By Daniel Oh

Businesses have faced a great deal of upheaval over the past two years, whether it’s the rise in remote work or shift to online commerce. One thing that hasn’t is their biggest and most important asset: their people.

The primary way a business can show its people their efforts are appreciated hasn’t changed either: According to Sage’s Forward Together: Building a Resilient Future report, released in October 2021, 50 percent of workers are expecting an increase in financial compensation after the pandemic — yet only 27 percent of business leaders plan to do so.

Finance professionals are often on the front lines when it comes to helping employees feel appreciated and valued by ensuring they are properly compensated for their work. This often requires them to keep track of several moving parts, including benefits packages, ensuring compliance, and making sure payroll is processed on time and error-free.

It’s a big responsibility with very little room for mistakes — but don’t despair. Here are some tips to help your business overcome payroll challenges, remove friction, deliver insights and maintain a happy workforce.

1. Use benefits to recruit, retain, and reward employees

Consider your company’s benefits plan a tool to keep employees energized and performing at their best, with perks that appeal to your workforce’s interests.

According to Sage’s Forward Together research, 65 percent of Canadian workers want to see an increase in self-care benefits and 64 percent want to see an increase in self-care days. Meanwhile, of the 35 percent of businesses that have implemented new programs since the pandemic, only 25 percent have increased self-care benefits and only 32 percent have increased self-care days. Instead, the majority (61 percent) have invested in mental health resources.

Instead of taking a top-down approach, the finance team should be proactive when implementing a benefits plan, asking employees what they would prefer and aiming to offer as much as budget allows. Childcare, for example, is likely to be popular with parents with young families. Older workers are more likely to be focused on healthcare and pensions. Picking a scheme that offers some flexibility is a good idea.

Once you have a list of requested benefits, research the top-rated suppliers and narrow down your choices based on where those criteria intersect.

2. Use software to stay on top of payroll and HR

With the capabilities offered by today’s enterprise software, it shouldn’t be the job of finance professionals to chase down and record their employees’ work activities for time sheets and expense forms. Even for small to mid-size businesses (SMBs), enterprise platforms are easier to download and install than they’ve ever been, with built-in wizards to guide finance professionals through set up and tutorials on YouTube that can help troubleshoot most problems or even help with staff training.

Adopting HR software makes it easier to run through tasks such as processing new or exiting employees, keeping track of holidays, sick pay, parental leave, and bonuses, and ensuring staff are paid correctly and on time.

More importantly, giving employees direct access to cloud-based, self-service time sheets and requests gives them more responsibility over their own activities, while also making it easier to review and approve requests as they come in.

3. Use employee feedback to ensure you’re getting it right

Monitoring issues and requesting feedback from your employees on how to improve operations has always been a best practice for companies — and this goes for financial processes too.

By ensuring that employees feel comfortable sharing their concerns, finance professionals can identify payment- or benefit-related issues before they spin out of control. They can also use software to analyze workflows and spot where errors or poor service are creeping in.

In general, finance professionals and their employees should keep the following tips in mind to ensure both sides are getting compensation right:

  • Keep accurate personal records, which can easily be done digitally.
  • Communicate your payroll compliance plan with employees so they understand their role in maintaining compliance.
  • Understand workplace pensions. Even if a company has only one employee, pension duties require employers to enter staff into a pension scheme to which they must contribute.
  • Use audit trails to link each transaction that is made with supporting information, such as purchase orders and invoices, which will validate any payments that look unusual.
  • Stay up to date with payroll legislation by attending payroll seminars, watching webinars and going to industry conferences can help to enhance your knowledge.
  • Keep experts on speed-dial, such as an accountant or an employment lawyer.
  • Submit payroll information on time. Tax deadlines, shifting paydays and quarterly reporting are only a few of the complexities of payroll. To help keep yourself on top of everything, create an annual calendar featuring important dates, including timesheet and invoice submissions, when payments need to be made, and payroll year end tasks such as submitting final reports to the CRA and sending T4s to employees.

By reassuring workers that their employer has their best interests at heart and taking a lead role in demonstrating how, finance professionals can help ensure the employees at the heart of their business remain as happy and committed as those who lead it.


Daniel Oh is Country Manager (interim), Sage Canada.

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