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Ghosts of Payrolls Past

I will never forget this experience as long as I live. It was probably the worst experience of my career!

The company that I was working for at the time had acquired a new company to expand their service areas. With the acquisition came new systems and processes. The acquisition deal closed only four months before Christmas. But allow me to back up for a second. The acquisition was announced and two months later it was finalized and closed. I had the pleasure of being on several integration teams. During our integration meetings, I quickly realized that it would be difficult to get all the necessary information and access to make the transition seamless so we had to trust the information we had and process accordingly.

My department was still responsible for the daily routines that occur within a payroll department. Contrary to popular belief, payroll is much more than “pressing a button” and there really is work being done when we aren’t processing payroll – just had to get that off my chest.

Any who – in addition to the normal goings-on in the department, my team and I were responsible for a laundry list of tasks that had to be completed before and after the acquisition deal closed and still process an error free (or as close to error free as possible) payroll for our current employees. There really weren’t enough hours in a day to get this all done without a complete meltdown within payroll. Let’s fast forward to December. We still weren’t intimate enough with the data that we received from the acquired company to fully understand the information that we received and processed. We didn’t know what we didn’t know!

Excuse me for another soapbox moment: Payroll production requires input from multiple sources: managers, employees, timekeepers, and payroll. We can’t validate your hours because we don’t know what it should or shouldn’t be. Nor do we look at your pay unless we have to do some manual entry for whatever reason or your payroll earnings or deductions are flagged on an exception report. The success of said production depends on a successful partnership and input from all parties involved.

OK….I’m off my soapbox now!!

The data we received for the Christmas paychecks looked slightly different from previous payrolls, but we were told that the data may appear that way when prior payroll corrections were submitted. So we figured they just had many corrections. Little did we know that the corrections were triggered by changes made in the system – changes that were not made by anyone in payroll.

We proceeded and processed what we had. The payday a few days before Christmas was easily the worst day of my career. The phones in my department rang nonstop. We were cussed out and called everything but the children of God. These people honestly thought we set out to ruin their Christmas because:

1. the system processed the data as it was submitted to us but they needed someone to blame 2. they were already upset because they didn’t want to be acquired in the first place and 3. we were easy targets because in their eyes our product was defective.

Although we only processed the information (input) we received, we still got the brunt of it. We pulled together and did what we could to get money wired into their accounts. Many received their money later that day, but the damage was already done. I don’t think our reputation ever fully recovered from that, even though my department was not the root cause of any of it.

I learned a lot from that experience; lessons that I’ve been able to apply to many things in my professional life. I think about that experience every time Christmas rolls around; it haunts me. Hopefully you received your full paycheck just in time for Christmas. Merry Christmas!!!

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