Payroll professionals: essential people at the frontline of payroll

July 11, 2021 | 5 Mins Mary Holland, CPP


Payroll professionals have played an important part in your professional career, the likelihood is you simply just don’t know it. It is very easy to take for granted the monthly paycheck that arrives promptly into your bank account on time, accurate and with the minimum of fuss. Chances are, you have given zero thought to the process around how this gets done or the people responsible for ensuring that you get paid on time. A lot of people think payroll processing is done by a member of the human resources team and are not fully aware of payroll as a standalone team.

Such is the somewhat thankless role of the payroll professional in modern global payroll teams around the world. They usually only register in your mind on those very rare occasions when something goes wrong and you are either not paid or your payment is delayed for some reason. When this happens, employees seem to quickly forget all the times payroll professionals get it right and take it for granted.

Payroll professionals rarely if ever, receive recognition or gratitude for doing their jobs correctly every month. Little attention is ever given to the hard work, diligence, dedication and commitment to getting it right that the vast majority of payroll professionals display every single day when they come to work.

Here at Payslip, we think it is time that their work was recognized and appreciated for the value it brings to any company. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the challenges facing global payroll teams on a regular basis along with the reasons why the current global pandemic crisis is making their job even harder.

Crucial Role

Global payroll processing is quite simply a critical business function- people who are not paid accurately and on time will not stay with a company. Being paid on time is essential to employee morale and is also crucial to the financial stability and credibility of any multinational company. Payroll also has crucial data that helps drive business decisions, track current costs and predict future costs.  This is a professional service that needs to be error free, consistent and handled professionally by experts at all times. Payroll failure can be damaging to a company’s reputation.  The payroll team is often at the center of a wider eco-system and they often interact with a dozen or more stakeholders in a corporation such as IT, HR, Legal, Accounting, Treasury and Tax.

Payroll professionals recognize and fully understand the importance of their job and have a singular focus on delivering on- time and accurate payroll to large numbers of employees who they will never meet. There is a selflessness in play here that is admirable- it is like a code of conduct or set of values known only to payroll professionals- they are hugely committed to getting the job done and ensuring that nobody is let down.

This often involves going the extra mile, putting in the extra hours and avoiding any behavior that would constitute a risk to the process. This all appears to happen smoothly in the background and the vast majority of company employees know little or nothing about it.

Getting it done

The theory is simple- the job of a payroll professional is to get people paid on time. The process involved and the daily challenges are much less simple! It can be complex, time consuming and extremely pressurized. Diligence and a strong commitment to the cause are prerequisites for anybody looking to develop a career in the demanding world of global payroll.

You need an understanding of employment and taxation, patience for endless calculations and reviews and a refusal to drop high professional standards at any point in the process. This is what it takes to get it done- this is what is demanded when your job is to deliver a business-critical function. Getting it done is the obvious measure of success but there is a lot more to it. Global payroll does not stop when your salary hits your bank account. There is plenty more to be delivered such as accounting, reporting and analysis- then payroll professionals need to move seamlessly into the process for the next month. It’s a case of getting it done and then doing it all again, while focusing on the detail at all times and ensuring there are no mistakes. It requires people with years of experience.

There are multiple challenges in play behind the scenes: time consuming manual processing, making sense of non-standardized data, managing payroll providers, working with dated technology and managing deliverables across a decentralized team are just a few. The team also has to deliver reporting, add unique pay elements to payrun files and deal with employee requests for data. The fact that most have to contend with all of this while using legacy technology that is often not fit for purpose only adds to the burden.

Adapting to Covid-19

Processing global payroll is challenging and pressurized during normal times so you can imagine the impact the curveball that is COVID-19 is having. Most payroll professionals, like all other office employees, now find themselves working from home. They must now do their jobs while accessing vital payroll data remotely, working to different schedules, time zones and moving to video conferencing for communicating with colleagues and other stakeholders.

Colleague absences due to Covid-19 is an issue they have to contend with and react to- they may be forced to switch tasks or re-allocate roles to people located in different countries. The payroll providers in their network may be struggling to deliver services or meet crucial deadlines. In response to this, there may be a need to quickly source and on board and entirely new vendor or provider. Or they might have to provide additional payroll support to impacted countries while also meeting their own internal obligations.

Governments everywhere have been responding to COVID-19 for over a year now with new temporary legislation around welfare payments and tax initiatives in the short term. This means extra payrun elements need to be accounted for in the monthly payrun files, and these elements will be different for each country so the extra workload can be intense and demanding. Attention to detail has never been more important in global payroll and many payroll professionals are working closely with Human Resources, Legal and senior management teams to understand the impact to the organization and the employees.

Payroll teams are now also subject to additional requests for more detailed reporting such as real-time costs analytics- leadership teams around the world are managing costs during this crisis and are looking to payroll to provide them with up to the minute figures around costs. While all of this is going on, normal monthly pay runs must be calculated, reviewed and delivered as normal.

Employee morale is a concern at multinationals now, therefore it is essential that payroll does not fail at this particular moment as people are more fragile and a bit more on edge than they might normally be.

These are a series of unprecedented challenges that payroll professionals must contend with and do so remotely- this makes for a very pressurized environment in which to operate. Payroll professionals are responding by using their detailed set up knowledge to provide support and assistance. They are working with other HR and payroll professionals to answer urgent questions and also provide links to country documentation and videos. Many are choosing to share knowledge on social media channels in an effort to help as many people as possible to access vital information.

Appreciation Time

Global payroll professionals around the world have risen to the challenges of COVID-19 and ensuring that payroll is processed on time. The global pandemic has only served to reinforce their commitment and dedication to meeting their high standards in the usual manner. They recognize the role they are playing in the organization and the importance of the employee experience during this difficult time and they are responding as they have always done.

It is time these unseen, essential individuals received appreciation for the way they quietly and effectively go about their duties on a daily basis. They are often not supported with innovative technology or centralized processes. Their role is usually not fully understood outside of their immediate colleagues. They put aside the many imperfections that throw up obstacles, and work with colleagues and other stakeholders to overcome them- always keeping their eye on the common goal of on-time, accurate employee payments.

All of this requires patience, dedication and no shortage of goodwill. Despite the challenges, all of the payroll professionals we talk to on a regular basis have a genuine love for what they do, and they take this passion into the office with them.

Payslip understand, respect and appreciate the effort needed to perform so consistently each month. We are filled with respect and admiration for these outstanding professionals and look forward to working with them in the future and using our technology to make their lives a little easier.

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