From humble beginnings in Rotorua to changing the face of payroll

This is a text post with an image of Shelley Costello. She is wearing glasses, is smiling at the camera and has pink lipstick on. The text reads: "Shelley Costello joins KeyPay as our NZ Product Specialist".

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon, Shelley Costello jumps onto a Zoom call from her countryside home in the south of Auckland, New Zealand. “When I look out of my window, there’s a whole paddock of cows that have just been milked out there”, she notes. This is the double-edged sword of the modern world that is still dealing with COVID-19. In Shelley’s previous role, desktop-based software was commonly used. “We came across a lot of clients that wanted to go cloud, especially since COVID has come in and people have had to work from home.” These days, Shelley is KeyPay’s New Zealand Product Specialist who lives and breathes payroll, having worked in the industry for the last 27 years.

Finding her niche and her beginnings in payroll

Shelley grew up in Rotorua in the North Island, finding her passion for payroll through her role at the Forest Research Institute (now known as Scion). “I just really, really enjoyed payroll - that’s where I found my niche, in that job.” Shelley reflects on the extent to which payroll has evolved over the years. Prior to this role and before automation became the norm, payroll was done in a book; “everything was manual and written out.”

With a passion to pursue a long-term career in payroll, Shelley moved her family to Auckland. “I had two children at that time - I still have two children!” she quips. At the time, parental leave didn’t really exist: “you just left and then you found another job.” Shelley went on to work for large companies such as Sky TV and Avis Budget Group and refined her expertise. Shelley’s enthusiasm for payroll is infectious: “it’s just my niche, I like it so much - I really enjoy being able to help employees and explain how they need to be paid or what they have been paid for.”

On NZ payroll pain points and changes to the legislation landscape

Having worked in NZ payroll for almost 3 decades, Shelley is no stranger to the ever-changing legislation landscape and what she calls “the big change that’s coming next year” - the amendments to the Holidays Act. She believes that the Act (which Shelley has read from cover to cover) and remaining compliant are two of the biggest issues for NZ payrollers, as it’s not black and white - it’s grey. “The pain point [with the Holidays Act] is that it can be interpreted in different ways…I don’t think there’s enough people that actually challenge the interpretation.”

Shelley’s passion for compliance is evident: “I have challenged MBIE on one of their interpretations, and at the same time, challenged a law firm that had an article on their website. I went to them and said, ‘I don’t believe that this is right.’” They actually changed their website to my way of thinking. But when I challenged MBIE, I was told that it would have to go to court.’” This was in relation to parental leave, and the way that annual leave is paid out when someone returns from parental leave.

This is a text post that reads: "That's just my nature; I question everything - I'm not happy, unless I can question something and get an answer"

The need to embrace automation

Shelley has always been a passionate advocate for automation. “One thing I’ve always done when I’ve been using payroll systems is to find easier ways to do things.” In one of her previous roles working for a large company in New Zealand, their payroll system didn’t automatically calculate termination payments, instead requiring the payroll team to manually calculate the data in a spreadsheet and enter it into payroll one by one. “The automation [in KeyPay] is quite good,” she ponders. With automation freeing up time to work on other tasks, she believes that the quicker something can be done, the better.

Whilst we need to embrace automation as becoming the norm, Shelley also warns of the importance of compliance. “We need to make sure how the system is automating something is correct.” Calculation transparency is something that Shelley loves about KeyPay; “it’s got context panels… you can actually go and see how the system has calculated termination pay for someone.” She also encourages payrollers to check that the system is correct. “Put your mind at ease to know that going forward, you’re not going to have to.”

Automation and trust go hand-in-hand. Shelley shares that she hasn’t personally experienced much resistance towards automation, because her clients from her previous roles trusted her knowledge. “Once you explain the ins and outs of how the system calculates things, they’ll accept it. As long as they have trust in you, that you know what you’re doing, then you don’t get the resistance as much.”

“I’m doing some automation testing right now which is really quite interesting… it’s also helping me to learn even more about KeyPay.” Shelley’s closing thoughts on the subject? “I love automation.” 

Reaching new heights with KeyPay

Shelley has joined the KeyPay team as our NZ Product Specialist. “That will entail keeping the software up to date with legislation, writing up specs for the developers to keep it up to date and working on enhancements.” Her goal for the future of KeyPay’s software? “Hopefully, making it even better!” To put Shelley on the spot, she was quizzed on her favourite KeyPay features:

    1. It’s transparent

On leave calculations in payroll: “a lot of systems don't actually show you how they calculate and how they came to these figures such as average weekly or average daily earnings.” Shelley loves that KeyPay has transparent calculation and interpretation panels, as they “leave no doubt in your mind that the system is doing it correctly.”

    2. It’s compliant

One thing that Shelley appreciates is that “KeyPay can cater for a large workforce or a small payroll and still be compliant. Most payroll software [providers] work on being compliant, but there is software out there that has more capabilities than others.” This will be crucial for the upcoming changes to the Holidays Act; “getting the leave calculations right and getting the tax right are probably the most important things in a payroll system.”

    3. It’s comprehensive

Although having timesheets, rostering, employee self-service and a pay conditions engine are not ‘essential’, they’re great features to have in Shelley’s opinion. “I love that KeyPay has employee self-service, because not all payroll systems have that”, as many systems offer this as a separate module at cost. “Employee self-service is not a must-have, but really good to have because it helps to automate things a little bit as far as entering data into your payroll system.” 

Looking to the future

For Shelley, the future involves getting back to her roots in Rotorua, where the majority of her family now live. “Now that I’m working from home, we’re looking at moving back down.” When quizzed about whether the smell of sulphur (from the thermal springs in Rotorua) affects Shelley, she just laughs. “The place has some smells that people don’t like… I don’t really notice it when I go back.” The ability to now work remotely is a benefit that we can attribute to COVID-19 in forcing us to adapt, but it’s also a by-product of working for a progressive company such as KeyPay. “Cloud-based is a big thing”, Shelley remarks - of both software and workforce management - “the cloud is the way to go now.” This sentiment can also be extended to the future of payroll.

With over 27 years of experience, Shelley is looking forward to changing the narrative with KeyPay and giving Kiwis confidence in cloud-based, automated solutions.

To revolutionise payroll for your Kiwi business, sign up today and try KeyPay free for 30 days.

Sophie Borton-Sutherland

NZ Partner Marketing

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