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Different Roles, Same Priority: Payroll, HR, and Accounts Payable

May 13, 2022, 11:31 PM

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

“It’s really, really important for us to be teams, and to be partners, because we are serving the same people,” said Dee Byrd, CPP, a program manager for Elements Global Services.

Payroll professionals must build trust with colleagues in HR and AP, Byrd said at the American Payroll Association’s 40th Payroll Congress. Developing an understanding of your colleagues’ roles and workflows demonstrates that you are reliable. Payroll issues that require input from HR or AP are resolved more smoothly when those departments understand the context of urgent requests, she said.

HR team members tend to interact with employees more frequently, Byrd said. They are often are involved more deeply in discussions of personal matters—such as medical issues—that might only engage payroll when benefits and other related amounts are reported.

“Can you imagine having to have that conversation every single day, all day?” Byrd said. “We’ve got to just think about the fact that they’re doing a different job for the same population.”

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

“We need to have a relationship with them so when they see it, they recognize, ‘oh, payroll may need to know about this.’”

There are several areas where payroll, HR, and AP’s workflows intertwine, Byrd said. For example, the payroll department relies on HR to determine whether an employee is exempt or nonexempt from overtime. HR and payroll also collaborate 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 an applicant to employee status within an onboarding system, Byrd said. Knowing what system processes start automatically and which must start manually can help prevent potentially costly errors, she said.

All three departments also should be involved in designing and agreeing upon policies, such as the information contained in employee handbooks, Byrd said. “There are usually payroll pieces in those handbooks, right? You usually want to be a part of that.”

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

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

Remember to celebrate accomplishments across departments, she said.

“It is more than just figuring out what the issues are,” she said, emphasizing that a partnership consists of both successes and challenges. An effective relationship cannot be established if you meet with other departments only when something is wrong, she said.

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

To contact the reporter on this story: Jazlyn Williams in Las Vegas at jwilliams@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: William Dunn at wdunn@bloombergindustry.com; Jamie Rathjen at jrathjen@bloombergindustry.com

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