May 2023

The Evolving Career of the Global Payroll Professional

By Nick Day and Mary Holland, CPP

EvolutionCareerDevelopment_InsideAs the global workforce evolves, so too must payroll professionals. Payroll has never been a static career; however, with technology transforming the future of work and employee experience becoming a priority for many organisations, payroll career pathways have evolved quickly to keep up with the curve.

Operational, administrative, or transactional activities no longer define payroll as a career. The impact of technology has caused the industry to develop and grow, with new opportunities opening in the fields of payroll technology, sales, strategy, analytics, customer success, and automation. Meanwhile, new paths have arisen for those keen to progress. As a result, mastering the art of global payroll has become more exciting and diverse than ever.


Stakeholder Awareness

As technology and the future of work continues to evolve, payroll professionals must stay up-to-date concerning industry trends and advancements. It is critical to understand new technologies and how to leverage them to improve employee experience, streamline payments, enhance data security, and optimise efficiency. Business leaders expect payroll leaders to be equipped with the knowledge to utilise payroll analytics to support broader organisational objectives. 

After the payroll industry was thrust into the limelight during the pandemic, stakeholders became acutely aware of the relationship between payroll operations and their impact on employee retention. Payroll departments optimizing payment processes that enhanced the employee experience through solutions such as earned wage access, interactive payroll dashboards, improved reporting, self-service, or income transparency highlighted improvements in employee satisfaction, retention, and attraction. These are valuable strategic considerations for any business to scrutinise in a world where talent shortages are causing significant challenges.


Technology Improves Strategic Insights

Technology is also supporting payroll leaders to grow and become more strategic. For example, automation reduces the burden of manual tasks and improves accuracy, enabling payroll leaders to focus more on strategy. Simultaneously, cloud-based solutions are improving global accessibility and data security. Identifying how payroll can impact and improve organisational performance has propelled the strategic importance of payroll to the attention of board-level stakeholders. In response, payroll professionals are accessing a multitude of academic accreditations, to include PayrollOrg’s Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) designation and Global Payroll Management Certificate Program, to upskill their knowledge and strategic expertise to support C-suites more effectively.

Meanwhile, technology companies have awoken to opportunities linking employee retention with payroll and are creating new solutions to profit from the relationship. Subsequently, many technology providers have entered the payroll market with research, investment, product development, and many new solutions to enhance the employee experience.

Synchronously, advances in data reporting generated by these new systems have resulted in payroll professionals evolving their skills concerning trend analysis and identification to support broader tactical business objectives. For example, trends and insights identified by payroll play a more critical and strategic role in supporting broader HR initiatives such as diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and pay gap analysis across gender, diversity, or regions. In addition, as employees demand more transparency, access to pay-on-demand services, and a more comprehensive range of well-being or reward-related compensation options, it is easy to understand why payroll has swiftly become a central consideration for overall employee experience.


Advance, Change, Adapt

These changes have occurred quickly. However, the global payroll community is used to adapting, which is why it’s no coincidence that many new career pathways have emerged and evolved. Although evolution may be driven by technology and employee experience, the net result is an increase in new payroll career pathways, such as payroll software developers, payroll analysts, customer success professionals, payroll data scientists, payroll data security experts, quality assurance, data governance and process automation implementers, functional payroll consultants, payroll sales directors, payroll inside sales managers, and the list goes on.

New roles focused on data, technology, employee well-being, and selling these products and services means that global payroll professionals can now develop their careers in many avenues. Meanwhile, education and training opportunities are in high demand to support the industry as it navigates the needs of our new world of work. For example, opportunities exist to pivot from payroll manager to payroll instructor or similar teaching or consulting pathways more than ever before.


Globalization, Expansion of Payroll Opportunities

Globalization and the international shift to working at home have also created new openings for global payroll professionals. In a talent-short global market, businesses are more willing to hire talent across international boundaries. This global shift in hiring practices has forced payroll professionals to learn and acquire international payroll compliance and process expertise and knowledge that transcends national regulations. 

The expansion of globalized markets coupled with an increase in international growth by acquisition brings further regulatory complexities. From understanding cross-border payroll tax laws and compliance requirements to traversing currency fluctuations and payment methods to harmonising global payroll and benefits post-TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006)–global payroll is a web of complexity. 

However, with increased responsibility and difficulty come increased rewards. Subsequently, we are witnessing the globalization of payroll impact positively on remunerations for those with global payroll remits. In part, this is in recognition of the increased intricacies associated with running an accurate payroll operation across multiple geographical locations; however, they also compensate for the advanced knowledge required to navigate domestic and international payroll regulations compliantly.


The Future of Work

The future of work for global payroll professionals is a dynamic and evolving landscape. Technology has enabled payroll professionals to become more strategic, identifying new ways to streamline processes, enhance the employee experience, and unlock efficiency gains through data analysis and automation. New career pathways are defined as the payroll industry shifts towards digital transformation, with opportunities arising in analytics, compliance management, software development, implementation, software sales, process optimisation, and strategy. Meanwhile, global payroll opportunities are also emerging as organisations seek to expand, scale, and stay competitive in today’s world economy. Payroll professionals are navigating complex international payroll legislation, analysing processes, and undertaking deep data analysis to pinpoint organisational improvements, reduce costs, or enhance employee retention. The strategic value payroll operations can provide business leaders and C-suites have been recognised, which is why we are seeing more leaders appointed or promoted into payroll director or payroll partnership level roles, securing coveted seats at the executive level. Finally, payroll is gaining the international recognition it deserves.


Preparing for the Future

Payroll professionals keen on advancing their careers must stay informed of industry trends impacting the global profession. I recommend they also take the time to invest in professional development opportunities that take advantage of emerging trends and changing compliance and leadership expectations. Attending conferences, webinars, and seminars or listening to podcasts such as PayrollOrg’s “PayTalk” podcast or JGA’s The Payroll Podcast, which are focused on payroll topics, also provide valuable insights into best practices and developments that may improve the efficiency or effectiveness of a payroll operation.

Payroll professionals should position themselves for success by looking ahead and being prepared to adjust swiftly to emerging trends while staying informed of changing regulations and industry standards. Remaining ahead of the curve concerning new technologies in the global payroll landscape is also vital. Take note of the disruptors and build robust bridges with counterparts in HR or finance to understand the payroll data that could significantly impact broader organisational goals. From absence and sickness trends to benefits utilisation and regional pay gap analysis, global payroll professionals have a unique opportunity to push boundaries, create opportunities, and raise the profile of the payroll industry for all.


Take Advantage

Organizations are recruiting highly skilled individuals who understand how technology impacts modern-day business operations. However, there is a huge global payroll talent shortage, so salaries for experienced payroll professionals are also on the rise. In the meantime, for payroll professionals able to demonstrate strategic capabilities, executive-level appointments are going up. If you want to take advantage of the seismic shift in the number of career opportunities now available to you in the world of payroll, then you need to take the steps necessary to ensure you are not left behind in a rapidly changing world.

Develop your skills, invest in your future, and follow the latest trends in global payroll. Then, you can navigate and build a successful and authentic career within this exciting and varied profession.

How Global Payroll Informs Business Strategy

As these articles have shown, data received from the global payroll department can inform crucial business decisions and influence the strategic direction a company takes over the next five years.

Therefore, the global payroll professional must understand the strategy of the business and how global payroll can influence that strategy. Thus, a global payroll professional is in many ways a data analyst. This includes the ability to extract, analyze, and make sense of multi-country global payroll data.

A recent survey into the future of payroll revealed that 69% of organizations have payroll data issues. The most common data challenge was not having the right tools to properly analyze data.

The global payroll professional must be able to extract meaning and value from the data while also being able to communicate it in a clear manner. Knowing what your payroll process is costing you in a particular area means that you can use predictive analytics to tell you what hiring a lot of employees will mean for a particular payroll region, and the resulting cost to the company. Payroll professionals are becoming the new data scientists, and they are answering questions on things like the following:

  • Which country is our largest labour cost?
  • Where is the most financially advantageous location to hire new employees?
  • What is the makeup of our extended workforce: Permanent employees, contractors, temporary workers, employer of record (EOR) workers, fully remote workers, etc.
  • Where do we have significant gender pay gap discrepancies?
  • What data do we have to support our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives?
  • Which specific pay elements cost the organization the most money—commission, bonus, etc.

If you are looking to make a difference and be the change leader for your organization, then start by looking at how you can increase payroll’s insight into the company’s business strategy. Be the data analyst necessary to help inform the critical decisions of your company.

NickDay MaryHolland
Nick Day is the Managing Director of JGA Recruitment and is a leading authority on issues that affect global payroll. Day will be hosting a few podcasts at the PayrollOrg booth in the Expo during the 41st Annual Payroll Congress 16-19 May. Mary Holland, CPP, leads the client implementations team and customer success team at Payslip. She ensures that global clients are successfully boarded onto their global payroll technology platform.
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