Payday Podcast: Payroll is a Career

Many people in the business world only think of payroll when problems arise, and they tend not to give much thought to how it operates day-to-day. This means there’s often a lack of understanding about what being a payroll practitioner is like, and therefore the idea of exploring career opportunities within payroll is often overlooked.

The latest edition of the Payday Podcast sheds some light on the career opportunities within payroll. John Pearce, CloudPay’s SVP of Global Payroll, is joined by Melanie Pizzey, CEO of the Global Payroll Association. They discuss the perception and barriers that payroll career progression faces, how to get started within the industry, and how the GPA is working to break some of those barriers down.



The perception of payroll as a career

Many organizations all over the world are struggling to recruit in their payroll departments. Part of that, according to Melanie, is simply down to a lack of awareness of what payroll does.

“Everyone needs to get paid and there is always payroll in every organization,” she says. “But you wouldn’t believe the amount of times I’ve explained to someone that I work in the payroll industry and been asked ‘what is payroll?’. It obviously isn’t being talked about or thought about, because I think the only time people think of the payroll industry is when they don’t get paid correctly.”

On top of this, Melanie feels that the stresses of the pandemic, combined with expansion and globalization within the world of payroll, have exacerbated staff shortages. 

“I think people aren’t aware about the payroll industry as a career to get into - most people you speak to seem to just ‘fall into’ the industry,” Melanie adds. “And since the pandemic, there seems to be a shortage of payroll people because there are so many jobs and opportunities out there, all over the world. I think the pressure some people have worked under during the last two years means that they’ve wanted to change their job or have more flexibility, plus lots of people have just decided to retire.”


Getting involved in the industry

Because of issues around attracting experienced payroll staff, some organizations have started to look towards the younger end of the labor market, and encourage school and university leavers to pursue a career in payroll. Melanie emphasizes that payroll doesn’t necessarily need highly specialized skills.

“If you want a job in the payroll industry, people [employers] just want commitment,” she explains. “They want people who care about their job because you need to get your job right. Lots of people fall into payroll and find that they absolutely love it, so I thoroughly recommend giving it a go.”

John highlights that payroll is so universal around the world that people can use it as a way of working in whichever field they want to, and explore increased opportunities to travel and work overseas. “Working in payroll, you have an opportunity to be part of a positive employee experience, and you generally have good job security,” John adds.

The ideal payroll candidate

Naturally, organizations hiring payroll staff look for particular skills from prospective employees. John says there is a difference in what organizations desire, depending on the size of the employer and the knowledge base they already possess. However, he’s keen to stress that previous experience is less important in a candidate than commitment.

“Smaller companies generally look for people with experience, because they haven’t got that knowledge within their existing organization to onboard and train beginners,” John says. “Large companies with much larger payroll teams like CloudPay are really focused on bringing on entry-level employees: those who don’t necessarily have the experience but who we believe can make the commitment and take opportunities on. We’re finding most applicants we get for entry-level roles have 2-3 years experience of full-time work, so are relatively young, but are coming from a vast range of different areas.”


GPA’s payroll campaign

The GPA is working tirelessly to support better and more fulfilling careers in payroll, both for people already in the industry and those looking at coming into it. Melanie explains that whatever help people feel they need with working in payroll, the GPA is there to help.

“We’re starting a number of different campaigns, and we’re looking for people who can act as mentors, as well as people who feel they need independent support,” she says. “We’re also trying to encourage people who have had children who want to get back into part-time work and use their skill sets with flexibility. In addition, we also offer masterclasses on our website which are free for everyone, and they can support people in the industry who want to start reporting to the board and improve their skills.”


Listen to the full podcast here, and learn about payroll as a career in more detail, including what payroll staff enjoy the most from the industry, and how technology is making the industry more accessible than ever before.

To find out more on the initiatives of the Global Payroll Organization, explore #payrollisacareer on Twitter, contact Melanie directly on LinkedIn, or visit our careers page for a list of our current roles at CloudPay.