,000 new jobs created each month, it’s easy to see why payroll professionals are in huge demand. Interested in a career in payroll? Read on for answers to common questions about working in this field.

Q: How do I get started in payroll?

A: While payroll experience is preferable for an
entry-level clerical position, it’s not mandatory. The minimum educational requirement is a high school diploma or GED, and employers are willing to offer on-the-job training to new payroll hires. A background in bookkeeping, human resources or administrative assistance can easily transfer to payroll.

Q: What does a payroll clerk do?

A: This entry-level position is part payroll and part clerical. Working under a supervisor, you would assist with data entry, filing, answering employee questions and maintaining accurate records. The payroll department and human resources work closely together, so as a
payroll clerk, you might deal with employment verification, processing new hires’ paperwork and helping with orientation. In some departments, a payroll clerk also carries out basic bookkeeping duties.

Q: What are employers looking for in an entry-level payroll clerk?

A: Besides a high school diploma, basic computer and math skills are common requirements. Relevant experience is a plus, but often not required for the right candidate. Job skills are essential, though. Employees appreciate applicants who demonstrate professionalism, can solve problems independently, have good written and verbal communication, pay attention to detail, and provide excellent customer service.

Q: What types of software does a payroll department use?

A: You should be proficient in Microsoft Office, especially
Excel, Word and Outlook. Most payroll departments use one of the following pay-processing systems: Sage, ADP, PeopleSoft, UltiPro, Workday, Kronos, Dayforce, Paychex and Paycom. The more you advance in the department, the more you’ll be expected to be proficient in SAP, FreshBooks, NetSuite, Oracle and other financial software.

Q: What is the typical career progression in payroll?

A: After a few years as a payroll clerk, you’re ready for the next rung on the ladder. As a payroll specialist, you would be working more independently in processing payroll, employment verification forms, garnishment orders and so forth. You’d also serve as backup for the payroll coordinator/administrator. At the top of the payroll org chart is the payroll manager, who supervises a team, handles higher-level accounting functions, stays up to date on legislative compliance and trains staff on software, year-end closing and payroll best practices.

The higher you go in the payroll department, the more degrees you’ll need. After a GED, the next step is an associate or bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, management, business administration or human resources. A master’s degree is a preferred qualification for those planning on advancing to a leadership role in HR or finance.

Q: Does payroll have a certification program?

A: Yes. The American Payroll Association (APA) offers two industry-recognized payroll certifications. Created for entry-level employees, the Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) covers the core concepts required to get started in the industry. The good thing about this credential is that no prior payroll experience is necessary. To pass the exam, the APA recommends six to 12 weeks of study and review. The organization offers study guides, prep courses, web-based training, books and a boot camp.

For those with more experience and wishing to lead a department, the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) offers an advanced overview of payroll topics, ranging from a mastery of core concepts to in-depth accounting and finance practices.

Both certifications verify a specific level of knowledge and can help you stand out from other applicants during a job search.

The payroll department is a rewarding place to work, bringing you into contact with people from every aspect of an organization. If you’re looking for a career with plentiful job opportunities and interesting work, now is a great time to get your foot in the door.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 300 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services can be found on the Accountemps website.

Accountempts Monthly Newsletter–August

7 Things to Look for When Hiring a Payroll Specialist

Candidates for payroll specialist positions come with varying skills, expertise and work history. They also work in different roles, from entry-level payroll clerk to payroll administrator and payroll supervisor.

As a manager, you know you need operational support staff to process payroll, distribute paychecks, prepare statements and ensure governmental compliance. But as you scroll through the job postings and resumes, you may wonder about the best practices for finding payroll professionals, the key interview questions to ask and what, specifically, you need to look for when you’re filling these roles.

What are the key attributes of a payroll specialist?

Education and experience may be clearly defined, but what about other qualifications? Here are seven key features to look for when hiring a payroll specialist.

1. Payroll certifications

The American Payroll Association (APA) offers two types of certification: the Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) and the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP). The FPC is for entry-level staff, and the coursework for this certification gives a thorough introduction to this field. FPC holders are ideal candidates as payroll clerks or other mid- to entry-level positions.

For managerial positions and more complex payroll roles, look for candidates with a CPP. This advanced certification requires previous experience in the field and in-depth knowledge of core concepts such as employment taxes, employee benefits and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). CPP holders have also demonstrated their knowledge of paycheck calculations, payroll systems and payroll administration.

2. Payroll software experience

Most payroll platforms are complex. There can be quite a bit of variation from one system to another, and those skills aren’t always transferable. For example, a person with extensive experience in ADP Workforce Now may not be comfortable with Kronos.

In an ideal world, it’s better to seek candidates with direct experience in your department’s particular software rather than those who might need in-depth training to get up to speed. But because hiring in this field is highly competitive, it pays to consider candidates who haven’t worked with your company’s particular platform but show an aptitude for learning new software.

3. Other software skills

Beyond ADP, Kronos, Workday or Intuit, look for knowledge in a variety of other software. These must-have programs include Microsoft Office, especially Excel, Word and Outlook. Some payroll experts’ roles overlap with accounting, especially in smaller businesses, making proficiency in QuickBooks or Quicken an asset. And of course, because so much of reporting and payment processing has moved online, your new staff member should be comfortable with cloud technology.

4. Understanding of compliance

The regulatory landscape surrounding payroll and benefits is complex. Besides FLSA, there’s the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA), Affordable Care Act (ACA), data protection rules and a host of state and city ordinances to consider. While payroll software platforms can help you stay compliant, they’re not foolproof. The best protection is to have staff who understand the rules and know how to put them into practice. At the interview stage, ask candidates questions about compliance and gauge their level of familiarity with the recent legislation.

5. Attention to detail

Payroll staff members can’t afford to make mistakes. For some roles in the company, you can overlook minor errors such as typos in a resume or a failure to follow the application’s instructions. But when you’re assessing payroll candidates, their attention to detail is paramount. Make this a non-negotiable attribute.

6. Customer service abilities

Payroll’s clients may be internal, but your team still needs a finely tuned customer service mindset. Payroll specialists should provide prompt and courteous responses to phone and email queries. They should be able to offer assistance when employees have trouble navigating the self-service portal. A dedication to customer service includes the related traits of confidentiality, diplomacy and problem solving.

Ask interview questions that delve into candidates’ customer-service orientation. Examples include: “How do you deal with an employee who’s angry about garnishments?” and “Would you say you’re more of a numbers person or a people person?”

7. Analysis and data skills

Software systems handle functional and routine work for most finance teams, which frees up people to spend more time on data analysis and business strategy. And this comes just in time. Today’s accounting and finance teams are actively involved in researching and evaluating new systems and software, collaborating with IT on final purchases, and implementation. It’s true in payroll, too. That’s why your ideal hires are professionals with expertise in payroll and technology. Future-proof your team by bringing in people with a background in or aptitude for working with data.

These seven attributes are not etched in stone, and your company may have other requirements, such as knowledge of multistate payroll. Use this list to help you hone in on your ideal payroll specialists, and then make a job offer they can’t refuse.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 300 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services can be found on the Accountemps website.

Accountemps Monthly Newsletter–July

How to Craft a Payroll Resume That Will Stand Out

When applying for your dream payroll job, how do you make sure you’re among the most promising candidates?  Simple: Make the resume reviewer’s job easy. Managers want to hire skilled professionals, but they don’t love the vetting process. That’s because sifting through applications can be tedious and time-consuming. Executives look at an average of 40 resumes per job opening and spend 12 minutes on each one, according to a recent Robert Half survey. From that stack, you want them to have an easy time choosing you.

Here’s how:

1. You against the machine: Use the right keywords

Managers seldom are the first ones to read job applications anymore. That goes for payroll jobs, too. When you submit your information, it often goes directly into an applicant tracking system (ATS), which scans your documents for predetermined keywords. For example, if SAP experience is a required qualification, the recruiter will search for “SAP”; a resume without that keyword won’t see the light of day — not matter how long you’ve been a super user of this enterprise resource planning software.

To get past the ATS gatekeeper, you’ve got to use language a machine understands. Make sure your payroll resume contains the right keywords. Scrutinize the job posting to figure out what terms a hiring manager (and therefore the ATS) is likely to search for. (Hint: Keywords are often the phrases listed under both “major responsibilities” and “required skills.”) Then use them naturally. Modern ATSs, not to mention the human who will eventually see your application, can detect keyword stuffing.

2. Tailor the resume to the job

After the hiring manager found you by searching for certain keywords, you need to convince them you have the entire package — experience, skills and credentials — they seek. Submitting a generic resume isn’t making the manager’s job easy. It’s likely to lead the recruiter to skip over it and go on to the next candidate. Instead, figure out what the employer wants to see and make it easy for them to see it. A summary statement is a good place to speak directly to the manager. These few sentences should highlight your most relevant and impressive skills and accomplishments. Use active verbs and stay away from buzzwords. Focus on the qualifications the job posting emphasizes. It goes without saying that you should submit a slightly different resume for each payroll job you apply for.

3. Highlight your core payroll skills

When an employer picks up your resume, the first thing they look for is your direct payroll experience, such as:

  • Payroll systems (Sage, ADP, Lawson, Kronos, Paycom and so on)
  • Credentials like the CPP (Certified Payroll Professional)
  • Multistate and/or Canadian payroll
  • Recent coursework in taxation and regulatory compliance

Many payroll jobs are blended with other related roles, especially in smaller businesses. When applying for one of these hybrid positions, be sure to mention your skills in benefits administration, onboarding/training, administrative support or accounting. Take advantage of the cover letter to draw attention to key aspects of your payroll resume and play up the breadth and depth of your industry knowledge.

4. Show off your technical abilities

Payroll is relying more and more on cloud-based platforms, not only for payroll processing but also for financial reporting and generating operational data. As such, tech skills can really make a payroll resume stand out. So if you’ve got them, flaunt them. Mention your proficiencies with Microsoft Office, especially Excel. List all the payroll, accounting and HRIS (human resources information system) software you know. What’s more, tell prospective employers you enjoy working with technology and are eager to learn new systems.

5. Demonstrate your soft skills

While it’s true that today’s payroll jobs are highly technical, much of what a payroll specialist does still relates to people. There are new employees to process and possibly onboard. When an employee’s paycheck has an error, it’s up to payroll to troubleshoot and resolve that issue. You also have to be able to work well with colleagues within and outside of payroll. All of that requires self-initiative, creative thinking, and excellent written and verbal communication skills. Bilingual abilities are a bonus. Make sure all this comes across in your resume.

Don’t just list your soft skills; tell how you’ve used them. For example, describe a time a non-finance colleague complimented you on how understandable a presentation you gave was because you tailored it to your audience and didn’t fill it with payroll-specific terms others wouldn’t know. Or, if you speak a second language, give anecdotes about how you were able to help an employee your coworkers couldn’t.

Your payroll resume is a sales brochure with one purpose: to convince prospective employers to contact you for an interview. So make it easy by “speaking” directly to them and their needs.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has 300 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at roberthalf.com/accountemps.

Accountemps Monthly Newsletter–May

10 Cities Where It Pays to Be a Payroll Manager

“The demand for payroll professionals — especially managers — is the highest I’ve seen it in the better part of a decade,” says Carlie Boese, branch manager for Accountemps in Greeneville, South Carolina.

And high demand for the role doesn’t stop there. Her statements are echoed across the country:

“Payroll is currently one of the most in-demand skillsets in the Phoenix market,” says Courtney Angelo, senior staffing executive for Accountemps in Phoenix. “Job openings for payroll managers outnumber candidates 10 to 1!”

San Francisco has similar needs, according to Scott Dicke, director of permanent placement services for Robert Half there. “Payroll manager sees some of the highest demand among the positions we place,” he says. “And the scarcity of skilled candidates makes it one of the most difficult positions for us to staff.”

Hop over to New York City, and you’ll find a demand that Joseph Avignone describes as “very high.” He adds, “We’re working on several payroll manager placements right now and typically do so on a consistent basis.”

Such high demand in diverse places makes sense when you consider the number of businesses around the country that need experienced payroll managers. No matter the industry or region, it’s a role many companies can’t do without. The job may transcend geography, but not every city pays the same for the position.

Salaries vary from city to city

Location has a large impact on your paycheck. For example, a payroll manager in San Francisco can expect a midpoint starting salary of almost $100,000 per year. The same job in El Paso, Texas, will get you $51,120 — almost 50 percent less.

The 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance and Salary Calculator reveal the 10 cities with the highest starting salaries for a payroll manager:

  1. New York — $99,755
  2. San Francisco — $99,400
  3. San Jose, Calif. — $97,625
  4. Boston — $95,140
  5. Washington, D.C. — $94,430
  6. Los Angeles — $93,010
  7. Stamford, Conn. — $93,010
  8. San Rafael, Calif. — $92,300
  9. Irvine, Calif. — $92,300
  10. Oakland, Calif. — $91,945

So, should you pack your bags and go in search of your fortune on the East or West Coast? Even if you’re more than happy to relocate for a job, there’s more than salary to consider.

Different cities offer different advantages, so Robert Half’s Career City Index analyzed 25 major metro areas, looking at key factors to determine what makes a good place for living and working.

Payroll manager job opportunities

To be as accurate as possible, the Career City Index puts a heavy weight on an area’s career prospects. This category ranks three main points: the city’s unemployment rate, GDP per capita and the educational background of its workforce. These metro areas placed highest:

  1. San Francisco Bay Area
  2. Seattle
  3. Washington, D.C.
  4. Boston
  5. Salt Lake City

Cost of living

A high salary can quickly get eaten up by housing costs, taxes, utilities, groceries, transportation and more. Even in a city like San Francisco, where demand and salaries are high, the area’s notoriously high living expenses might make some payroll professionals think twice about setting up shop there. That’s why the Career City Index weights cost of living the same as career prospects. The top five cities in the index are:

  1. Seattle
  2. Indianapolis
  3. Houston
  4. Dallas
  5. Salt Lake City

Quality of life

Overall quality of life is difficult to measure, partly because it can be very subjective. Ample green spaces might be important to some people, while others may put a heavier emphasis on weather. Factoring in the quality of education, healthcare and transportation, the index found that the following cities are tops for quality of life in the U.S.:

  1. Phoenix
  2. Boston
  3. Cincinnati
  4. New York
  5. Raleigh, N.C.

Putting it all together

Accounting for the various factors in the Career City Index, here are the overall rankings, along with the midpoint starting salary for a payroll manager or payroll supervisor in each area:

  1. Seattle — $85,910
  2. Boston — $95,140
  3. San Francisco — $99,400
  4. Washington, D.C. — $94,430
  5. Raleigh, N.C. — $73,840
  6. Dallas — $78,100
  7. Salt Lake City — $74,550
  8. Denver — $77,390
  9. Houston — $75,970
  10. Des Moines, Iowa — $71,000

Of course, these lists serve primarily as general guides, as circumstances and preferences for every person are different. But with demand for payroll managers so high in every corner of the country, now is a great time to seek the best place for your payroll career.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has 300 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at roberthalf.com/accountemps.


Accountemps Monthly Newsletter–March

How to Get Back to Work After an Extended Leave

Payroll specialists take leaves of absence for various reasons — raising young children, caring for aging parents or going back to school, for example. If you’re one of many professionals who has taken such an off-ramp, it’s natural to have questions and even some anxiety about getting back into the swing of a full-time job — not to mention finding new employment.

The good news is that, unlike a decade ago, the job market for payroll professionals has been thriving the last few years and shows no signs of stopping. Demand is still high as companies grow and seek more skilled employees to administer payroll, handle reimbursements and withholdings, generate reports, and help maintain compliance.

At the same time, it’s normal to feel hesitant about diving back in. Is your skill set out of date? How do you talk with potential employers about your time away? Does anyone even want to hire you when you’ve been out of the game? Spoiler alert: They do. And these seven tips can help you successfully restart your payroll career:

1. Rediscover the requirements for payroll jobs. If you’ve been away for a year or more, be prepared for significant shifts in accounting technology when you return to work. The essentials of the position remain more or less the same, but the tools are continually upgraded. Cloud-based platforms are the norm now, including QuickBooks, ADP, Paylocity and Workday. Excel still reigns for spreadsheets, although many companies have moved away from desktop versions and use cloud-based Office 365. To see what other new software employers are using, peruse job postings. Then study up so you can talk about them in an informed manner.

2. Get up to speed on legislation. Tax codes and payroll-related compliance requirements change every year. Catch up by reading trade magazines, industry blogs and payroll newsletters. If you’ve let your membership in a professional associations lapse, rejoin so you can access their informative articles, webinars, courses and conferences.

3. Take advantage of LinkedIn. Reconnect with former colleagues and letting them know you’re re-entering job market. Be sure to update your social media profile and work history. As you re-establish relationships, ask trusted acquaintances for endorsements and recommendations. Boost your reputation by joining groups and participating in online discussions. The more visible you are, the easier it is for recruiters and prospective employers to find you.

4. Revamp your resume. If it’s been a long time since you’ve been working, you may wonder what your accounting resume should look like. Make sure it’s is written for applicant tracking systems (ATS) as well as human readers. This means rather than having one generic resume, you need to customize it for each position. Scan the job post for keywords and use them organically in your application materials to maximize search-friendly language and terminology. For example, “payroll hotshot” doesn’t mean much to talent management software, but “ADP specialist” and “multi-state and Canada experience” does.

5. Include non-paid work experience. Some hiring managers see gaps in employment history as a red flag. To lessen that kind of impact over an extended leave of absence, list volunteer work that shines a spotlight on your accounting skills, organizational abilities or leadership traits. These could include heading up a community fundraiser or serving as treasurer for a parent-teacher organization.

6. Focus on your added value. Prospective employers don’t want a long-winded justification about why you off-ramped. They want to know that you can handle the demands of the job. So whether you’re writing a cover letter or interviewing for a position, address your time away head-on — but don’t dwell on it. Keep the focus on how you’ve stayed active professionally, how you’ve kept current with regulations and industry software, and why you’re the best person for the job.

7. Go back gradually. Consider easing back into the workforce with temporary or part-time jobs. Besides offering greater flexibility, working as a temp allows you to re-acclimate after a long hiatus.

Let’s say you were a payroll administrator but quit your job five years ago to raise a child. To ramp back up, you could accept a few short-term assignments through a specialized staffing agency like Robert Half. This approach allows you to learn the latest software and get up to speed on legislation, all while sampling various industries. What’s more, a significant percentage of contract work results in an offer for full-time employment.

The bottom line is that if you take the time to do ample research, upgrade your resume and spruce up your social media presence, you’ll clear most obstacles to your transition back to work. Then you can get ready for the next chapter in your payroll career.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has 300 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at roberthalf.com/accountemps.

Accountemps Monthly Newsletter – February

7 Best Practices for Finding the Best Payroll Professionals

It’s no secret that staffing can be a struggle for financial managers, whether it becomes necessary as a business grows or after a job vacancy. As you examine your company’s payroll process, from tax payments to paycheck withholdings, along with today’s hiring challenges, you may realize you need help building a team of payroll professionals.

From writing job descriptions to filtering applicants, to interviewing and hiring, obtaining skilled workers is not for the faint of heart. One of the best recruiting strategies is to work with a specialized staffing agency.

Here are seven best practices to follow — and that agencies can assist with — when bringing on operational support staff, including payroll professionals.

1. Cast a wide net for payroll professionals

It’s no longer enough to just upload the listing to a job board and wait for applications to roll in. In a job market rife with opportunities for candidates, you should take a multipronged approach, including advertising the position on social media accounts and encouraging followers to share the post. If you’re working with a staffing agency, you’ll gain access to a network of payroll job seekers. Recruiters can also spread the message via their own social media feeds.

2. Use marketing to sell your company

To stand out in a sea of postings, front-load your payroll job description with the many pluses of working for your organization. Include enticing nuggets like flexible scheduling, regular social events, wellness perks, opportunities for advancement, all part of your corporate culture. As today’s professionals — especially millennials — seek meaningful work that makes a difference, play up your company’s community involvement.

3. Accelerate the hiring process

It can be daunting when you’re already balancing this with your day-to-day work, but speeding up your hiring process helps ensure you have your pick among the top candidates available in your area. Update your job posting to weed out unqualified applicants. Streamline interviews by having candidates meet only with essential personnel. Cut out a round of interviews, where possible. Recruiters can also shoulder a lot of the burden for you. While they can’t do everything, they can get moving right away and seriously reduce your legwork.

4. Outsource the screening

As any manager knows, a substantial number of job applications simply don’t make the cut. Then there are those candidates who look great on paper, but you soon discover they’ve embellished their skills and credentials. You can save time and all these headaches by using a specialized recruiter who handles much of the initial evaluation so you can meet with a handful of fully vetted candidates and pick the best fit.

5. Prioritize people skills

Aside from seeking out job candidates who understand payroll software and the latest compliance requirements, you should pay particular attention to their soft skills — the ability to soothe ruffled feathers and quickly resolve payroll issues. While communication and interpersonal skills can be taught, they’re often more difficult to develop than technical know-how. When meeting with potential hires, be sure to ask how they’ve dealt with angry customers or recovered from a mistake. Ask insightful situational and behavioral interview questions specific to payroll functions.

6. Be flexible with your hiring needs

Have you considered a temp-to-hire strategy for your company? There are alternatives to hiring full-time employees, and staffing agencies are well-versed in assessing your needs and providing a solution that’s right for you. If you want to focus on getting the work done and you’re not sure you need someone full time, you might find a temporary worker is your best bet.

7. Keep them happy on the job

After landing someone great, whether temporary or full time, don’t simply rest on your laurels. Focus on keeping them engaged and acknowledging their work. Robert Half’s study on workplace happiness finds that among the accounting professionals surveyed, the top driver of professional contentment was feeling appreciated.

As many payroll specialists realize, this work is largely unrecognized. Because your staff likely won’t receive many kudos from fellow employees, it’s up to management to boost morale. Even simple verbal praise, in private or in public, can go a long way in making a worker feel happy on the job — especially one you recently recruited to join the team.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has 300 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at roberthalf.com/accountemps.

Accountemps Monthly Newsletter – December

6 Ways Payroll Managers Increase Motivation in the Workplace

Payroll doesn’t really have a quiet season. It just has different levels of busy. Some periods are certainly more hectic than others, and year end — with closing running up against holiday scheduling — is certainly one of those times that can have a detrimental effect on motivation in the workplace.

As a payroll manager, you can make your team’s job easier — as well as your own — by checking in regularly to ask about their workload and any problems or frustrations they may be encountering. Stressed workers are more likely to make mistakes — and incur costly penalties — than ones who are happy with their job.

No, you can’t remove every stress factor, but here are six ways you can help increase their motivation in the workplace.

1. Recognize hard work

If your payroll staff has been putting in extra hours to get through a busy period, they deserve some recognition. The gesture can be simple, like calling out a worker’s exemplary behavior in an all-team email, or buying bagels or doughnuts for everyone. For people who have gone above and beyond, such as coming in on a weekend to complete data migration or wrap up financial reporting, thank them with a gift card or an extra vacation day.

Robert Half’s report on workplace happiness shows one of the key drivers of job satisfaction for finance and accounting professionals is feeling appreciated for the work they do. To help workers stay motivated, be sure to make your efforts are specific, timely and sincere.

2. Customize your feedback

Your employees are individuals who want to know how they’re doing and where they can improve. But you need to fine-tune the amount of feedback you give them: Too little, and some might feel neglected. Too much, and others will feel smothered. Many Generation Z employees, for example, expect consistent and frequent comments from their boss. On the other hand, your boomer payroll workers may see regular feedback as meddling micromanaging. Work with each person to find that just-right level of boss-to-employee communication.

3. Engage in training and development

Professional development and training are essential for broadening your workers’ skills base. What’s more, when you invest in them, they return that investment with greater loyalty and engagement. Training often gets pushed to the back burner when things become manic, but don’t let busyness get in the way. Besides, who doesn’t welcome a little break from their daily tasks?

A common form of professional development is the brown bag lunch session, where attendees bring their own food and management supplies the guest speaker. For an extra treat, order pizza or box lunches for the whole gang. When there’s more time, plan for job rotation or job shadowing to promote a transfer of skills between team members. Payroll conferences are a great way for your staff to learn from industry leaders and their peers from around the country.

4. Present staff with interesting projects

Do you know how to motivate people who are frequently engaged in repetitive work? One way is with cool projects that stretch their talents and shake up the routine. For example, ask the group to list some payroll pain points, and then brainstorm solutions together. These could include reducing the error rate, moving toward paperless onboarding and improving payroll-related communication with company employees. By working on creative solutions together, you build a tighter team and empower staff to take ownership of their work.

5. Give the gift of time

During the busy season, you expect a certain amount of flexibility and extra time from your staff. During quieter periods, show that you’re equally flexible by allowing extra perks, such as flexible scheduling and additional work-from-home days. This is especially useful during the holidays, when employees are trying to balance their workload with the need to run errands and visit family. Being treated with fairness is another key driver of workplace happiness, and respecting your team’s work-life balance can really help boost staff engagement.

6. Bring in extra help

Even the best payroll employees can mentally check out when they’re stressed and tired. This is especially true around the holidays, when so many other responsibilities compete for their attention. As you anticipate the department’s long to-do list for year-end closing and tax-related paperwork, make sure you’re adequately staffed. If not, work with a staffing agency that specializes in accounting professionals to access interim payroll specialists. You can boost staff motivation by making sure your full-time employees aren’t overworked and can enjoy the season.

Employee engagement isn’t just some touchy-feely concept that you can leave or take. Helping your team stay motivated has net benefits all around: It’s good for staff, good for management and, ultimately, good for the bottom line.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has 325 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at roberthalf.com/accountemps.

Accountemps Monthly Newsletter – November

5 of the Best Personality Traits to Get That Payroll Job

Applying for a job is a lot like putting yourself out there on dating apps like Tinder. When hiring managers interview applicants, it takes but a few minutes for them to decide whether to swipe right or swipe left. And like dating, prospective employers are looking at everything you’d bring to the payroll position they have open, including your best personality traits.
To land a great job, give interviewers a strong impression of who you are and how your temperament will be an asset to the payroll department. Here are the five types of payroll professionals businesses want to hire:
1. Communicators
These professionals are experts when it comes to the soft skills of tact, diplomacy, empathy and both written and verbal communication. They make friends easily, including with people outside of finance, which helps to improve interdepartmental collaboration. Communicators are especially good candidates for management positions.
Most interviewers will talk about soft skills, asking behavioral questions such as, “Tell me about a time when you’ve had a difficult conversation with a colleague.” When responding, demonstrate your intuitive understanding of people and that you know how to get your message across. Don’t forget to mention the importance of listening to others as one of the best personality traits a person can have.
2. Self-starters
Some people need constant guidance, but not self-starters. They have an innate sense of what needs to be done and how to get the job done right. These personality types enjoy working alone, but in a team environment, their energy motivates others. Payroll managers like self-starters, as these workers don’t require a lot of hand holding.
To emphasize this aspect of your personality, focus on projects you’ve initiated, such as researching payroll systems and choosing the best one for your company. Problem solving is an essential element of being a self-starter, so relate anecdotes that begin with a predicament and end with the successful implementation of your solution.
3. Explorers
Explorers are curious about everything. They are the first to embrace change and new platforms, and quickly find innovative and more efficient ways of completing tasks. As more payroll systems move to the cloud, these are the ones who help guide coworkers and other users.
During interviews for payroll positions, explorers easily demonstrate their comfort level with new technology. But a grasp of IT is only one aspect of this personality. They have an equal level of understanding of the most current legislation regarding tax rates, withholdings and compliance requirements. When talking about yourself, mention all the ways you keep up with industry trends, such as the blogs you read, the newsletters you subscribe to and the training you seek out for yourself.
4. Perfectionists
These payroll employees have an eagle eye. They recognize discrepancies from a mile away and pride themselves on a near-zero error rate. They’re careful and talented, but also efficient with their time. When a perfectionist is on the team, managers don’t have to worry about anything falling through the cracks.
Attention to detail is one of those best personality traits for any payroll professional, but perfectionists go one step further. When meeting with prospective employers, talk about your near obsession with getting things just right. Back up your assertions with real-life examples, such as when you caught an error that saved the department countless hours of grief from underpaid employees. If you don’t have such a story, that’s okay. Talk about the common payroll mistakes you keep an eye out for, or your methodology for double-checking data entries.
5. Moral guides
If you have a strong sense of right and wrong, you might be a moral guide. These employees hate to see people treated unfairly, which makes them good at resolving disputes and customer service complaints. They abide by the rules and watch out for dubious practices. At the same time, they have a good sense of empathy and understand the importance of being flexible. These employees are vital for the smooth running of any payroll department.
Confidentiality is essential in payroll, where employees have access to so much privileged data. A large part of navigating ethics involves understanding the rules, so demonstrate your mastery of issues such as data protection and compliance requirements during interviews.
Whatever attribute you emphasize in the interview, the most important thing is to be honest. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, and be ready to talk in depth about any aspect of your personality. The most important personality trait at an interview is sincerity, and an experienced interviewer will quickly be able to tell if you’ve got it or not.
Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has 325 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at roberthalf.com/accountemps.

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Accountemps Monthly Newsletter – September

Excel for Finance Professionals? Still King of the Spreadsheets

More than three decades after its debut — and despite the subsequent introduction of innumerable other accounting tools — Microsoft Excel is still the go-to software for most financial professionals across the globe. It was one of the earliest electronic spreadsheets, first developed for the Apple Macintosh in 1985. But it wasn’t until the release of Excel 2.0 for MS-DOS, on Halloween 1987, that the now-ubiquitous program really took off.

The 2017 Benchmarking the Accounting & Finance Function report, a joint effort of Robert Half and the Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF), shows just how widely used this software is today. Of the U.S. executives surveyed, 69 percent said their company continues to use Excel as their primary budgeting and planning tool — up one point from last year’s survey. Among Canadian respondents, Excel enjoys even more popularity (78 percent). Smaller businesses find this software especially valuable: 78 percent of American and Canadian companies with annual revenue under $25 million rely on it, compared with 35 percent of those netting $5 billion or more.

The answer behind Excel’s continued dominance is threefold: affordability, simplicity and flexibility.

  • Low cost. An annual subscription to Office 365, which includes Excel, Word, Outlook, PowerPoint and two other applications, costs just $8.25 per month, and a single license covers five computers. The suite of software is still available for a one-time purchase, as in the good old days. The latest version, Office Home & Business 2016, costs $230 from the Microsoft Store but can be purchased for much less from other retailers.
  • Ease of use. The basic functions of Excel are mostly intuitive and simple to learn, and templates save time and effort. Take, for example, setting up a spreadsheet to track and update payroll. It’s as easy as opening one of Excel’s many native templates for payroll registers, calculators, timesheets and more. Another option is to use one of the dozens of Excel payroll templates offered by firms such as ADP, a major provider of HR services, or Vertex42, a company that specializes in spreadsheet templates. Once the spreadsheet is set up, all you have to do is enter the hours employees worked during the pay period (this process can be automated) and any changes in pay rate or deductions.
  • Effortless integration. As a part of a larger suite of applications, Excel works seamlessly with other Microsoft business tools for word processing, databases, presentations, graphic design and email. This means accounting and finance professionals don’t have to spend time converting or exporting files before using it with other software.

Limitations of Excel

Despite its popularity and numerous upgrades over the years, Excel is still rooted in the last century. It lacks some useful features that ease the load for accountants and payroll specialists. Collaboration is one such area. While the cloud-based Excel web app does allow multiple people to work on one spreadsheet simultaneously, it’s a bit clunky to use. The web version also doesn’t have all the advanced features of the desktop version.

Even though competitor Sheets doesn’t have all those advanced features either, the Google tool does have a nifty chat window and a robust comment feature. For truly seamless real-time collaboration on basic spreadsheets, especially with remote colleagues, Google Sheets is the clear winner.

Scalability is another issue for Excel, which is why the larger a company is, the more likely it is to use a budgeting and planning tool like Oracle Hyperion or SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC). Although Excel’s capacity to handle large data sets has improved notably in the last few years, massive Excel files still severely drag down most computers.

Excel is good for basic graphing, but isn’t quite robust enough to customize and combine diverse data sets and graphs. For payroll professionals and accountants who frequently create complex charts and graphs, using Excel alone could mean wasted time. Better options for such power users are Google Sheets, Zoho Sheet, Numbers (Apple) and Corel Quattro Pro.

Long live the king

Excel has aged fairly well, unlike other similar software that arrived on the scene during the 1970s and ’80s. (Does anyone remember VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3?) For about 30 years, the granddaddy of spreadsheet programs has helped countless businesses keep track of payroll, inventory, budgets, expense reports, cash flow and accounts receivable/accounts payable. Excel has its limitations, but the multinational tech giant behind its development has the resources and resolve to keep it relevant and indispensable. That means this application is likely to remain the primary tool for payroll and accounting departments for many years to come.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has 325 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at roberthalf.com/accountemps.