May 2023

How Addressing Global Mobility Challenges Improves Payroll’s Lives


GlobalMobility_InsideManaging global payroll is always a complex task. But it became more challenging in 2022, especially for mobile employees. There are two significant reasons for this, which include the following:

  • A decline in traditional expatriate assignments and the growth of project work, short-term assignments, and international remote working. The pandemic radically accelerated this shift, meaning that payroll professionals now manage far more payroll scenarios.
  • Simultaneously, businesses are contending with increasing employee expectations regarding their experiences at work, whether home or abroad. Employees now expect slick, digital experiences in every aspect of their working lives—and this expectation extends to pay, where receipt of an accurate digital record of pay, including tax and social security liabilities, is vital.


These complications are placing payroll professionals, specifically those who deal with globally mobile employees, under severe pressure. This stress isn’t simply a result of the workload. It extends to the types of tasks they’re asked to complete. Many of these are repetitive and require a deep level of expertise, such as shadow payroll. There are now several technology solutions on the market that will automate tasks and make their lives easier. However, too often, this brings a secondary problem—what technology to choose.


Five Principles to Successfully Identify Business Needs

Payroll professionals know that the right technology could make their lives easier, but many departments are cautious about making technology, people, and time investments. How do they get this right without a high risk of effort and cost?

Before embarking down this road, any professional or team should take some time to identify what the business needs from them, and what they are struggling to deliver. Where will technology make a real difference to them and the business? With this insight front-of-mind, professionals can then go about selecting and integrating the technology that will help them address their pain points. For this, there are five principles for success, as viewed in the image.

  1. Don’t do everything at once

    During the assessment phase, professionals often identify key areas where technology could be applied. Many will then create a long wish list and try to get investments approved all at once. While this may seem sensible, a far better approach is to address one or two problems at a time.

    Doing this eliminates many of the concerns businesses often have bringing new technology into their stacks. It also cuts down on introducing overcomplicated “one-stop-shop” solutions and gives teams the opportunity to use new tools without becoming overwhelmed.

    Teams can then experience the benefits technology can provide in improving the process of managing the complex task of global payroll for their expatriate workforce, one step at a time, and ultimately the experience of the employees themselves. It can also enable business leaders to directly measure the immediate improvements that technology brings to the payroll function and allows for future investments for the next steps.


  2. Find a solution that gives you a single source of data truth

     To be valuable to the business, global payroll teams must have access to up-to-date, accurate information in real time, with respect to compensation and benefits of their expatriate workforces. Regularly, siloed data sitting in different systems makes this much harder than it sounds. This can mean that relatively simple questions, such as the size or cost of an expatriate workforce, can be a struggle for global payroll teams to answer.

    To save time and erase inaccuracies, businesses should aim to use technology tools that give them a single source of truth (SSOT). This allows teams to focus on decision-making informed by data. From a practical perspective, this means using a platform that will enable you to migrate data into one unified hub.


  3. Consider your technology landscape

    If businesses want to enjoy the benefits of integration and have one platform to pull data from multiple sources, they need to think about their technology landscape. For professionals, this means thinking about the systems the new tools will need to connect with and ensuring they can achieve the necessary integration. Much of the expatriate data is crucial for other areas of the business, such as global mobility, HR, corporate tax, transfer pricing, and in some cases, client invoicing. A crucial aspect of this is to look beyond payroll systems and consider how the solution also integrates with other department systems to provide business continuity across functions.

    The best way to ensure this is the case is to use a cloud-based solution with application programming interface (API) capabilities. This ensures the solution can plug into existing systems securely and is unlikely to disrupt operations in any way.


  4. Watch for ease of implementation

    Nothing takes the glow off new technology like a long implementation process. Months-long implementations used to be the norm, which posed a significant barrier to the success of busy global payroll teams.

    Now, implementing new tools can be done in far less time. It is important to find solutions—and vendors—that can provide a clear and well-planned implementation roadmap. This ensures the timeliness of any technology integrations, which can make or break maintaining support from the wider business.


  5. Select a solution that’s future-fit
  6. If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that nothing is certain. It is challenging to predict future needs and trends. This is important when businesses consider their technology solutions because they must aim for flexibility and adaptability to avoid tethering themselves to one way of operating indefinitely.

    No one needs a degree in technology to purchase or successfully implement technology. You just need to be able to pinpoint what you need, the characteristics of the solution, and what the result should look like. The most important part of any technology integration is that the business and teams involved know exactly what they want to achieve.

Technology’s Benefits

Done correctly, the benefits of technology integration are huge. Businesses will benefit from a more strategic payroll function, able to spend most of its time thinking about what the business needs and delivering on this. Global payroll teams will be able to furnish business leaders in various departments with accurate data, which will help them make more informed decisions about their workforce and business decisions.

Expatriate employees will also benefit if businesses can hand complex, repetitive tasks over to technology. Think how much more time can be spent creating better, more tailored experiences for expatriate employees. All while making sure assignees are paid on time, as expected with no issues from the home or host tax authorities.

This brings us to the final piece of the puzzle—the benefits to global payroll professionals managing a globally mobile workforce. These are tenfold and come down to this: Through successfully integrating the right technology, you can free yourself of repetitive manual tasks, and instead, you can spend time on tasks that you enjoy and make you feel like you’re adding value to the business.

You’ll radically reduce your workload pressures and be able to go home and spend time with the people, or pets who, let’s face it, are probably far more important to you than work.

Richard McBride is Founder and CEO of Certino. He is an experienced HR executive, chartered accountant, and chartered tax adviser with more than 35 years in the industry who has expert knowledge in global mobility, international employment tax, and reward. In 2017, Richard founded Certino having notched 25 years of experience managing mobility and employment tax programmes.
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