2020 Global Payroll trends re-evaluated in light of Coronavirus

May 28, 2020 | David Daly 5 Mins read

Global Payroll: Before and After Coronavirus

Covid-19 has changed the way global payroll is currently delivered – payroll processing has moved from the office to the home as remote delivery is the way forward for the foreseeable future. This global pandemic may end up introducing dramatic shifts in approaches to business models used by multinational companies across the world.

The phrase “this is how we did it before COVID-19” may now start to feature in a lot of boardrooms at corporate headquarters, and a ‘before and after’ mentality may begin to emerge. How things were done in the past may no longer be relevant in the second half of 2020 as the world and businesses adjust to the implications raised by the pandemic.

Risk Management

In recent months, global payroll professionals and other corporate employees were frantically seeking out business continuity procedure documents. Documents they never thought they would have to use for a prolonged period of time. Key learnings are now taking place and these documents are being updated as part of a risk analysis in the event of a second wave of the pandemic happening later this year or at an unspecified time in the future.

Risk management processes are already attempting to account for a second wave before we have come out the right end of the first wave. While this is a sobering and not very welcome thought, it would simply be negligent for businesses to not go down this route. A lot of money and valuable business has already been lost to the pandemic and damage limitation procedures are vital for the survival of many businesses.

All of this means that some of the key trends and predictions for 2020 now need to be re-evaluated in the light of an unprecedented global event that has dramatically impacted the way in which we all do business.

Disaster Planning

One new potential trend is disaster planning- a series of measures to be put in place in response to a dramatic world event like a global pandemic. People responsible for business continuity measures often move silently and under the radar- now their roles will be much more visible and paying attention to officially sanctioned procedures will be mandatory for all employees.

These employees will then need to take personal responsibility so that they can hit the ground running when it comes to delivering their obligations from a remote location should the need arise. Global payroll teams by now have experience of delivering payroll under challenging circumstances. They will be able to take any key learnings with them and use them should a new disaster befall their department or the company as a whole.

Disaster planning will not just be on paper. Tests will take place, staff will be asked to deliver a specific short-term project remotely and follow to the letter, all contingency plans. Businesses will focus on being ready and transitioning quickly over to emergency procedures.

Cloud only payroll

Another trend may be making the move into a cloud- based environment mandatory. Working with land or office-based filing or storage is simply no longer feasible. Remote access to payroll data across countries and continents is now essential. The ability to switch tasks to different people in different countries in order to get payroll delivered is likely to also be deemed essential.

These things can only happen in a cloud-based environment where all colleagues in a remote global payroll team can access the information they need when they need it. The reliance on email distribution or inflexible folder sharing may become a thing of the past as such processes will no longer pass what are likely to be very strict risk assessment measures in the post COVID-19 environment.

Emergency Payroll Provider List

The COVID-19 experience for some global payroll teams will likely have highlighted some geographical risk when it comes to the performance of their payroll providers. Some of these providers have struggled or outright failed to meet deliverables for some very understandable reasons. Nonetheless, a payroll provider delivery failure is another risk that now requires a backup plan as a response.

A new trend for 2020 might see global payroll managers reaching out and developing professional relationships with key local providers who may be able to help them in the event of an emergency. These payroll managers will also likely be having detailed conversations with their staff and IT support groups around how quickly a new provider could be onboarded should the business require it.

ICPs and local providers can likely expect to be subject to a far greater level of scrutiny than they were before COVID-19 hit. Questions around their continuity procedures plus the ability of their technology to deliver in challenging circumstances will need to be answered in a satisfactory manner in order for them to secure the contracts they want.

Additional Reporting

Business scaling and growth plans will be reassessed in light of recent events and there will be a need for more comprehensive reporting around cost analysis to help leadership teams assess if scaling plans are financially feasible.

In general, any plans to scale into new territories will need to be supported by strong financial reporting and robust business intelligence to make sure that these plans account for any new risk assessment measures.

These measures will likely aim to examine the ability of the global payroll team to deliver payroll services in these new countries. The availability and proof of reliability when it comes to local providers will also come under scrutiny here. Previously, these questions may not have been asked but now leadership teams will be seeking more global and comprehensive reporting that provides statistical evidence which would support moving into territories. The stronger your global payroll reporting capabilities are, the better positioned your department will be to respond to requests for specific or customized reporting.

Standardization is back in focus

Almost everybody working in global payroll teams has known for quite some time that a lack of standardization in both data and business process has been a troublesome obstacle for years now. This message has struggled to strike a chord with leadership teams who are often multi-tasking with several high-profile projects at the same time.

The COVID-19 disaster has shone a light on the inefficiencies created by a lack of standardization, and it is possible that this area will receive more attention in the second part of the year. Establishing standard processes, controls and tools will help to manage many of the problems that made delivering global payroll difficult during COVID-19.

Leadership teams have discovered in recent weeks that each country on their global payroll books working in completely different ways creates problems when it comes to managing overall global payroll delivery. There is now a greater recognition that standardizing and digitizing as many processes as possible across global payroll will bring a host of benefits.

This should be the foundation on which other developments to improve global payroll is built upon. There is little value in having conversations about how something like artificial intelligence could speed up global payroll if there is no standardization to begin with.  The basics need to be put in place first and subject to robust testing before anyone can consider more ambitious technology such as AI.

Payslip and Payroll

The business landscape has changed due to Coronavirus, but normality has to resume at some point. Lessons will have been learned and business continuity procedures will be prioritized a lot more going forward. Any useful learnings taken from this challenging period may be introduced to the business as usual process. Global payroll can become stronger and more resilient if some improvements are introduced.

The Payslip platform already incorporates a number of important features and tools that business continuity measures for global payroll has highlighted the need for since the global pandemic began. It is a fully cloud based environment which lets payroll professionals remotely access the tools and documents they need to do their job. It allows authorized individuals to remotely switch tasks or allocate different workflows to different people across a range of countries. Customized and schedule reporting is available at the touch of a button.

When it comes to control and visibility, a global payroll manager can see exactly what is happening in each of the countries from a single dashboard. Payslip can also help to source and on board a new provide very quickly- we recently onboarded several new payroll countries in just 3 weeks for a prominent San Francisco based technology company. With Payslip, your global payroll process is ready for the here and now as well as the future, especially should turbulence of the kind we have faced recently, hit at an unexpected moment.

For more information on Global Payroll continuity during Covid-19 contact us today.


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Using Payslip, we can manage all our payrolls across nine in-country vendors on one platform. When the global Covid-19 pandemic arose, it was not an issue from a payroll perspective, and critically getting everyone paid. The Payslip platform enabled continuity for our international payroll service including the fast and seamless implementation of the Payslip Employment Self Service during this time.

Colin Smith

Payroll Manager, LogMeIn

With business and employee growth rates of above 50%, we rely on our vendors to deliver on time, every time. Payslip’s workflow automation, enables Phorest to manage our payroll provider process – data driven, real time and transparent. Payslip saves us time so we can focus on our business growth.

Ana Kelly

International Payroll Manager, Phorest