Global Payroll Projects Need Careful Management


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Implementing projects to pay international employees requires careful organization and due diligence, a project manager said May 17.

Recognizing the scope of any project is crucial, said Dee Byrd, CPP, PHR, SHRM-CP, senior mergers and acquisitions payroll project manager at Paytech Inc.

Tightly focusing on a project’s payroll components can prevent the project’s scope from expanding out of control, Byrd said. “Even if you’re doing one country, it’s going to be a full-time job,” she said.

The separate payroll requirements for each country are important but also time-consuming because requirements may vary, Byrd said. “You can’t get to the end of the project and assume you’ll have time to add things that were left out,” she said.

Each Country Is Unique

Among the most prominent constraints for setting up projects to pay international employees is the amount of data involved and the potential difficulty in obtaining it, Byrd said. For example, the employer may have to register with a country for taxation purposes or to register employees, which may be long processes, she said.

The need to submit all required forms in Portuguese meant that setting up a project in Brazil took a year for Mary Holland, CPP, global director of strategy, development, and training for the Global Payroll Management Institute. 

If a project involves a new country, the country’s requirements and processes must be learned while on the job and any available resources should be used, Byrd said at the annual American Payroll Association Congress in National Harbor, Md. Unlike the U.S., “there is nothing typical” about setting up payroll in other countries, she said.

The employer should communicate to employees affected by a project what is to change, including any training that needs to be done, Byrd said.

The Right Approach

Those implementing a project to pay international employees must consider whether an in-country provider payroll model or a single-source payroll model is to be used and who will be responsible for payments, Holland said. For example, Brazil and Saudi Arabia require a person in-country make payments, she said.

If the project seeks a payroll provider that is not in-country, those implementing the project should consider how well the provider will work to fulfill each country’s requirements, Holland said.

Structuring a project properly, such as by defining the business owner and involving other executives, is an important part of success, Holland said. 

“Payroll cannot implement global payroll by themselves,” Byrd said. Many different departments must be involved, including technology, finance, and legal, and all must be clear on the scope of the project, she said. 

Also crucial  to a project to pay international employees is having a project manager to coordinate the departments, monitor progress, and plan budgets and activities, Byrd said, noting that it also is useful for the manager to have an in-depth knowledge of payroll to help ensure the project is implemented correctly.

Project participants should have a contact list of everyone involved in the project, including their time zones, Byrd said.