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Would this be the right move?

Last year I successfully completed a Level 3 CIPD qualification, and now I am very eager to enroll onto the Level 5 course. The problem I have where I am employed. I currently work full time for a local authority, within the HR department as an Administrative Assistant. I have always been very open and honest about my goals, and how passionate I am about developing within the field of HR, however, there are no opportunities to develop and learn new skills, and I am currently feeling at a standstill (a little stuck in a rut).

A few years ago, I volunteered within a HR team for a large manufacturing company, and at the time, I had very little HR experience. I found that when looking online at vacancies, that most HR roles required some payroll experience. This leads me onto my main question..

So where I am currently employed, a full time position has become available within the Payroll Department, and I am contemplating submitting an application form. I am not sure if this would be the right move for me, but what I do know is that I am ready to develop, and there are no opportunities to do so in the team I am currently in. I have seen lots of "payroll and HR" positions online which I've been unable to apply for as I don't have the required payroll experience.

So my question is, do you think this would be a good move? The salary is two grades higher and also they may consider it over four days meaning I could also afford to do my Level 5 and have the designated day off to study it. 

I really would appreciate views on this.. 

1249 views
  • Payroll for many organisations (particularly bigger ones) is a non HR often Finance activity. Indeed for audit purposes in some organisations it has to be totally separate. If you enjoy payroll type work don't let that be a hindrance but I don't see it for many organisations as a step on the road to a HR career.
  • I guess it depends on the size of your local authority as I have been fortunate to have been given a lot of developmental opportunities within my 15 years local government HR experience.
    For example I know some LA's may only be a couple of 100 with a handful of people in HR at most , whilst larger ones with 1,000s could be around 70 if you include Advisory, Payroll, Transactions etc. LA's often advertise Fixed Term contracts as secondments which gives you the opportunity to do something different/develop but go back to your job at the end of it (although not always the case). I've always been given development opportunities by my managers and colleagues to get more involved in things like casework by taking notes at meetings or having a colleague mentor me as mentoring is very much part of the Learning and development culture.
    We have a HR Assistant currently doing her Level 5 apprenticeship - does your LA offer any HR apprenticeships for example?
    Depends on your personal circumstances and opportunities can be limited but there are sometimes secondments advertised externally that will give you further opportunities.
    I havent really answered about Payroll as not an area I'm that familiar with, but from my own experience within Local Goverment there must be some more opportunities out there for you? Good luck!
  • In reply to Clare:

    Thanks for commenting Claire! I do work for a very large LA. I have seen so many great opportunities internal, so the lack of opportunity isn't something that is a widespread issue, I think it just happens to be that HR has limited opportunities for development. There are lots of hardworking, ambitious people within the department too who all want to progress.

    In regards to my personal circumstances, I should have mentioned in my original post, that I am also employed on a fixed term contract, which again is not ideal. This does result in restrictions, for example, I know there have been a number of permanent employees who have studied their CIPD through the LA, but as I am fixed term this wouldn't be possible.

    I have thought long and hard about my options, and even considered requesting to reduce my working days to study my level 5, but also find a mentor or volunteer somewhere to gain further experience but this obviously would come at a cost.

    Its a tough one, but having found out further information on the payroll position, I think this could be some valuable experience I could get under my belt, I just worry if this is stepping away from what I really want to do.
  • In reply to Keith:

    Thanks Keith, I have no experience with payroll, and I do worry that I will be stepping away from what I really do want, but I also feel that I have no other option, I have been unsuccessful at interviews and applications due to lack of experience in a specific field (e.g case management), so I am not sure how I can gain this experience, if the opportunity to do so at work isn't available.
  • In reply to Kimberley:

    I'm sorry to hear that there have been limited opportunities for development within HR as I've been fortunate that my experience has been very different ( to give you some idea of relative size - including all aspects of HR such as Transactions, Advisory etc my LA is made up of around 100 HR staff to support around 3500 employees). My own experience has been that large HR departments are good for development due to the variety of things you can be involved with.
    Development opportunities such as training and support to other colleagues have always been included in my appraisal. Would there be for example the opportunity to take notes at a (Disciplinary/Grievance/Absence) meeting as this gives you a good insight into what takes place etc? Have you raised these issue via your appraisal objectives etc?
    I understand what you mean about Fixed term contracts but again I have been very fortunate in that I started on a 3 month temporary contract 16 years ago and was then made permanent (with this being the case for a number of my colleagues too). It's never a guarantee particularly in these turbulent economic times but can happen...
    I would have thought you should be able to have a mentor internally as LA's often promote mentoring schemes, especially in HR. I had a HR colleague mentor me through my CIPD Level 5 and it was a real help.
  • In reply to Clare:

    Hi, there is also of course a world outside the local authority and that might be where your future lies!
  • I would not advise you to go for the payroll job as a career development opportunity. Of course, if it's a financial question then it is, perhaps, a different matter.

    When I worked in an LA, I did do some payroll work, despite payroll being outsourced, because the data had to be prepared for the outsourcing company every month. However, it was certainly not seen as a prerequisite to my recruitment that I'd not done it before. And although it proved marginally useful when I subsequently did a standalone HR/Payroll job for an SME, I suspect you're not at that stage yet.

    Overall, I would encourage you to stay where you are for as long as you can in terms of being well-placed for future opportunities. That you're on an FTC is unfortunate, because your job has a sell-by date, but if you make your enthusiasm for an opportunity to get out of admin and into operational HR clear I would hope you would be given the best chance you can get. If you do want to move (or have to, because of the end of your FTC), then the easiest move would be into another LA's HR team.
  • In reply to Annabel:

    Yes of course but depends on what jobs are out there at the moment and 'sometimes' (in this current economic climate) it can be easier to develop in your current role than trying to get a new job - though of course the reverse can be true as well!
    I've only worked in the public sector and as you have seen from my previous comment it has been for a long time so probably a bit biased!
  • Hi Kimberley,

    I think you've answered your own question: "I am ready to develop, and there are no opportunities to do so in the team I am currently in".

    Personally, I have found that in smaller companies some form of involvement in payroll for HR is very common - I think all the roles I've done in SME's have involved some type of payroll input. It will also give you an understanding of things like tax codes, maternity pay, overtime payments, etc, etc, which are commonly-asked questions for HR.

    I'm a great believer in there's no such thing as wasted learning. Yes, 'true' HR rarely has payroll as a dedicated part of it's day-to-day work, but an understanding of it would always be useful. You will also be able to use the extra day for further studying or even (if your contract allows) a 1 day a week job in HR - paid or voluntary.

    My hesitation over your question is actually doing the Level 5. For this you do need to have the ability to put into practice what you've learnt, or reflect on what you have done at work in your learning. Given the role you are in at the moment, or indeed the payroll role, will you be able to do this?

    Good luck!
  • In reply to Clare:

    Hi Claire, it sounds like your currently in a very good place!
    Before working for the LA, I did work in the retail industry for a few years, and managed a small department, and team of four. It was here I discovered my passion for HR, I was responsible for recruitment, conducting performance reviews and annual appraisals and acting as a note taker during disciplinaries.

    Since working at the LA, I have been involved in disciplinaries, and also took up the role as a note taker during an appeal meeting which was excellent for me as I had not done this before. It was interesting to see how this was conducted.

    Asking for a mentor could be an option and most certainly something I could ask about. I'm not 100% sure that moving to a payroll department would be the right move now, as I think I need to focus on building up my HR experience somehow, and gaining my level 5 qualification.
  • In reply to Teresa:

    Hi Teresa, thank you for posting, its really appreciated.

    I do agree that there are lots of HR positions that do require payroll experience. A colleague of mine who was in the same situation, has recently left my team and found herself a HR and Payroll Officer role, although this lady was much older than me with a lot more experience.

    Putting what I learn into practice is the reason why I have held off from enrolling onto the level 5 course, as I am concerned that my role does not allow me to utilise my studies, and put these studies into practice. I completed my level 3 quite comfortably within this role, as a large part of my role involves recruitment, so there were certain modules I worked through very quickly (resourcing talent). I was able to use materials from my work to help with assignments (shortlisting grids, induction timetables,).

    I would like to secure myself a role where I am able to work at a higher level, and put the studies into practice. Unfortunately, as mentioned in one of my comments below, I have missed out on some very good opportunities (Trainee HR Officer, HR Assistant), because I don't have specific experience. I was unsuccessful at one interview for a Trainee HR Officer role because I had no experience in case management, however this was not something that was mentioned on the job description so I was a little surprised at that, but again, I don't know how I can get this experience.
  • In reply to Teresa:

    Hi Teresa, thank you for posting, its really appreciated.

    I do agree that there are lots of HR positions that do require payroll experience. A colleague of mine who was in the same situation, has recently left my team and found herself a HR and Payroll Officer role, although this lady was much older than me with a lot more experience.

    Putting what I learn into practice is the reason why I have held off from enrolling onto the level 5 course, as I am concerned that my role does not allow me to utilise my studies, and put these studies into practice. I completed my level 3 quite comfortably within this role, as a large part of my role involves recruitment, so there were certain modules I worked through very quickly (resourcing talent). I was able to use materials from my work to help with assignments (shortlisting grids, induction timetables,).

    I would like to secure myself a role where I am able to work at a higher level, and put the studies into practice. Unfortunately, as mentioned in one of my comments below, I have missed out on some very good opportunities (Trainee HR Officer, HR Assistant), because I don't have specific experience. I was unsuccessful at one interview for a Trainee HR Officer role because I had no experience in case management, however this was not something that was mentioned on the job description so I was a little surprised at that, but again, I don't know how I can get this experience.
  • In reply to Annabel:

    Hi Annabel, I certainly agree with you.

    I have applied for many positions outside of the LA and hoping I will hear back from these really soon!
  • In reply to Keith:

    Thanks Keith! Your view is really appreciated
  • In reply to Robey:

    Thank you Robey,

    I have time to think about this as the closing date is in 2 weeks time. I am really unsure about it, and normally when I am not feeling 100% about something, I simply cannot commit.