What is a payroll transformation manager?

April 11, 2022

Rapid global expansion can impair payroll processes for many businesses, leading to the creation of new roles and opportunities focused largely on payroll transformation. When an organization realizes immediate change is needed to fix a broken payroll process, payroll transformation professionals can create an actionable plan to streamline payroll operations and support continued business growth. 

If you long to be a true agent of change, love to take the lead on projects, and feel a sense of fulfillment when you are fixing broken processes, then look no further than the fast-growing payroll transformation manager and director roles 

According to the EY Global Payroll Survey Report, 35% of companies don’t have a formalized payroll strategy in place, with 28% of companies reporting “very low” standardization globally for payroll processing.  

What does a payroll transformation manager or director do? 

The roles and responsibilities vary depending on title and company, but they have many similarities, and the number of open roles is on the rise as more companies see a true need for someone solely dedicated to: 

  • Identifying payroll pain points

  • Integrating the various systems involved in payroll delivery 

  • Supervising dispersed and disharmonized payroll units with different processes 

 So, if you’re keen on learning more or looking for current open roles, try searching for:  

  • Payroll transformation manager 

  • Payroll strategy and transformation manager 

  • Payroll transformation director 

  • Payroll transformation consultant 

Payroll transformation professionals define the future state of payroll technologies and processes, as well as manage the relationship with partners whether they’re a multi-country payroll provider (MCP) or human capital management (HCM) provider. This role plays an integral part in project managing and centralizing resources and processes, in addition to implementing best-in-class new vendor solutions.   

In the first 90-180 days in the role, you’ll be tasked with evaluating current payroll processes, conducting interviews with payroll owners and stakeholders to discover pain points, and auditing the ecosystem that currently supports payroll (from the HCM platform to payroll vendors) to determine if they—or the way they’re being used—are the source of the problem. Once completed, you will be able to formulate an actionable plan to improve the company’s payroll process.  

The next step in improving the payroll process will include interviewing new payroll vendors to weigh the benefits and challenges of each, or in some instances the company may already have a payroll partner in mind that you will be tasked with implementing.  

In addition to defining the future state of the company’s payroll process, you may be tasked with:  

  • Assessing and re-engineering end-to-end processes, including controls and audit requirements 

  • Providing training and coaching to direct reports  

  • Implementing standards, quality measures, and KPIs while managing vendors and/or implementation partners 

  • Aligning stakeholders by developing meaningful relationships across the organization  

How do you become a payroll transformation professional? 

What background and skills are needed to secure this role? What kinds of candidates are companies looking for?  

It helps to possess soft skills that indicate leadership, collaboration and organization, as well as being a critical thinker and problem-solver. If you have experience spearheading an initiative, successfully launching it, and aligning stakeholders to ensure everyone is on board with your initiative, then you would make a great fit. 

You’ll also need experience with project management, knowledge of various payroll systems and solutions, and a degree or previous experience working in the payroll sector (bonus points if you have previous experience doing payroll implementation).  

Most current openings call for around seven to 10+ years of experience in payroll and workforce management, experience leading a team, and expertise with common payroll solutions like Safeguard Global’s global managed payroll or others. Many current payroll transformation managers/directors come from a background in program management or project management, or as service delivery managers for shared payroll service centers.  

Organizations of all sizes and industries are currently hiring and/or already employing payroll transformation professionals, including companies like Nike, Deloitte and Microsoft.  

Securing a payroll transformation role 

Whether you have the experience needed to be a successful candidate today or in five years, the payroll transformation role is certain to stick around and continue growing. As companies continue to offer more options for flexible work, whether it’s in location, scheduling or even compensation currency or cadence, there will be an increasing need to ensure that their payroll systems are running like well-oiled machines—enabling them to be prepared for and able to adapt to the ever-evolving future of work.  

This role is the perfect opportunity to highlight and even improve upon your project and people management skills. And by showcasing that you have proven experience improving a company’s payroll processfor example, auditing a company’s payroll process and implementing a new global payroll partner, your resume is sure to stand out for future opportunities.  

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