Why Payroll plays the role of the cycling domestique


Following the recent completion of the Tour De France and Tour De France Femmes, we have seen incredible cyclists win new records and accolades for their achievements. Yet most do not realise that those who finish with the coveted yellow jersey only do so thanks to their trusted ‘domestiques.’

But what is a domestique?

Quite literally, the French word “domestique” means “servant.” Within the realm of cycling, a domestique is a title given to a cyclist who holds the critical role of providing support to the top team lead rider, known as the ‘Captain.’ The domestique has several essential responsibilities, including being a pacemaker or riding out in front so that the lead cyclist can ride in their slipstream, saving them precious energy for that push for the finish at the end of the race. The domestique’s fundamental role is to help the Captain rider win races and stay ahead of the competition.

It is a selfless position that involves demanding work and considerable suffering, all for someone else to take the glory! In no other sport does such a role exist. However, it does exist in business. The profile of the domestique is similar to the role payroll operations play in business.

Aligning the cycling domestique to the role payroll plays in business.

A lead cyclist would fall behind without the support of their domestique, similarly, companies without solid payroll operations are likely to suffer behind their competitors. Inefficient or inaccurate payroll operations typically result in high staff attrition and low morale, meanwhile the fiscal penalties for errors can be severe. Getting payroll wrong or failing to comply with complex regulations can not only lead to increased costs and fines, but it has a knock-on impact on employee wellness, attrition, and engagement if employees are paid incorrectly.

The payroll department is therefore the backbone that supports and enables companies to function efficiently. Effective payroll operations allow stakeholders and business leaders to concentrate on what they know best: running the business and delivering strategic initiatives that provide a competitive advantage. Payroll operations support businesses to allow them to operate efficiently and competitively.

Why is the role of the payroll domestique so important?

Slick payroll operations also help support the employee experience, driving employee engagement upward. However, when employees experience payroll mistakes, this can be extremely disengaging, leading to critical workforce issues such as high attrition and challenges attracting new employees into the business. Recently, several stories in the news have appeared highlighting payroll errors within major employers that have resulted in employees needing to secure loans from payday lenders or even cutting back on meals to make ends meet. Such situations create tremendous financial stress and anxiety for employees, and it can profoundly impact motivation, productivity, retention, absenteeism, and attraction. With the UK facing an unprecedented cost of living crisis, the ability of a company to process accurate payroll operations has never been more critical.

The silent sound of success!

Like a domestique, it is rare for a payroll professional to receive praise for their work, which often goes unnoticed. Similarly, to domestiques, payroll professionals are happy to silently contribute to the ultimate success for which business leaders take the public plaudits. And yet, if things go wrong, (as recent headlines have shown), it is the payroll professional that is often the first line of defence to take the blame if organisational performance drops or errors occur.

That is precisely why payroll professionals are like cycling domestiques. Payroll operations focus on avoiding and identifying issues before they occur. When a rare error does arise, they take responsibility for addressing it effectively and quickly to minimise performance disruption and safeguard the leaders they support. In payroll, the power of silence is the only award required as silence acknowledges a job well done. The same is true for the cycling domestique.

The best domestiques become eventual winners.

Integral to the success of any organisation is the payroll department. Crucial to the success of any lead rider in the Tour De France is the domestique. In fact, numerous top domestiques have gone on to become Grand Tour winners. Recently, Geraint Thomas became a Tour De France winner in 2018 after initially being the lead domestique to Chris Froome in his 2016 and 2017 Tour victories. From 2012 to 2018, Team Sky invested £150m to help them win the Tour six out of seven times during this period. Team Sky’s investment in recruiting top domestiques and then nurturing this talent was critical to the team’s success, which included three different Grand Tour winners: Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas.

In the world of payroll, we are seeing more businesses than ever committing investment into the recruitment process to ensure they can secure the best payroll talent available. Meanwhile, payroll professionals continue to rise in profile as business leaders begin to understand the contributions effective payroll operations can have on achieving organisational success.

Top accountancy firms are now promoting payroll professionals to Partnership level roles. In addition, award-winning payroll recruitment firm, JGA Recruitment Group recently reported that they have secured a record number of payroll director-level requisitions as companies begin to hire executive level payroll talent. 

Effective payroll operations are now synonymous with business success.

Effective payroll operations have become synonymous with improved employee retention, attraction, wellness, and engagement metrics. JGA Recruitment Group founder Nick Day expects this to continue:

“Payroll is notoriously complex and navigating payroll successfully starts with recruiting the right payroll talent. Top-performing payroll operations improve performance, increase employee engagement, and save organisations both time and money.”

If you want your business to stay ahead of the curve, get in touch with JGA Recruitment Group today and let them help you transform your payroll operation to support your organisational or strategic endeavours. Phone: +44 (0)1727 800377, Email:    

JGA Recruitment also publish two business podcasts: The Payroll Podcast and The HR L&D Podcast

By Nick Day

Keywords: Business Strategy, HR, Leadership

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