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Are You Paying Your Payroll Clerks Enough?

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Having a top-notch payroll clerk on staff is essential for small businesses. These professionals can make or break the morale of your other employees — and even their willingness to work for you — by ensuring everybody gets paid accurately and on time. Or not.

But the 2020 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals reports that employers are struggling to hire skilled employees, with payroll professionals among the most in-demand. Salary, benefits and your hiring process can combine to make a big difference in this area.

In an ongoing talent shortage, it's crucial to keep pace with your rival companies and their compensation packages so you can make an offer that won't be refused - and ensure current workers don't leave for greener pastures.

Examine your payroll clerk salary
The Salary Guide puts the midpoint starting salary (or median national salary) for a payroll clerk at $40,250. Our Salary Calculator can help you further zero in on the going rate for these professionals in your city.

Keep in mind that these figures don't include incentives, bonuses or other forms of compensation. While offering a competitive payroll clerk salary is one of the best ways to attract and retain talent, workers also look for jobs with a range of benefits and perks.

Many organizations now go beyond traditional benefit packages, supplementing them with wellness programs that cover physical fitness, mental health and even financial well-being. Workers surveyed for our Salary Guide most value employer-paid access to gyms, ergonomic evaluations and equipment, and wellness incentives that award prizes for healthy behaviors.

To remain competitive, employers are also responding to employee demands for incentives and perks. Of companies polled, 33% plan on adding new incentives like spot bonuses and profit-sharing to attract and retain top talent, and 43% intend to increase the average dollar amount of incentives.

Smaller businesses that can't match the salaries of larger companies may be able to sway talent with desirable perks, especially those that have a positive impact on work-life balance. Some of the most common offerings include flexible work schedules or telecommuting options, paid parental leave, employee discounts, company-subsidized meals, paid volunteer time off, and matching programs for employee donations and fundraising efforts.

Find a great payroll clerk
The basic duties of a payroll clerk include data entry, timecard reconciliation, paycheck distribution and customer service. Payroll clerks must be detail-oriented and quick with numbers. They should also be proficient with Microsoft Office applications, and will ideally have experience with your company's payroll software, such as ADP, QuickBooks, Kronos or Workday.

But technical abilities are only part of the picture. Outstanding candidates possess a variety of soft skills, including:

  • Adaptability — As technology continues to impact finance operations, the way companies approach payroll and accounting is rapidly evolving. Savvy payroll clerks embrace these changes.
  • Collaboration and communication — Payroll clerks often work across departments, and communication is key in collaborative efforts. Top candidates should have a history of cross-departmental teamwork and be able to break down complex payroll concepts.
  • Leadership — Payroll managers are among the most in-demand positions in accounting and finance. When hiring payroll clerks, look for individuals with leadership skills who can be groomed to advance within your organization.
  • Grace under pressure — Salary and benefits are touchy subjects and can be confusing to some employees. Payroll clerks may often be required to deal with frustrated colleagues. Candidates must be able to maintain their composure and handle these interactions with a delicate touch.
  • Confidentiality — These professionals are privy to private and proprietary data, so standout candidates should be up to date on the latest in data protection and cybersecurity.

Tips on making an efficient hire
Top payroll talent won't stay on the market long, so you need to move quickly when you identify an excellent candidate. Here are three ways to make recruitment more efficient:

  1. Streamline your hiring process by having clear processes and approvals, as this will allow you to make an offer as soon as a capable candidate is located.
  2. Update your payroll clerk job description so you attract the right applicants in the first place. Be certain to highlight salary, benefits, perks and unique aspects of your organizational culture — an important factor to job seekers and, oftentimes, a selling point for smaller businesses.
  3. Work with a specialized staffing agency to locate talent. Doing so leads you to a deeper talent pool with more potential payroll professionals. It can also save you time, as recruitment specialists can evaluate applicants and narrow down promising prospects before you even look at a resume.

Small businesses are just as capable of landing and retaining top finance talent as their larger counterparts. Hold your own against more sizable organizations with a competitive payroll clerk salary and compensation package, as well as an expedited hiring process.


This article was first published on the Robert Half International blog. Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has 300 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services can be found on the Accountemps website.