How Multi-Country Payroll Is Meeting Small Business Needs

One of the many challenges facing smaller and mid-sized companies as they prepare to expand into a new country is determining whether their core business systems are up to the task. Although the choice to expand may be straightforward, ensuring your team is ready and able to meet regulations around employment, taxation, and more can be quite complicated. 

Many businesses in the early days of international growth may find that systems designed for essentials like payroll and HR services “on a global scale” are too much for their needs. It turns out there’s a vast middle ground between being a successful, single-country company and being a global enterprise. If you’re just venturing into that territory, finding the right system for your business can be daunting. 

However, it’s also important. The right services can play a significant role in your success internationally, and having them in place early on can help position your company for future growth. By the time many businesses ask if they’re big enough for a multi-country payroll solution, they’re past the point of needing one. Rather than delaying the question, these companies would benefit from looking for solutions specifically built to meet their mid-sized needs. Below are five things multi-country payroll systems for smaller businesses should do to help you succeed.

Keep your payroll secure and compliant

Data protection is a top priority for businesses of all sizes. However, with the substantial increase in potential penalties for violations of regulations like GDPR, the ability for smaller companies to keep payroll processing data secure can mean the difference between being in and going out of business. 

The right payroll solution for your company will prioritize data protection at least as much as you do. How can you tell? Look at their technology and data management workflows. Have they designed processes to minimize manual steps and thereby reduce opportunities to introduce errors? Is payroll data centralized and accessible only through a secure system, or does it use on-premise payroll software? Can you have full, real-time visibility of your payroll information and processing history? Wherever your employees are, making sure their data is secure and properly managed throughout processing is the first step toward successful payroll. 

Know the countries you’re expanding into

Whatever your business, chances are that knowing country-specific payroll and tax requirements inside and out is not one of your company’s strengths. This is where outsourced payroll services can bring real value to small and mid-sized businesses. These providers employ a team of payroll specialists and local experts to make sure your payroll complies with every legislative and cultural requirement in each country you’re in.

Particularly for companies with the desire or opportunity to expand into multiple countries at once, working alongside a specialist team can make a tremendous difference. Rather than spending time and resources deciphering payroll, tax, and employment law in each country, you can rely on experts to set up your payrolls while you focus on growing the business that got you there in the first place.


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Provide a full-featured, end-to-end solution 

One of the biggest differentiators in global payroll solutions is the range of capabilities and features built into the system. (And for smaller companies especially, it’s important to note the distinction between a built-in feature versus an add-on cost.) The majority of small business owners would greatly appreciate a system that could manage their global payroll needs with minimal intervention from them — so that’s what they should look for. 

Today’s technology enables multi-country full-service payroll options that not only calculate payslips and tax filings, but provide automated data management, real-time analytics, a full audit history, and more. These solutions can be integrated with your human resources and finance systems for even greater efficiency or to facilitate features like employee self-service or time tracking. Some providers also offer treasury services, which is the final step of actually getting salary payments to employees and tax payments to local authorities. If you’re going to invest in a system to manage payroll so you don’t have to, doesn’t it make sense to choose one that does everything you need it to do? 

Help you every step of the way 

The other key differentiator in payroll is service. Global payroll is complex. To do it right, business leaders need the expertise and attention of people who understand the full range of potential complications and consequences — and how to manage them. Even if everything goes exactly as it should in a pay period, an everyday event like a colleague calling in sick could mean your payroll now contains an error. And depending on the country that employee is in, it could mean a whole new payroll run.

From the moment you choose a solution, service matters. Implementing multi-country payroll can be challenging and time-consuming, and the best way to minimize issues and delays is with an experienced payroll provider that knows the potential pitfalls and how to avoid them. Whether you’re implementing a global solution for the first time or switching from another small business payroll service, you’ll need help to make the change and ongoing guidance in using the new system. The right service team can make it easy on you by providing the knowledge, training, and support you need, both during onboarding and into the future. 

Be ready to grow alongside you

Today, your sights may be set on just one foreign market, but considering the current pace of globalization, that number is likely to grow. As well as adding countries, your company will probably add employees, even dozens, or thousands. Implementing a payroll solution that is designed to scale can get you ready for growth, even if the scope of future needs remains undefined. 

Considering future technology needs now can also help you choose a service provider. Maybe you’re not at the point of integrating your payroll and HCM today, but that could change soon enough. Similarly, you might not see much value from automation with your current volume of data, but add two countries and fifty employees, and the story changes. When you’re ready to grow, the last thing you need to contend with is a limited payroll system.

There’s also the reality that we can’t know today what will be possible tomorrow. Future-proofing business systems is all but impossible. However, payroll platforms that are designed to adapt as new technology and methods are developed can enable the companies using them to keep pace. 

A solution to suit your needs

If you think your business could benefit from a multi-country payroll solution, whether now or someday, it’s worthwhile to explore your service options. There’s a good chance your company is “big enough” already, and putting the right solution in place at the start of your international journey will only help you along the way. 

Begin with a full assessment of your current payroll needs and performance, and a thorough look at future plans and possibilities. It’s possible for small and mid-sized businesses to enjoy the benefits of enterprise-level payroll services, without the enterprise-level price. The challenge is to think big enough to find the best payroll option for your business.


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