Q&A with Global Payroll Expert Stefan Kirchmann

Alex Margolin September 25, 2019

Stefan Kirchmann, a partner and head of tax at Mazars, is Papaya’s in-country payroll partner for Germany. Mazars is a world leader in audit, accountancy, and tax advisory services.

Q: Hello Stefan, thank you for taking the time to share your vast expertise on running a global payroll.

My first question to you is, what is the biggest challenge to executing a global payroll accurately and on time?

A: The major challenges are still, first and foremost, collecting all of the information, which can be particularly difficult if you have teams in different countries, ensuring that you’re meeting all the deadlines. Clients expect you to work fast, and want everything as soon as possible, so this is still a major challenge.

Q: Getting all the material together?  

A: Right. It also requires discipline on the client side. Clients change their minds very often. In Germany, if you run a payroll system, when there are changes, you do the calculation again at extra cost. It’s not only extra time, but there is also a data processing cost. Very often, you learn mid-work that the client made changes – they forgot the bonus or some other important thing. So it’s very important to teach the clients that this has to be done by the books.

Q: Which part of the payroll process is the most vulnerable to error?

A: The changes require time, and can cause a lot of trouble when things are not updated, or updates are not sent on time. I think this area – the set-up process and the update process is the most vulnerable. The information might not be accurate or might not be complete, and all of the sudden you realize there is a problem.

Q: In an automated payroll, what’s the primary roll of the payroll manager?

A: In my view, the less the payroll manager has to control the general function of the payroll, the more time will be left to build the client relationship or for improving operations. Currently, the situation is that payroll needs to be done in very short timeframes. There is not too much time left for the payroll manager to focus on other aspects of the job. The less the payroll manager has to spend on reviewing the payroll workers, the more of a positive impact it has on the relationship with the client.

Q: What’s been the biggest advantage to working with the Papaya Platform?  

A: It saves us time a few different ways. In our system, each client has his own tailor-made report sheet so detailed, it’s virtually impossible to complete just from an upload from our system, so that’s a lot of manual work that require tons of spreadsheets.

With the Papaya platform, we have one standard reporting format which makes life very easy for us, because it’s a one-time set up between our system and the platform. We can automatically upload all the information from our system to the Papaya platform without any manual work, and can be used for many clients, not just for one client. This is a real game changer, a real-time saver.

Another advantage is that you only have a few people to talk to, to coordinate with. What we really appreciate is the reporting format, where we save a lot of time compared to other clients where we do so much manually.

Q: A lot of people consider payroll mundane, a little boring. How can we make payroll not boring?

A: When you talk to people, they either like it or hate it. It’s like [soccer team] Bayern Munich. You either love Bayern Munich or you don’t like them. I don’t find it boring. I see it as part of a larger process.

Today, it is easier to get clients than it is to get employees. It is a very strong market, and therefore the work environment must be as attractive as possible. And there are little things which help. You said it’s boring, and a lot of people share this view.

Q: Oh, I don’t think it’s boring. I’m just saying some people do.

A: Well it’s true that a lot of people really don’t like to do payroll, for whatever reason, even if they have the skills. We try, because we need the skills and we need the people – it is very difficult these days to hire good staff.  I’m in business now for 25 years, and over that time, it’s never been a problem to get a good bookkeeper or a good payroll accountant. Today, everything goes through personnel agencies and headhunters, so even people who just finished their studies, 21 years old, they are on the market via headhunters. The market has totally changed, so you have to offer not only a decent salary but also an environment and a job which they can appreciate.

So, to make the payroll side of the job more attractive, we include other things, not just payroll. We add with more responsibilities, more contact with clients and that makes it more fun for them, so to speak.

I think it’s also important that you have a vision. And if you can share this vision, then people would feel more connected to the company. I have a vision, and if you are transparent and communicate this vision, your employees feel like to be part of the journey.