Lean in Payroll

Lean Management is a system of constant process improvement, and an approach to improving efficiency and quality through small, incremental changes over time.

The UW Payroll Office has been utilizing Lean Management since 2011. Since 2012 our emphasis on constant process improvement (CPI) has lead to thousands of employee driven ideas being generated and implemented, an average of 2.9 ideas per employee per month. The "bottom up" management style gives all employees in the Payroll Office a hand in management of projects and leads to generating more ideas for increasing our quality, delivery and efficiency.

Office Goals

• Quality (Listening to the customer)
• Delivery (Deliver right the first time, on time)
• Efficiency (Reduce paper and cycle time)
• People (Cross training, skills, backfill)
• Ideas (Ideas generated and implemented)

Payroll Lean

Number of employees: 18
Launched: March 2011

Office Teams

• Client Services and Training
• A-Team (Accounting and Tax)
• ROD (Retropayments, Overpayments & Deductions)
• Leaders

Great ideas we've implemented:

• Electronic faxes -- paper savings of 99%, processing time saving for employment verifications 79.75%
• State Tax Database -- established database resulting in a 500% increase in number of employees being tracked for out of state reporting purposes.
• Involuntary Deduction Database -- increased accuracy in reporting. 55% time savings during the busiest 4 days of the pay period.

How Payroll serves campus

• Provides both system and administrative support to campus departments. We provide outreach assistance by training departments on how to use the systems and process activities to pay employees.
• Provides knowledgeable, accurate information in a friendly, customer service-focused environment. We provide a range of useful services from employment verifications, to informing new-hires on how to set up their direct deposit using ESS.
• Collects reports, and submits tax payments on behalf of the University of Washington and employees. On average we produce 55,000 W2 forms each year.
• Processes retro payments and on demand payments for employees. We also resolve overpayment issues and process both involuntary and voluntary deductions.

Team Accomplishments

Client Services and Training:

• Saved 4-5 minutes per employment verification (average 50/day) by processing electronically.
• Generated extra 4 goals each month by conducting outreach to campus departments and "Listening to the voice of the customer".
• Improved customer service by  proactively communicating with departments, in advance regarding  payroll time entry deadlines to ensure smooth and  efficient payroll processing campus-wide. (Saved up to 12 hours per month.)

A-Team (Accounting and Tax)

• Saved paper by converting the General Ledger & Bank Reconciliations to a 100% electronic format; the Payroll Office reduced the number of reconciliations from 87 down to 38, cutting reconciliation time by over 45% and saving over 500 pieces of paper a month.
• Streamlined the involuntary deduction process saving 3 hours per pay cycle (72 hours annually).
• Coordinated with the student database group to insure the accuracy of tax reporting for students. Worked to confirm both systems have the correct Social Security Numbers for accurate Social Security and Medicare tax withholding. Correct numbers are mandated for IRS tax form reporting.
• Saved paper, time, and costs by advertising paper W-2 opt out.  In 2014, over 10,600 employees elected to opt out of printed W-2s.

ROD Team (Retropayments, Overpayments & Deductions)

• Reduced paper checks by 300-400 per month. Cost savings of approximately $8000 per pay period.
• Increased efficiency by eliminating waste steps of the overpayment process.


• Once a month one of the Payroll Office teams hosts a Recognition Event to celebrate Lean successes and to recognize the accomplishments of individuals in the Payroll Office.

For more information on Finance and Facilities (F2) Lean Management program you can visit the Finance and Facilities Lean web page.