Global Payroll: A Challenge, an Art and a Passion

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Atlas Team

Atlas helps innovative companies like yours to expand, onboard, manage and pay international teams in 160+ countries.

Published: 29 Apr 2022

Paying international talent is complicated. It’s fraught with risks of noncompliance and lengthy processes. But what is global payroll, and what makes it so complex? Kira Rubiano, VP of Global Payroll Operations, explains the need for agility, adaptability and a global mindset in the complex world of payroll.

What is global payroll, and how does it differ from local payroll?

Global payroll is an art, not a science. So, payroll professionals need to be agile, adapt and work cooperatively with stakeholders to address and resolve issues that will likely arise daily in different parts of the world.

The process is cyclical and predictable, but local variables exist. Every country has its regulations, requirements, reporting standards, infrastructures and practices.  Consequently, it’s common to encounter new processing events and in-country situations that disrupt services. I’ve seen and experienced everything from a coup to natural disasters to the loss of electricity countrywide.  

In global payroll, you need to be prepared to adapt when such challenges occur. And that means recognizing that what works in one country may not work in another. It’s essential to work cooperatively with all stakeholders to ensure you have the necessary information to make appropriate decisions and bring forward the best solutions.

Additionally, global payroll professionals must educate themselves on the cultures they are working with and understand local payroll regulations. You may not always be able to relate to each culture but recognizing these differences will go a long way in ensuring collaboration and optimizing the payroll process.

Lastly, good communication skills are critical. I cannot stress enough the importance of communicating with all stakeholders regularly.  

What are the major challenges of paying a global workforce?

Compliance is paramount. Companies must do their due diligence before moving into a new market and hiring employees. I’ve seen organizations hire employees prior to doing their due diligence on entity formation type and completing required registrations before hiring can commence and payment can proceed.  

If registrations aren’t complete, this creates a problematic situation for the employee, who was expecting to begin work at a specific date. And it creates a significant liability and risk for the organization.  

First and foremost, the organization needs to know what activities it wants the employees to carry out and understand their options for hiring locally.  

Compliance extends beyond company and employee registration. It touches all aspects of managing a global workforce, from gross to net calculations, tax filings and pay slip delivery to payment delivery.  Every element from start to finish is ridden with compliance requirements that must be upheld at a global level.  

Working with a trusted partner and advisor is crucial to help navigate the global intricacies. Atlas helps companies navigate such challenges by providing a compliant way to onboard, hire and pay employees around the world, all of which is complemented by localized expertise.  

Why is payroll a crucial function of an organization?

Payroll is an absolutely critical function not only in an organization but for the global economy. If all payroll professionals ceased to operate tomorrow, economies would stall as there would be no way to get money into the hands of the worker.  

What aspect of this profession do you enjoy the most?

Since 14, I knew that I wanted to work globally and cross-culturally. It has always been and continues to be a passion of mine. I proudly dub myself a “global geek.”  

After graduating from university with an International Relations degree and International Law minor, I intended to pursue a career at the United Nations. However, by sheer fate, I came upon a global payroll company, and my background fit perfectly. I spent most of my professional career growing in the industry as a global payroll professional. Having had many roles, I’ve learned a great deal about the different aspects of the business and the various global nuances and processes. I then spent some time in management working for a large accounting firm’s international division, which gave me great exposure to the global side of accounting and tax compliance. I continue to lead global teams managing global payroll processing for thousands of employees worldwide.  

I am incredibly passionate about working globally and cross-culturally. A career in global payroll allows me to fulfill my passion and keep learning about the incredible world we live in. I’m grateful to be surrounded by an amazing team of payroll professionals who share my passion and commitment to ensuring our global employees are paid accurately, timely and compliantly.