Once upon a time, payroll was manual – employers counted out cash into the hands of wage earners. Then payroll folks sat at desks with pencils and erasers and adding machines and calculated employees’ pay by hand. They added in pay types and subtracted out deductions, and typed or hand-wrote checks each week. It took many people to pay a company’s employees, and they were all cross-trained to perform payroll tasks. When one person left or retired, there were many other payroll people already trained who could jump in to fill their shoes.
Then someone realized that it would be simpler/easier/quicker to automate payroll with a computer! An automated payroll system would cut down on the number of people it took to process payroll, as well as the amount of time. Great strides were made in processing speed and accuracy. More employees were paid more accurately in less time with a smaller payroll staff. Corporate investments were made in Payroll Software rather than in Payroll Personnel, and cross-training morphed into documentation. Instead of a large group of employees knowing the intricacies of payroll processing, companies ended up with large payroll processing manuals.
In the honeymoon of automation, everything was wonderful and everyone was happy – Payroll staff liked the simpler tasks, employers liked the smaller staff, and both liked the improved speed and accuracy.
Then something happened that often occurs in comfortable pairings. Both parties became complacent, and took the easy relationship for granted. Neither party had to try very hard to maintain status quo, yet payroll kept right on running smoothly. Until one day someone in payroll retired…
Then Corporate Management realized that there was no one who knew how to mix the magic potion, no one who knew which buttons to push to pay all the hard working employees, no one who could keep the tax collectors satisfied. No one had been cross-trained to succeed the payroll staff.
One of the most common reasons for software change is that someone retires and leaves no one trained to continue with one of your company’s largest investments – your established payroll software. A seasoned staff member leaves and takes with them years of intellectual data because no one has prepared for succession training. Don’t get caught in this trap. Make it a priority to cross-train payroll staff and plan for someone to step in when key employees retire or change jobs!