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Outsourcing payroll: beyond transaction‐cost economics

Michael Dickmann (Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield, UK)
Shaun Tyson (Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield, UK)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 1 August 2005




There are continuing pressures to improve administrative efficiency in human resource management (HRM). Following the professional and academic literature, proposes “payroll” as an ideal candidate for outsourcing in order to drive costs down.


The research uses a transaction‐cost‐economics perspective to identify efficiency implications of varying governance decisions. Ten distinct payroll activities that account for a generic payroll workflow are identified. Then the costs of carrying out these distinct payroll processes, either market‐ or hierarchy‐based, are analysed in 20 case studies of UK‐based organisations.


While key payroll activities were more costly when outsourced, there were efficiency gains in supplementary activities and lesser investment in IT software and maintenance.


These insights are important for cost‐based make‐or‐buy decisions. Influence factors on governance decisions, however, went beyond considerations of transaction costs, quality and risks to include historical, political and individual rationales. They are depicted in a framework of outsourcing motivations.



Dickmann, M. and Tyson, S. (2005), "Outsourcing payroll: beyond transaction‐cost economics", Personnel Review, Vol. 34 No. 4, pp. 451-467.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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