Payroll Excellence: Empowering Duke’s Financial Precision and Efficiency

The staff members at Duke University and Duke University Health System play a vital role in upholding the accuracy and integrity of the master payroll data, which is the linchpin ensuring the precision of payroll operations. Situated within the Financial Services division, this unit is responsible for disbursing payments in three key payroll areas: faculty and staff exempt employees, biweekly non-exempt employees, and non-compensatory payments for students, encompassing fellowships, internships, and scholarships.

Corporate Payroll Services leans on the dedication of around 400 payroll representatives across Duke University and Duke University Health System. These representatives utilize the self-service Duke@Work portal to collect transactional data and secure timecard approvals every pay period. Subsequently, this data—comprising details like monthly and bi-weekly payroll hours worked and deductions for items such as health and dental insurance—is meticulously compiled and scrutinized by the payroll staff. They employ an advanced data management platform to manage and process this critical master payroll data.

Kassaundra Hester, the director of Corporate Payroll Services, underlines the significance of their role, stating, “This is the one job that impacts each and every employee; it’s everybody’s livelihood.”

National Payroll Week, observed from September 4-8, serves as an occasion to acknowledge and celebrate the indispensable role of payroll professionals in maintaining the financial equilibrium.

In addition to managing payroll, Duke Corporate Payroll also assumes the responsibility of generating W-2, 1099, and 1042-S tax statements. A significant transformation occurred in the leadup to payday, with the introduction of direct deposit in 1994. In 2008, online direct deposit statements were introduced as an electronic alternative for receiving payments.

Notably, in 2022, Duke Corporate Payroll opted to outsource in-house check printing to Wells Fargo, resulting in approximately 1,200 paychecks per month being printed and mailed by Wells Fargo. Furthermore, Corporate Payroll Services introduced “The Work Number” by Equifax last year. This digital verification service empowers both current and former employees to swiftly access reports on their employment and income information without engaging payroll services directly.

Efficiency has been a top priority for Kassaundra Hester since her arrival at Duke in 2021. The push to reduce paper consumption and embrace new tools and technology has not only streamlined operations but also enabled payroll services staff to adopt a hybrid work schedule, a welcome shift following the pandemic-induced on-site work mode.

During annual retreats, where successes, challenges, and goals for the upcoming year are discussed, Duke Corporate Payroll Services staff add a touch of fun to their presentations by dressing up according to themed motifs chosen by the unit. Last year’s theme was sports, with groups donning outfits representing golfers, football players, and basketball players. This year, at the unit’s retreat, employees embraced the spirit of game shows, appearing as contestants and hosts.

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

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