Posted on March 6, 2012

Tips from a Paycor Payroll Expert: Arlene Baker

Arlene Baker has worked in payroll for 34 years and has been one of Paycor’s leading payroll experts since 1992. Arlene has been a member of the National and Greater Cincinnati and N. Kentucky Chapter of the American Payroll Association for 20 Years. She has served two terms as president-elect, president and a member of the board for the Greater Cincinnati and N. Kentucky chapter.

With payroll, the ultimate goal is to ensure that employees are paid accurately and timely. Achieving that goal is easy, if you have the proper process in place. Here are some tips on creating a successful payroll process for your company.

Focus on Training your Staff – When it comes to understanding payroll, experience is a very important factor. Experienced payroll specialists will inevitably have more knowledge on taxes, calculating earnings and Department of Labor regulations. Not everyone has a vast amount of experience in payroll, so it is important to effectively train new hires on correct payroll practices. Communicate to a new hire the importance of their training and the impact that their work has on the entire company. Also, develop a list of trusted resources that your company uses for payroll information. Payroll is always evolving—an employee needs to be ready to learn a lot of information, while understanding they will continually have to adapt to change.

Develop a Structured Calendar- A daily schedule can provide the structured environment that is critical to processing payroll. It allows you to prepare and analyze your day to eliminate problems. It also allows everyone within your payroll department to be on the same page. A daily calendar will provide less confusion on what needs to be completed, who needs to complete it and when it needs to be completed. Eventually, if your entire department understands their responsibilities, the calendar will provide a blueprint for your payroll department’s day, week and month.

Define Job Duties – Defining an employee’s overall job responsibility is important in setting expectations of responsibilities. This description should provide a detailed view of the job's goals, responsibilities and duties. As a payroll manager, it is important that you clearly express those details through the job description and verbally in individual meetings. If an employee is unsure of their responsibilities, they will be less effective in their job. Eliminate this risk by being clear on responsibilities from the beginning and frequently following up with the employee. A clear and consistent message on responsibilities will benefit both the employee and the employer.

Be Prepared for Processing – Prepare, prepare, prepare. Ask yourself questions about what needs to be done, what could go wrong and how you can mitigate risks. For example, ask yourself what are the pay policies for your company? Are the steps for entering payroll ready? Do you have a backup plan if things do not follow plan? Always have a secondary plan and be ready for the unexpected. Make sure that your team also understands the answers to your payroll questions. One employee mistake can cause tremors throughout your payroll process. Understand your processing and then communicate that message to your payroll team.

Create and Communicate a Clear Pay Policy – Again, ask yourself questions about your pay policy and make sure you are effectively communicating your company’s message to employees. Have you defined pay policies in the employee manual? Do you allow for checks to be delivered by mail or can the employee pick them up? If so, are the employees required to have ID to receive the checks? How you manage paying your employees will eliminate mistakes in the long run. You may want to consider polling some of your employees to see if they understand their pay policy. Create a survey of questions to see if they want more information on certain issues. Be open with employees and allow them to feel comfortable asking questions about the payroll process. Ultimately, doing this will help your employees and reduce the hassle of future mistakes.

At Paycor, we make it our mission to ensure an hassle-free payroll and HR experience. Over the years, we have helped thousands of companies accurately process their payroll. We offer a number of products and services to make your job easier. If you have any questions about payroll or suggestions for future topics, please email