The rapid advancement of the cloud has changed how many businesses manage their day-to-day operations — including payroll.
Geographical borders no longer inhibit businesses and companies are increasingly choosing to manage their global payroll needs from one central location, or entrust it to one single service provider, writes Bruce van Wyk, director of PaySpace.

Global payroll is transforming how multinationals manage their business operations. It liberates employees from time-consuming administration and encourages greater efficiency across multiple locations. With many businesses already enjoying the benefits of global payroll, 2018 brings some important changes that payroll professionals need to know.

Here are five global payroll trends that will define the year ahead. We’ve also included some suggestions for how Payroll professionals can embrace these changes and in doing so, boost the payroll department’s strategic position within their business.

Globalisation and increased outsourcing

In the past, international companies had to establish in-country payroll teams, and enlist the help of local service providers to get their new offices off the ground. This created a large administrative headache: HR had to manage complex employee payroll needs, and procurement had to source trusted suppliers in each country.

Thanks to innovative technological developments, companies can now manage their payroll for various locations from one home-base. They no longer need to set-up in-country payroll teams — nor do they need to manage contracts with multiple service providers in each country of operation.

What’s more, outsourcing certain processes to specialist payroll professionals ensures there is multilayer governance and expert support, focused on keeping your payroll 100% compliant. This level of oversight applies to each country in which your business operates. And as your company expands, you can rely on a team of always-on payroll professionals with the right legislative knowledge to support your growth.

Does this mean the role of the payroll department will soon be redundant? No, not at all. Look at it this way – through outsourcing your payroll, you’ll get a specialist payroll team to support your in-house staff. This will dramatically reduce your payroll and HR teams’ administrative workload – allowing them to focus on more strategic tasks that add greater value to the business.

Increased importance of data protection

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the most important change in data privacy regulation in 20 years. It will transform how the payroll sector manages and processes personal information. While the GDPR’s focus is primarily on customer data, it also extends to the data that businesses keep on their employees.

Although the regulations apply to EU citizens, multi-nationals with expatriate employees will very likely be affected. For example, if you have EU citizens working for your company in its Nigerian or Kenyan office, you have to ensure that their data is being managed in line with GDPR legislation — not just the local legislation of the country in which the employee is based.

In addition to imposing more stringent rules with regard to how personal information is handled and stored, GDPR also shifts the responsibility of protection employee data from resting solely on the employer to being shared by the payroll software provider.

Because data encryption, management and compliance now has to be of a much higher standard and employee records have to be kept for longer and in greater detail, the payroll software provider has a significant role to play in ensuring compliance.

Payroll professionals will have to keep up to date with the latest requirements and ensure their processes and software comply with legislation.

Evolution of the payroll administrator

As the payroll space changes, so will the role of the payroll administrator. With greater access to information and automated administrative assistance, payroll professionals are no longer simply expected to input data. Their roles have expanded to include analysing information, identifying trends and patterns, and making recommendations for improvement.

Responsible for a global mandate in a highly competitive world, today’s payroll administrators need to understand the complexities of implementing and running a multinational payroll. This means that the payroll department can’t operate in a silo, or shy away from new technologies. It must work closely with other departments and embrace digital innovation — which requires payroll administrators with the right skills and knowledge to step outside their comfort zones and collaborate effectively.

By embracing new technologies, payroll managers and administrators will be able to think more strategically, and adapt to an ever-changing business environment.

Technology eco-systems

To meet the growing needs of global businesses, service providers will collaborate more to offer a holistic product and service to clients. What this means in practice is that businesses will be able to buy an eco-system of technology that is ready to plug and play. These API integrated software packages will cover a range of functions such as operations, sales, finance, HR and payroll — and will eliminate the traditional headache of data duplication.

Interactive and social employee self service

As strange as it might seem, many large organisations and multi-nationals have not adopted the self-service employee model. However, these mobile-friendly, visually appealing, and accessible payroll systems are an imperative – and are already the norm with many progressive businesses.

Supported by true cloud technology, the employees and managers of these companies can access payroll and HR data from anywhere, at any time. New generation ESS and MSS platforms offer users visual dashboards, interactive widgets on teams, employee payslip information, leave and claim statuses plus powerful employee directory and social feel search facilities. Intuitive grids filter complex items easily and form submissions include validation elements to ensure accurate data collection.

This ability to access information 24/7, will enable teams to work together seamlessly across multiple locations. With real-time information at their fingertips, teams can also rest assured that they’re always working with the latest data.

What’s more, global payroll services are moving to transcend language barriers. Employees will be able to set up their company profile for payroll and HR information in the language of their choice. This will help eradicate language barriers often found within global businesses.

Global payroll will continue to change and evolve in 2018, becoming more efficient, accessible and secure. Payroll teams and businesses in general stand to benefit from these changes — all they have to do is embrace technology and move with the times.