The payroll perspective on psychological safety: 3 areas you need to watch

Payroll professional feeling stressed at computer

As you probably know from keeping up with this blog, psychological safety is a term that's being talked about in organizations everywhere right now. The goal of psychological safety in the workplace is to create an environment where all people feel secure, accepted, and respected. In my years of experience, HR has always played a key role in supporting the psychological safety of their employees, but I've rarely seen organizations that look at this area of focus from a payroll perspective. Payroll teams play such a critical role in the success of your organization and your people, and they should be a top priority for executives when implementing strategies around psychological safety.

There are many challenges that specifically impact payroll professionals — and that payroll professionals have an impact on for other employees — and these can't be overlooked. Organizations need to closely examine these impacts to ensure that their payroll teams feel secure and are equipped to handle the demands put on them. Let's explore three areas you should consider when it comes to psychological safety for payroll professionals:

1. Remote payroll

One of the main areas to consider is how payroll professionals are handling payroll operations in a remote setting. There's no question that the global pandemic forced many payroll professionals to shift from in office work to a remote work model for processing payroll. This shift in their work environments has put increased pressure on the payroll teams who have had to adopt remote processes. Everything from their remote workspace setup to the means through which they handle everyday payroll tasks adds different dimensions that change the nature of the job.

Remote payroll teams need to ensure that they are delivering the same high-quality service to their employees as they did while working in an office setting and for many this has created additional stress. Many payroll teams struggle with how to effectively answer employee questions that traditionally would come from employees walking into their office, or how they communicate critical updates around compliance and keeping data secure from their homes. Because of this, employers need to equip their remote payroll teams with the same level of tools and resources they had while working in the office. To get there, many organizations are turning to cloud-based technology to help their payroll teams feel secure with their payroll operations in a remote setting.  

Organizations are evaluating HR and payroll technologies that allow them to communicate timely information, ensure their data is secure, efficiently track and apply ever-changing, increasingly complex labor regulations, and provide them with accurate and timely insight into their people data. The integration of HR, payroll, and time data helps remote payroll teams ensure that they are delivering payroll in a timely, accurate, and efficient manner regardless of where they are working. These modern, digital payroll approaches are essential to success if you've had to move your payroll organization remote.

2. In-office payroll

Other payroll professionals have continued their payroll operations throughout the pandemic in the office setting, which leads to a separate set of concerns for payroll teams. Organizations need to consider the emotions their in-person teams are dealing with while working in the office. With the ever-evolving strains of COVID-19, payroll professionals have heightened fears and concerns around exposure. Payroll needs to ensure that every employee is paid on time, but what happens if a payroll professional is exposed to the virus or they need time off to care for family member who is ill?  What does your backup plan look like?  Do you offer flexible and agile options around scheduling and time off for your payroll team?  For payroll professionals working in the office, answering these and other questions to secure their psychological safety is a must.

Organizations need to take every measure to ensure their people's security and safety in in-person environments. One of the best ways to help is to offer technology that can account for individuals who have received the COVID-19 vaccination and offers contact tracing capabilities that can help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. These tools help organizations identify risks and notify employees in a timely manner. When payroll is equipped with this kind of insight, they can be better prepared to continue with their payroll operations, even if they suddenly find themselves shifting to a remote setting like we already discussed. This may also be an opportunity for payroll to work flexible schedules or work from home to ensure their safety and the continuity of payroll.

3. Payroll's broader impact on your people

The next area of consideration is how payroll supports psychological safety for the wider employee population. The times we're living in are like no other, and many employees are living paycheck to paycheck. They expect their employers to do everything possible to ensure that they're looking out for them. Employees need the security of knowing that the service payroll provides is stable and reliable. They need the confidence that their paychecks are accurate and will be delivered on time. If payroll teams are processing payroll manually or have to pull data from multiple sources to process payroll, it can result in inaccurate or untimely payments, further complicating the problem.

Because payroll touches every area of the business, it's critical that organizations evaluate their payroll service delivery strategies. Payroll teams need to evaluate every option to ensure that their employees are getting the best service during these challenging times.

One of the most important things payroll professionals can do is set up centrally standardized payroll management policies and procedures for all workers. This will ensure that everyone in the company knows what is expected from your payroll service and support. Next, provide your employees with access to important and timely pay information and resources. Technology that offers self-service for employees to access pay information and update personal information like W4 changes, address changes, and direct deposit information helps employees feel secure about their pay.

A strong payroll solution that's connected to all your other HR processes can provide employees with confidence that their pay is calculated accurately and will be delivered on time. For those individuals that need early access to funds, organizations need to provide electronic pay info and payment options like direct deposit or earned wage access that deliver employees' pay on or even before payday, as well as letting them access their pay information at any time. Streamlining your payroll processes with a best-in-class HCM solution will ensure your employees can trust that their pay is stable and reliable.

Getting practical: What steps can you take now?

Regardless of if your payroll team is remote, in-person, or you offer some type of hybrid model, one of the best things organizations can do to provide a psychologically safe environment is understand their team's needs and wants. Every organization is different, but asking your payroll team a few questions to start can help ensure that they feel valued and heard. Knowing the answers to these questions can help you better align your business strategy and ensure the psychological safety of your payroll teams:

  1. How does your payroll team prefer to work? In-office, remote, or hybrid?
  2. What is working and what needs to change with your payroll operations?
  3. What are the steps involved in your payroll processes? Are your payroll processes creating more work for your payroll team?
  4. What does your payroll communication plan look like? Is it difficult for payroll to communication important information to employees?
  5. How is your payroll team feeling? Are they frustrated, burnt out, fatigued, etc.?
  6. What measures do you have in place to ensure the physical safety of your employees? Are you monitoring and tracking exposure to the virus? Are you providing equipment to ensure the safety of your employees?
  7. What is your service delivery model? Are you listening and taking the payroll team's concerns into consideration when making decisions?
  8. What tools and resources are available? Do your payroll teams and employees have the tools they need to succeed in and out of the office?
  9. How is your payroll team contributing to the mission and vision of the organization? Does your payroll team feel a part of the organization?
  10. What do your payroll teams and employees need more generally to feel psychologically safe?

Another way to gain this information is with HR technology that provides options for surveying your people. A sentiment analysis survey can give the organization a better understanding of how your payroll team is feeling in regard to psychological safety in the workplace so you can make adjustments where needed.

Conclusion: Payroll's role in promoting psychological safety is critical

We all know that we can't operate a business without paying our employees. Whether you have remote employees or in-office workers, everyone needs confidence that the organization is creating a safe, secure, and financially stable work environment.

Taking the time to understand payroll's perspective on the psychological safety of the business can help eliminate potential payroll problems and errors. A strong HR technology solution can add value to your payroll processes and help you make the changes you need to ensure the psychological safety of your payroll team and empower them to succeed.

See how to empower payroll