The payroll calendar has been, and continues to be, a key tool in the payroll delivery function. Without a clear, deadline-oriented way to view processing dates and timing expectations, no payroll team can execute their responsibilities effectively; for organizations that deliver payroll across a number of regions, each running multiple different calendars, that means keeping track of several thousand key events throughout the year.
Or trying to, at least.
For large, multinational businesses, the ‘calendar challenge’ is immense. Some organizations are potentially running upwards of 80 different payrolls – meaning up to 80 different calendars, created and managed by as many as 30 different users in different territories, all with little or no standardization. Every month a significant amount of time might be spent consolidating the information into one cohesive calendar, or invested into monitoring separate schedules every day just to work out what needs to be delivered and by when.
If you’re tasked with global payroll delivery, using calendars to accurately track payroll activities across regions is a huge headache – typically involving masses of nonstandardized information being loaded to one Excel spreadsheet, transferred to another, and updated regularly (via manual updates, of course).
Frequent manual updates to spreadsheet-based calendars not only create opportunities for input errors, they also create version control issues. (Who updated it last? Which locally saved version is most accurate?) It is also virtually impossible for payroll practitioners to use their spreadsheet-bound calendars as a resource-planning tool; determining which the team members are available to carry out certain actions on certain days would take hours of scrutiny with an Excel-based approach.
With so many inefficiencies involved in the old-school model of payroll calendaring, it is no surprise that many organizations have slowly discarded the payroll calendar altogether. Instead, many payroll practitioners now rely on their own routines to run the payroll process, foregoing any real planning or scheduling at a global (or even local) level, despite the obviously increased risk of human error that creates.
Using separate, Excel-based calendars (or no calendar at all) to manage global payroll brings a number of vulnerabilities to an international business, ranging from a higher risk of errors to a lack of standardized information and firm timelines.
When these issues are not addressed, the complexity leads to missed deadlines – which can lead to litigation or regulatory repercussions (since late payments to local authorities or governing bodies can result in hefty fines). The extra effort involved in covering the ramifications, as well as other, more general inefficiency issues, also adds unnecessary people costs to the payroll function.
Four steps to smarter global payroll calendaring
To address the issues outlined previously and start improving the effectiveness of your global payroll calendaring, there are four main areas to focus on. However, before applying any of these improvements you’ll need to accept that it’s probably time to ‘do away' with the spreadsheet in favor of a more modern and adaptable application.
- Standardization: Firstly, you need to establish a way of managing the event definitions and structure of your calendars, putting a framework in place that ensures calendars are defined in the same way across multiple countries. You need to make sure that all users have the same interpretation of what events should and shouldn’t be on the calendar.
From this point onwards, with all events now represented in a consistent manner, you’re working towards one consolidated calendar view.
- Flexible, user-based personalization: Creating one, centralized version of your payroll calendar improves both the productivity of your users, while reducing the risk of things being missed.
To improve your efficiencies further, look for mechanisms that enable your users to adjust their view of the calendar. For instance, filtering events so that they see only the events and deadlines relevant to their own role.
Similarly, seek out the potential for consuming the calendar information in different time periods – such as being able to view the monthly outlook before drilling down to a daily agenda. Manipulating the data that way is the sole reserve of modern application-based calendars, but it’s also the only way to cut out the background noise and show team members just the information they really need for a specific task.
- A structure for collaboration: With a single, shared calendar, you’ll have successfully consolidated the event information currently held in various documents across your business. The next step is to establish a common way of managing global payroll calendars across your entire operation.
Build a governance framework that defines processes around approvals and changes to the calendar, and standardize the way in which collaboration occurs – ensuring there are mechanisms in place to support collaboration, such as a shared portal available to every interested party.
- Do more with your calendar: Last but by no means least, start to recognize that your global payroll calendar is much more than just a list of events. Leveraged correctly, it’s a critical piece of the global payroll services puzzle that can help monitor and consequently improve your performance across your whole operation.
How so? With your calendar centralized, you have the potential to link it to your global payroll workflow, integrating the data you’re capturing around ‘when things should happen’ along with the insight you’ll have about ‘when things actually do happen.’
This gives you the ability to measure performance more effectively – for instance, by identifying which payrolls are falling behind and therefore require more support. Calendar-workflow integration also facilitates the possibility for automatic reminders and alerts around outstanding events, which can improve accuracy and efficiency.
Given the potential advantages of an effective global payroll calendar, it’s clearly time for multinational organizations to end their reliance on outdated, spreadsheet-bound tools. When the complexities of managing the calendar become too great, it’s not the time to discard the concept completely. Rather it’s the time to upgrade to a more sophisticated solution – and then to enjoy all the benefits that it can bring.