Supporting Global Payroll Teams with Smarter Technology

The radical digitization of global business has delivered a wealth of advancements and opportunities, enabling multinational enterprises to personalize local offerings and empowering small companies to compete on a global scale. Getting here required diligence and imagination — and a catalog of technological tools that were replaced almost as quickly as they were adopted.  

The digitization journey has left many business teams burdened by legacy systems that confound attempts to streamline processes, standardize data, and achieve the level of risk management that’s needed today. And because the decisions to adopt these now cumbersome solutions were made in well-intended attempts to future-proof work, the appetite for more change often just isn’t there, particularly for essential systems like global payroll services and human capital management. 

Yet, the reality remains that the way we work has changed, and continues to change, on a fundamental level. The past decade’s uncertainty around financial stability and job and labor markets resulted in an elemental shift in the way incoming workers view ideas of career and success. Cultures are more connected and visible. Communication happens with the flick of a finger. And companies of all sizes and across all sectors are expected to keep up.

Looking Ahead With Lessons Learned

Unfortunately, the way forward is not a clear path for the majority of global companies, who are juggling an aftermarket mix of legacy software, cloud applications, and hybrid workarounds. Just last month, Deloitte published a blog comparing the complexity of managing multiple types of business solutions to back pain: “everyone’s got it, or will have it. It’s how you manage it, how you treat it, and how you deal with it ahead of time that makes all of the difference.”

The good news is that we’ve learned from every slow step (and over-step) taken along the journey to our digitally superior, shared-pain state. Today’s solutions aren’t based on installed software and on-premise infrastructures that age — they are designed to move with the times, fully expectant that the processes we put in place today will be innovated tomorrow.  

Most early system integrations required complex interfaces and plenty of manual steps to facilitate workflows that helped at the time, but hinder teams now. Today, agility and mobility are the rules of the game, because we’ve accepted that predictions are just that and where we will actually be in five or twenty years is anybody’s guess. Unfortunately, waiting to see what happens is not an option for companies looking to remain competitive, as the burden of legacy systems continues to strain teams and stunt momentum.

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Turning Off vs. Tapping Into Talent 

Beyond the technology itself, companies must consider the individuals using these systems every day. The needs and expectations of the globalized workforce have evolved and are dictating dramatic changes in how and why people work. Expecting younger, digitally native workers to accept and adapt to a complicated, cumbersome mix of technologies is a sure step back from top talent.

Particularly in payroll, as more companies go global, they’re discovering that finding employees with the right mix of abilities is increasingly difficult. High-value skills like fluency in multiple languages and practical expertise in foriegn countries open up opportunities for workers, and global payroll has to compete for them. 

As Melanie Pizzey, CEO of the Global Payroll Association, pointed out on the Payday podcast, that could mean payroll teams recruit for those high-value skills and then teach employees payroll processing, rather than the other way around. But pulling that off is going to require payroll platforms that work at the highest level, as high-value employees aren’t looking to join an outdated business environment

Bringing the Team Together

Bridging the gaps between legacy systems and cloud applications is a short-term fix, not a long-term strategy. The future of core functions like payroll and human resources depends on the creation of business solutions that can support teams today and adapt to emerging needs tomorrow. Luckily, we’re at the point where that is possible, by leveraging current capabilities to build advanced payroll solutions that are designed to evolve.

  • Automation technology and robotics enable payroll teams to minimize the manual steps and interventions required to collect, manage, and process payroll data. Depending on how its used, robotic process automation (RPA) can make a dramatic difference to the time and energy required to process payroll. For example, robotic data validation can shave days off the payroll cycle by verifying data and identifying errors in seconds. Freeing up that kind of time for a payroll team, which can then be used for higher-value tasks, boosts efficiency exponentially and paves the way for future improvements.
  • Standardization of both data and processes provides greater visibility and control over the critically important, unique, and vulnerable source of company-specific information that is payroll. While traditional aggregator providers process global data across multiple payroll systems — each with its own formats and requirements — the more advanced, future-ready solutions take a unified approach. These systems maintain standardized, single-source data records that can be updated and managed independently, greatly enhancing control and data protection capabilities.
  • Integration has come a long way from the original complex interfaces many companies still struggle to maintain. The advanced APIs available today enable deeper, more seamless and automated integrations that facilitate data sharing in real-time. In fact, the leading integration technology uses a record-based approach to data that liberates payroll-HR interactions from the need to request, edit, or submit entire data files to accommodate a single change. The result is more efficient interaction and collaboration among once siloed functions.

Rather than waiting for technology and workers to stop changing, companies must level-up their capacity to change alongside them. That doesn’t mean business owners should ignore their fear of further change. Rather, that hesitation and the experience behind it are key to guiding decision-makers toward smart innovations that support their goals. The important move to make now is one that prepares organizations, including current and future employees, for the unknown to come.