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Coffee With Jeff Hunter

The payroll sector is always evolving. As payroll becomes more of a strategic function for many organizations, collaboration and automation will be especially important for ensuring efficient, scalable processes.

OneSource Virtual (OSV) has long been at the forefront of payroll innovation, having pioneered business process as a service (BPaaS) outsourcing and crafted a comprehensive suite of Workday services.

We recently sat down with Jeff Hunter, Senior Director of Payroll Tax and Business Transformation leader at OSV, to learn more about where he sees the industry heading, the secrets of his success, and why he wishes he’d known Walt Disney.

Give us an overview of your role

I joined OSV back in 2017, and currently I oversee tax service delivery for over 500 customers. In 2020, I stepped into the Business Transformation Leader role, in which I focus on improving operational efficiencies at OSV. Our team has already made significant progress there, in terms of increasing revenue and reducing costs.

I’ve been in payroll my whole career — more than 30 years, from the time I began as a customer service rep in Houston for a Payroll Service provider. Throughout my career, I have been tasked with transformational projects. I recognized that what I had been doing in my most recent years, like helping re-engineer some of our tax processes, is essentially business transformation. So formally adding those responsibilities to my title was a natural move, and I officially took on that role right before the pandemic spurred the rapid move to virtual work.

Speaking of the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, what impact have you seen so far at OSV, and what do you expect in the future?

Overall, the transition to a mostly remote work environment has gone smoothly. Virtual work is becoming the norm for a lot of our clients, with many expecting their workforces to continue telecommuting in some capacity well into 2021.

Meeting the needs of these customers, as well as those of our own teams’ needs as more of us work from home, has been a big test of our people, technologies, and processes. But we’ve been able to adapt by continuously optimizing our processes and services for the new post-pandemic reality.

Internally, we changed our onboarding processes and rethought how to build team culture and enable collaboration when everyone’s out of the office. Embracing technologies like cloud-based applications has been essential along the way, since we don’t have access to the face-to-face meetings and over-the-shoulder guidance that are standard in a traditional office.

Externally, we’ve expanded our relationships with many of our newly virtual customers. For example, clients for which we previously provided only back-office functions like print, fulfillment, and money movement have been looking for more hands-on involvement from us. They want OSV to become an extension of their team and deliver proven infrastructure and expertise so that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time.

We’ve also readjusted our approach to print, which is still a big component of payroll tax operations. We’ve always had the goal of attaining a zero-print footprint, but that’s challenging since many tax agencies are still in the fax era. We’ve maintained a skeleton crew to handle paperwork such as filings and mailings.

Still, we finished our most recent quarter even earlier than usual. That’s a testament to the quality of our team and to the power of cloud software in this era, including Workday.

How has the payroll industry changed in the last five years?

Payroll is much more strategic now; it’s not just a basic necessity anymore. Organizations have seen how much data is in their payroll departments, and they want to integrate it into their decision-making.

Payroll-related activities have also become more collaborative. Companies want to know how they stack up against others in their industry, and so sharing information is an important part of that as it helps with benchmarking.

On the technological side, BPaaS had risen meteorically even before COVID-19, because having business processes delivered via the cloud is a substantial convenience upgrade for customers. At OSV, we’ve also taken the lead on robotic process automation (RPA). RPA helped us stay up to date with the changes in the CARES Act in particular. Those RPA task bots and metabots, along with the Salesforce API, were instrumental in letting us deploy new solutions for customers in a matter of hours, rather than days.

AI is becoming more prominent as well, in tandem with RPA. An AI engine can save payroll teams substantial time and money by taking care of mundane tasks and spotting data trends early on. And as robots handle these administrative functions, payroll practitioners are moving into more strategic roles.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

Being in a position that lets me serve others. I love working with customers and associates and sharing knowledge that helps them solve their problems. Being of service satisfies me and makes me feel useful.

What would you say is the secret of your success?

Nothing “secret” about it. I’m resourceful and determined.

More specifically, I don’t think there’s such a thing as throwaway knowledge. It’s all useful, and I’ve been able to advance my career by focusing on the esoteric and more complex sides of payroll.

Preparation is also huge. I spend a lot of time thinking through “what-if” scenarios and contingency plans. The trick is to spend enough time to be adequately prepared, but not so much that you become paranoid, panicked, and paralyzed about what to do.

That’s a broader challenge, too. Our industry is very fast moving and so we always have to balance the imperative to act swiftly with the need to give thoughtful consideration to any course of action.

What would be your ideal job if you weren’t in payroll?

Community activist. I’ve thought a lot about what that would entail, in light of recent events.

If you could have dinner with three people other than your immediate family, who would you choose?

  1. Charles Darwin — I’d want to get insight into his perspective into humanity’s place in the natural order.
  2. Nelson Mandela — How did he persevere through his 27 years in prison and turn his suffering into something positive?
  3. Walt Disney — I’m interested in how he developed the confidence to transform his bold visions into reality.