How to get stakeholder buy-in for a global payroll initiative

Mar 16, 2016  | Topic: Implementation

When asked how to get buy-in before commencing a change program, author Douglas B. Reeves simply answered, ‘You don’t.’ He went on to say that, ‘Implementation should always precede buy-in – it should never follow it.’

The point is people rarely support something they don’t believe in until they actually see results. They need to be sure it’s the right thing to do, especially if it means a lot of heavy lifting. This is certainly the case with the implementation of global payroll, which often relies on the buy-in of a large number of stakeholders from across the globe.

Payroll touches every employee, deals with complex, sensitive data and features a vast number of dependencies across your organization. As such, an element of resistance from some quarters is almost inevitable. 

In this blog post, we’ll identify the most likely sources of resistance, and look at ways buy-in can be achieved.


Getting Your Countries Onboard

For many stakeholders at group level, the benefits of migrating to a single global payroll platform are clear. Reduced costs, automated reporting and improved insight can all play a significant role in the long-term success of the business.

At the local level, stakeholders (country-level business unit leaders and payroll heads) may consider their current payroll process to be adequate enough to serve their own needs. As such, a proposed change program can be seen as an unnecessary and unwelcome distraction. The in-country payroll teams may also be reluctant to move away from the comfort-zone of their established approach, to learn something entirely new.

This reluctance can intensify when the local-level operation is actually being cross-charged to contribute to the cost of a global payroll implementation. Sacrificing funds from their local budget to pay for a centralized initiative, which they don’t really support, can be a bitter pill to swallow.

There’s no doubt that gaining support from your countries can be a significant challenge. But gain their support you must. When your program hits its deployment phase, these are the people you’ll need to count on.

So, get your countries involved early so they can feel part of the strategy. Local teams are far more likely to engage if they are vested in the program, instead of feeling like it is just being done to them. Despite this, some countries may still not be fully onboard and doubts will remain throughout your project. This is perfectly normal. To truly win hearts and minds, you have to continuously communicate, as well as demonstrate the benefits of the new ways of working. Only when individuals see the old ways were ineffective in comparison, and can attest to better results, will you have their complete backing.


Beyond The Payroll Function

Getting key payroll individuals onboard in all of your territories is essential - but it’s equally important to recognize that the impact of your global initiative goes far beyond the payroll function itself.

Global payroll also has a significant number of linkages with other functions - such as HR, IT, Finance, Compliance and Risk Management. Strategies already in place in these departments (such as recruitment plans or investment in potential new technologies) could impact the geographic scope, technology requirements and timing of your global payroll program.

For example, will the new global payroll system align or conflict with your organization’s wider IT strategy? How much will be dictated by IT as to what solution will best fit the broader technology landscape?

Some inter-department dynamics might also be altered as a result of the roll-out. For instance, maybe HR will need to work differently with payroll in future. This all makes cross-functional buy-in critical.


The Importance of Executive Sponsorship

This group is so obvious it was nearly left out of this post. However, a short reference is merited to once again underline the crucial role that the executive sponsor plays, in harvesting support from other stakeholders.

As well as displaying passion for the project and its business drivers, the sponsor must reinforce the benefits on a global scale, creating a momentum that lasts the duration of the rollout and into the new era. And without doubt, sometimes you’re going to need the support of someone senior who can use his or her influence when all other tactics have been exhausted.


3 More Ways to Ensure You Get Support

  1. Select the right system: Take your time to explore the market and find the right technology for your business - don’t settle for less. The closer the technology aligns with your business needs, the easier it will be to gain buy-in.
  2. Embrace differences: Even aside from the specific laws and regulations that govern an individual country’s payroll, each will have its own quirks and peculiarities, which should be embraced. Showing your awareness of a country’s culture, language, time zones, holidays and social conventions will go a long way to breaking down barriers at the local level.
  3. Adopt a phased approach: With different cultures and languages to navigate, it’s naturally more difficult to implement a new system in some countries than others. Consider a phased approach to implementation, selecting the easiest region or group of countries to commence the roll-out to first. This will foster global champions that other countries can look to as an example of success.

‘Implementation precedes buy-in - it does not follow it’

Your ability to band together the many different stakeholders involved in a global payroll change program is going to have a huge impact on its success or failure. Accepting that your cynics will only buy-in when they bear witness in some way to the new and improved approach is a healthy mindset to adopt. And it also serves as a major driver to delivering wins as quickly as possible.