Editor’s Note: Lisa Anderson, CPP, holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of California—Santa Cruz. She obtained her Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) designation in 2005. With more than 25 years of payroll experience, Anderson began in HR and progressed her career through the various levels of payroll for small, large, and global companies. Anderson also worked for the payroll service provider side of the house, implementing clients onto the ProBusiness payroll software. She has used her implementation background to drive her employers’ migration of global payroll onto the Workday and CloudPay platforms. Anderson serves on the American Payroll Association’s (APA) Certification Board, Certification Item Development Task Force (CIDTF), is a Past President of the Dallas Chapter of the APA, and serves as the current Education Director for the Fort Worth Chapter of the APA. Currently, Anderson is implementing Treasure Data onto the CloudPay platform for their global payroll of eight countries. After implementation is complete in October, Lisa will run the global payroll for Treasure Data.
What trends are you seeing in global payroll?
Global payroll plays a vitally important role for a business. The payroll professional is often the center point between HR, benefits, accounting, upper management, and the employee. The saying, “Everything rolls to payroll” is quite accurate. The payroll professional stands squarely in the center of the hub of a business—and a sloppy payroll department can kill a company quicker than most other forces. The need for a passionate payroll professional who is committed to compliance, efficiency, and customer service is highly desired by more and more businesses. I think the COVID-19 pandemic opened many company’s eyes to the value of the payroll professional who is constantly learning and focused on compliance.
Are there some specific trends you are tracking?
One of the most controversial trends in payroll is earned wage access (EWA or on-demand pay). The “right” to earned wages has become increasingly more important to many workers. I feel that within the next 10 years—or less—the payment of earned wages on demand will be the norm. Current on-demand wage payment solutions are clunky. The industry that creates an easy, trackable, reportable, and fully integrated solution will be the big winner in the payroll space.
What are the challenges faced by companies in (or moving into) the global space?
One of the chronic challenges for companies that have moved into global expansion is compliance with local payroll regulations. Determining the “who, what, when, and how” in each country is often difficult for a company to do if they are expanding into a new territory for the first time and don’t have a team of experts on international payroll. Having a global expansion partner who knows the compliance points, specifically for payroll, is very important.
If you are in the process of choosing a payroll partner, chose one who will guide you on compliance points in each country. The more guidance you can receive from your payroll partner, the less time and money you will have to spend with another third-party advisor. Look for expansion partners that can assist you in all the countries you plan to expand into over the next few years. Looking ahead, incorporating your future needs into your criteria for selecting an expansion partner, will streamline your expansion and reduce your pain points.
How do you stay on top of your game in global payroll?
Staying informed of the huge amount of changes, especially payroll tax, is one of the biggest challenges for payroll teams. To stay current on the latest trends and legislation in payroll, I read APA publications such as PAYTECH, PayState Update, and The Payroll Source, review my payroll servicers’ knowledge page and posted updates, and I constantly attend webinars. Last year brought many stresses, but it was a boom for webinars. COVID-19 forced companies to really focus on connecting virtually, and webinars are a great way to stay informed and feel more connected with people, especially if it is an interactive webinar with participants’ videos turned on. The APA also provides several great webinars for free, which is very helpful for those who do not have an employer willing to pay for education or training.
How do you meet your customer’s needs in a timely way?
Once you have an international payroll, it can be challenging to respond to problems or even just employee questions in some countries as quickly as you can for those in the United States. While many payroll professionals can answer questions quickly or know how to resolve major issues like a failed or missing bank file for their U.S. payroll, they may lack the experience to react with the same agility for payrolls outside the United States.
You need to also understand how your payroll service is set up. The processes, workflows, and SLAs are critical pieces of global payroll. Having a payroll service that is consolidated, with one or few points of escalation, can be a great value in minimizing the impact and cost of major issues arising in other countries.
How important is effective communications in global payroll?
Communication is a critical component of global payroll. Communication isn’t only important with employees, but also with your payroll service. It can be one of the most important aspects of your global payroll experience.
You may be able to rely on an expert for communications to employees for routine information, but when issues arise, having a relationship with your payroll provider can mean the difference between a minor issue resolved quickly or an issue that quickly gets out of hand and has a much wider impact. Use your regular interactions with your payroll provider as opportunities to build a personal relationship.
My style is to use simple phrases of appreciation for their assistance, advice, or promptness, which works to build a level of partnership that can later be drawn upon in times of urgency. Once you have a resolution and understanding of the issue from your payroll provider, then communicating to employees becomes much easier. Quick and accurate responses from your payroll provider allows you to provide your employees with confidence that the payroll is being managed effectively and lessen their anxiety when issues do arise.
How do you view your relationship with your payroll provider?
Your payroll provider should be a solution, not another layer of frustration. We are beginning to see payroll providers, tax services, and payment solution teams form partnerships and build integrations between their products. The expansion teams need to be a part of that networking, making it possible for companies to choose a complete package of vendors that work together for client success.
What is your experience using robotics and artificial intelligence in global payroll?
Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are valuable tools in managing a global payroll. Having access to this technology can provide a streamlined and cost effective way to manage data integrity. The challenge is identifying the opportunities where robotics or AI will most benefit a company, finding internal talent to support that technology, and finding a cost-effective solution to maximize the use of technology. One aspect of incorporating robotics and AI into your business model is data integrity. When departments, such as payroll, lose a certain level of visibility to the “raw” data, a concern can arise on the accuracy of the data that has been manipulated. Having mechanisms in place to review and maintain data integrity is a critical piece of using technology that is removed from the direct control of the departments using the data.
What has been your strategy in maintaining compliance on a global basis?
Choose a payroll service that can assist with compliance aspects globally and document each country’s compliance regulations as changes occur. This is essential to managing risk and compliance. Part of a global payroll leader’s required tasks should be documentation of current country-specific requirements. For large companies, it may be feasible to have several payroll professionals who are subject matter experts (SMEs) in a country’s payroll, but that is not necessarily the case for a small company with only one or two payroll professionals for multiple countries.
Relying on employees to know all compliance points for multiple countries is risky at best. With the added issue of turnover, the compliance knowledge leaves with the employee. In addition, while having someone either internal or external to the payroll department responsible for this documentation is critical, it is often given a low priority. That is when the payroll service becomes an integral component for compliance.
In Part 2 of this Professional Spotlight in an upcoming Global Payroll issue, learn about Anderson’s insights on data security, her career lessons, and more.
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Frank J. Mendelson is Acquisitions Editor for the Global Payroll Management Institute (GPMI) and the American Payroll Association (APA).