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KPIs that Elevate Global Payroll Performance

By Paul Bartlett


One of the most significant advantages of global payroll automation and system integration is the ability to monitor and measure the performance of those systems—and how we use them to improve not just payroll, but overall organizational success. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are drivers of efficiency and optimization within companies, with payroll as the source of critical data. 

KPIs inform strategic plans and decisions and keep them in alignment with corporate goals. For this important reason, KPIs should be revised as business objectives evolve. The most widely used payroll KPIs measure cost, productivity, efficiency, and compliance. They can be as broad as total payroll cost per period or as granular as benefit cost per employee in December in Vietnam. 

If you monitor the essentials, and are sure to account for time and resources used outside of the payroll team, you should have a broad, nuanced perspective of your payroll performance and its implications on overall company activity. However, some KPIs are more significant than others, offering unique insight into important aspects of your operations. Here’s a look at some of these critical KPIs and how they can benefit your organization.

Cycle Time to Resolve Errors

It’s easy to focus payroll KPIs on costs, and while those numbers are important for calculating the bottom line, they ignore the fact that payroll as a function is a service department first—and its customers are your employees. 

A recent benchmarking review from the American Productivity & Quality Center revealed a gap between the time it takes top versus bottom performers to fix payroll errors, with the most responsive organizations resolving errors in as few as two days and the worst performers taking up to 10 days. 

Ten days is way too long for an employee who has to pay bills and pay for essentials. Depending on the countries and regions in which you operate, taking a long time to reach a resolution could put you at risk of violating compliance regulations. Of course, you want a resolution to be as swift as possible to keep employees happy and payroll operations on track, but there are additional insights to be gleaned from this KPI. 

A lengthy time for error resolution could indicate a staffing issue in payroll, such as too few staff for the workload, an inefficient process, insufficient training, or data issues upstream. Depending on the number of errors reported each period (another KPI to monitor), the costs of fixing errors could be increasing overall payroll costs and impacting other metrics. Additionally, the stress of prolonged error resolution could lower job satisfaction for both the payroll professional and the affected employee, as well as their supervisor, someone in IT, maybe HR, and anyone else involved in the resolution.

Turnover Costs

There’s a lot to be learned from turnover rates. Knowing the total, average, and per-position cost of turnover is key to managing your workforce. This includes the total costs of separation, vacancy, recruitment, and onboarding. Some positions are easier to fill, which could result in lower turnover costs. However, some of those quickly filled jobs could require a good deal of training, which would raise the overall cost of having to replace a lost employee. 

Key insights lie in the data gathered from positions that take longer to fill, whether they’re upper-management level, require specific skills and experience, or require relocating a candidate to a foreign location. Between the time an employee leaves one of these roles and the time another person is hired and trained, there can be considerable costs incurred in the form of staff and resources borrowed from other roles and departments to compensate for the missing employee. That, too, can have ripple effects on the performance of those people in their primary roles.

Using payroll data to help assess the complete cost of turnover is just one way global payroll can add strategic value to an organization. By aggregating these costs, including the effects on related roles and employees, payroll can help organizations plan for unexpected or challenging turnovers.

Master Data Accuracy

Any process improvement initiative in global payroll should work toward absolute accuracy in your payroll runs. It doesn’t happen, but it remains our aim throughout every pay period. Perhaps the one aspect of the payroll process over which we should have the greatest control is the accuracy of our master data, which is why this KPI is essential.

Between advances in payroll automation and better integrations with HCM and other systems, we’ve come a long way from manually updated spreadsheets and data transfers. If your organization uses a unified global payroll solution, you have a better chance than ever before of maintaining accurate master data. A high degree of inaccuracy, therefore, signals an issue somewhere that can and should be fixed. 

Changes will always happen, and at the last minute, but the possibility of maintaining a single source of truth for your payroll and human resources data has never been greater. Working toward that is an ongoing investment in your organization’s overall productivity.

Personal Tasks Overdue

At the head of an organization’s largest cost center, the payroll team itself is typically subject to cold metrics that appear aimed solely at cutting costs. Yet, the reasons for global payroll costs are often not directly within the control of the payroll team. It’s important for company leadership to evaluate the scope of the work performed by payroll when analyzing numbers such as errors reported, accuracy rates, and supplemental runs. 

A key indication of your payroll team’s capacity for the work required is the percentage of personal tasks that remain overdue every period. A deeper examination of this number can reveal overtasked employees, training needs, automation opportunities, and a host of other insights than can dramatically affect your payroll performance. And because global payroll is generally the largest expense for a multinational organization, making up 50% to 70% of overhead, finding any opportunity to optimize your payroll team’s performance is uniquely valuable. 

Key Performance Insights

As organizational leaders assess the value of the information contained in their global payroll data, they will seek out the kinds of unique and wide-reaching insights provided by KPIs like the ones listed above. The ongoing value of any set of KPIs is their ability to inform business actions. It's important to revisit your KPIs as your organization changes. We may propose a different set of KPIs throughout our client’s first few years, and then revise performance indicators whenever a customer goes through a major change, such as an acquisition. 

With greater visibility and access to real-time data and performance results, payroll professionals are becoming better equipped to offer detailed assessments and recommendations for improving payroll operations. In doing so, payroll managers are able to make valuable contributions to their organizations’ performance and goals.


PaulBartlettPaul Bartlett is the CEO of CloudPay, a managed global payroll and payments solution for multinational organizations. As a global business expert, Bartlett has deep experience helping companies improve the efficiency and scalability of their operations using technology and services. As CloudPay’s CEO, Bartlett spearheads corporate innovation and product development initiatives focused on automating client workflows and minimizing manual practices. Throughout his career, Bartlett has helped organizations address strategic and operational challenges as they navigated different growth phases and scaled their operations. In addition to CloudPay, Bartlett has served as a partner of Rho Ventures since 2007, focusing on investments in SaaS, software-related services, and new media. He holds an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and an undergraduate degree from Princeton University.