November 22, 2017

Top tips for mastering year-end payroll

You’re a business owner and year-end is approaching. Completing it on time and on budget seems to require a superhuman effort. If you’re like most time-strapped business owners and payroll managers, the process of getting all your paperwork in order and meeting complex payroll and compliance obligations can be challenging to manage.

Mastery over year-end begins (and ends) with a strong and proactive plan. This plan should map out the individual tasks involved in-year end payroll, determine who is responsible for completion of each one, and include milestones for the process.

Follow these helpful steps to enable payroll compliance, reduce the risk errors and achieve a smooth and stress-free year-end.

A Guide to Mastering Year-end Payroll: Download the free guide


Prioritize and rank each of your major payroll activities by risk factor, such as high, medium or low. To keep tasks on target, set completion dates for each activity, and consider setting up a priorities worksheet.

Enlist the employees who are best qualified to complete each task (taking into consideration the level of supervision required). Evaluate your employees’ skill sets to decide early if you need to look outside the organization for resources to help process year-end payroll.

Lastly, define expectations, deliverables and deadlines for each person involved in completing these activities.


Create a master list of the required payroll tasks for the year-end project. Use a checklist – whether a previous year’s or a template (check out Ceridian’s Guide to a Mastering Year-end Payroll for a checklist).

Break down all internal and external tasks, calculating time and resources required. This will help you identify which tasks interfere with one another, determine a logical sequence, and to prioritize the task list.

Then, generate a master plan to keep everyone on the same page. Your plan should clearly identify all required tasks by due date using a computerized scheduling program or a blank calendar.

Another best practice when preparing for year-end is providing team members with the resources and training needed to complete it successfully. Annual year-end training is invaluable to monitor legislative updates and avoid surprises.

Include a training schedule within the year-end project management plan so payroll personnel can acquire the appropriate level of knowledge ahead of crunch time.

Be prepared for year-end legislation changes for 2017 and 2018: See the reference guide


Plan weekly meetings to ensure everything is on schedule and that adjustments can be made quickly.

Set up milestone reviews (for example, bi-weekly meetings), and maintain one-on-one communication with team members to ensure alignment, identify hurdles and monitor individual progress on tasks. Meetings and clear communication are vital during the execution phase.

See how Powerpay helps automate workflows and track compliance year-round


Your year-end projects are complete – but the work shouldn’t end there. Reward your team by scheduling an event to acknowledge your payroll personnel’s efforts, or consider presenting awards or certificates to payroll team members.

While completion of year-end is still fresh in your team members’ minds, conduct a post-year-end evaluation to identify what worked well, and what could be improved next year. Save these notes to inform next year’s planning.

Well-documented payroll processes and procedures make a real difference during year-end. This includes things like categorizing payroll documentation by type, level and storage format, as well as ensuring concise writing for payroll processing documentation.

See the five steps to document the year-end payroll process: Download the guide

Danielle Ng-See-Quan

Dani is the Managing Editor, Content Marketing at Ceridian.

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