Archive for February, 2014

February 17, 2014

Why an In-house Payroll Service Needs to Differentiate Itself from the Competition


No in-house payroll team is safe anymore.  The ever present reality is that if your organisation hasn’t already looked into the viability of outsourcing payroll production, in an attempt to realise significant cost and efficiency benefits, it is only a matter of time until it does.

Payroll BPO is a Global Competitive Market

At the local level you compete against small business operators claiming to be the most experienced outsourced provider in the market and there are bookkeeping and accounting firms, payroll associations and HRIS software providers all supplying payroll BPO services.  Then there are those businesses whose core business is Payroll Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), who vary in size and capacity enormously.  The global market has added extra dimension to the BPO market, creating massive competition in cost competitiveness.

All BPO’s are Flogging the Same Horse

Find me a Payroll BPO who is not selling the promises of:

  • The realisation of efficiencies and time savings
  • Reduced production costs and overheads
  • Continuity, Risk Management and Total Compliance
  • Superior Speed, Technical Expertise
  • Greater operational control for the business
  • Technological Superiority
  • Reduced Recruitment Costs and Staffing Flexibility
  • The ability for your business to concentrate on it’s your core business

Can BPO’s Really Achieve the Miraculous?

The ability of any BPO in the marketplace to achieve this remarkable list of business improvements relies on many interconnected factors… many of which aren’t fully understood by those in the deciding seat.  It is important to understand what real differences exist between in-house and outsourced payroll functions and whether outsourcing is really the miracle it’s sold as.

Here are just a few areas that require thorough analysis in the decision making process, rather than blind belief:

HRIS System Capabilities

The quality and capabilities of a BPO’s HRIS system will depend on the size of the BPO business.  The corporate payroller who decided to start a payroll outsourcing business will be utilising an off the shelf accounting package or a lower cost cloud based system.  National and global BPO’s will be building robust, client tested systems and will have more experience in implementations, which should guarantee a smoother transition… unless that system needs to be customised heavily to achieve your requirements, which can lead to untested and unparalleled disaster.

A true understanding of the capabilities and the shortcomings of the systems used by BPO’s will enable you to make a real comparison between your in-house system and the BPO offerings.

Business Processes

BPO’s would not survive without solid business processes and strict deadlines.  When working with a BPO you will be afforded windows of time for processing and queries and your own business systems must be advanced enough to succeed in your business relationship and to get your payroll delivered on time, every time.

If your in-house system is in chaos due to data integrity issues, receipt of late inputs and misconfiguration of your current payroll system, you will not realise some magical transformation by simply outsourcing this mess to a BPO.  Garbage in will always equate to garbage out.

Economies of Scale

The whole basis of achieving economies of scale is to define the one process that fits all, allowing for only slight deviations for individual business requirements.  If your business can fit itself into the BPO’s processes, all is well, but if your business requires deviations to the BPO’s standard business processes and has a list of required value added services, the cost of the service rises proportionately.

Cost Savings

I’ve managed two outsourcing services and it has always bewildered me why people buy in to this.  Cost savings are achieved by any payroll service, in-house or outsourced, by minimizing the time it takes to produce a payroll and the ancillary costs associated with payroll production.

If an in-house service wants to ensure their longevity, then my advice would be to get your costs down to bare minimum by implementing automations, reducing paper and payslip costs, maximizing your HRIS system and establishing if the current wages cost of the payroll team can realistically be reduced.  The people in your organisation who will be, or who currently are, looking at outsourced options, will see cost as a major incentive.

All BPO’s have a stock standard service that basically includes accepting an upload file or your business entering the data into their system; performing the payroll calculations and producing the stock standard reports.  If this is all you want from payroll, then by all means jump in and realise those cost savings.  If however, you want a little extra here and there, grab your wallet and watch those cost savings begin to diminish.

Let You Get On With Managing Your Business

This selling point is touted by every BPO provider globally, but I believe it’s a myth as the business only outsources a portion of the total end to end process.  Someone at the business still needs to create and manage the inputs; check and authorise the payroll reports; attend to the employee, management and third party enquiries; reconcile the payroll; perform the management and statutory reporting functions; and above all else ensure the compliance of the data and the process.

Additional Charges for Out of Scope Functions

Want a report that’s not in scope? Want to change the pay rates due to an award change or salary increase?  Want to retrieve historical data from two years ago? It can be quite alarming, once the contract is signed by a business owner or manager, who may have little to no concept of the requirements of payroll, just how much additional information needs to be retrieved from the HRIS system.  Much of this will be out of scope and will cost the business, either in the charges for the reporting or for the time it takes in-house to devise a workaround.

Superior Technical Expertise

This one always gets me… how can this sweeping statement be made by some BPO’s when your organisation may already employ a perfectly competent payroll person, or even a whole team of them.

Some larger BPO’s may in fact employ specialists in employment law, or IT and so on, but that may not necessarily translate well into the product or service the BPO customer buys.  Before a business buys in to the guru status, it should understand exactly how much specialist knowledge exists in its own business via its payroll team members and establish how the gurus will provide an actual realisable benefit to their payroll production, if they were to outsource the payroll.

Total Compliance

The way the compliance dream is sold to businesses concerns me, as it appears to the buyer that simply by outsourcing your payroll, you are guaranteed that every facet of your payroll all of a sudden becomes compliant, and you needn’t worry your little head about it ever again.  This is the farthest thing from the truth.

When you hand over the control of your organisations greatest expense and probably most organisations greatest compliance nightmare, you don’t cease to be liable… you don’t cease to monitor and examine… and more importantly, you should never cease to control.

The simplest configuration error, or the insufficiently tested customisation can wreak havoc on pay rates, tax, superannuation, salary packaging…everything.  Compliance in every facet and down to the tiniest detail, remains at all times the business’s responsibility, not the BPO’s.  Put simply, don’t buy in to the total compliance sales pitch.

Offering of an End to End Payroll Service

Hmmm… by whose definition?  I’ve always understood end to end payroll to be all of the processes from the receipt of new employee documentation and employee timesheets, through to the completion of all associated company and statutory reporting, and including all employee, management and third party enquiries and requests in between.

I’ve not seen a BPO yet that encompasses what my definition of end to end payroll is.  Nor have I witnessed a BPO yet that doesn’t require a designated person on the ground in the business to compile all of the data and be responsible for employee queries.

Risk Management

There are so many aspects to the risk management and mitigation of payroll that would be hard to fit into a paragraph, but a few of the main concerns to be addressed for those contemplating outsourcing are:

  • Disaster Recovery Plans and IT Risk Management
  • Risks to confidential employee and business data and bank accounts
  • Risk of BPO business failure/collapse
  • Fraud and Corruption Risks
  • Payroll Controls (including authorisations and error prevention and capture)
  • Compliance Risk
  • Quality Control Frameworks
  • Country Specific Risks

One More Reason Stakeholders Seek Alternative Solutions

Noise.  If your payroll service rings so loud in the ears of the stakeholders, consider yourself a branded target for outsourcing.  If you have a high error rate and there are constant complaints making their way to the leaders of the business, get your error rates sorted very quickly and eliminate the noise.

Understand Your Competition

The point has already been made… every in-house payroll service is in competition with the sizeable BPO market.  In any business, you must understand… truly understand… who and what your competition is and what your competitors are offering, in order to continue to compete against them.

In-house Payroll Managers who are blind or oblivious to this, need to wake up.  BPO’s are knocking incessantly on the doors of the decision makers in your business, trying to get their foot in the door.

Now that you understand more about the BPO Market and how the business you work for is on the prospect list of a gazillion BPO providers, you have two choices… start looking for a job in a BPO or start ensuring your in-house payroll service remains a viable business option for your organisation.

Differentiation is One of the Keys to In-House Survival

For any business to outshine its competition, it needs to identify or create differentiation between them and all the other operators in the market.  Their customers must be able to clearly see the points of difference and those points of difference had better be ones that draw customers in, rather than turn them away.  Your in-house payroll service is no different.

Outsourced service providers all over the world are professing how amazingly more cost effective your organisation’s payroll process will be.  They are claiming that their world standard business processes will not only enable outstanding efficiencies, but reap the rewards of economies of scale and all but ensure the organisation’s payroll compliance.

Do yourself and your payroll team a favour and start raising the bar on your service, analysing and minimising your costs, elevating your team’s capabilities and eliminating any “noise”… and start today!

If you have any questions you would like to raise personally, please email Louise Vidler at The Professional Payroll Manager.

© 2014 Louise Vidler T/As The Professional Payroll Manager.  All rights reserved.

All materials contained on this web site not otherwise subject to copyright of other parties are subject to the ownership rights of Louise Vidler T/As The Professional Payroll Manager. Louise Vidler T/As The Professional Payroll Manager authorises you to make a single copy of the content herein for your own personal, non-commercial, use while visiting the site. You agree that any copy made must include the Louise Vidler T/As The Professional Payroll Manager copyright notice in full. No other permission is granted to you to print, copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, upload, download, store, display in public, alter, or modify the content contained on this web site.

February 15, 2014

Announcing “Elevate Your Business”… a new blog for Small to Medium Enterprises (SME’s)


The Professional Payroll Manager has created an additional blog purely for Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) Owners and Managers, called “Elevate Your Business“.

While the HR & Payroll Compliance topics covered in the blog are currently specific to the Australian market, there are a pile of links each fortnight to global thought leaders, covering topics such as:

  • personal, business and team development
  • marketing and social media
  • personal and business branding
  • service excellence
  • time management
  • sales skills
  • business writing
  • and so much more

The abundance of resources in each edition will provide more business improvement ideas than many of us would ever have the time to work through each between editions. 

Should the content prove popular with readers outside of Australia, we will be seeking contributions from our network of global subject matter experts to include HR & Payroll Compliance information for multiple countries.

If you are involved in an SME, or know someone who is, please feel free to share this blog with them so we can elevate small businesses beyond their wildest imaginations.

February 2, 2014

Reading Contextually Between the Payroll KPI’s


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The Minimum Essentials Payroll KPI’s outlined the KPI’s all payroll services should have implemented and touched on benchmarking.  Benchmarking can be dangerous territory for the unitiated, because it is so subjective.

Simply comparing your end result numbers against another organisation, industry or a global best practice and deciding that your payroll service must work to achieve best practice may result in degradation of your service levels and compliance.  You must apply “context” to the benchmarking data, in order to truly achieve any level of benchmark against others.

To apply the “context”, it is essential to understand that behind every number is a complex array of factors including:

Scope of the Study

First and foremost, the scope of the benchmark study and the compilation methods of the data used to calculate the metrics, especially how the cost of payroll production has been calculated.  The cost of payroll production is a base line measurement for a major part of the benchmarking process, so it is important to ensure that everyone is compiling their costs using comparable methods and with the same definition of end to end payroll.  Company “A” may interpret end to end payroll as the process from receipt of timesheets into the payroll service to the deposit of funds into employee bank accounts, whereas Company “B” will rightly incorporate the compilation of employee timesheets and production of post payroll reporting, and include the cost of all employees involved in the process.

Automation & Integration of Systems

Automations and integrations achieved by the HRIS and related systems significantly reduce the cost of payroll production as automation plays an integral role in the efficiency of the payroll service.  If your payroll is fully integrated with time and attendance and employee self-service and the general ledger, you are half way there.  Every process that is performed manually, multiplied by the number of times the process is performed, adds up to a significant potential cost saving over the course of a year.

Volume of Management & Statutory Reporting

Management reporting and the volume of it, varies from business to business and if you have the luxury of HRIS and related integrated systems that automatically produce the reports and email them to the recipient list you are miles ahead of the payroll service that is manually compiling data for management reporting

Statutory reporting is often an onerous task and the more data you can pull down from your systems, either as data into excel spreadsheets or as completed reports from your systems to automate the reporting processes will result not only in efficiency, but should also result in greater compliance by virtue of the reduced manual intervention.  The ultimate HRIS system for me would include one with the capability of calculating the payroll tax, fringe benefits tax and other required reports with all the bells and whistles that submit the electronic returns.

Method of Pay Slip Distribution

The automation of pay slip distribution can be a giant cost and efficiency gain to organisations that is under rated and under utilised by so many organisations.  If your organisation is taking the time to print, separate, seal, collate and physically send pay slips across the organisation, it’s time to start asking your employees if they’d like to receive their pay slips via email and/or investigating the return on investment of employee self-service.

When benchmarking your payroll service against another, factor in the varying methods of pay slip distribution, especially where there are sizeable organisations with a national presence.

Business Process Automation

Automations achieved by business processes need to be taken into account when analysing one organisation’s KPI’s against others:

  • If your payroll service operates with highly manual processes and a considerable quantity of hard copy forms, you will never achieve best practice in efficiency and as a result of that, cost.  Best practice efficiency results from the automation of processes such as employee self-service to enter leave applications, supply of information to reduce employee queries and upload of information by HR/P&C or employees to minimise transactional processing by the payroll service.
  • Physical data entry of timesheets by the payroll service is another detriment to the achievement of efficiencies in comparison to payroll services that utilise excel uploads, time and attendance system integrations and other automated processes.
  • Physical data verification of timesheets and employee information is time consuming and should be minimised as much as possible.  This is said, on the absolute proviso that comprehensive audit and validation checkpoints and reports are produced and verified to ensure that all potential errors will be identified in the process.  If you cannot achieve complete automation, take what you can and implement baby steps within the various components of the payroll process.
  • The number of autopaid employees, which is usually reserved for salaried employees and those permanent employees who don’t vary their hours or work overtime greatly.  This is not a benchmark that can usually be addressed by the payroll service, as it is dictated by legislation, award coverage and organisational policy.

Complexity of the Business and Its Payroll

Greater complexity results in a higher volume of business processes and the aim should be minimise and eliminate the complexities, where possible.  Some complexities such as number of business entities or industrial agreements cannot be changed and the objective is to achieve economies of scale in the payroll processes.

When comparing organisations for benchmarking purposes though, it is useful to understand the level of complexity involved in order to truly benchmark one payroll service against another, for example:

  • Company “A” may be a single registered entity, whereas Company  “B” may be made up of fifty separately registered entities.  Company “A” runs 52 weekly payrolls per year, whereas Company “B” is required to run 2600 weekly payrolls per year, which will result in a huge disparity between the two companies cost of payroll production and their efficiencies.

The Level & Volume of Services

One payroll service that processes only uploaded timesheets, does not have payroll accounting or statutory reporting performed within the payroll service and does not have ancillary employees benefits management functions will appear to outperform and be more efficient than an organisation whose payroll service includes manual timesheet entry, a great volume of management and statutory reporting and complex benefits management.

Additionally, the service level demands on the payroll service are hard to measure but definitely come into play in one service’s ability to outperform another.  The difference between an organisation that has a dedicated support line, or a policy where employees can call their payroll representative directly at any time of day and an organisation that has an archaic policy of allowing employees to contact payroll only at certain times of the day will lend weight to the payroll service’s ability to achieve best practice efficiency.

The volume of enquiries is a standard measurement for payroll best practice and will be determined by a multitude of factors, including the level and volume of services provided plus the error rates being achieved by each service and a multitude of other organisational or industrial issues.

The Salary Costs of the Payroll Team

A big factor in the cost of payroll production is the cost of your payroll team, and again requires a multitude of considerations before simply benchmarking one company against another, such as:

  • Does your organisation pay award rates or market rates?  How do the salaries of your payroll team per FTE compare to those you are benchmarking against?
  • Where is your organisation located? A capital city centre will always demand higher salaries than a regional area.
  • What are the positions included in your payroll team?  Do you have only transactional payroll processing staff, or do you have HRIS Systems staff, analysts, payroll accountants, employee benefits administrators, multiple leaders and managers and such?  The inclusion of payroll team members in addition to the purely transactional staff is always going to show a higher payroll production cost per FTE and as such needs to be taken into consideration when comparing the data.

Additional Variables Impacting KPI Analysis

Other variables that need to be analysed contextually include:

  • The number of employees processed and/or supported per Payroll FTE should be interpreted taking into account all of the factors discussed above.  One payroll team member can quite easily produce 1500 pays per week, while another would struggle to produce 250.  This is based not only on the competence of the team member, but also on the level of automation, complexity and what portion of the end to end payroll function each of the team members are performing
  • Data Quality is of prime importance to the achievement of compliance and efficiency and where one organisation is falling behind another due to data quality, a valid argument with cost based analysis can be achieved to highlight the importance of Input = Output.
  • The volume of Out of Cycle Payments and Special Pays as a metric in a report can be read as a poor performing payroll service who clearly needs to implement some payment policies and undertake some cause analysis on these “errors”.  On the other hand, it could also be read that organisational policy or awards dictate a service standard that the payroll service has to adhere to, or that the organisation needs to support the payroll service in having all staff understand the importance of data quality and timeliness.
  • The cost of Out of Cycle Payments and Special Pays will be a key driver for management to address, where they can, the organisational policy to improve the volume and cost of out of cycle payments.  When you consider that an out of cycle payment takes, at the very least, half an hour from calculation to completed payment, this raises the cost of payroll production significantly if you have high volumes.
  • Retrospective payments are a contributor to cost of payroll production whether you have a system that automates the process or not.  Aside from the calculation of retrospective payments, they usually have to be checked as a separate process within the payroll process and cause fluctuations/variations in the payroll (employee and company totals) due to back payments that again have to be manually verified as a separate process step.
  • The employment turnover of payroll staff will add to the costs and efficiency of the payroll service, but is something that will not be understood in the realm of benchmarking.  An individual organisations turnover can only be understood by understanding the data behind the data.

There is No Like for Like in Payroll

Any comparison you make of your KPI’s to others is a subjective comparison and the contributing factors must be taken into consideration, as best you can, to make a considered judgement of your achievements against best practice.

In payroll benchmarking, there is really is no like for like due to the variances in operating systems; policies, processes and practices; complexities; and of the interpretation of “end to end” payroll.

If you have any questions you would like to raise personally, please email Louise Vidler at The Professional Payroll Manager.

© 2014 Louise Vidler T/As The Professional Payroll Manager.  All rights reserved.

All materials contained on this web site not otherwise subject to copyright of other parties are subject to the ownership rights of Louise Vidler T/As The Professional Payroll Manager. Louise Vidler T/As The Professional Payroll Manager authorises you to make a single copy of the content herein for your own personal, non-commercial, use while visiting the site. You agree that any copy made must include the Louise Vidler T/As The Professional Payroll Manager copyright notice in full. No other permission is granted to you to print, copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, upload, download, store, display in public, alter, or modify the content contained on this web site.

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