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Supporting payroll staff during the extended lockdown

Feb 25, 2021

Despite being seen as a back-office function, the payroll function has been strong through the pandemic. Therefore, it is paramount to consider your payroll's well-being during this extended lockdown. Bróna Grogan tells us how.

With the onset of COVID-19, the payroll function has been pushed into the spotlight at a pace of overwhelming change. Before this, payroll was taken for granted – considered a back-office function. As we continue to navigate through various levels of lockdown, payroll leaders need to remain alert to their team’s needs and expectations, particularly their emotional and mental well-being, morale and motivation.

It is not yet known what the economic, health, societal and environmental impact of COVID-19 will be long term, only that the disruption caused by the pandemic is devastating. Bearing in mind that the payroll community thrives on structure, standard operating processes and procedures, team collaboration and ongoing support, the steps outlined below should provide some guidance on supporting our essential workers during the lockdown.

Check-in with payroll managers

Managing a payroll team onsite is vastly different to managing a virtual one. Open up communications with payroll managers to ensure they have the technological, social and psychological supports and training to enable them to manage their teams.

Coaching and mentoring

Never before has it been more important to create a safe psychological space for team members to reach out if they are going through a difficult time. It is imperative a coaching and mentoring environment is fostered for the team when they need it.

Conflict resolution

Without the luxury of proximity to work through potential client and peer conflict, seek a commitment that issues won’t fester and agree on a virtual process for conflict resolution by appointing an escalation team where necessary.

Cultivate trust and intimacy

In the absence of face-to-face and “water cooler” conversations, establish a contract with your team about how you will communicate – how often, what time and what medium to be used. Create a daily ‘huddle’ for all team members to check in with each other. Payroll deadlines offer little room for casual chats, so consider introducing some sort of informality to help people relax and connect at a deeper level.

Expect the unexpected

With the vaccination rollout programme underway, it is expected this current pandemic will resolve itself soon, but we can be assured it’s not the last time that we will be exposed to unexpected events. Therefore, build some time into your schedule to consider “what if” scenarios to ensure you have factored in a contingency in terms of payroll service continuity.

Keep technology simple

Regularly ensure that all team members have the required access to perform their roles and that it is a straightforward process to log on to virtual servers. Implement clear escalation procedures in the event a team member is having IT issues.

Lead by example

Use the same tools as your payroll team and maintain a presence despite being remote. Be accessible and available to your payroll managers and team, actively listening to their concerns when needed. Considering the needs of a payroller, adopt a business-as-usual stance, but be honest with your team about any potential concerns.

Roles and responsibilities

With the transition to remote working, perhaps roles have been modified in some way. Re-define those with your team so that there are clear expectations around deliverables mitigating any role ambiguity.

Virtual working with dispersed teams is likely here to stay, so finding ways to work effectively while channelling the collective energy of your payroll team is critical to individual and organisational success.

Bróna Grogan is and Executive Coach and the Group COO at Payment Plus.