Easy is boring

Saskia Lengert works with a team of 16 to ensure that all HHLA employees receive the remuneration they are due on time and at the agreed amount. This procedure is complicated because a lot of staff members are paid for their daily work. In order to understand what that means, we need to take a look back at the past too. 

There is a reference work that experts use to find out all the details about different types of remuneration and their payment. Not all wages are treated the same, and not all salaries are treated the same. Employees have rights to company pensions, overtime pay or time off in lieu, bonuses and much more. This book is still indispensable for the pay roll specialist Saskia Lengert in her day-to-day work. “The HHLA companies we deal with cover almost all types of remuneration and a whole range of special cases besides. You definitely need a few years of experience in order to figure it all out,” says the Vice Head of Remuneration.

The qualified tax accountant came to HHLA in 2008. After about three years, she was intimately familiar with all the details of processing remuneration payments. “If I had been new to the job and had to deal with this...” Lengert says, and tails off, shaking her head. “It would have been a real challenge – all these exceptions and the complicated breakdown of the salaries.”

Today, she works with a team of 16 to ensure “that all HHLA employees receive the remuneration they are due on time and at the agreed amount”. This procedure is only straightforward for those staff members receiving a monthly salary that rarely changes. “But otherwise, we’re dealing with a port and each person is paid for their daily work,” Saskia says. In order to understand what that means, we need to take a look back at the past. 

In earlier times, some dockers who were able to do simple maths and could write well were given special tasks. They had to list the work they had completed in their shifts in detail: For example, how many hours the individual worker had carried crates, driven the forklift, or – if a ship was delayed – swept the sheds. This work was totted up at the end of the week and the wages were paid out in cash every Friday.

This was known as a wage packet and happened a long time ago. But, one of its principles still remains in place at HHLA: The wages an employee receives every month depends on the work they do. Did someone work on a Sunday, or a night shift, or did they do overtime? Did they have to wait for a delayed vessel, or help out somewhere else?

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In the past, the process for calculating the individual services was even more complicated. Each page of the payslip had to be printed, sorted, folded and packed. Thanks to a clever IT system, that has all got a lot easier. A server assigns the pages of the payslip to the relevant person with the aid of a barcode.

The computer then prints off the accompanying letter while the inserting machine runs at full speed. There are often stressful days in Saskia Lengert’s department just before the payment dates, but everyone pulls together. “No one complains and no one needs any extra motivation,” she says. “After all, we want all of our colleagues to have their money in their account on time. So there’s nothing else for it!”

The money is transferred but HHLA employees still receive their payslips by post. That is due to change soon. Upon request, this letter can be replaced by a digital version. This will result in a hybrid solution and the switch-over is Saskia Lengert’s next big project. It won’t be easy. “But easy is boring!” she says and puts on her glasses. Work is calling!

Published 22.12.2022