Career Spotlight – the Payroll Professional

Rutherford Cross’ specialist in Transactional Finance, Eilidh Graham, recently met with a candidate she placed over a year ago to discuss what a Payroll Manager role entails, what progression looks like, and how the finance team can best support their payroll staff. In this article, Eilidh highlights some of the key takeaways from their discussion.

The role of a Payroll Manager is to manage and oversee the business’s payroll to ensure it is processed on time and correctly. They need to ensure they stay up to date with current laws regarding salary, tax, sick/holiday pay and working hours, whilst being able to answer staff queries on all these areas.

The role is complex and challenging, as processing the payroll involves many spinning plates and additional duties including creating legal, regulated payroll procedures, reporting on payroll statistics, and hiring and training payroll staff. Usually, the Payroll team sits with the finance and/or HR teams within an organisational structure.

I recently met with a candidate with 10+ years’ experience in payroll, who is a member of CIPP, to discuss their career experiences, and in their opinion, what teams can do to support their payroll staff.


What are the key qualities of a payroll professional?

“People who aren’t in the role would say that accountancy is interlinked with payroll. I would disagree! The key features of a successful payroll professional is to have a keen interest in numbers and processes. You need to be able to research with the aim to keep on top of, and understand, current rules and regulations. To be successful you need to care about people and their salaries, remember no one is volunteering their time! Having a keen attention to detail is a must as well as being able to work well under pressure as nonflexible deadlines are a guarantee in payroll and missing them will cause a lot of upset.”


Why should someone have a career in payroll?

“It is a really involving, interesting role where things change all the time for a number of reasons; minimum wage changes, EU directive, pensions, tax laws etc. The role is continually evolving so it stays interesting; it’s perfect for anyone who enjoys working under pressure but there are also down periods for housekeeping and keeping up with legislation. Although, you will never have an April holiday!”


You are a member of CIPP, how do you feel this has helped you within your career?

Personally, I have found joining CIPP has opened more doors for me. I joined later in my career and was qualified by experience enough to not have to sit any exams. With a lot more Payroll positions now asking for the CIPP, it makes sense to get it regardless of your stage in career: it is a worthwhile investment in your career.

“Before joining CIPP I got all of my HMRC updates and Employment Legislation updates via the Employers Bulletin board. When I was self-employed, I also had to get all of the agency legislations through the agency bulletin. With CIPP, I get notified whenever there is a change in legislations or budget. There is also a forum for discussions with the other members which is extremely helpful.”

You can find the CIPP Website here and Employers Bulletin Board here.


How can organisations best support their payroll staff?

“Start by saying thank you! Real rewards are recognition and support, the role can be isolating as you do need to spend a lot of time on your own working on confidential information, however payroll should feel part of the Finance and HR team as they are interlinked. The effort to integrate these teams is of massive importance.

“Other ways to give recognition? If you have an amazing payroll person, acknowledge that, remunerate them fairly – no one is going to turn down a bonus, give them a bonus – what excited me about my current role is that they went over and above. We didn’t just get the standard pension contribution, we get more than the legal minimum of holidays, it’s about making these more important and allowing your staff to feel valued.”


Recruitment insights for payroll staff

Working in transactional finance recruitment, I would say some of the most challenging roles to recruit can be Payroll. This skillset is in high demand and we tend to find businesses will try very hard to keep hold of their strong payroll staff, so keeping open communication with them should be a top priority. In general, the flexibility and hybrid working is still key for the payroll manager. While you may not be able to flex on salary, other benefits can be considered to make the opportunity as attractive as possible.

If you are thinking about taking your next step in your payroll career or wish to discuss this article in more detail, please get in touch with Eilidh via the methods below. Similarly, if you are looking to hire payroll staff or are looking for insights into the market or salary benchmarking, please reach out.

E: [email protected] 

T: 07501 745 668