Payroll doesn’t really have a quiet season. It just has different levels of busy. Some periods are certainly more hectic than others, and year end — with closing running up against holiday scheduling — is certainly one of those times that can have a detrimental effect on motivation in the workplace.
As a payroll manager, you can make your team’s job easier — as well as your own — by checking in regularly to ask about their workload and any problems or frustrations they may be encountering. Stressed workers are more likely to make mistakes — and incur costly penalties — than ones who are happy with their job.
No, you can’t remove every stress factor, but here are six ways you can help increase their motivation in the workplace.
1. Recognize hard work
If your payroll staff has been putting in extra hours to get through a busy period, they deserve some recognition. The gesture can be simple, like calling out a worker’s exemplary behavior in an all-team email, or buying bagels or doughnuts for everyone. For people who have gone above and beyond, such as coming in on a weekend to complete data migration or wrap up financial reporting, thank them with a gift card or an extra vacation day.
Robert Half’s report on workplace happiness shows one of the key drivers of job satisfaction for finance and accounting professionals is feeling appreciated for the work they do. To help workers stay motivated, be sure to make your efforts are specific, timely and sincere.
2. Customize your feedback
Your employees are individuals who want to know how they’re doing and where they can improve. But you need to fine-tune the amount of feedback you give them: Too little, and some might feel neglected. Too much, and others will feel smothered. Many Generation Z employees, for example, expect consistent and frequent comments from their boss. On the other hand, your boomer payroll workers may see regular feedback as meddling micromanaging. Work with each person to find that just-right level of boss-to-employee communication.
3. Engage in training and development
Professional development and training are essential for broadening your workers’ skills base. What’s more, when you invest in them, they return that investment with greater loyalty and engagement. Training often gets pushed to the back burner when things become manic, but don’t let busyness get in the way. Besides, who doesn’t welcome a little break from their daily tasks?
A common form of professional development is the brown bag lunch session, where attendees bring their own food and management supplies the guest speaker. For an extra treat, order pizza or box lunches for the whole gang. When there’s more time, plan for job rotation or job shadowing to promote a transfer of skills between team members. Payroll conferences are a great way for your staff to learn from industry leaders and their peers from around the country.
4. Present staff with interesting projects
Do you know how to motivate people who are frequently engaged in repetitive work? One way is with cool projects that stretch their talents and shake up the routine. For example, ask the group to list some payroll pain points, and then brainstorm solutions together. These could include reducing the error rate, moving toward paperless onboarding and improving payroll-related communication with company employees. By working on creative solutions together, you build a tighter team and empower staff to take ownership of their work.
5. Give the gift of time
During the busy season, you expect a certain amount of flexibility and extra time from your staff. During quieter periods, show that you’re equally flexible by allowing extra perks, such as flexible scheduling and additional work-from-home days. This is especially useful during the holidays, when employees are trying to balance their workload with the need to run errands and visit family. Being treated with fairness is another key driver of workplace happiness, and respecting your team’s work-life balance can really help boost staff engagement.
6. Bring in extra help
Even the best payroll employees can mentally check out when they’re stressed and tired. This is especially true around the holidays, when so many other responsibilities compete for their attention. As you anticipate the department’s long to-do list for year-end closing and tax-related paperwork, make sure you’re adequately staffed. If not, work with a staffing agency that specializes in accounting professionals to access temporary payroll specialists. You can boost staff motivation by making sure your full-time employees aren’t overworked and can enjoy the season.
Employee engagement isn’t just some touchy-feely concept that you can leave or take. Helping your team stay motivated has net benefits all around: It’s good for staff, good for management and, ultimately, good for the bottom line.