As a HR and Payroll professional for almost 17 years, my personal and professional development in the field of business partnering has evolved and expanded immensely. Here, I hope to share with you five of the most important things that I have learned during that time by illustrating how my core values have informed my career—embracing life-long learning and accepting change.
1. Motivation Increases Job Satisfaction
Changes in payroll are driven by the data from employment contracts. No business exists solely for their payroll, but equally, no business can operate without it. A payroll professional cannot be considered a mere data processor. Instead, they assume a greater role as a business partner. So, what is global payroll’s impact on a business? The role of the global payroll business partner is to inform and support the decision-making process seamlessly.
Therefore, payroll professionals fall neatly into the Herzberg motivation theory, which tries to get to the root of employee motivation in the workplace (see figure). You can leverage this theory to establish a high level of performance from your team. In academia, it’s what is called the “hygiene factor”—policies, work environment, salary, and job security. These are applicable for every organization. This explains why so few people ever send a thank you note to their payroll department for completing payroll on time yet tend to be vocal when something goes wrong. Payroll is critical to ensuring the satisfaction of your employees. Payroll may not be at the core of any business, but payroll is critical to ensuring the satisfaction of your employees. Except for payroll vendors, perhaps it is but a means to an end, but payroll is part of the Employee Value Proposition (EVP), which is defined as a balance between the rewards and benefits received by employees in return for their workplace performance.
So, what can Payroll Business Partnering (PBP) do to improve satisfaction according to Herzberg theory? One suggestion would be to provide advice on relevant tax laws and labour relations practices impacting payroll. If there are any tax efficiencies to be had, or if there are any benefits to be introduced, PBP can provide guidance.
This is also true when it comes to payroll outsourcing—focusing on the cheapest payroll vendors diminishes the value. PBP should have a good partnership with their advisers, so they can support business leaders.
2. Flexible Agility Creates Balance
At the core of HR Business Partnering (HRBP) is trust and responsiveness to business needs. As such, it is not always predefined. HRBPs are not purposefully complicating matters, but there are often shades of grey that require clarification. Agility should not be just a popular word or a slogan. While compliance must be at the pedestal, procedures cannot be too rigid or too strict, as decision making is an art rather than science. Salary levels are negotiable in the end. Only when a decision is made and a contract is signed, it is fixed and should be reflected on each pay stub. Finding the right balance while allowing a degree of flexibility is a must.
3. Digitalization Informs Decision-Making
Organizations in the 2020s are data driven. That is an indisputable fact. The value-add proposition must include vast reporting capabilities to inform decision making. PBPs for finance need to have a full set of customized reports at their disposal to serve their internal customers. Organizations are knowledge and data driven. Most firms I know do not produce much more than information, so that intellectual property becomes a fifth economic resource.
Make sure you have the tools to build your metrics by integrating payroll with HRIS and accounting systems to support finance controllers, analysts, and senior management. Make sure you add value by making informed decisions. For example, visibility of overtime can create jobs, a quantified high level of absenteeism may support succession planning or even trigger changes to leadership.
4. Build the Right Relationships
This is true with all stakeholders—the employees, managers, and vendors. Your vendors are not your subordinates, so you should treat them as your trusted in-country experts. Jo Owen, a British business strategist, entrepreneur, and educator, proposed three pillars which I always keep at the forefront of my analysis at work. These aspects include:
- Rational or technical aspect—This is the actual problem at hand. It can be issues with tax rates applied in a country.
- Emotional aspect—This relates to how we deal with the topic and are we making sure everyone feels respected.
- Political aspect—This is how we address the problem from an organizational perspective.
Overall, make sure not to damage relationships. Build your network. Soft power and ability to influence is of paramount importance for any effective change leader. However, if you work in a toxic environment, leave it.
5. Knowledge, Experience Shape You
Share your experience with others. Organize internships. Get involved in volunteering. Embrace every opportunity to learn something new. You will never know when it benefits you or your business later. There are never too many badges one can wear.
If I’ve learned anything during the pandemic, it is that life is unpredictable. Whether I continue my current career trajectory, or I use this experience in a broader role to complement my next position in global payroll, nobody can take away the experience and skills gained during these years. This journey has inevitably shaped and broadened my horizon, and I’ve come to believe that these experiences are the most valuable assets in life.
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Wojciech Sieczkowski is a native of Warsaw, Poland, with almost 17 years of experience in various HR and global payroll roles. He currently works for Hotelbeds in Singapore where he serves as the Regional HR Operations and Hub Manager. Wojciech earned degrees in psychology from the Catholic University (UKSW) of Warsaw, Poland, and in business studies from University College Dublin, Ireland. He is working on his Ph.D. in Economics of Social Insurance at Warsaw School of Economics (SGH).