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Payroll Corporate Culture Reflects Company’s Principles

BY: Daniel Thompson Jr. | 03/30/18

corporateculture2How would you describe your organization to a stranger? Are you a customer-centric business obsessed with achieving superior service? Does your firm exert relentless focus on maximizing profits and minimizing costs even at the expense of customer or employee satisfaction? Does it seem like your company is sometimes unsure of its identity?

How an organization interacts with its customers, employees, and suppliers speaks to its culture or “character” and reflects its beliefs, standards, and guiding principles on how it wants its business to be steered. Many organizations have codes of conduct, operating systems, or business practice/ethical conduct documents and/or trainings that speak to what an organization’s standards are regarding business conduct. But corporate culture is so much more complex than written standards. It is strongly influenced by factors such as how the top leadership communicates and demonstrates those standards, the people a company hires, and the level of accountability in an organization.

Corporate Culture Everyone’s Responsibility

For decades, the bulk of the responsibility for setting a positive public corporate image rested on the shoulders of marketing and customer service teams. Now, it is a burden more evenly distributed throughout all members of an organization. Thanks to social media, it only takes one positive or negative customer or employee interaction to change the perception of a company.

As you think about an organization’s culture, also think about the payroll operation within your own organization. Does the culture within payroll reflect or contradict that of the organization? As we think about the relationship between employee satisfaction and workplace standards, for example, payroll plays a crucial role in influencing how employees feel about where they work. In many respects, we are called on to be ambassadors of the organization because payroll departments demonstrate the following:

  • A high level of accuracy in its output to internal customers
  • Knowledgeable and forward thinking about the data it owns
  • Treat every issue with a high level of attention and resolve for accurate remediation

Ask yourself this: is your payroll operation doing its best to demonstrate a high level of service for your customers, or do you perpetuate a negative image of the company by how you treat them?

Frankly, having worked for/with many different payroll operations, I understand how tough it is to offer a high level of service to colleagues when it seems like the rest of the organization doesn’t care that much about how it treats its customers. When you lack resources, training, and other operational considerations, it can make someone feel undervalued. If left unchecked, it is a feeling we project onto those we serve. This influences corporate culture more than you might realize.

The Golden Rule for Payroll Service

If you find it hard to provide a high level of customer service due to a lack of operational resources, your next thought is, “How does one provide quality service in such an environment?” The answer: by doing what you can well and by treating others as you’d want to be treated. For example, if there was an issue with my check and the person processing payroll knew of it in advance of payday, I’d want someone to contact me to discuss the issue and its remediation as soon as possible. Simple gestures such as these show employees that the company, not just the payroll department, cares about them. Now, if the issue affects more than a few people, it may take more time and actions. The client I work for has more than 80,000 employees, and I shudder to think what I might do if an error impacting all of them occurred.

Regardless of the scale of the issue, being proactive always leads to better outcomes than being reactive. We also want to be careful not to undermine when great things happen, too. For those of us who serve in leadership capacities, I challenge you to think about the tone you set among your teams. Are you acknowledging excellence? If you are not, you are missing opportunities to establish a culture of continued excellence.

Whether you work for a small payroll operation serving fewer than 100 employees or one with hundreds of thousands, our influence on corporate culture is significant and should not be taken lightly. There’s an adage that payroll only gets noticed when something goes wrong. However, we are a generation of payroll professionals who can change that idea into one where payroll gets noticed because it matters. We can control that narrative by making exceptional service a standard instead of an aspiration. This will impact the overarching organizational culture in tremendous ways.


Daniel Thompson Jr. is Senior Manager of International Payroll and Accounting for UTIO and a member of the Board of Contributing Writers for PAYTECH.