Different roles, same priority: payroll, HR and accounts payable

Collaboration between payroll, human resources and accounts payable departments pays off for teammates and employees, a payroll professional said May 12.

“Being teams and being partners is really, really important to us because we serve the same people,” said Dee Byrd, CPP, program manager for Elements Global Services.

Payroll professionals need to build trust with their colleagues in HR and cost accounting, Byrd said at the American Payroll Association’s 40th Payroll Conference. Developing an understanding of your colleagues’ roles and workflows demonstrates that you are reliable. Payroll issues that require HR or PA input are more easily resolved when those departments understand the context of urgent requests, she said.

Members of the HR team tend to interact more frequently with employees, Byrd said. They are often involved more deeply in discussions of personal matters, such as medical issues, which might not engage payroll until benefits and other related amounts are reported.

“Can you imagine having to have this conversation every day, all day?” Byrd said. “We just have to think about the fact that they are doing different work for the same population.”

AP handles payments to third parties, which may include employees, Byrd said. Payroll may not be aware of payments without communicating with AP, and it is crucial to be alerted when payments such as gift cards are involved.

“We have to have a relationship with them, so when they see it, they recognize, ‘oh, payroll might need to know about that.'”

There are several areas where payroll, HR and PA workflows intertwine, Byrd said. For example, the payroll department relies on HR to determine whether or not an employee is exempt from overtime. HR and payroll are also collaborating during open enrollment periods and the rollout of new benefits, she said.

Payroll professionals should also familiarize themselves with each step of any system that requires input from multiple departments, such as the requirements for transitioning a candidate to employee status in an onboarding system, Byrd said. Knowing which system processes start automatically and which need to start manually can help avoid potentially costly mistakes, she said.

All three departments should also be involved in designing and approving policies, such as information in employee handbooks, Byrd said. “There are usually payroll vouchers in these manuals, aren’t there? You usually want to be part of it.

The three departments should develop a habit of communicating often, sharing information about procedures, deadlines and updates that can impact everyone’s workflows, Byrd said.

Have regular team-building meetings, perhaps quarterly, Byrd said. Schedule meetings with a specific purpose in mind, like analyzing trends or reviewing issues, she said.

Remember to celebrate the achievements of all departments, she said.

“It’s not just about figuring out what the problems are,” she said, noting that a partnership is made up of both successes and challenges. An effective relationship cannot be established if you only meet with other departments when something is wrong, she said.

“It all comes down to relationships. It really comes down to that,” Byrd said. “It also comes down to having the same priorities. Our priority is to serve our employees.

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