Renée Clayton, PLP
Payroll Accounting Analyst. BC Ferries, Victoria, BC
Like many, Renée Clayton’s payroll career is something she didn’t plan for.
“I don’t think anyone grows up thinking they’re going to be in payroll,” she laughs. “It’s one of those jobs that you don’t even really think about or know about until you’re in it.”
Renée’s background is in mathematics, and she has a diploma in accounting, but for a time she was working in healthcare, working on a team managing the staff scheduling. Her boss approached her and asked if she would be willing to help in payroll, and while she had no prior experience and was slightly apprehensive, she agreed. Before long she was the sole person managing payroll for the company – and it was no easy feat. She learned on the fly while processing pay for around 1,100 people. She jokes that on her first pay run, she nearly paid someone half a million dollars – oops! At the same time, Renée began pursuing her designations with the National Payroll Institute, quickly completing her PCP, and then soon after, her PLP as well.
Renée progressed in her career over the years, seeking opportunities with more growth and learning potential which led her to her current position at BC Ferries in Victoria, British Columbia, where she has been for the past six years. One of the things she loves about the organization is the opportunity for development within. She was originally hired as a payroll analyst, but since has been able to sub into different areas, giving her exposure to other related functions, including pensions and benefits
With an eye to the future, Renée is very excited about the possibilities for payroll that technology will bring. She finds the idea of AI fascinating.
“It’s exciting, and I keep thinking, ‘Wow, this could really be great at reducing so many of the repetitive, tedious tasks that are currently such a big part of payroll,’” she says. “It will help payroll to focus on things that require human intervention or humanity in the role.”
She’s particularly interested in how payroll professionals are going to have to learn to work with AI to get its full potential – and much of that is going to call upon strong communication skills.
“When it comes to machine learning, if you put bad or biased information into it, you’ll get bad or biased information out of it,” she explains. “I think it will be extremely important for payroll to be very, very clear about what examples we’re feeding into those systems while they are being developed. Payroll affects people’s lives and when AI is brought in to help make decisions that could impact people’s lives and livelihoods, there is a duty of care we need to have to ensure that those decisions are not based on faulty data. Computers don’t understand the nuances to certain situations the way a real person does, so it’s going to be important for payroll professionals to understand and be able to create formal logic structures to ensure the information being used to train the systems is clear and unbiased. Payroll also needs to be able to refine the data sets used to train the AI system until the output becomes both accurate and precise.”
Ultimately, she sees AI removing some of the administrative aspects of payroll which will allow payroll teams to be more collaborative and productive, giving team members more time to exchange ideas and information – which will lead to better decision making.
In her personal time, Renée loves to garden and is a certified Master Gardener. It’s a skill that comes in handy to keep her guinea pigs fed, who “eat their weight in lettuce on a daily basis.” While she enjoys growing all sorts of plants, she’s working now on converting her garden to be more drought tolerant, while also keeping in mind the native pollinators and what plants are best for them. She also volunteers at local horticultural events, answering gardening questions and doing other garden-related community work.
While she certainly keeps herself busy, Renée uses her thoughtful intelligence to keep growing and helping those around her.