What High-Quality Payroll Data Looks Like

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of an organization’s payroll data. Beyond enabling fulfillment of employee contract basics, payroll data provides a company with its most comprehensive and up-to-date source of information about workforce operations, costs, and trends. With proper analysis, that data can inform everything from everyday employee engagement tactics to major decisions about enterprise expansion.

The key to effectively using payroll data to power decision-making lies in its analysis, and we know that any business intelligence is only as good as the data from which it is derived. Yet many organizations fail to look critically at the quality of their databases or regularly evaluate their data integrity. Any company looking to maximize the strategic significance of their payroll information can begin by taking steps to ensure that data has the following five characteristics.

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Standardization is the starting point for high quality data. Unfortunately, the traditional method of managing global payroll services through aggregator providers works against this aspect of data quality. However, today’s more advanced payroll solutions leverage standardized data and processing workflows to provide users with consistent, end-to-end data. This enables comprehensive data management and analysis across the entire system to help business leaders understand issues and trends across their complete workforce.


In order to use payroll data, your team must be able to access it. As obvious as that may sound, the majority of payroll systems lack built-in accessibility tools for users. Beyond configurable dashboards, which typically contain aggregate information gathered from disparate providers, payroll teams today must be able to access and update data records as needed. Even better: an integrated, cloud-based HCM and payroll solution can empower employees to manage their personal information directly, while enabling HR and payroll teams to seamlessly access and process those up-to-date data sets as and when required.


Data governance has featured prominently in the news in recent years, with countries taking major steps to broaden security requirements and companies hustling to keep up. Rather than focusing on the potential penalities of non-compliance, however, leading organizations are seizing the opportunity within the push to protect personal data by implementing greater security measures that not only give peace of mind to customers and employees, but also reinforce the key asset that is their payroll data. As data protection regulations continue to change around the world, it’s important to check with your provider regularly to make sure your data is secure and your business processes are compliant.


Managing payroll data accuracy, security, and compliance requires clear visibility of how that information is used and processed. It’s no longer acceptable — or legal — to rely on a provider or service group to maintain personal employee data. Under GDPR and other legislations, that responsibility extends to the employer. But data visibility has important benefits beyond compliance obligations, including revealing opportunities for process improvements, enabling deeper understanding of productivity challenges, and saving both time and money.


Finally, for your payroll data to be useful at all, it must be current. Accuracy remains the primary goal in payroll, and it’s impossible to achieve if your team is working with outdated information. Systems that rely on manual updates and data transfers between human resources and payroll all but guarantee errors in gross-to-net calculations that could affect everything from payroll tax to benefits administration. Those errors then have to be fixed, and calculations must be redone, resulting in process delays, supplemental runs, and even delayed payslips. This is why more multinationals are adopting process automation and data integration to enable more accurate and up-to-date data, while minimizing errors and associated costs.

Quality Counts

Regardless of the maturity level of your payroll system, there are steps you can take to address payroll data quality issues. Even modest improvements can have a dramatic effect on your payroll accuracy and efficiency, and open the door for better data quality management in the future. If you haven’t recently, now is the time to conduct a thorough review of your payroll data and processing, paying particular attention to the five characteristics above. After all, it pays to know the details of an asset as valuable as your company data.