Documenting payroll procedures: All-purpose solution to everything

What if there was a way you could solve your new-hire training problems, identify areas that can be improved and aid in disaster planning? According to Raeann Hofkin, CPP, East Region Payroll Manager, Mobilex, USA, there is: Documenting the entire flow of the payroll process. Hofkin spoke at the American Payroll Association’s Annual Congress, held earlier this year.

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Getting started. Your goal is to create a document that actually gets used. To do that, according to Hofkin, you need to ask these six questions:

  1. Who does it?
  2. What is being done?
  3. When is it being done?
  4. Why is it being done?
  5. How is it being done?
  6. What happens if it’s not done?

Start by gathering your inputs—list all the activities payroll employees perform and every form they touch. Every computer screen should be analyzed, as well. Then, review your outputs—what reports are you generating, who gets them, who needs them, why are they needed? Sometimes managers continue to get reports out of habit, not because they really need them, Hofkin said.

Writing it right. The document should be concise, easy to read, easy to search and easy to edit, Hofkin noted.

Hofkin’s tips: Assume your reader knows nothing. Use simple sentences with short words. Use flow charts and other graphics for material that’s easy to explain, and take screen shots for information that’s hard to describe. And don’t forget to use hyperlinks, she added. As a quality control measure, the document should be reviewed by employees and peers. After that, your document should have a departmental and managerial review.

CARE AND FEEDING: Your documentation isn’t any good unless it’s current, so planning for continuous updates is key. If there’s a new payroll process or a change to an existing payroll process, changes to your documentation need to be made during implementation, Hofkin said. She also proposed that each task be audited annually.