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Global Payroll Leaders Discuss Globalization, Value of Continuous Learning

By Neeyamo


Vivek Khanna: We all hear about the world going global, becoming smaller and shrinking in size. It’s what New York Times columnist and international best-selling author Thomas Friedman first described in his 2005 book, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. What’s your personal view on globalization?

Mary Holland: I believe the major globalization movement started with technology, which has given us the opportunity to connect with businesses, services, and people around the world. This was never possible before! Today, companies are entering new markets to expand and provide services. With this comes the challenges to find the right talent globally to work with different cultures around the globe.

Ken Pullar: I mirror Mary’s thoughts. The world became smaller many years ago. I had to move my payroll processing from U.K. to India 15 years ago, and that was an indication that globalization was in place. However, the biggest difference that I see now is the improvement in the technology. Global solutions were not financially viable 10 years ago.  They now are. However, the biggest challenge is governance and ensuring compliance. For instance, with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, there is a risk of organizations not being fully aware of compliance requirements.

VK: Ken, as the CEO of CIPP, you have a unique responsibility to support organizations with globalization and what’s happening around it. What is CIPP’s role?

KP: Our consistent approach irrespective of where U.K. payroll is processed (whether in the U.K. or globally) is to ensure there is a good combination of education and training provided across borders for payroll professionals. Our intention is to ensure that the person doing U.K. payroll wherever they are in the world is able to successfully process payroll accurately. We regret not being able to do that for other countries, but I should say that accomplishing this for U.K. in itself is a full-time job.

VK: Mary, you lead that effort for the Global Payroll Management Institute. What role do you see GPMI playing in this whole globalization effort?

MH: GPMI’s vision is to connect global professionals across the world and build a community which focuses on expanding an individual’s knowledge about global payroll—its strategies, best practices, and other leading areas. We continue that mission by providing networking opportunities and training on compliance requirements. As Ken mentioned, each country has its own employment and taxation requirements, which is a major task for global professionals to understand and to ensure their organization is compliant.

We have subject matter expert volunteers who provide assistance with training on a specific country. GPMI delivers training via webinars and in-person courses. If somebody comes to me and says, “I’m doing payroll in the Netherlands. Do you have someone who could guide me through the Netherlands payroll?” I would connect them to a GPMI subscriber who has expertise in Netherlands payroll. Going forward, I would like to continue to build the GPMI network community to connect people in different countries.

Google is great, but it cannot be your official source of compliance requirements. This is especially true when it comes to employment and payroll compliance requirements. It is best to gather resources and maybe join a payroll association. For example, if you need U.K. payroll help, we have CIPP to provide assistance.

VK: How have you seen global payroll metamorphose in the last 5-7 years? What are your predictions for the future of this industry in the next 10 years?

KP: Well, from an employee’s perspective, I would say the role digital HR plays has helped transform the way payroll and rewards management were previously executed.

In 10 years, this is going to get much stronger. With digital media surpassing the traditional approach of sharing information, expectations of receiving instant information will run high from the employee’s side. This is going to be a norm. Everybody will want to stay updated on what’s happening in the payroll industry—be it payroll, rewards, or benefits. Let’s not forget that the millennials are driving changes in the work environment. Things are going to get pretty dynamic.

MH: With the gig economy and different types of workers in the workplace, the practice is going to expand. It is necessary we analyse how the entire payroll process works in collaboration with cross-functional departments from HR to legal and business operations. College grads are seeking international assignments to expand and develop their skills, since they know they will need global experience to advance their careers. Organizations also face the need to comply with payroll requirements for a mobile workforce.

VK: How important is it for payroll professionals to become certified?

KP: Years back, we did not have professional organizations that trained associates in payroll. There were no certifications. The day I had to handle payroll myself from a few weeks’ “training on the job,” let me tell you, that’s when the panic set in. However, fast-forward to today, where organizations like the CIPP, and others in the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and India, have all got professional associations to get payroll professionals certified. I think it’s mission critical to ensure people become educated, certified, and trained. With a surge in the use of technology in payroll, using AI— bots, for instance—to me it is fundamental. When it comes to helping employees with detailed queries, we have trained payroll professionals answering them. It is my mission to make sure that although technology will help move up the pace for payroll, organizations must use people who understand and bring in the human touch to help resolve employee queries and issues.

MH: Certifications are important. It is necessary to keep yourself current. As Ken mentioned about his struggle at the start of his career, I, too, faced challenges, and felt I needed payroll certification and skills to equip myself to manage payroll operations.

At present, changes in compliance happen often and organizations have started hiring employees to monitor compliance requirements. I believe individuals should document their processes, have good controls in place with relevant audit measures, and create documentation and training. It is important you keep yourself current and updated. It is also necessary to participate in networking events in payroll or the HR space to connect and network with other professionals and be aware of what’s happening in the industry.

VK: Please discuss the value of continuous learning for global payroll professionals.

MH: I cannot emphasize enough the need for continuous learning. Stop learning and you can become a dinosaur at age 20 or 90. As a payroll professional, it is essential that you keep yourself up to date with compliance, technology, and leading trends. New regulations are mandated, which require knowledge and processes for the organization. Take the GDPR for instance; I believe we should provide data privacy training for all individuals who manage employee data so they understand the impact. Cross-cultural training will help a diverse workforce and branding training will help employees identify and understand their company’s brand.

VK: Ken, how is CIPP enabling continuous learning for payroll professionals?

KP: I share Mary’s thoughts on continuing professional development. It is crucial. Once you qualify, don’t stop! We have a number of professionals who have gotten to the crest of the hill and qualified but stopped CPD (Continuing Professional Development). Legislation and complexity move on a fast pace, and CPD is crucial at ensuring you keep ahead. Individual chartered status in payroll is a recognition of what you have done in the profession. It should be earned and not be attained easily. So, as Mary has confirmed, once you get there, don’t stop. Never stop learning.

VK: With organizations streamlining their payroll processes, for instance, processes being taken over by bots—like validation bots and calculation bots—what does the future hold for payroll personnel?

MH: The world of bots is coming, and we need to prepare payroll professionals. They need to know that this change is inevitable and provide education on the role bots will play to reduce manual processing and improve efficiency. I think roles within the industry are going to evolve. We are going to see new roles. These include IT and data science, for instance, and they will open different careers. That said, the pay operation process will never be devoid of the human touch.

VK: Let’s look into the future. If you had one wish, what do you think the payroll industry should do next?

KP: My consistent message to employees is to not see payroll just as a subset of finance or HR. When I look back at my outsourcing years, I’ve noticed that when it comes to payroll, for most senior executives, no news is good news as it means the process is working fine. So, value your payroll department!

MH: I want payroll professionals to be respected in their organization for all they do. We are taking small steps. Payroll professionals are getting trained with skills to drive processes efficiently. The payroll professional has a seat at the table and should be seen as a key contributor to the strategy and payroll operation in the organization.

VK: Thank you both for sharing your thoughts. Mary what are you looking to do next with GPMI?

MH: Well, I look forward to continuing to build the GPMI subscriber base with subscribers around the world, provide training and education, build and equip payroll professionals, and help provide mentoring opportunities for young professionals or people who are looking at a global payroll career. I would love to have payroll as a profession that you can study at a university, which I would love to drive forward with the GPMI.

VK: And Ken, as the CEO of CIPP, what’s next?

KP: So, 18 months in and it has flown by. I really do love the role. It’s been an absolute journey. We now have a new board of directors who have been elected from the membership. So, next month we start our annual strategy session with them to identify areas where we need to focus on and plan CIPP’s roadmap for the next 5-10 years. We have to start showing some aspirations in things like robotics and AI which we believe will play a role in the future of payroll, so we would increase our focus there.


Ken Pullar is the CEO of The Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP). The CIPP is the association for payroll, pensions, and reward professionals in the U.K. With more than 10,000 individuals benefitting from the CIPP’s membership and education services, the Institute is dedicated to raising the profile of payroll in businesses across the U.K. and internationally.


Vivek Khanna is Chief Client Partner, Neeyamo, based in California. He is a global HRO expert and a seasoned business development professional with over two and half decades of experience in niche domains including H/R and finance. He serves in an advisory role for many regional HR forums and associations, is a frequent speaker in global forums, and serves as the past Chairperson of the NAPBS, APAC Chapter. Khanna is an associated Member of Institute of Chartered Accountants of India 1987 Batch and has a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from the University of Calcutta.

HollandMary Holland, CPP, is the Global Director of Strategy, Development and Training for the Global Payroll Management Institute (GPMI). Holland provides leadership and is responsible for the development of GPMI’s global education program. She has more than 20 years of experience in finance and payroll including payroll accounting, international assignments, system implementation, equity and stock reporting, accounts payable, global payroll management, and general ledger. She has been a Certified Payroll Professional since 2003. Prior to joining GPMI staff, Holland was an active member of the American Payroll Association and the Global Payroll Management Institute. In 2016, she was named APA Payroll Woman of the Year. She worked on the content development of the Global Management Certificate Program, Advanced Global Payroll Management Certificate Program, and Managing Payroll Operations Across the Globe and has presented many sessions across the United States and Dublin, Ireland.