Best PracticePerformance
August 18, 2016

Learning from the Phoenix disaster: Communication is key for payroll

Be clear, be direct, be open - and watch your organization flourish.

You’ve probably heard a lot in recent months about the Phoenix payroll disaster. Between unpaid wages, dodging emails and a deteriorating payroll system, the situation is nightmarish for many in the public sector.

While Scott Brison, the Liberal’s Treasury Board president, claims his party has “inherited a mess”, he cannot deflect all the blame for the disaster. The faulty implementation of the Phoenix system is certainly the root of the problem, but a lack of communication has no doubt aggravated the situation.

“Each time I contact the Pay Centre (I am able to get through once or twice a week, at most), I am given conflicting instructions and information every single time, and it seems as though no progress has been made whatsoever to remedy this situation,” said a student in an interview with CBC.  “… I have contacted Minister Judy Foote’s office, but to no avail. Minister Foote’s office lost my emails three times so far, and whenever I call back, I am told that they have no record of me.”

Good communications can have a huge impact on payroll and, beyond that, the whole organization. The Canadian Payroll Association has found that payroll professionals spend more time communicating with internal and external shareholders than on any other task, making communication a valuable skill.

Here are four ways, outlined by the CPA, that payroll practitioners can reap the rewards of good communication.

  1. Clarify the Message

Managing payroll encompasses many other issues – employment standards, taxable benefits, etc. For this reason, all outgoing messages need to be direct and to-the-point. A simple, tailored message will also help appeal to different stakeholders, like colleagues, management or third-parties.

  1. Influence Outcomes

Communication tactics can be effective in negotiations, discussions, and proposals. Whether you’re outlining an agreement for partners, advocating for the payroll department in the framework of the organization or trying to get colleagues to support the payroll function, good communication is key to driving your point.

  1. Delegate for Results

Payroll is a team endeavour, so take advantage of the support in the workplace. Communicating effectively, written and verbally, can help manage workflow between appropriate people. An environment that fosters questions, clarifications and explanations will speed up processes and build relationships.

  1. Develop EQ

EQ stands for emotional quotient, the counterpart of IQ (intelligence quotient). It measures how individuals react to thoughts, emotions and feelings for themselves and others. So as beneficial as it is to delegate and give orders, taking a step back and listening is equally important. Develop your EQ by training your listening skills, and learn to respond effectively to difficult or challenging situations.

Payroll practitioners are important – that’s no secret. In Canada, they are responsible for an annual payment of $901 billion in wages and taxable benefits and $305 billion in health and retirement benefits. And as we’ve seen with the Phoenix system, failure on their part can lead to chaos.

If you have any questions or want to learn more about the above tips, the CPA is hosting a seminar on Communication for the Payroll Professional.

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