The impact of COVID-19 on the payroll recruitment market: An interview with Peter Allan from Absolute Payroll
The COVID-19 pandemic has completely transformed the world, business, the way we work, and the way we live our lives since the notorious year of 2020. Industries have been impacted in different ways, and there have also been some unusual consequences of the pandemic as a result of the world having to pivot to adjust during uncertain times.
Peter Allan is the Director of Absolute Payroll, a payroll specialist recruitment company based in Australia. In our conversation with Peter, we explored the impact that the virus has had on the payroll market, expectations from payroll candidates and employers, and the changes he has perceived over the past 12-18 months.
What impact has COVID-19 had on the payroll market over the past 18 months?
At the beginning of lockdown in 2020, companies were very insecure about the crisis that was going on. Essentially, there were no recruitment budgets. But in January of this year, I was astonished to see how busy the payroll market was. Some industries such as hospitality have been badly impacted by the pandemic, and I’ve seen some companies lose half their staff to redundancies due to budget cuts. But with regards to payroll, there’s actually been a knock on effect due to the demand for payroll related services such as redundancy pay outs and legislative changes like JobKeeper. There’s been a phenomenal amount of work required from payroll professionals to work this out because it’s new to everyone. Software providers have had to quickly pivot to catch up with legislation, and so have the professionals running the payroll tech.
This year, there is a massive demand for payroll professionals, and an increase in new payroll roles, but there aren’t enough people to meet demand for these roles.
What changes have you seen in the market throughout the pandemic?
Employees have become accustomed to flexibility. In many industries - payroll included - employees have proven that they can get the job done just as well from home. As technology and cloud solutions allow us to work from anywhere, flexible jobs with at least part-time remote working have now become the new norm. In the past, payroll professionals would worry about confidentiality of data. But with the rise of cloud and no longer having to send data via email, organisations are beginning to realise that the security of data can be assured.
Since COVID-19 emerged, there has been a massive shift to working from home, and that demand will continue that way in some sort of capacity.
Another shift I’ve noticed is that with the rise of demand for payroll jobs, salaries for payroll professionals are increasing. Payroll has been recognised as a critical function in the past 12-18 months. Payroll has always been critical, but finally payroll professionals are getting the recognition they deserve and were even given a shout out by Scott Morrison and the Australian Government last year for their hard work throughout the pandemic.
So, with rising salaries, and the ability to demand more from work flexibility, it has never really been a better time for a payroll professional looking for a new job. I’ve noticed a big boost in confidence from candidates too, who know their worth and the value they bring!
What is your advice to employers recruiting for payroll talent in this climate?
My advice to employers now is to be more flexible given there's such high demand for it. I’ve seen people resign from organisations who haven’t been willing to make that change. Sure, employers may want to encourage some office days to improve morale and maintain a culture - but employees should no longer be expected to work full time in the city. The organisations that don’t realise this will lose out on talent opportunities and struggle with churn issues.
Some employers also want the candidate to have experience in a particular system. Payroll people are very smart people, and with the right attitude, can learn very quickly. To restrict to just one system can be very restrictive when recruiting for good talent.
Absolute Payroll is a proud sponsor of the Ninth Life charitable foundation - a rescue organisation located in Willoughby Sydney, that re-homes high care or senior cats with special needs requiring veterinary nurse rehabilitation.