Eight tips for starting a career in payroll

Eight tips for starting a career in payroll

Author: Sandra Sommerville

Starting a payroll career

What is payroll and what skills do you need to work in a payroll department? Sandra Sommerville from activpayroll explains all.

Payroll teams make sure staff get paid. As a payroll administrator, you work out how much each employee has earnt and take away income tax, social security or pension contributions. You then organise payment to be made to the employee’s bank account.

But it’s not just about number-crunching. You also need to stick to a list of rules and regulations to make sure it all happens accurately and on time.

If you think a job in the industry could be be for you, here’s a rundown of the skills you need to get ahead…

1. A talent for maths

It goes without saying that payroll involves a knack for maths – from recording hours, to calculating tax contributions. While much of the process is automated, there’s always going to be a need for good old fashioned number skills.

2. Other useful subjects

Payroll administrators come from a range of backgrounds, but there’s no harm studying subjects such as maths, accountancy, IT, communications, and business.

3. Software packages

Most businesses use software to assist their payroll process. Good computer skills and a knowledge of special software platforms like Sage or QuickBooks, can help you stand out from the crowd.

4. People skills

Payroll involves working closely with people from other departments, including human resources and accounting. This means learning about what different departments do and being able to work as part of a team.

5. Good customer service

Beyond paperwork and number-crunching, you’ll handle frequent queries from colleagues and clients. The ability to deal well with people and strong customer service skills are both important.

6. The ability to handle confidential information

Payroll administrators handle lots of sensitive personal information. This includes colleagues’ salary information and bank account details. You’ll need to be discreet and understand the importance of security.

7. Problem solving

The monthly payroll process rarely takes place without some sort of incident. Faced with challenges and the pressures of looming deadlines, you must be able to think creatively when tackling problems.

8. Professional training 

While not essential, certain qualifications can help forge your career. Look for courses from recognised organisations, such as the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP).

Sandra Sommerville is group human resources manager at activpayroll. She has 18 years’ experience in human resources and food retail. Sandra’s current role focuses on driving business growth and change through training and career development.

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Last updated: 24th October 2018