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    Paying it Forward

    Every two weeks, Barbara Klein, senior manager of retail payroll and benefits, knows she's done a good job when payday comes and goes without a hitch.

    Although her official title with the company is senior manager of retail payroll and benefits, Barbara Klein also could be called the human resources firefighter.

    "There is no typical day. Basically, I put out fires for the group," she said. "Whether [my staff] is having issues with our payroll and benefits system, or they're having an employee issue they can't resolve at their level, they'll bring it to me to fix."

    Klein, who has been employed with Valero for 31 years, oversees a staff of 20, and she has five direct reports -- two supervisors, two analysts and an administrative assistant.

    "I'm lucky to have talented people who make my job easier," said Klein.
    With this many people reporting through her, Klein said she frequently gets pulled in different directions during her workday, which starts at 7:30 a.m.

    "Anytime you walk out of your office, somebody will grab you," she said.

    Klein and her staff oversee benefits administration and payroll for all store-level employees and for corporate retail employees hired since 2007. The goal is to transition all retail employees to the retail payroll group in the near future, since it can be confusing for department managers when some of their employees have payroll processed by the retail group and others are processed by corporate payroll.

    Employees are paid bi-weekly, with payroll being run every other Monday. The most rewarding part of the job, Klein said, is knowing employees in the stores don't have to worry about getting an incorrect check on payday.

    "My staff takes pride in ensuring everyone gets paid correctly the first time, every time," she said. "Every two weeks when people are paid, we've accomplished something," she said. "When payday comes and I'm not swamped by phone calls that things are wrong, it's a good feeling. I don't think we've ever had to worry about that happening because we make sure [the employees] get paid and they are paid properly."

    To ensure payroll is always correct, Klein serves as "keeper" of Valero Retail's SAP system, through which both payroll and benefits are administered. Within the system, each store has a numerical code associated with its salary band. Stores are banded based on market rates for each position and inside sales for each store. The higher the band, the higher the pay scale. Each job title within the stores has a corresponding code as well, as does each employee.

    Every year the salary bands are reviewed and may change. Klein's big project on the day CSNews arrived at her office was going through files to determine what changes need to be made. There could be approximately 10 to 50 positions in every store whose records need to change, she noted.

    In general, Klein spends a lot of time troubleshooting and testing the system. "SAP is just a beast of its own. Everything has to be tested because the system is intermingled with other components such as accounting and financial. The system dictates what the stores can and can't do and what they can see, so if it isn't set up right, the field operation can't do what they need to."

    Simultaneously with completing that project, Klein and her staff are starting to plan for the annual benefits enrollment period. Enrollment starts in October, and changes go into effect Jan. 1.

    Valero's retail division strives to be on the leading edge in benefits by offering a variety of options, such as medical, dental, vision, legal, life insurance and flexible spending accounts, to full- and part-time employees. The company subsidizes a percentage of the cost -- 75 percent to 80 percent for medical plans -- for employees and their dependents.

    Since July 2007, Klein's group does as much electronically as possible, and that now includes annual benefits enrollment. Instead of her group traveling across the country holding hundreds of meetings and handing out paperwork, retail employees last year were sent a DVD and then directed to go online and enroll.

    The process worked out so well, a DVD will be sent again this year. "It was the best thing ever," she said. "The DVD allowed us to communicate a consistent message to our employees across our 1,000 stores in nine states."

    The more her group can do electronically, the better, according to Klein. Already, the retail hiring process is 100 percent automated. From the time a hire is done in the field, every new employee fills out and signs all the necessary forms electronically.

    Payroll is 90 percent electronic, done through either direct deposit or payroll cards. In Texas and Louisiana, Valero does not issue paper checks to employees.

    "That 90 percent is pretty exceptional for a retail organization," Klein said, adding a rollout of electronic timesheets for corporate retail employees is now underway.

    "Most importantly, store personnel love the move to electronic, and we must continue to find ways to add value to the company," Klein said.
    "Everything we do here is to make it easier for store employees, so they can spend their time running the store," she noted. "Customer service is our priority."

    Biography:
    -- Started with Valero as a payroll clerk in 1978.
    -- Customer service is her highest priority.
    -- Forty percent of her day is responding to e-mails and
    doing research.
    -- The most challenging part of her job is managing people.
    -- Skills required for her job: organization, ability to multitask and good people skills.

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