Charting Global Payroll’s Future



The role of the global payroll professional is changing and it is important to develop skills to be a strategic leader within a company, two payroll professionals said Sept. 23. 

Payroll work is more manual and a transactional function, said Mary Brumm, director of global payroll training and development at the American Payroll Association’s Global Payroll Management Institute. Shared-services models are used and companies are starting to look at Software as a Service (SaaS) model solutions, she said. However, the role may change in the future to include more advanced analytics to address how, why and when employees are paid across global operations, she said. 

Brumm said one of the most important questions a global payroll leader can ask is, “Where is the company today and where are we going?” A useful exercise for all payroll professionals is to “sit down for a moment and assess your skills. Put something on your outlook calendar, set aside an hour to determine what skills you have today,” Brumm said at the APA fall forum in Las Vegas. 

“To be a leader, you have to understand technology, culture and communications. And don’t underestimate the role of technology,” Brumm said. “Otherwise, you might find yourself obsolete.” 

Highlighting his own experience, Joe Almodovar, senior director of global business systems at A.T. Kearney Inc., said he focused on three areas to assess his skill level. Payroll professionals should examine competencies including communication skills, accountability, industry knowledge, teamwork and collaboration, he said. 

Skills like project management, six sigma methodology, working across cultures and payroll compliance knowledge also should be examined, Almodovar said. When evaluating general knowledge, Saas, global mobility and cross-functional capabilities should be evaluated, he said.

Almodovar highlighted different technologies that might be beneficial for global payroll professionals: SaaS, Cloud, Data Lakes, In-Memory Processing, Big Data, PaaS, IaaS, Payroll Aggregators, Embedded Analytics and mobile applications.

Cultural awareness is another core competency, Brumm said, and is the bridge to successful communications. 

“Make sure you’re using the correct language,” Brumm said. “You can ruin a relationship by showing up in gym shorts. A lot of cultures are vegetarians, so you can’t take them to a steakhouse, and if you’re on a cultural visit you’re going to see cultural difference between men and women.” 

Vendor management also is an important aspect of global payroll, Brumm and Almodovar said. Cloud computing has introduced new requirements for engaging and managing software vendors, who are placing an emphasis on cloud-based solutions. Payroll leaders must be able to comprehend and articulate the benefits and limitations of SaaS to managers and respective organizations, Almodovar said. 

“It’s not about being an expert,” Almodovar said. “It’s about being informed enough to go off and do further research.”

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