Duke Spotlight: Corporate Payroll Services Processes $3.4 Billion in Annual Payroll

Get to know the colleagues who keep Duke staff and faculty paid during National Payroll Week

Duke Corporate Payroll Services staff pose outside of their office space in the Human Resources Building at 705 Broad Street. Photo by Jack Frederick.

Staff members maintain the accuracy and integrity of master payroll data that is utilized to ensure the accuracy of payroll processes for Duke University and Duke University Health System.

Kassaundra Hester. Photo by Jack Frederick.

The unit, which is part of Financial Services, issues checks for three payroll areas: faculty and staff exempt employees, biweekly non-exempt employees and non-compensatory payments for students, which include fellowships, internships and scholarships.

Corporate Payroll Services relies on approximately 400 payroll representatives across Duke University and Duke University Health System to collect transactions and timecard approvals through the self-service Duke@Work portal each pay period.

That data, which includes monthly and bi-weekly payroll hours worked and deductions for items such as health and dental insurance, is then compiled and reviewed closely by payroll staff using an advanced data management platform that manages and runs master payroll data.

“This is the one job that impacts each and every employee,” said Corporate Payroll Services director Kassaundra Hester. “It’s everybody’s livelihood."

National Payroll Week, which runs Sept. 4-8, recognizes and celebrates America’s payroll professionals and their important role in keeping finances running.

In addition to payroll, Duke Corporate Payroll is responsible or generating W-2, 1099 and 1042-S tax statements.

Back in 2007, printers were a key part of the Duke Corporate Payroll processes. Working@Duke file photo.

A bit of history:

For years, the leadup to payday for Corporate Payroll Services was defined by printing thousands of paychecks that were delivered to payroll representatives in each department through campus mail and then dispersed to staff and faculty.

That changed in 1994, when Duke introduced direct deposit. In 2008, online direct deposit statements were introduced, as an option for employees to receive their payment electronically.

In 2022, Duke Corporate Payroll outsourced in-house check printing to Wells Fargo, which resulted in roughly 1,200 paychecks per month being printed and mailed by Wells Fargo.

What new technology makes the payroll function more efficient and convenient?

Last year, Corporate Payroll Services introduced “The Work Number” by Equifax. The digital verification service allows current and former employees to quickly generate a report of their employment and income information without the need to engage payroll services.

“It’s more efficient for everybody,” Hester said.

Significant achievement:

When she came to Duke in 2021, Hester’s top goal was to increase the efficiency of the unit and reduce paper usage. That goal will continue to be a focus in the coming years.

A significant reduction in paper use, coupled with new tools and technology, now allows payroll services staff to work a hybrid schedule after the unit worked on-site throughout the pandemic.

Duke Corporate Payroll Services' Christine Katz, left, and Jordan Clayton were among the staff members who leaned into the game show theme during a staff retreat in August 2023. Photo courtesy of Kassaundra Hester.

“It’s given them that work-life balance they were missing,” Hester said.

Fun Fact:

During annual retreats to talk about successes, challenges and goals for the year ahead, Duke Corporate Payroll Services staff give their annual presentation reports and dress for the occasion based on themes decided by the unit.

Last year, the theme was sports, with individual groups dressing up like golfers, and football and basketball players. At the unit’s retreat this year, employees dressed as game show contestants and hosts.

“My focus is we can have fun while we work,” Hester said. “Anything I can do to increase morale or make it more relaxing and help them to stay motivated, I’m going that extra mile to think of it.”

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