Payroll is no longer a static, straight-forward job — it’s a dynamic career that can make big contributions to a company’s bottom line with the right tools and training. And in a world of remote work, cloud-based business systems and expanded data analytics, payroll education has to be ongoing.
Around the world, payroll institutions are working to ensure the certifications they offer reflect the trends affecting payroll management. Many countries don’t have a payroll association or institute yet, but, “This will likely change with time, and we could see more country-specific education in payroll,” says Curtis Tatum, In-House Counsel and Senior Director of Federal Payroll Compliance at PayrollOrg. As a global payroll provider, ADP keeps on top of local legislative changes and provides educational content to payroll professionals via blogs, newsletters, webinars and events.
Tatum says the pandemic was a catalyst for more virtual training. “We had online training before the pandemic, but with Zoom and similar technologies, virtual education went further, and anyone from anywhere around the world could access our trainings as long as they had the required technology,” he says.
Here are some highlights from the state of payroll education in 2023.
Payroll education around the world
With the advent of advanced payroll software and automated systems, payroll managers need to acquire additional skills related to technology and data analysis, according to Kumar Ajit, payroll trainer at India’s Institute of Payroll Training and Management.
“In recent times, our courses have been enriched to include programs in data management, VBA automation and analytics,” Ajit says. “This is because payroll professionals must have the skills to maximize the use of the technology on which various types of payroll software are built.”
Today, the main certification required for payroll managers in India is the Certified Indian Payroll Professional (CIPP) offered by the Institute. Areas covered include payroll processing, statutory compliance, taxation and payroll software usage, and the course can be completed in one month with four days of training per week.
According to Ajit, the use of technology has streamlined payroll processes, allowing for increased accuracy and efficiency while reducing manual effort. “Payroll education and training programs are evolving so that professionals are equipped with the necessary skills to leverage technology effectively on the job,” Ajit says.
In the U.K., payroll is not a regulated profession, according to Vickie Graham, the business development director at the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP).
“Anyone can start working in payroll for an organization or providing a service to clients, without any prior experience or qualifications,” she says. “This creates a big compliance risk when considering the huge amount of money collected and paid to the government as income tax and National Insurance contributions.”
Graham says that certifications at the CIPP range from level three to level seven to provide training for payroll professionals at every stage of their careers. She also says that more courses are now taking place online.
“We are using new tools to improve the design and delivery of our eLearning modules, as well as cutting-edge AI narration and video generation to make learning accessible to everyone,” Graham says.
The CIPP has developed a payroll competency framework that outlines the skills expected at each stage of a manager’s payroll career. The framework outlines the technical and soft skills required and links to the Institute’s membership levels, training and qualifications programs.
“Most recently, our Payroll Technician Certificate Advanced program was updated to include three modules previously not covered, namely automatic enrollment, salary sacrifice and data protection, which are all increasingly important amongst payroll teams,” Graham says.
The National Payroll Institute of Canada offers two designations for Canadian payroll professionals: the foundational Payroll Compliance Professional (PCP) for those administering payroll, and the advanced Payroll Leadership Professional (PLP) designed for those with oversight in a payroll department. This could include setting strategy, managing a team or developing key performance indicators.
“For our designation holders, there are continuing professional education (CPE) requirements to maintain their designations,” says Steven Van Alstine, the institute’s Vice President of Education. “PLPs are required to complete 21 CPE hours on an annual basis, and PCPs must complete 14 CPE hours in a year.”
Van Alstine says the institute is working to enhance payroll educational programs to address the impact of advancing technology such as AI and automation on payroll.
“We have recently undertaken a study with PwC on the future of payroll, in regard to the necessary education and training needed,” he says. “The outcome of the study was that artificial intelligence and machine learning will impact payroll, just as they will impact many other parts of any organization, in the coming years. With that in mind, we’ve been working to enhance our educational programs to reflect this reality.”
While these new technologies may automate some aspects of payroll, Van Alstine also sees an opportunity for payroll professionals to step back from some mundane administrative tasks and take on more strategic roles within their organization.
“We’ve been working to enhance our educational offerings to prepare Canadian payroll professionals with the tools and skills they’ll need to have a seat at the table to leverage data analytics, and to be able to offer business insights through payroll,” says Van Alstine.
The National Payroll Institute offers a variety of professional development options, from Excel Pivot Tables to Year End Reporting, for professionals to continuously grow their expertise. Courses are available as seminars and webinars.
In Australia, there are two nationally recognized payroll qualifications: the Certificate IV in Payroll Administration, which must be completed within 12 months, and the Diploma of Payroll Management. Continuing education in payroll is delivered in the form of online short courses that focus on updating professionals on the latest legislation and the most accurate payroll calculations.
The Australian Payroll Association said recently that only 6% of domestic payroll departments reported they would focus on training in 2023. The Australian Payroll Association’s 2019 Benchmarking Report found that the average payroll manager had just 2.6 days of training a year. “Yet they are responsible for millions of dollars in payments and ensuring those payments meet the law,” APA CEO Tracy Angwin wrote. “With employee payment legislation constantly changing, it is crucial for payroll managers to have the relevant qualifications and to keep updating their knowledge by attending training sessions regularly.”
There are two types of certifications for payroll professionals in the United States: the entry-level Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) and the Certified Payroll Professional (CCP), both administered by PayrollOrg — formerly the American Payroll Association and the Global Payroll Management Institute.
FPC applicants must continue their education in payroll through 60 certification hours over a three-year period. The CCP certification requires prerequisites such as an 18-month or two-year practicing experience, after which the applicant has to take a certain number of courses depending on their length of experience. The CCP certification is valid for five years and maintained through 120 recertification hours during this time period, without which the exam has to be taken again.
France does not have a formal payroll educational body. There are several private organizations that offer payroll education and certifications, including the Professional Certificate in Payroll Fundamentals, which takes 160 hours to complete and is aimed at professionals wishing to acquire the basic skills to manage payroll for an organization.
There’s also a Payroll Manager Skills Certificate, in which professionals learn payroll techniques, master the legal and accounting framework, and gain the skills to be able to audit their company’s remuneration system. This takes 260 hours to complete.
In Japan, payroll education is achieved in two stages. In the beginner level, known as the 2nd Grade, the payroll officer learns about fundamentals including labor compliance, how to perform basic payroll calculations, and creating payslips. Course participants also learn to perform normal salary calculations and bonus calculations other than year-end adjustments.
In the advanced 1st Grade, candidates are expected to understand labor laws and taxation, and learn to handle complex systems and irregular salary systems. They also learn all operations related to payroll calculation throughout the year, including year-end adjustments, and carry out incidental procedures such as social insurance and tax while leading payroll operations.
There’s also a Salary Calculation Practical Ability test, which is a certification that can be renewed every two years. Candidates are expected to apply three to six months before their certification’s expiration date.
Ever-changing payroll landscapes
Nathan North, the Director of Strategic Initiatives at PayrollOrg, says pandemic upheavals led to changes in payroll and labor laws in many countries. Countries including Spain, Thailand and Mexico implemented digital nomad visas for people who had come to their countries to live and work remotely.
And the legislative changes don’t seem to be slowing down even though the pandemic has waned. “In the first quarter of 2023, there were over 190 statutory updates in the United States at various stages,” North says.
Technology is another primary reason why payroll education must be ongoing. North says the current hot topics for payroll professionals are machine learning and AI.
“We used the process of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for every major milestone in the payroll process, using six RPAs,” North says. “This affects payroll education because people must give the step-by-step directions the RPA must follow. The payroll manager must understand not just the payroll process but also the RPA technology, which is a foundation for machine learning or AI.”
Although the RPA will be automating tasks, it’s crucial for payroll experts to understand the process to build compliance into the system. A payroll professional’s education is never finished.
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