This special episode is part two of a three-part series featuring executive conversations recorded LIVE from the 42nd annual Payroll Congress in Denver, CO, in May of 2023!
Join host Pete A. Tiliakos as he sits down with practitioners, leaders, and executives from across the payroll and payments marketplace to discuss a range of workplace trends, challenges, and the emerging tech and solutions shaping the future of pay!
Thank you to Danny Schulz, Senior Manager, Payroll, Systems, and Taxes at Kohler for a great conversation, and to The Source by DailyPay for their generosity in hosting these sessions and sharing them with the HR & Payroll 2.0 audience!
Our HR & Payroll 2.0 Series is also available as a podcast on the following platforms:
Apple iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/hr-payroll-2-0/id1643933833
Pete Tiliakos 00:00
Hello everyone, Pete Tiliakos here. And welcome to a very special edition of the Source podcast by DailyPay. We’re live of the Super Bowl of payroll, the PayrollOrg’s 41st annual payroll conference, the largest payroll event in the world, where I had the opportunity to sit down with leaders from across the industry to discuss the latest trends and challenges shaping the modern payroll experience. So welcome, Danny, good to see you, man. It’s we’re here at the Super Bowl of payroll.
Danny Schulz 00:37
Super excited to be here at Super Bowl of payroll, I always think we might get in trouble with the NFL. So hopefully we can just call it the Superb Owl and you’ll be good to go.
Pete Tiliakos 00:46
Great event Paycon, the annual event I call it the Super Bowl of payroll but jokingly, but it really is the epicenter of where payroll is being I think, advanced in this room from a thought leadership and a discussion perspective. There’s so many great products and discussions and learnings and I think this is where it’s at. Right?
Danny Schulz 01:04
Yeah, it’s really great. You can come in and you network really hard. You’re going to meet some great vendors. And it’s really how you’re going to see sort of the future of payroll, and there’s so much innovation that’s going in and so much money being poured into payroll and HR right now. It’s a great time to be here.
Pete Tiliakos 01:19
So, for those that don’t know, you give us a quick introduction, what do you do and where, what is your role? I know it but I want to introduce you here.
Danny Schulz 01:27
I’m Danny Schultz, I am the Senior Manager of corporate payroll systems and taxes for Kohler Company. I oversee payroll for the US team, we have payroll director ownership over the UK payroll team and some Canada oversight. And then we’re really steering a global vision for payroll at Kohler. We’re starting that journey. It’s a lot of fun, it’s going to be a ton of work, but it’s a great place to be.
Pete Tiliakos 01:51
Congratulations, man. It’s awesome. I think there’s a lot more companies today on that global journey than weren’t before. I know Kohler has been an international firm for a while, but there are a lot of firms that are new to that world. And it’s scary. It’s complicated. It’s gnarly, right. And so, look, thanks for what you do. I love payroll practitioners. I’m a Foreign practitioner, and I feel like you guys are the essential worker, I guess, is what I would say.
Danny Schulz 02:11
I always like to say what are the unofficial essential workers of the pandemic. Right?
Pete Tiliakos 02:15
Danny Schulz 02:16
Yeah, my team did great work. We worked through 8000 unemployment forms during the pandemic, and we helped to make sure people got paid. And it was a lot of work. But yeah, kept the wheels on, everything kept going.
Pete Tiliakos 02:26
You got to; payroll doesn’t stop. You have got to get up that hill. I think the payroll practitioner has been through a lot in the last five years. I mean, the pandemic, for sure. But how has this changed since you entered the space as a payroll practitioner to now like, worlds different now?
Danny Schulz 02:44
Yeah, I mean, it really is different. I mean, you look at the way people work together as different. My team entering the pandemic in the US, everybody was on site every single day, right? And we had really more defined siloed roles that really changed a lot of that and it’s, it’s been great, you know, you’re shifting and from a mental health awareness. It’s good that, you know, at Kohler, we’re looking at that well, and yeah, we’re putting the money in and we’re making sure as a leader that, you know, I have check ins with my employees to make sure they’re doing okay and it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to take some mental health time away. And it’s making sure that there’s no stigma there.
Pete Tiliakos 03:20
Yeah, that’s a great point. And I think that employers, not just from a productivity perspective, but just from a humanity perspective, are right. They have to start investing in the employee’s wellbeing and life balance and that total wellness, right, you mentioned that right. You I think you mentioned that it’s mental health month.
Danny Schulz 03:35
Yeah, it is. May is totally Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s big to me. I’ve got a lot of friends that struggle with it. I’ve struggled with it in the past, and we’ve all been in that pandemic was super hard as a parent, my wife was in work and in the school system, and I was at home doing my day job trying to teach with my kids at the time, and that’s super hard trying to keep a kindergartener at their time. Oh, man. There were long days. Good stories out of there of a long day.
Pete Tiliakos 04:00
I bet you learned a lot for sure. So, let’s come back to that a minute. Like how you feel you’re, you know, we talked about changes a little bit. How do you feel about your leadership or leadership in the organization, senior leadership is now looking at payroll? Do you think that’s changed at all? For you?
Danny Schulz 04:13
For us, I leveraged my marketing degree and really make sure that we tell the story of payroll. We’ve done a lot of work and metrics this year. And, you know, we can say, hey, we’ve processed this many pay slips, those numbers were never really published at Kohler. And it’s really an understanding of how many things go in. The error rates are super low. Yeah, they’re going to be errors. I mean, we’re all human. There are system issues that are going to pop out but it’s super important that the teams feel appreciated. Yeah. And they get rewarded, and they get recognized. And you know, the team has been there a long time. And they know what they’re doing. They’re experts.
Pete Tiliakos 04:48
Absolutely, you talked about your marketing degree, right? You’re trying to reposition the payroll, I guess. How much of your job now is telling that story to the to the leadership of what’s really going on and what’s really needed. I mean, how much of that is day to day for you?
Danny Schulz 05:01
I’d like to spend more time on it. I think there’s a lot more stories we have to tell. We did a lot of work in the last, you know, 12 months, making sure the data coming out of the systems is good so we can report on it. And then also making sure the metrics that we are reporting are great. You know, I think probably 10/15% of my job is looking at the metrics and driving it, I think that’ll increase. We just did some promotions on the team and metrics are part of that now. And it’s something that we haven’t done before. And looking forward to seeing how we can really, you know, shine that light and do things a little differently at a company that’s celebrating its 150-year anniversary this year.
Pete Tiliakos 05:36
That’s amazing. 150 years, congratulations. Are you having a big celebration?
Danny Schulz 05:40
Yeah, they’re doing all kinds of stuff globally, It’s a lot of fun!
Pete Tiliakos 05:43
So, it sounds like you have a leadership team that’s open to listening to you and helping you make positive change.
Danny Schulz 05:49
Yeah, totally. They’ve been great.
Pete Tiliakos 05:50
So important for the payroll practitioner, I think there’s a lot of you know, it’s not just going to be the leadership coming down and wanting to engage, it’s going to take a bottom up approach and a top down everybody meeting in the middle and kind of saying, hey, what do we have to do to get more value and give more value back from payroll. And I think that’s where those conversations have to happen, investments have to happen. But really an understanding, you know, do you think that today’s executives really understand what’s going on in payroll?
Danny Schulz 06:17
I think there’s pockets.
Pete Tiliakos 06:18
Yes. I still think there’s a lot of people that think it’s just this, you know, you’re just down there cutting checks. How hard can that be? Right? You’re pushing a button, no big deal. You’re hanging out. Right?
Danny Schulz 06:26
You know, I always like to say it’s, you know, it’s the Big Easy button. Right? We have one on the payroll. Yeah, it’s a big easy button. But in order to push it, it’s got to be the certain time, you got to turn it the right angle, push it down a quarter inch, turn it back the other way. And you get it eventually. It’s just one big push. And that’s very complicated to push.
Pete Tiliakos 06:43
So, talking about, you know, the wellness element, right, this has become very, very prevalent for so many reasons, right? With mental health, financial wellness, all that, right? If you look at things like earned wage access, right, we’re here with DailyPay my work in my research, as an analyst, I see so much impact to the organization that has nothing to do with payroll, it’s almost negligible, the payroll and the impact is so much more on the other side of the fence, when it comes to talent and retention and things like that. You know, it’s just remarkable. But how do you guys see the wellness package, if you will approach? How do you approach that? Right? It’s not one thing, it’s a lot of things. So how do you approach that?
Danny Schulz 07:20
Yeah, I think it’s a conservative effort. And yeah, picking up the right pieces. I’m a big fan of DailyPay. Yeah, I liked the EWA and what everybody’s doing, I think it’s super important employees should be able to access money that they’ve already earned. And you know, an employee who, you know, maybe isn’t the highest earner, and their tire blew out on the way to work, and it’s Monday, and they don’t get paid till Friday, they might miss work, which impacts production, and you’re going to have maybe turnover and all these numbers, it’s good for the financial bottom line. That’s not the reason to do it. The reason to do it is a good people thing to do. At the end of the day, you know employees work a third of their life. And it’s super important to me that we do the right thing. And as payroll professionals, there’s been a lot of hesitation for EWA. I think, you know, depending on the technology you’re on, it’s not as hard as you look at. We’re getting it all figured out. Integrations are way better now than they were, you know, three, four or five years ago, and it’s, you know, looking at the investment and just not saying no, sometimes Yeah, not, you know, finding the way to Yes, is more important than the quick no.
Pete Tiliakos 08:34
That’s an interesting way to put it, you know, I think it’s important to understand, like the paycheck, you know, it shouldn’t payroll shouldn’t end when the paychecks delivered right? There. It goes on and on that, and that relationship between employee and employer. It’s such a, it’s such an important bond, right? And it’s bonded by payroll and other things. But really, it’s bonded by payroll, payroll is kind of holding it together. And if you break that trust, if you break that bond, it’s going to be hard to get it back. Right. And I think more employers have to start looking at their workforce as an extension of their humanity. Right. Like, the bottom line is, I think there’s a responsibility that employers have to make sure that people are cared for and you don’t know what everybody’s going through, right mentally or physically or financially. We’re all going through something, and they’d be able to give people the empowerment to dictate in a dignified way to address some of the issues in their in their world I think is phenomenal, especially financial issues.
Danny Schulz 09:25
I mean, it’s the personal stories about this for me, like, I grew up in a trailer park and I didn’t have a lot of money growing up. I was a first-generation college kid, and I didn’t have the greatest financial success when I came out of the college you had graduated. And maybe I shouldn’t say this, but a great 450 credit score, right? And I was in some bad spots financially. And now I can tell you my credit score is over 100 now, but when I graduated, there were days where it’s like, yeah, which Bill do I pay? Which late fees less? And there were times when something like this would have saved me hundreds of dollars. Wow. Yeah. I was struggling a little more financially and just been a great deal. And from my point of view, as, you know, a payroll manager going, putting this in isn’t a lot of work. It’s not a lot of net increase of work for, for me and my team. And if you get the tech side of it, right? It’s only a win for everybody involved. That’s yeah, great for the employee and the employee experience. It’s, you know, great all around, I think it’s the right thing to do.
Pete Tiliakos 10:25
You know, there is a lot of angst for the payroll manager, right? I mean, I’m a former practitioner, as you know, and traditionally, there’s always it’s just like one more thing for payroll to do, right, everything rolls down and lands in your lap. And I think that’s some of the angst that payroll leaders have, like, oh, that’s the compliance issue. Oh, it’s the, it’s going to be more work for us. Oh, you know, its employees are just going to be irresponsible with it. And I think those are really excuses and a lot of ways but they’re also fears, right fears of losing control in some ways, but also fear of creating more problems that they don’t need, you know, no one needs more problems and barely got enough to deal with as is day to day. But I think that, you know, these barriers are self-inflicted, they’re not real barriers. They’re just, again, excuses and a lot of ways and I think I would love to see more leaders be open minded to seeing these things as enablers to their world being easier, these digitally native solutions are not going to go away. Let’s look at it that way. They are expected now, right? And employees, this many of these generations, if not even other generations that are in the workforce are expecting on demand experiences, right? They want it to know they want their pay, now they want their Uber now they want their, you know, they want it now. Right. And I think that is a dynamic, in addition to mobile access, and APIs, and all this is bringing more and more FinTech closer and closer to payroll and giving employees that empowerment and options.
Danny Schulz 11:47
Yeah, I mean, it’s going to be expected, right? And yeah, as payroll companies and payroll and from the pandemic, like, everything now is instant, you look at Door Dash, and Uber Eats, and, you know, everything I look at some old commercials, it’s my money, and I want it now. Right? And it’s, it’s legit, and it’s, you know, I think there’s good stuff for it. And from a digital standpoint, I don’t own a PC anymore at home, I like to do everything through my phone and employees to be able to do that. everything right, yeah, we need to make sure that payrolls, you know, they can get in there and view their statements and, you know, elect what they need to do and make sure that we make that experience fit.
Pete Tiliakos 12:23
Yeah, you know, I also think, you know, just kind of going back to what we were talking about, about leadership and the way payroll is seen in the organization, I think culture has a lot to do with the way an organization looks at payroll and the way they engage their employees, you know, and what I mean by that is, I think it heavily influences how they certainly how they treat people, but the way in which they look to solve things, right. And I think that you know, earned wage access is another way to solve potential problems. And get also not just for the employee, but give the payroll manager a lever for solving challenges, right, same day payments to Sue’s California, for example, or, you know, checks that can’t get there because a snowstorm or right, you could go on and on with use cases in payroll, we’ve got to get a check to somebody immediately. And it’s not about I didn’t get my pay, it’s about I need to compliantly get you your money. And that’s refreshing for the payroll, man.
Danny Schulz 13:13
EWA is doing a great job, right? I mean, it’s driving direct deposit of adoption, and a cooler where over 99%. So that’s really great. Yeah, I’d like to get that extra, you know, half percent, that’d be great. But, you know, in the meantime, for us, you know, looking at a tool like cycle, yeah, and pushing payments to people, if they’re on the platform, it would be super helpful. And yeah, you know, it’s just another way to provide great experience. And the other thing, from payroll practitioners that these programs do, is that helps employees really understand their pay. And they’re going to know that if I pick up this extra shift, it’s going to increase, they’re also going to know that, hey, I was on vacation, but my vacation maybe wasn’t entered, because it doesn’t show a balance that I have in daily pay. Yeah. So, it’s going to help reduce your error rate and provide a better experience for employees. Yeah. Research shows that employees will, you know, accept one payroll error, but you get to payroll errors are gone. Oh, yeah. Crusher over, as you know, turnover is something that nobody wants to deal with. And you don’t want to lose great employees and hard workers over that.
Pete Tiliakos 14:19
Oh, Agreed. Agreed, right. It’s the cost to find, retain and develop is just your and today, right? We already know, there’s a lack of talent, marketplace or lack of skills, you know, every employee matters. And I think that that’s where you have to look at them as part of that culture. How do we take care of them? How do we uplift them and empower them? And that’s what I love about the future of payroll is it’s really becoming very democratized. Very empowering. And I think you’re seeing the employee really take more control or being given more control over their whole experience and connecting it to the things that make sense in their world to design and achieve the goals that they would have for themselves. So yeah, no, it’s fantastic stuff. And I think you’re going to see more and more of the digitally native solutions. You are making your way into the payroll payment and payments world.
Danny Schulz 15:03
it’s great. You know, for me, it’s those baby steps towards financial wellness whether, you know, it’s a step for an employee to stick, you know, $5 $25 away in a savings account, anytime you can drive some of that so that $400 unexpected expense is something they can manage is fantastic. Yeah, that pandemic really opened up a lot of eyes to how much people kind of struggle financially.
Pete Tiliakos 15:26
And how hard it is to move money around it. Especially If you’ve got an international workforce that got really hard, and yeah, and I think that that’s where payroll really got to shine in that time. And I think that’s when people started to really look at it and go, Wait a minute, we can’t kick the can down the road on payroll, you know, being modernized, and also talk about, you know, business, you know, data recovery and business continuity, those plans got put to the ultimate test, you know, if you didn’t have it locked tight, it was exposed.
Danny Schulz 15:52
It was fun. When I started as payroll manager at Kohler, I wanted to do a team building exercise that I was told, might have been a little too scary. I wanted to walk in on Tuesday, when we were running payroll, and yeah, say, hey, I’m going to get there before everybody that day, and tell everybody, we need to go do this at a different building, and just figure it out and try to swim. And I pitched that idea 19. And we’re like, oh, let’s wait a little bit. And yeah, I’m glad I did the pre planning for it. And of all the things we needed, because it’s a must do, though it is a must do. And it was from an APA conference. It was a local statewide chapter, Wisconsin we had, and they talked about insurance and disaster recovery plans, and something clicked and like, oh, yeah, we need to plan for this. And it’s not something that I had a written plan for. And yeah, it was just making sure that okay, if the place would burn down, and we still have physical checks that are printed in the same building, yeah. How do we get those printed, because at the end of the day, the payroll doesn’t stop, you still need to get paid?
Pete Tiliakos 16:45
Exactly, man. And those just got put to the test. And you got to test that regularly to make sure you find those gaps and figure that out. So yeah, and I think that this is where things like a daily pay in earned wage access can help, right, it can help in those continuity moments, it can be a way to get facilitating that.
Danny Schulz 17:01
You know, something like cycling and you push people money. And those are great things, right? Yeah, these are these are all good things you get earn money that, you know, already earned by the employees have money in their hands. Yeah, it’s not a handout. It’s not alone. It’s money that they already owe.
Pete Tiliakos 17:14
I love that. DailyPay has financial wellness tools around, it’s not just about getting money sooner, right? It’s about teaching you how to do better with money. And I’m wondering if the employers are going to need particularly with the younger generations, right? Like, they’re not teaching this stuff in school, you know, they’re not, I know, I got teens and 20 Somethings, and I’m trying to teach financial responsibility too. And, you know, just like you were explaining, right, it’s easy to get into trouble it is. And I almost wonder is the employer almost, you know, needing to help me help you sort of thing, educate, right, and start to do some education. And maybe that’s where an underage access, like DailyPay can come in and provide some of those tools to get that education going.
Danny Schulz 17:54
I think it’s one of these things where you’ll you implement one, and you’re going to have a good insight into what your employees need. And if they’re using a lot more in one location, you know, add some aim financial resources to those locations, from a financial training and benefit standpoint, I think there’s a lot of things there that companies are looking at, and you should be it’s really the whole of the employee and looking at their mental health, you know, their financial health and their physical health and wellbeing. These things all go together. And if yeah, you know, somebody is on the job, and they’re worrying about, you know, money, and they’re building a toilet and they’re molding a toilet, I bet their error rate and there, you know, their scrap rates probably a little bit higher. Yeah, these things all impact the bottom line, and it’s just, you know, getting the right story in there and telling it the right way.
Pete Tiliakos 18:39
absolutely right. Telling stories. That’s what I love about the future of the payroll practitioner. The end leader really is going to be about taking data, telling stories and making impactful conversations to make change right around that data. And I think that is exciting. It’s I mean, I hope you’re excited, I’m excited for the payroll practitioners out there, the role is going to change,
Danny Schulz 18:58
there’s so much, it’s been great. There’s, you know, you really see it and you come to these events, and you’re at Congress, and you know, the conversation has changed in the last five years, right? We’re a lot more digital than we were and we’re a lot more accepting of new technologies. And I think those are all great things, you know, and it’s only more great things to come as we get more used to change. And yeah, it’s okay to change. scary sometimes. But, you know, these are the right things to do.
Pete Tiliakos 19:24
It’s constant in payroll. And, you know, I think that the payroll practitioners and the leaders of today are really, you know, there’s a lot of anxiety around shad, GPT and generative AI and you know, it’s going to knock out, you know, payroll, this that. No, it’s going to augment you, it’s going to help you remove all that nonsensical minutia of ticking and tying in day to day stuff, and help you get to the stuff that really the tasks that really matter, right and advising your organization and championing that change and helping employees get to you know, get through or helping the organization get through that merger and acquisition or whatever.
Danny Schulz 19:59
The only people Well, I think that are going to be impacted by those are the ones who don’t adopt, right? If you’re going to be a user of it, and you’re going to augment and you’re going to use it great, but also make sure you don’t trust it blindly. Yeah. Right. And that’s one of the things I’m still learning. Yes, yeah. Oh, yes. You know, I think they’re up to 2001. Maybe, on some of that. And, you know, they’re great tools, the leverage is a starting point. It’s just another point of data. Yeah. And it’s, it’s going to be interesting to see where that goes in the next 234 or five years. Yeah, exponential growth and the amount of data and just, it’s going to be great.
Pete Tiliakos 20:32
I think it’s going to be a blessing for the large language model capabilities, we have blessing for compliance, right sorting down all of this law and saying, this is what you need to do, or this is what you need to know, is going to be super. And what I was kind of getting to there was, the payroll practitioner has a lot of soft, I guess you could call them skills that are going to be very valuable in the future, especially once you’ve got Ai doing a lot of the work, let’s assume, you’re going to need to be creative, you’re going to need to be adaptive, you’re going to need to be emotionally intelligent, you’re going to need to be highly adaptive, and be able to pay the quick. That’s all that stuff payroll does every damn day, right? Like, yeah, at the end of the day, I think they are more poised to engage and perform with an AI solution than any other profession. Because you’re so fundamentally ingrained in that mindset, you have all of those, you know, I was looking at, if you’ve seen the World Economic Forum’s jobs report that just came out, they’ve got this chart of all the skills you’re going to need in the future. And I was circling all the ones payroll our best at and they were all in the top quadrant. And I was like, this is great. And I think that there is a fear by and look, we’re humans, we’re all going to do this right? Oh, no, my job, right? We’re going to panic just everyone way. Jack says, oh, no, constructive receipt. Oh, no, this that. Excuses, excuses. But I think when you look at it, like, it’s really going to relieve payroll from a burden that they’ve had on their shoulders, you talked about having to twist the easy button, 100 different ways to make it, you know, a Rubik’s cube to make it work, that’s not going to be necessary anymore. Now, you’re going to have that time to get that seat at the table and actually make an impact at the table. And I love it. I just love it, man.
Danny Schulz 22:07
Yeah, you know, it’s going to allow us to focus on more things and deliver the value of the data we have is a goldmine that’s untapped in a lot of companies. You know, it’s driving that you’re going to be able to use absence trends, you know, track and look at employee turnover and connect all the dots. And yeah, it’s really exciting to see where all this is going.
Pete Tiliakos 22:24
I used to dread I used to dread when am I and we had a modern system, I used to dread when my CFO would come or the or the controller would come to me and say, I need a report for this, this and this, I was like, oh, oh, no, now it’s so much more it should be if you’ve got the modern stuff, right, the modern technology, it should be so much more on demand and pushed and insightful and augmented that I think it’s going to be very, very refreshing for what you can do with it.
Danny Schulz 22:47
Then from a payroll standpoint, if the data is easy to get to, you can present it in a way that might be better visually for them. And it’s really telling the story better. It all goes back to the story. Right. And you’re going to tell that story in an easier to communicate way.
Pete Tiliakos 23:01
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So, this has been a fantastic conversation. You know, I love talking to you. I will take this offline, I’m sure. But yeah, I would like to ask one fun question. Right. So, my fun question for you is, how many of these have you been to how many pay payroll congresses Have you made it to?
Danny Schulz 23:15
You know, I was trying to figure that out the other day, and I think it’s, I think this isn’t the number five, six or seven for me. I’ve been to a few so there’s nothing like this.
Pete Tiliakos 23:24
What’s your favorite part of payroll congress?
Danny Schulz 23:28
Pete Tiliakos 23:29
Danny Schulz 23:30
I’ve got a strong network of national people. And it’s that first day walking down the hall and it’s the squeal, you know, and it’s somebody running to you. Right. You give them that big hug.
Pete Tiliakos 23:41
I know, I’ve had so many hugs since I’ve gotten here. The payroll community is the best in the game, man. When it comes to any tower of HR, I find that payroll community rallies around each other, you know, lifts each other. I mean, we’ve all looked, the reality of it is you don’t have to go through this stuff. Alone. Someone’s been through it and the community is willing to help you. And PayrollOrg’s provides an amazing payroll community now. Right.
Danny Schulz 24:02
Oh, that’s fantastic. It’s really been a great, great new tool that you gave us to communicate and it’s awesome.
Pete Tiliakos 24:08
Awesome. Well, it’s been a great conversation. Danny, enjoy the rest of your conference. Take Care.
Danny Schulz 24:11
Thanks, take care!
Pete Tiliakos 24:11
That’s a wrap from PayrollCon. Thanks for tuning in. For more of the source by DailyPay. Head to dailypay.com. Or look for us wherever you get your podcasts.