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Rubbish in? Angry, disappointed employees out!‍

Rubbish in? Angry, disappointed employees out!‍

In the next iteration of the Global Payroll Control Framework (GPCF), we focus on the pre-payroll controls. I once did a full study of how my team’s work was spread across the various stages of the end-to-end payroll process: pre-payroll, run payroll, post-payroll, and non-cyclical activities. 

This was at a time when all the payrolls were outsourced, we used Workday as our Global HCM and had 7 more data sources (i.e. equity, global benefits, local benefits, commissions, tickets, and emails). The results were clear: 60% of our time was spent on pre-payroll to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the data. Rubbish in, angry and disappointed employees out. Quite literally. As when employees are faced with (recurring) payroll errors, they already have one foot out the door.

Of course, let me first link this to the overall best practice around Global Payroll Management. While all components are truly interlinked, the GPCF focuses on the section Risk & Control as part of the component Global Payroll Governance, and it is also linked to the section Objectives as part of the component Global Payroll Strategy.

Getting your input data right

If you’ve ever worked in (Global) payroll, then you’ll know: Get the payroll input data right, and you’ll be able to better verify the payroll results, increase First Time Right (FTR) approvals and ultimately avoid errors, and delays in post payroll processes. Let’s explore some common pre-payroll controls.

Data Input Accuracy & Data Field Validation Rules

Normally, the payroll teams do not enter any data that is required for payroll processing, yet validate and transform data from other stakeholders (mainly HR). This means that they should rely on the accuracy of the data and how it is validated in the source system that the data resides in. But the mantra is trust but verify, and the reason is that payroll simply can’t, and don’t want to, rely on others. The quality of their payrolls is heavily reliant on that data, and is surgically inspected. You therefore want to ensure the following:

1. Validation in the source system

Ideally, all the data is validated in the source system so that it can flow seamlessly to the payroll platform. But then reality kicks in: often, the source systems (i.e. HCMs, equity, benefits) do not have the validation capabilities to cover this completely. While I encourage everyone to engage with the upstream data partners (again, mainly HR) to give the validation requirements, there will just be inherent system limitations.

This is actually your first line of defense, so this quality control should be part of your GPCF. Whilst it is not directly within your control, you do rely on it. And, it has a direct impact on the defense you need further down the line: the more upfront validations, the more you can rely on, and vice versa.

2. Data travels automatically or drag and drop

You would then want the data to flow into a payroll platform in an integrated way (i.e. SFTP, API, file transfer) without manual intervention. Little side note: I never cared if this was via SFTP, API,, or other means, as long as it was secure, in line with the payroll calendar, and error-free. In the end, that is what truly matters; the rest are just means to an end.

While integrations are awesome, they also come with effort in terms of cost and resources (someone needs to maintain the integration, have change control around it, and error-handling) it requires a more practical solution. If you have lower volume payrolls (i.e. less than 25-50 transactions), you can arguably better use drag and drop report-based automation.

Whatever you choose, ensure this is documented, controlled, and evidenced. You need to demonstrate that the data you receive, validate, and transform matches with that in the source platform.

How we approach this at Payzaar, is to give you options. You can be as integrated as you want and as practical as you need to be. No hard choices, just options and the flexibility you need. Whatever you choose to use, there is a full audit trail of data that travels with you.

Just compare it to riding the train: you can tap with a subscription card (integration), one-day ticket (drag and drop), or even with an old-fashioned point-to-point ticket (manual data entry).

3. Validate, calculate the data

At this point, you have the source data available in the payroll platform. I guess this is also the point where I should explain what the “payroll platform” is. This is Payzaar, the best global payroll management platform out there. You would want to have a many-to-one-to-many data approach. Many source systems, one gateway, and many local payroll processing engines (whether in-house or outsourced) of your payroll provider choice (global, regional or local).

So, you have the data in the payroll platform and now you, as a payroll professional (at least the 3,000+ I have met in person) want to see, and touch the data. While integrations without touch are awesome, don’t tell me the payroll DNA has changed over the years. You want to set your validation rules to ensure the accuracy of the data received from others. After all, those others don’t have the payroll DNA. You want to define multi-level validation rules per country, entity, and field such as:

  • Date types (e.g. value, dates, strings, decimals, currency)
  • Person key to indicate if this is your employee number, matching certain criteria
  • Mandatory field indicator; you just need this data (while it might be optional in the source system)
  • Minimum and maximum field sizes, for instance for bank accounts, social security numbers
  • Default value replace empty values
  • Custom validations with detailed warnings (often used to highlight input anomalies such as unusually high values, that can be typos in source systems)
  • Interrelated calculation rules, such as overtime rate times overtime units times multiplier or source equity in USD to local currency
  • Transformation to local templates, to change source data fields (e.g. commissions) to target system fields (e.g. WT102A) with certain formatting
  • Exclusion rules for multi-entity files, to have one global source file that is reused for all entities in scope without needing to split at source
  • Map output G2N fields for automated input vs output reconciliation (a run payroll control)

In short, you want and need additional validations between the source system and the target system. And at Payzaar we do just that, in a full self-service configuration experience. While I like all the above-mentioned validations and transformations, I particularly like the calculation part. I often received data that I first needed to calculate before I could submit it. A prime example is equity data, as that is often in a central currency (e.g., USD), but needs to be submitted in local currency. I used to do this in Excel, but that was hard to prove to auditors, inefficient, and error-prone. So, you want to automate this on our platform.

4. Complement with additional data

Great, you have received the source data and have validated the data. Now you find out you need more data than the source system has given you. This is often (aside from calculated data as mentioned above) local tax, social security, and onboarding/offboarding data and comments, forms (e.g. sick leave, tax forms). You want to avoid sending this manually in addition to all the integrated data. With our platform, you again have choices: you can add the additional forms to an employee, add comments, and complete the data manually (with a four-eyes principle) or drag and drop bulk data. This data then has the same field validation rules as integrated data. This is how you can truly complement and complete the data set. Peace of mind for the payroll professional.

Data Input Completeness

We’ve been focusing on the accuracy of the data until now, but of course, we also need to ensure the completeness of the data. Have all the data sources been included, is the data truly complete in line with what was agreed? You need this completeness check.

On our platform, you can easily do this. For each data source, you can create a data grid either one-to-one or many-to-one. You are presented with an easy user interface to review completeness:

  • Did I receive and process all source files in data grids? Is this tailored to local payroll needs?
  • Are all the fields in those data grids filled with the required data?
  • Is all the data properly validated, and are additional forms, and comments added?

Yes, our data per payroll, and entity is complete!

Payroll Submission: all bases covered?

A moment that matters in the day in the life of a payroll professional: submitting data for processing to your payroll provider or starting the payroll processing in your in-house payroll calculation engine. Let’s now look at how all of the above is evidenced in audit trails to meet the audit requirements of the GPCF:

  • Are the Payroll Cycle Roles applied, i.e. can you demonstrate a preparer and reviewer control? You need to show that someone prepared the data, and someone else reviewed the data. And, who submitted the data for processing.
  • Is all the expected source data received? Is the data validated, and if manually complemented is this reviewed?

You’d want an automated audit trail of all these actions, that is systemized and available as audit evidence at any point in time. With Payzaar, this is fully digitized and automated. This gives peace of mind that when you perform your actions, you do not need to worry about auditability.

A source system agnostic integration approach

By now you will have learned how crucial the pre-payroll process and its controls are, and how much data flows into each single payroll run. Therefore, it’s not surprisingly that the top priority of Global Payroll Managers for 2024 is automating inbound (and outbound) data flows. To add to this, a recent poll where I asked ‘How many unique data sources flow into payroll?’ revealed that 65% of global payrolls have 5+ data sources. Per payroll, per run.

So, while focusing on automating and integrating your main sources (e.g. Workday, SAP SuccessFactors) is important, looking holistically at all the data sources is vital. If you want to achieve efficiency and improve accuracy in a process that takes up 60% of your payroll team’s time, you owe it to yourself and your team. Get visibility into those data sources, periodicity, and their data models. You can then start mapping an automation roadmap and soon you’ll find our you need Payzaar

We integrate with ALL data sources with little upfront investment in terms of budget and time. We can complement any data that doesn’t reside in those sources but is required for local payroll processing. This is all click and drop, self-service configuration. I play around with this functionality during downtime in the evenings (who needs Netflix, when you have payroll?) and it is really easy yet very, very effective. This truly helps all payroll professionals to get a grip on their data preparation process, while asking little to no change from their upstream stakeholders. You control this configuration and have peace of mind when submitting your payroll for processing.

So, what now?

I would advise investigating your own pre-payroll processes and controls. Once you lay down the number of data sources per payroll, and rank those in terms of volumes and importance, you can start prioritising your improvement roadmap. To control these improvements I suggest you get in touch with me, as you’ll need a system-agnostic platform like ours to get to your desired end state. 

In the next blog article, I’ll focus on the controls that typically get the most attention: run-payroll controls:

  • Variance control
  • Threshold control
  • Input vs Output reconciliation
  • Payslip recalculation

Stay tuned!

I am a Global Payroll Professional and a passionate one too! After managing global payrolls across the world for about 20 years, I found there must be a better way of doing this. I joined Payzaar - the global payroll management platform everyone needs and can easily implement.

Oh yes, we are just fun to work with too - Let's chat about the Payzaar Experience! And who knows, I might just deliver you a demo that you’ll truly enjoy.

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