The experts’ checklist for a Global Payroll manager’s first 90 days

The first few weeks leading payroll at a global organization are nothing short of challenging. First of all because, of course, it is essential to keep the organization’s payroll operation working to avoid any hiccups and delays paying employees, who shouldn’t feel any changes happening within the payroll department.

Then, the new payroll lead has a short time to get used to the organization as a whole, understand the big picture, and start making strategic decisions that can boost those legacy aspects that were working well before and make changes to those that weren’t.

How and when are employees getting paid? Where can I find the details of payroll in APAC? How are we communicating with the different ICPs? How do we get the HR details we need to process new hires? Is there a global payroll system? Should we get one? There’s a lot to learn about, to think about, and to assess –where do you start? Which should be your main priorities?

To answer these questions and others, we spoke with experienced global payroll leaders to gather some of their insights on how to approach those critical first 90 days. The result is a checklist, which is obviously not comprehensive (we’d need hundreds of pages to account for all eventualities!), but can serve as a good starting point for someone stepping into a payroll leadership role for the first time.

Step 1: Assess the current global payroll operation & Connect with all stakeholders

As Pierre Thenes, Global Payroll Manager at OLX, asserts: “To get a holistic picture of the payroll landscape and build trust-based relationships with allies that will support the upcoming payroll transformation, this first step is to connect with your main stakeholders and payroll team members”. 

According to our experts, your first actions should, then, be:

☑️ “Get acquainted with the global Payroll Team, understand the current setup and responsibilities”. 

-Frank Rudolf, Director Global Payroll, Organon.

☑️ “Learn and build actionable insights: 

  • Observe payroll process, user interface (as an admin, as well as an employee), payroll funding, reporting, and compliances;
  • Review various systems and their integration with payroll;
  • Discuss expectations, challenges and KPI’s for internal teams and payroll vendors”.

-Rahul Upasani, Director of Global Payroll, Branch.

☑️ “Focus on these 4 elements during the first discussions:

  • The Scope: current-targeted (geographic distribution, headcount growth, responsibilities of the payroll function…)
  • The Process (including partnership, level of controls, operating model….)
  • The Resources (team, payroll provider, systems….)
  • The Challenges (for your team, stakeholders, business….)”.

-Pierre Thenes, Global Payroll Manager, OLX.

Step 2: Analyze the situation to define an action plan

Once you have a better understanding of the current situation, it is time to look into the information you collected, analyze it and draw high-level conclusions. As Pierre Thenes explains, “these conclusions will lead you to define what would be the ideal state of payroll, where most of the requirements you are expected to deliver would be fulfilled”. 

This will be your long-term goal and will orient your payroll strategy and roadmap, which should start by addressing short-term issues and set the foundations for a successful payroll function.

☑️ Review your global Payroll organization and look for any possible processing gaps.

-Frank Rudolf.

☑️ “Based on the learnings, experience, and vision, create Goals, a to-do list of changes required, KPI’s, and process realignments”.

-Rahul Upasani.

☑️ “Look into the existing challenges and categorize them: which can be resolved by a quick fix, and which are the ones requiring a long-term solution?”

-Pierre Thenes.

Step 3: Communicate clearly and start executing!

Once you have a clear and actionable roadmap, the next step is clear: start executing it!

Pierre Thenes considers that “developing the ‘why’ and the methodology you used to define the action plan” is also essential to guarantee a successful execution, since all stakeholders involved “must adhere to your vision and understand what impact their individual contribution will have on it. You can then execute your plan, celebrate milestones and regularly track progress against your roadmap”.

☑️ “Clearly communicate and align the team towards your Payroll Vision”.

-Rahul Upasani.

☑️ “Share your plan with your stakeholders and get their approval not only to ensure you have the right understanding but also to manage expectations and secure their support”.

-Frank Rudolf.

☑️ “Ensure that a Payroll Business Continuity Plan is in place with clear documentation, instructions, and responsibilities”.

-Rahul Upasani.

☑️ “Have a clear discussion with the team about the importance of Ownership, Accountability, Communication, and Responsibility including Diffusion of responsibility”.

-Rahul Upasani.


To elaborate this checklist, we have counted on the expertise of:

Elisa Ara Larré

Elisa Ara Larré

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