PAST — FUTURE — FORWARD
Developing a strategic plan for elevating the payroll profession
Lessons Learned from Looking to the Past
In 1978, Canadian Payroll Association founder Diana Ferguson’s dream was simple: establish an association for payroll. That mission has long since been accomplished.
As we celebrated the Association’s 40th anniversary with a full year of celebrations in 2019—which included a gala event, unforgettable rock concert, bursary contest, and introduction of the Association's exclusive member discount program—we were awed by how far we’ve come.
Today, we are a growing and engaged community of more than 40,000 professionals, practitioners, stakeholders and leaders. The Association is recognized as the leader in payroll information and education. In 2019 alone, the Payroll InfoLine received over 42,000 inquiries, and almost 16,000 members attended an Association seminar or webinar. Since launching our PCP and CPM certification programs in 2005, the Association has helped more than 14,000 graduates advance their careers. Our volunteers are highly engaged and contributing to payroll in every province and territory.
Forty years on, the Association is recognized as a valuable partner for businesses, working Canadians and governments alike. Our voice and expertise are integral to policy discussions from coast to coast. Pay Yourself First programs are helping to reduce financial stress for workers. Stakeholders, including leading payroll service and software providers, are contributing to the Association and the profession in new and numerous ways. And journalists rely on the Association as a thought leader, calling on us to share our unique perspective on payroll legislation, financial wellness and other business issues.
Having accomplished all of this and more, it would have been easy for the Association Board of Directors and management to maintain the status quo. Change can be fraught with unforeseen challenges with the potential to imperil hard-won progress. Doubling down on proven strategies and tactics could have been seen as the prudent way forward—the perhaps safer course of action.
However, that’s not what the Canadian Payroll Association chose to do. Association leadership recognized that the past is not a guarantee of future success.
“New and emerging tidal forces are radically changing the payroll profession and business in general," explains Association President Peter Tzanetakis. "Not long ago, terms like artificial intelligence, the gig economy and blockchain were meaningless. Today they, along with myriad of other business and regulatory changes, are reshaping business operations, the nature of work and the global economy. To continue elevating the payroll profession, a new plan, designed to transform the challenges of today into tomorrow's opportunities, was necessary. It was clear that now is a time for change.”
In celebrating the Association’s 40th anniversary, it was also clear that embracing change is something that the Association has always done—and central to its consistent growth.
“Payroll hasn’t always been looked at like it is today,” says Wendy Doane, Chair of the Board of Directors. “Instead of accepting that payroll is and always will be just a job, the Association did the opposite. We created the PCP and CPM certifications, which helped to establish payroll as a respected profession. This is just one of the ways that innovation has helped the Association elevate payroll in Canada.”
Planning for the Future: The Strategic Renewal Project
To focus future innovation and thrive in the years to come, the Canadian Payroll Association completed a comprehensive strategic renewal project in 2019.
With input from staff, senior management, the Board of Directors and other stakeholders, the project's goal was to develop a new strategic architecture to clarify purpose and guide the Association.
As with most guiding documents, the development of the Association's strategic architecture began with establishing a demarcation point. For us, that jumping-off point was not a location, but rather, a statement as to why we exist.
"Defining why an organization like the Association exists isn't exactly easy," adds Tzanetakis. "For payroll professionals, we are a source of education, a community, an advocate, a daily support system, a way toward career advancement and so much more. For governments, we are subject matter experts and influencers. And for the payroll service and software providers, we are a partner and marketing channel."
Through an extensive process of discovery and validation, Association leadership considered several options. Nothing seemed to be quite right until they realized that the challenge was a matter of perspective. Why the Association exists cannot be understood merely in terms of functions or services. By taking a step back to consider payroll from a broader cultural perspective, the answer became apparent:
The Canadian Payroll Association exists because accurate and timely payroll is the RIGHT of every employee and essential to the operation of every employer and our society.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts of social distancing requirements on both working Canadians and businesses in 2020 have confirmed this statement's truth. Where many businesses and other associations have had to adjust course, the Canadian Payroll Association leaned into this statement to provide timely and needed support, information, resources and leadership.
Having defined our starting point (our “why”), we were ready to construct our new strategic architecture, which takes shape via three distinct levels: