January 2023

Make Forming High Performing Global Payroll Teams a Priority

By Mary Holland, CPP
Multi Country PR_Inside

Building and developing high performing payroll teams should be a priority at multinational companies. Multi-country payroll is a critical mission requiring qualified, diligent, and digitally skilled global payroll professionals.

Ideally, a high performing team manages a multi-country payroll inside a digital technology platform that is fully integrated with the wider payroll ecosystem that includes human capital management (HCM) systems, global benefits providers, local country payroll vendors, and finance software. Creating such a foundation will enable and encourage peak team performance.

Global payroll can be a challenging environment, especially at large enterprises with more than 50 payroll countries on their books. So, individuals with a broad set of skills—technical and soft skills—are required to excel.

It’s important to outline several considerations when putting together a high performing payroll team at a multinational organization.

Identifying Team Needs

A team is predicated on identifying needs. Consider expected workloads and the skill sets necessary to fill the team. Measure the volume of work and assess the degree of complexity involved in the payrolls across each country.

Some key introductory questions include the following:

  • How many team members will be required to deliver payroll?
  • Do you require a mix of permanent payroll professionals and contractors/temporary workers?
  • What specific skill sets are required in the payroll team?
  • What is the payroll structure inside the organization on a local, regional, and corporate level?
  • What payroll delivery model is currently in place, and how does that impact the building of a high performing team?
  • How many companies, entities, and countries do you need to cover?
  • What are the unique requirements in your payroll countries related to culture, currency, and time zone?

You will also need a clear picture of the global workforce employed: permanent, contractor, expatriate, or employer of record (EoR) workers. This will give you a strong indication of the level of complexity in delivering payroll. Consider too, the network of local country payroll providers with whom your team members will be required to interact. What level of support do the vendors need? Additionally, are there specific language requirements?

Identifying these key needs will help you establish the number of team members and specific skill sets required.

Considerations for Post-Pandemic Team

There’s no doubt the working world has changed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s important to consider the various factors while forming your team. For instance, what are the implications for your global payroll team when paying employees who work remotely? Do global payroll professionals’ skill sets differ from pre-pandemic days? Business continuity and emergency payroll are bigger considerations now than they may have been before the pandemic.

Team members may need to operate independently, and communications will be virtual instead of in the office. Time management, organization, and communication skills are tested more in this type of working environment. What about system access? Are there procedures and protocols in place that ensure all team members can access all the data and documents they need to do their job in the event of business continuity measures?

Team Diversity

Another consideration might be your diversity requirements. Do you need people from different country backgrounds with unique language skills? Could you consider people from a non-payroll industry background? Bringing in people from tax, accounting, and compliance backgrounds could improve your team. There may be an overall diversity and inclusion recruitment program operating on a company-wide level that may impact your hiring process, so have some conversations with your HR management team. The United States has a highly diverse population to choose from, so there is a real opportunity to strengthen your team by choosing candidates from a diverse workforce.

Shared Vision, Team Dynamics

Define and articulate a shared vision between all members of the payroll team. A high functioning team will benefit from working towards a common objective. A mission statement explaining the reason for the team's existence and an explanation of its core values can be valuable. The objective will be to create full clarity on direction, priorities, and ensure 100% buy-in and alignment from highly engaged team members.

This can also help those in charge of hiring to get a clearer picture of the type of person they want for the team. When the vision and mission statement is in place, you can then begin considering skill sets and personalities that align with this shared vision.

Team dynamics and personality traits can impact how things get done. Global payroll is a challenging working environment with tight deadlines. Conflicts can arise and resolving them in a measured and even-tempered way is a valuable skill set to have. High-performing teams confront problems or issues quickly and then develop practical solutions toward a resolution.

Career paths and promotion opportunities within the team should also be discussed if you want ambitious and talented people on your team. You should expect that they will come to the role with expectations around payroll career trajectory.

Ask your applicants what they believe success will look like. This will help with team evaluation and streamline your ability to track progress. What kind of mentoring and coaching initiatives can you introduce to ensure that the onboarding, training, and development of new team members works well? Define the criteria you will use to evaluate team members of varying skill sets and experience levels.

Hiring, Onboarding, Training

Forming high performing global payroll teams requires a holistic approach and long-term view. It’s a process that flows from initial hiring to rapid on-boarding, followed by a period of ongoing training and development.

Create a formal induction course for all new hires that covers onboarding and training. If your payroll is digital, provide comprehensive training on the platform and all its features. Outline the roles, responsibilities, and expectations for the team. Ensure they understand the global payroll ecosystem and the HR and finance teams’ role in payroll data gathering and processing.

Ensure new hires are exposed to multiple payroll countries. This will allow team members to gain an understanding of how processes differ across countries for data requirements, unique pay elements such as tax, pension, and social security, as well as compliance and regulation obligations. The more training and exposure they receive in the early weeks, the quicker they will pick things up and start to become high performers.

Empower Teams With Tools, Communicate Regularly

The future of payroll is digital, so a high performing global payroll team will need to be equipped with innovative digital tools to execute their daily duties to the highest standards possible. Emails and spreadsheets should be consigned to the past and global payroll professionals should be working in a secure cloud environment where they can achieve the following:

  • Monitor payroll progress with digital dashboards
  • Communicate with in-country partners (ICPs) using digital notes and platform communications
  • Keep track of tasks via system alerts and automated calendars
  • Access and easily share payroll documents and procedure notes
  • Maintain security and data integrity with information protection tools

A good payroll leader can empower any high-performing team by prioritizing the automation of any manual data entry processes. Preparing pre-payroll data for a payroll calculation engine, for example, is one of the most time-consuming manual tasks faced by global payroll professionals today. Automating this step and ensuring automated bidirectional data flows between all related systems would free up a huge amount of time. Additional time means team members can focus their skill sets on priorities such as reporting, analysis, and process improvements.

Senior team members and management must lead by example and actively communicate with all members of the team. Examples would be regular team meetings, shared documents for team members to drop in ideas, and intermittent meetings between senior managers and payroll professionals.

Goal Setting

You cannot have a high performing payroll team if you are unable to measure their performance levels. Measurable and achievable goal setting should play a strong role. If team members are clear about individual and team goals, they can work towards these goals with motivation, energy, and creativity.

A mix of individual and team-oriented goals can also be helpful. Some examples of these goals include the following:

  • Reduce payroll query turnaround times by 20%
  • Contact all ICPs by phone every month
  • Speak to HR every quarter for feedback on how HR and payroll can better align
  • Complete all payroll and compliance training courses ahead of schedule
  • Attend three payroll industry events each year and share knowledge

Set goals, apply timeframes to these goals, and create a process around performance evaluation. Excellent performances should be recognized while managers should also look to identify where team members might be struggling to meet specific goals.

Mary Holland, CPP, is a recognized global payroll professional and has held leadership roles in global payroll leadership and operations, finance, stock equity, global mobility, project management, and enterprise customer service. Holland leads the client implementations team and customer success team at Payslip, ensuring global clients are boarded onto its global payroll technology platform with speed and efficiency along with industry-leading customer support.
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