Paying employees accurately and on time is a crucial responsibility of any organization, and there’s no understating the importance of payroll professionals. No longer seen as an administrative function or back-office job, payroll has become a career of choice.

As businesses look to payroll for expertise and value, there’s a growing demand for professionalism and excellence. Whether you're just starting out or looking to take your payroll career to the next level, here are five proven ways to advance in the field.

1. Continuous education & professional development

As with any field, staying up-to-date on the latest trends, legislation, and technology is essential if you want to advance your payroll career. Consider pursuing payroll certifications such as the Payroll Compliance Professional (PCP) designation offered by the National Payroll Institute (NPI).

For more experienced payroll professionals looking to step into a management role and already have a PCP, a Payroll Leadership Professional (PLP) designation can help you open new doors. These certifications not only validate your expertise but also provide you with a structured curriculum to enhance your knowledge.

Seek out additional workshops, seminars, and webinars related to payroll legislation, tax laws, and payroll software. The payroll field is heavily influenced by changing regulations and new technology, and staying on top of these changes will set you apart as a knowledgeable, reliable professional.

2. Mastery of payroll software & technology

The most successful payroll professionals use the latest tools and technology to streamline tasks, ensure accuracy, and increase efficiency. Familiarizing yourself with payroll software on the market and being well-versed in at least one tool is a significant accent. Proficiency in payroll software like Avanti, UKG, Ceridian Dayforce, or Payworks can improve everything from productivity to compliance and make you an invaluable asset to your organization.

These tools also enable you to leverage data and reports to provide insight into payroll trends and uncover opportunities for cost savings. Payroll is becoming a much more strategic function within organizations, and having data to support critical business decisions demonstrates your ability to contribute to strategic decision-making and create value for the business.

For example, the team at Glacier Media Group was able to pull the data they needed from Avanti to consolidate their 20+ benefit plans. Using our Report Designer, they managed to consolidate their benefit plans for a combined savings of at least 20% for both the employees and the employer. Read more here.

3. Develop strong communication & interpersonal skills

Payroll professionals are often the link between employees and management. Developing strong communication and interpersonal skills is critical if you want to excel in the role. Employees will come to you with questions about their pay statements, tax slips, entitlements, and more. You need to be able to explain complex payroll matters to employees in a clear and understandable manner, addressing any concerns or questions they might have.

Payroll also collaborates closely with other departments, such as HR and Finance, which requires effective communication and teamwork. The ability to work effectively with multiple stakeholders will help build your reputation as a trusted, reliable payroll professional.

4. Leadership & project management

Advancing in your payroll career often involves taking on leadership roles and overseeing complex projects. Developing leadership skills and understanding project management principles can set you on the path to more senior positions. This might involve managing a team of payroll specialists, coordinating payroll-related projects, or even leading the search for a new HCM software or implementing a new payroll system.

Demonstrating your ability to handle these responsibilities showcases your strategic thinking and readiness for more senior roles. It also provides you with the opportunity to mentor junior payroll professionals, contributing to your personal and professional growth.

5. Networking & professional engagement

Building a strong professional network is crucial for career advancement in any field, and payroll is no exception. Attend industry conferences, workshops, and seminars to connect with fellow payroll professionals, industry experts, and potential mentors. Networking can provide insights into industry trends, job opportunities, and different perspectives on payroll-related challenges.

Engage with online payroll communities, forums, and social media groups. Participating in discussions and sharing your knowledge can help you position yourself as an authority in the field and open doors to opportunities you might not have had otherwise.


Advancing your payroll career requires a combination of technical expertise, soft skills, and a proactive approach to professional development. By continually enhancing your knowledge, mastering payroll software, honing your communication skills, taking on leadership roles, and building a strong network, you can position yourself as a valuable asset to your organization and open the door to a fulfilling and rewarding payroll career. Remember, the journey to advancement is ongoing, and staying dedicated to your growth will yield both personal and professional dividends in the long run.

Additional Reading Links

  1. How to measure payroll performance with KPIs
  2. HR + Payroll: How to pave the way to partnership
  3. 10 Great Books That Every Leader Should Read

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