If you have recently started your own business or only employ a small number of people, chances are you’re managing the books yourself. However, as your company grows and you start to hire a range of people – such as full-time employees, contractors and seasonal workers – figuring out their rate of pay in compliance with statutory regulations becomes more complex. The responsibilities can become fairly technical when it comes to preparing, processing, distributing, maintaining and verifying employee attendance and related records.
Depending on the size and scope of your business, you may decide to hire in-house payroll personnel or outsource this task to a specialized company. For example, you may decide to hire a seasoned professional who has an in-depth background in accounting, strong computer skills, and knowledge of the latest government regulations to prepare reports.
Whatever you decide is best for your business, there are a number of characteristics that are key to managing the books, no matter the sector and type of company or role that you operate in. Besides the obvious skills that a payroll professional should possess, here are five important traits to consider when hiring someone for the job.
When dealing with something as sensitive as payroll, you can almost guarantee that the person you hire is going to ruffle feathers at some point. There will be times when the individual is in the unenviable position of delivering bad news to people who don't want to hear it.
For obvious reasons, small business owners don’t like being told that their company is not in good shape financially, nor is it pleasant to have employees arguing about their paychecks. Needless to say, it can be a very emotionally-charged atmosphere. It’s important for the person you hire to enter into these discussions equipped with all of the necessary information to have a data-backed conversation.
In larger organizations, there may be a little bit more hierarchy involved. Regardless, the person in this position must be clear, upfront and honest. After all, it's in everyone’s best interest to look objectively at the financial standing of the company.
- Detail-oriented and organized
When you’re put in charge of dollars and cents, precision is of the utmost priority. A great payroll specialist thrives on digging into the numbers and carefully combing over every document, ensuring that everything is in perfect order.
It’s not enough to be a math whiz: these individuals have to be meticulous about the way that they do their work and present it. Your business cannot afford to put a decimal in the wrong place. Similarly, not only do they have to stay up-to-date with the latest regulations, but they need to understand the ins and outs of the laws – including keeping abreast of eleventh-hour injunctions and what they may mean for your business.
Bookkeeping will invariably involve a mountain of information that will need to be handled carefully and efficiently. In an increasingly paperless world, you may not be dealing with reams of timesheets anymore, but being able to organize data for thousands of work hours is not necessarily simple just because it’s stored in the cloud.
That’s why savvy bookkeeping professionals are always on the lookout for ways to increase efficiency. Today, there is no reason for anyone to have to manually enter hours or duplicate entries when it comes to employee hours. Time tracking and scheduling applications such as Timesheet Mobile’s solution automates the employee time tracking process and integrates with your existing software, such as Quickbooks or FreshBooks, to save you time and money.
The workplace would run better if everybody met their deadlines, but this is non-negotiable for these professionals, who need to function like clockwork.
Any delays in receiving a paycheck is no joke for the workers who are counting on getting paid on a specific day. For them, a late paycheck might translate into a late fee from the electric company, an overdraft fee from the bank or even the ability to put food on the table.
In addition to unhappy employees, if whomever you hire does not complete tasks on time, this also risks putting management in serious jeopardy on a number of fronts. Missed deadlines for taxes, regulatory compliance and wages can get a business in trouble with the law – which can invariably result in fines and put a dent in the company’s reputation.
- Strong communication skills
Just because bookkeepers deal with lots of numbers, that doesn’t mean he or she is isolated from the rest of the organization. The key to being great in this role is not only the ability to master the complexities of the bookkeeping system, but also to communicate them to others within the company.
Let’s face it – as a small business owner, you may not be particularly numbers-oriented, or have as much insight into the minutiae. Having an executive who can generate reports, close monthly books, and accurately handle absence payments, commissions, bonuses, manual checks and other financial matters is critical. It’s important to find someone who can take control of these tasks and explain the implications in layperson’s terms.
Additionally, these specialists may also need to provide employee assistance in a timely manner. Whether it’s adding a new hire to the system or responding to detailed questions on taxes withheld on an employee's paycheck, this person should be someone your team feels comfortable approaching directly.
As a small business owner, it’s important to realize that bookkeeping not only affects the company’s overall profitability, but also the hiring and retention of employees. Being able to successfully run this department demonstrates how well a company can manage its expenses, profits and other financial decisions.
Depending on your company size and structure, specialists may need to work directly with your HR manager to review salaries, bonuses and promotions, and also be able to talk intelligently about broader financial and operational issues. Whatever the case, this individual should be able to provide a comprehensive analysis of your company’s finances, and collaborate with the team to resolve any challenges or concerns.
Enhancing traits and skills
With wage and hour obligations at the federal, state and city levels changing constantly, these professionals operate in an ever-changing industry.
Fortunately, the American Payroll Organization, the leading authority in educating industry professionals, offers access to the latest resources such as webinars, eBooks, conferences, and even grants for professionals interested in devoting time to professional development.
At , we work closely with both individual specialists and outsourced accountants, bookkeepers and software vendors, making sure that hours worked by your team seamlessly integrate with your existing system. By instantly and accurately calculating and processing employee hours, our system automates functions previously prone to human error – and empowers you and your team to focus on more critical and strategic ways of mastering your finances.