Run a payroll service? Three key changes to boost your service

If you work in the payroll industry, you’ll recognise the high demand for change. Companies are under pressure to streamline, scale-up and improve service provision.

Payroll customers, both internal or external, want top service levels and external customers expect extremely competitive costs. Who wouldn’t?

We spoke with shared service centres, accountants who offer payroll services and payroll bureaux – we identified three key changes to boost service provision, and have detailed how you can get there:

1) Act as a true team

Most payroll staff believe they work in a payroll team – but more often than not, what you’ve actually got is a group of individuals working on specific, isolated payrolls.

In a true team approach, people are much more connected and can work across multiple payrolls with ease. It doesn’t mean you won’t have preferred payrolls, speed and efficiency in payroll are key, but a true team shares workload to increase long term efficiency.

Working as a team removes the pressure on individuals during high intensity moments, because you can flex tasks between all the team members.


  • Centralise customer-specific payroll information and make sure the team can access it.
  • Split out each payroll into the individual “tasks” that need to happen in order to process it.
  • Mature and document the payroll process for each client, so anyone in the team can undertake the tasks if the “primary” person is absent.
  • Make someone an owner of this information, so it’s always kept up to date and optimised.

2) Capture Key Data

You can’t fix something if you don’t know how it became broken and a lack of information about a process can result in an inability to improve it. Capturing data like when tasks were completed late, how late they were and the reasons they were late will enable you to identify what’s not working so you can start to improve.


  • Agree realistic timescales for each task in a payroll process – how long it takes to complete and what the tasks deadline is. Start out with sensible best guesses and refine as you go.
  • Get your customers bought into these timescales. If your customer knows what they should be doing, and by when, they are more likely to deliver to it. They can also then appreciate the impact if they don’t deliver.
  • Analyse your success. On each payrun, how behind or in front of the task deadlines, that you set for yourself, are you?
  • Identify what needs to change. Are you leaving your team enough time to process each task? Is the customer’s data always arriving late? Recognising where the problems start and how they impact you allows you to identify where change should be applied and remove inefficiencies.
  • Keep improving. Make sure your team are bought into the changes so there’s no confusion. Repeating the steps mean that it can be done bit by bit over time.

3) Plan Ahead

We found one of the biggest issues within payroll services was that it was hard to predict how busy the workload would be in future months. A common response is: “We don’t plan that far as it will all change anyway” or “We’ve planned it, but we have to check it closer to the time to ensure it’s accurate”.


  • When you’ve completed steps one and two above, each payroll task will have a duration and a deadline. You can use this template to plan ahead.
  • You’ll already know the customer’s specific payroll rules from working closely with them. For example, most have a preference for whether the pay date has to move forward or back if it falls on bank holidays or weekend.
  • You can create a template for each payrun, working backwards from the pay date to calculate the days each task lands on. If you’ve got lots of similar payruns, it’s easy to use this template across all, or tweak when where necessary.
  • From this you can see whether the weekly, monthly and yearly tasks collide and cause resourcing issues.
  • You can now plan for this in advance, with confidence. This way you can aim to always be a rolling year ahead.

What could the service look like?

By implementing the three steps above you could look forward to:

  • Increased efficiency
  • Increased profit margins
  • A happier payroll team
  • Clients that are bought into the process
  • Being able to plan ahead with high confidence in the plan
  • Fewer last minute rushes and lower workload peaks

Payroll managers can spend less time firefighting, and more time managing, tracking and improving the processes.

You may find relationships between roles changing; account managers will be able to have conversations with payroll clerks about their clients. Reliable data will be available to back up the conversation. A payroll clerk and payroll team lead/manager will be able to have discussions on how it is going, but based around quantitative data as well as the qualitative.

Payflow can help you achieve this

We’ve designed Payflow with these things in mind – making it simpler to plan, observe, monitor and control the payroll service provision.

Get in touch to find out more: | | 020 3757 9022