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6 Skills Payroll Professionals Need to Move Up to Management

You've been working in payroll for several years and believe it's time to advance to payroll management — or you'll be ready shortly. It's a significant step. It indicates that you are confident in your abilities and experience to handle higher-level accounting functions for the company. And you are confident that you are not only prepared to supervise the payroll team, but also to take the lead in ensuring that they are up to date on the newest payroll best practices, technology, and compliance standards. Companies often seek payroll professionals with at least five years of experience when filling payroll management positions. In addition, while a suitable bachelor's degree is frequently necessary, many employers may consider equivalent job experience. Although industry certifications such as the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) accreditation aren't usually required, many employers consider them a plus.

So, how can you stand out from the crowd? This article will provide you with six skills that many employers look for when hiring leaders for their payroll functions.

1. What does a payroll manager do?

A payroll manager is a business financial and human resources expert who controls all areas of employee payment preparation and distribution. This includes keeping payroll records, computing taxes, reconciling payroll accounts, and supervising other payroll employees. A payroll manager's duties often include the following:

  • Coordinating and directing payroll procedures

  • Creating payroll reports with savings deductions, exclusions, and insurance coverage

  • ensuring that applicable laws and tax responsibilities are followed

  • Calculating federal and state income taxes, social security taxes, unemployment payments, and workers' compensation payments to identify payroll liabilities

  • supervising the payroll team and providing necessary training and assistance

  • Employee payments are processed and distributed through cheques, direct transfers, or other payment methods.

The duties of Payroll managers are various
Figure 1. The duties of Payroll managers are various

2. Skills that Payroll professionals need

Payroll professionals must have the necessary skill set to handle their many tasks, which includes the following abilities and qualities:

2.1. Payroll systems experience

Employers always expect payroll professionals to know their way around common payroll platforms such as ADP Workforce Now, Kronos, and Workday. But the word “experience” means more than just data entry and basic navigation. It should be the knowledge about the system's advanced features, such as customizing portals, setting up access and permissions, changing workflow events, and creating custom templates. Or with a background working for a large company.

2.2. Business acumen

Yes, you need to develop a certain level of payroll expertise to advance in the profession. But also to take time to become a generalist as well as a specialist.

Why you should do that? Thanks to ERP systems and a trend toward cross-departmental collaboration. Now the line between payroll and other functions has been blurring. So, learn as much as you can about human resources, tax calculation, and data analysis — and even internal audit to lever up your skills and your income, too.

And the truth is, the more you understand how a complex business operates. The better prepared you’ll be to have a payroll management position.

2.3. Compliance knowledge

To avoid getting into trouble with laws, payroll systems providers will continually update their solutions to follow the latest changes in the tax system, medical benefits, minimum income, and other matters of the payroll team. However, payroll managers and supervisors have a responsibility for making sure that a company remains compliant with local government requirements.

Here’s the tip to help you to stay current: subscribe to payroll newsletters and compliance-related blogs or official social pages — and make it part of your regular work schedule to read them.

2.4. Have excellent soft skills

Effective payroll professionals who want to become managers will know how to deal with all kinds of people like their team, other directors, company employees, board members, vendors, and government functionaries,… As you sharpen your hard skills and add more lines to your credentials, you should give as much attention to your interpersonal skills. Like polished written and verbal communication, skills to resolve conflict about customer service.

Good soft skills can help you have more income and a better position
Figure 2. Good soft skills can help you have more income and a better position

For example, payroll professionals are capable of managing people and their expectations. They also possess self-initiative, outstanding time management skills, and similar qualities to handle their heavy workload and responsibility.

2.5. Have leadership qualities

The truth is every hiring manager will prefer looking for supervisory experience when interviewing payroll management candidates. But how do you earn that supervisory experience when you haven’t worked in a management role before?

A perfect tip here to develop management skills is by requesting assignments that put you in charge of a project or team in your current company. While also looking for leadership opportunities outside of your workplace if you can and yes, you can have a better salary, too.

2.6. Other technical expertise

No matter w is you are doing with your current job, developing your hard skills is always a smart career move. As a payroll management professional, this means earning hands-on experience with general accounting software and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, such as SAP, NetSuite, and Oracle, also the skill with Microsoft Office and Google Drive is often expected.

Other technical skills like Microsoft Office can be useful in some situation
Figure 3. Other technical skills like Microsoft Office can be useful in some situation

And to get ahead in your career, you should always follow the latest in payroll technology, including process automation and the rise of artificial intelligence.

That’s six skills to help you become a payroll professional, but don’t forget these important basic skills of a payroll staff:

Numeracy: payroll focuses on salary calculation so a payroll specialist’s mathematical aptitude and numerical skills will likely translate to greater accuracy and fewer compliance issues.

Timeliness: payroll employees work on strict deadlines to ensure wages are issued accurately and on time. With potentially large numbers of employees depending on them, payroll specialists must be able to adhere to a schedule while maintaining a high-performance standard.

Adaptability: changes in the political and legal landscape can happen quickly – and significantly affect the way your business delivers payroll. Your staff should be able to adapt to new regulations on the horizon and maintain a high level of payroll performance.

3. Some more requirements to move up

Payroll professionals should have extensive education and related employment experience to prepare for this function, which should include a combination of:

3.1. Education

Payroll managers with bachelor's degrees in finance, business management, or accounting are often sought after by employers. A master's degree in human resources, finance, or business administration can boost your employability, help you develop in your profession, and even raise your earning potential. Furthermore, for payroll managers who require several years of experience or extra certifications, some firms may require a master's degree.

3.2. Training

Before becoming a payroll manager, these experts obtain several years of experience in related professions. As entry-level payroll clerks or associates, they will receive additional job training to become acquainted with payroll software and methods.

Payroll managers receive little on-the-job training because they are expected to be well-versed in payroll ideas and how to manage this department. Any new hire training would most likely focus on familiarizing the employee with the company's culture, organization, practices, and procedures.

3.3. Certifications

These professionals might pursue voluntary certifications to improve their employability and demonstrate their knowledge to future employers. Some employers require these certificates, and nearly all payroll administrators strongly prefer them.

  • Certified Payroll Professional (CPP)

The American Payroll Association (APA) provides CPP certification, which verifies a person's understanding of payroll concepts, compliance, paycheck calculation, payroll systems, audits, accounting, and payroll management. To be eligible to take the CPP exam, applicants must have a combination of professional experience and education.

  • Certified Payroll Specialist (CPS)

The National Association of Certified Payroll Specialists (NACPS) has approved the CPS designation, which indicates a candidate's knowledge of QuickBooks, payroll, and accounting. An associate's or bachelor's degree in accounting, or completion of an approved education alternative, is required to obtain the CPS license. They must also have 2,000 hours of experience in bookkeeping, accounting, or payroll, agree to follow the professional code of conduct and pass a three-part exam. They must complete 16 hours of continuing professional education each year to keep their certification.

Getting the necessary certificates
Figure 4. Getting the necessary certificates

4. Payroll manager work environment

Payroll managers typically operate in an office setting and are in control of a team of other payroll experts. These managers also collaborate closely with other departments, such as accounting and human resources. While a payroll manager will spend the majority of the day working at a desk on a computer, they will also attend meetings, provide training sessions, and supervise activities in other parts of the company.

Payroll is a function that practically all businesses require, thus these specialists can operate in a wide range of industries and businesses, providing payroll and human resource support. They may work for a corporation or group, where they handle payroll and employee funds. Some may work for payroll service providers and have clients for whom they manage payroll tasks.


You must spend time and hard work building your skillset to be capable of a payroll manager position. Yeah, payroll management means you will take on more responsibilities and challenging tasks, but on the other hand, you can have a higher income and a better chance to develop more and more.

Source: Internet

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