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Structure, Skills Development Key for Global Payroll Departments

May 19, 2021, 3:24 PM

Global payroll operations can benefit from both reimagining their own structures and assessing the skills their employees need, two global payroll professionals said May 18.

Global payroll is increasingly automated and presents challenges including compliance with tax, labor, and data security laws; preserving business continuity; and required cross-border collaboration, Debbie Piacitelli, CPP, director of global payroll compliance at W.L. Gore and Associates, said.

A recent survey by the accounting firm Deloitte showed that most respondents had their payroll operations in-house or both outsourced and in-house, said Judy Hamilton, director of payroll and global process owner at UKG, Inc.

The Deloitte survey found that fewer respondents in 2019 as compared to 2017 believed one external payroll provider could fulfill all of their needs, Hamilton said. Accordingly, fewer respondents believed finding one such provider was important compared to the earlier survey, she said.

Additionally, an EY survey found that respondents used an average of four third-party payroll technologies, and that many have accepted that there is not one company that can support them everywhere they do business, Hamilton said.

Hamilton and Piacitelli spoke during the American Payroll Association’s 2021 Congress Xstream.

Structure, Defining Responsibility Key

A sample global payroll organization has an executive sponsor to provide leadership and monitor performance, a director that designs and improves processes and develops key performance indicators, and teams that carry out the processes and monitor the performance indicators, among many other duties, Hamilton said.

A key area of responsibility is compliance, which beyond making wage payments includes following tax, labor, and data security laws and detecting fraud, Piacitelli said.

Other areas of responsibility include managing operations, which includes overseeing relationships with vendors and stakeholders, keeping records, and ensuring business continuity, as well as conducting internal audits, Piacitelli said.

Performance indicators that can be tracked include accuracy-related measures such as errors and the volume of questions from employees, Hamilton said.

Payroll-related data, such as the number of transactions, gross payroll amounts, the amounts of taxes and deductions, and the percentage of employees that have direct deposit can also be tracked, Piacitelli said.

These measures can be tracked through reports internally or from external payroll providers, analytics tools, or even simpler methods like spreadsheets, the presenters said.

The presenters also recommended communicating payroll’s needs to other company departments and ensuring that they know what payroll requires in situations such as where employees are moving to new countries.

Versatile Employees Needed

Global payroll operations require well-rounded employees, and businesses should explore the skills required, Piacitelli said. Fundamental skills include analytical thinking, teamwork, stakeholder and vendor management, and communication, she said.

Other attributes include global perspective, cultural awareness, and the ability to manage complexity and ambiguity, Piacitelli said.

Piacitelli additionally suggested giving new employees in departments such as human resources presentations that provide overviews of payroll in specific countries.

While different skills and abilities may be more useful for those at different levels of a global payroll organization, “we must all be focused on the end result — the satisfied customer,” Piacitelli said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jamie Rathjen in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Howard Perlman in Washington at