Pinnacle of Service

Benefiting from regular and consistently effective training, Paychex, Inc, employees ensure their clients have everything they need to best manage their own workforces.

Chandra Cuyler, Manager, Leadership Development; Jose Cabrera, Manager, Culture and DEI; Gretchen Woodworth, Senior Sales Learning Instructor; Laurie O’Mara, Project Manager; and Salvatore, Sarratori, Senior Sales Learning Instructor. Middle row, from left: Jill Schroeder, Senior Learning Instructor; Jonathan Fladd, Senior Sales Learning Instructor; Michael Pieri, Project Manager; and Thomas Harris, Manager, Leadership Development. Bottom row, from left: Sean Burke, Training Manager; Ashlee Shoemaker, Global Training Success Manager; Matt Daniels, Benefits/HR Analyst; Amy Graeber, Senior Learning Instructor; and Jennifer Russell, Senior Learning Instructor.

People have high expectations for their work life these days. Since the pandemic, employees want an accommodating employer that is easy to work with. Human Resources and payroll services must be convenient and efficient for both companies and employees. Paychex Inc, which provides multifaceted payroll and Human Resources solutions, makes delivering these services to employees much easier.

However, in order to deliver exceptional service and solutions, Paychex’s own people must be up to the job. The Learning team at Paychex has mastered the art of delivering consistently effective training programs year in and out—earning it a Top 10 Training APEX Awards ranking for the last four years and making it eligible for induction into the Training Hall of Fame in 2025.


Paychex’s goals for 2022/2023 were ambitious. Carrying through from the previous fiscal year, these goals required a team at the top of its game to:

  • Increase market share and net client gain through the successful execution of growth strategies and industry-leading customer experiences.
  • Build, support, and retain an engaged and high-performing team with a focus on continued career development and improved diversity and inclusion at all levels.
  • Continue to lead payroll and HR services markets by supporting the success and growth of clients and their employees with technology-enabled services that address the rapidly changing regulatory and competitive marketplace.

“We use these company goals as an anchor for all our training,” says Erica Toluhi, director of People Strategy and Talent Management, Paychex, Inc.

In Paychex’s business, the year-end season is the most critical time of the calendar year, Toluhi explains. “While each quarter-end has its challenges, the end-of-the-year work is the pinnacle of the payroll environment. Our clients and their employees depend on the preparation of tax forms to meet filing deadlines,” she says.

The end of the calendar year is also the most common time for clients to reconsider their payroll outsourcing vendor, thus it is imperative for Paychex to retain clients by maintaining client satisfaction levels while also retaining and engaging its own employees.

“It is crucial that our employees are prepared to meet our clients’ needs during this high-volume, make-or-break season. Each year, we embark on a company-wide mission to ensure that front-line service providers are trained on the latest regulations and most common situations involving year-end processing,” Toluhi says.

Training topics include fringe benefits, W-2s/1099s, and year-end adjustments. To support a successful year-end, Paychex’s approach is broken up into three phases:

  • Preparatory: September, collaborate with the Year-End Readiness Team and stakeholders to review prior year feedback and determine the learning plan.
  • Readiness: October-December, launch eLearning and conduct workshops according to an eight-week schedule.
  • Regulatory: January, training for regulatory changes for year-end federal and state forms.


The flexible year-end training sessions are tenure-based, offering practical experience refreshers using self-study eLearning and workshops. Most workshops are optional for employees with more than two years of experience and required for employees with less than two years on the job.

For two critical topics—third-party sick pay and bonus checks—employees with more than two years of experience are required to take a test-out assessment. If they do not pass with an 80 percent or above score, they are required to attend the workshops. Supervisors also assign employees they observe struggling with year-end concepts for remedial training.

Service employees with less than three years of service are now required to be in the office full-time. Through the pandemic, the year-end training was modified to be virtual. With all new employees in the office full-time, the opportunity to conduct in-person workshops increased overall training completion to 94 percent, a year-over-year increase of 12 percent. “In addition to flexibility, the sessions are geared toward multiple service models and system platforms. Using scenarios that resonate with the learner has proven to be more effective for retention and client satisfaction,” Toluhi notes.


Along with making sure Paychex employees have all they need to serve customers, the Learning team works to maintain employee engagement. “We implemented several innovative activities to engage employees and ensure their readiness for this critical time of year for our business,” says Toluhi, highlighting:

  • Super Saturdays: Business units chose to offer year-end workshops on Saturdays. This helped with scheduling training during heavy service volumes. Employees were allowed to work from home and were paid overtime.
  • Workshop/eLearning test-outs: Five-minute assessment for employees with two-plus years of tenure taken a week before, seen as time savings for productivity, saving approximately 45 minutes for the employee.
  • Year-end contest: Drawing for points worth $25 if the year-end 2022 Knowledge Resource Center is added as a favorite article in the Knowledge Portal.
  • Leader involvement: Required to complete eLearning one week before their employee; workshops are optional, but encouraged.
  • Year-end huddles: Weekly supervisor-led huddle, customized in real time based on assessment data so leaders could target development— communicated through year-end news-feeds.
  • Year-end training leader guides: Details on expectations of huddles, completion reporting guidance, talking points, and best practices for leading/ reinforcing the team through the busy season.
  • Year-end LMS playlist: Topics for year-end that do not impact all employees—gathered in one place.


Toluhi says Paychex upped its investment in training its Learning team in 2022/2023. “As our Learning and Development (L&D) organization transformed last year, we prioritized the development of L&D employees in foundational L&D skills and knowledge,” she says. “Through manager observations, the leadership team recognized gaps in skills for both instructors and designers. A development task team built a roadmap for improving skills and providing development opportunities.”

The first area of focus was building confidence, credibility, and skills through certification.

The plan included an investment of approximately $100,000 in certification. Paychex partnered with the Association for Talent Development (ATD) on a certification course for learning instructors and learning designers. The instructors were certified in virtual facilitation with a focus on delivering engaging sessions and understanding and applying learning science to training delivery.

A final teach-back was part of the certification requirement. Learning designers focused on needs assessment, design thinking, rapid prototyping, and evaluation with a capstone instructional design project showcasing the skills they acquired. The sessions were delivered over six dedicated weeks; workload was considered for the employees to attend and focus. Employees were encouraged to announce their certification on Linkedln. To ensure alignment on expectations, all employees in selected roles were expected to attend regardless of experience or tenure. Going forward, new talent will have certification expectations and or experience required upon hire.

“Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is encouraged for our project managers. A focus on preparing and taking advantage of tuition reimbursement for the certification was encouraged,” Toluhi says.

Certification accomplishment was a success.

  • 100 percent of learning designers and 95 percent of learning instructors are ATD certified.
  • Three project managers achieved their PMP certification on account of Paychex’s focus on their development.


The greatest training team can still benefit from additional learning insights for employees. In the modern era, those insights can come from artificial intelligence (Al).

Paychex’s sales program uses an AI-powered guidance tool to help sales representatives improve their selling skills. Representatives record actual sales calls with prospects and conduct peer reviews for best practices. The Al tool listens to the call recordings and other interactions with customers and provides actionable advice on where and how they can make immediate improvements.

Besides optimizing Al, Toluhi points to an array of projects Paychex has in the works, including:

  • Leveraging data to drive learning analysis discussions
  • New hire program redesign initiatives
  • Utilizing gamification to energize learning
  • Using stack ranking to drive training completion
  • Agile learning methods for new and existing leaders to support strategic objectives
  • Success profiles for more objective support for internal candidate development, external candidate placement, and succession actions

“The focus for all of our L&D staff is to know the goals and strategies of the business units we support to align and provide the best learning solution and experience,” Toluhi says. “Providing business results insights and evaluation data back to the business earns us a permanent seat at their table as a key business partner.”