November 2023

Meet Bee Teo, Senior Global Payroll Manager for Gensler

By Frank J. Mendelson

Editor’s Note: Bee Teo is leading the global payroll operation for Gensler, a global architecture, design, and planning firm with 53 locations and 7,000 professionals across the Americas, Europe, Greater China, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East. Her focus is to help companies define their long-term vision and goals by developing a clear roadmap that aligns with their growth objectives and identifies the necessary operational steps to achieve them. She has 15 years of progressive global payroll experience, including experience with system configuration, global payroll set up, and implementation.


What do you see as the changing role of the payroll professional —i.e., greater interaction with HR, data analysis, managerial and strategic planning?

Global payroll is a department that—in the past—was often overlooked or embedded within HR or finance and treated as a department of data entry clerks. But that is no longer the case. That outdated concept of payroll and the role of today’s payroll professional have evolved due to various factors. Technological advancements, changes in labor laws, and shifting organizational needs have enabled payroll professionals to become key players within many corporations.


Which emerging trends in global payroll are demanding your attention, and how will they exert impact?

There are six trends that come to mind, which include the following:

  1. Adapting to the gig economy: To accommodate and keep up with growth and changes, payroll systems must adjust to a wider range of worker types which focus on classifications and compliance automation, flexible payment options, time and attendance tracking, integration with gig platforms, variable pay calculations, compliance with multiple jurisdictions, enhanced self-service capabilities, etc.
  2. Cloud computing: Cloud computing allows organizations to increase accessibility, scalability, and data security. It has enabled remote access—obviously an advantage during the COVID-19 pandemic—seamless integration with other HR systems, automatic updates, and real-time data processing.
  3. HR and payroll systems integration: Combining HR and payroll functions into a single platform streamlines data management, eliminates process waste, and improves data accuracy. It also provides a comprehensive view of employee information, enabling seamless payroll processing and better HR/payroll decision-making.
  4. Global payroll management: As businesses expand their operations globally, accommodating flexible working trends, managing payroll across multiple jurisdictions has become more complex. Global payroll management systems help to streamline international payroll processes, navigate local tax and compliance requirements, and ensure accurate and timely payments for a diverse workforce.

  5. Data security and privacy measures: Payroll data security is a top priority. Organizations must implement robust security measures, due to increasing cyber threats and data breaches. These security measures include data encryption, two-factor authentication like PingID, and regular security audits to safeguard sensitive employee data.

  6. Payroll analytics and reporting: Data analytics and reporting capabilities have increasingly advanced to enable decision makers to gain insights into labor costs, workforce trends, and compliance metrics. This tool helps businesses make data-driven decisions on how to raise productivity, lower turnover, and increase revenue for the company.

These emerging trends reflect the ongoing digital transformation and the need for efficient, secure, and compliant payroll processes. By adopting these trends, organizations can enhance or modify existing finance, tax, and legal processes to fit with global B2B products, improve employees’ experiences, and drive overall organizational success.


What are the chronic challenges for companies that have moved, or are moving into, global expansion?

Global expansion opens new opportunities, enhances a company’s reputation, and creates new revenue. Common challenges associated with global expansion include some that are obvious to domestic practitioners, and others more closely related to global. Some other challenges include the following:

  • Legal and regulatory compliance: Each country has its own legal and regulatory framework, including employment laws, tax regulations, intellectual property rights, and data protection laws. Companies must thoroughly understand and comply with these regulations to avoid legal complications, penalties, and reputational risks. Seeking local legal or accounting expertise to establish robust compliance processes are crucial.
  • Cultural and language differences: Operating in different countries means encountering diverse cultures, languages, and business practices. For example, if a U.S.-based company plans to expand the business in Japan, it must understand that Japanese culture is more formal than American culture. Foreign businesses must learn the host country’s communication style, greetings, values, and beliefs to ensure success. Understanding and adapting to these differences is essential for effective communication, building relationships, and navigating local customs.  
  • Market research and localization: Expanding into new markets involves market research and analysis to understand customer needs, preferences, and competitive landscapes. Localization efforts include product adaptation, pricing strategies, marketing campaigns, and customer support. Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign is a brilliant example of localization.
  • Managing HR and finance operations: Taking the business to a global level requires an adequate workforce. Hiring and managing a global workforce can be challenging. Adapting HR practices related to compensation packages, benefits, performance management, and employee engagement strategies will support the company to attract, recruit, and retain talent with the necessary skills, cultural understanding, and local market knowledge.
  • Communication and collaboration: Global expansion necessitates effective communication and collaboration across different time zones, languages, and cultural contexts. Establishing robust communication channels by leveraging technology for virtual collaboration fosters a culture of inclusivity and collaboration that enable effective teamwork and information sharing.
  • Risk management: Global expansion brings inherent risks including political instability, economic fluctuations, legal disputes, and cybersecurity threats. Companies can mitigate these risks through comprehensive risk management strategies, including contingency plans, insurance coverage, and compliance monitoring.

Partnering with local expertise by investing in cultural intelligence, and continuously monitoring and adjusting the strategies will help to integrate global ideas with local features.

What resources do you use to stay current on the latest legislation and trends in payroll?

Staying up to date with payroll legislation is crucial to ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations. Below is some guidance I use to stay proactive and ensure the company remains compliant with payroll legislation, minimizing risks and maintaining smooth operations:

  1. Subscribe to government websites, labor departments, tax authorities, and industry-specific publications, like PayrollOrg’s Global Payroll eMagazine, to receive timely notifications about changes in payroll-related laws and regulations.
  2. Collaborate with legal counsel and payroll professionals who specialize in compliance and payroll regulations to build and maintain policy.
  3. Join industry associations and professional networks that focus on payroll and HR such as PayrollOrg, SHRM, and Lexology.
  4. Participate in workshops, seminars, and training sessions offered by industry experts and professional organizations.
  5. Choose reputable payroll service providers that have dedicated compliance development teams to monitor and implement legislative changes on your behalf.
  6. Develop internal processes and protocols to monitor and implement legislative changes effectively by assigning a responsible team or individual to oversee payroll compliance and regularly review and update internal policies and procedures accordingly.
  7. Encourage the payroll team to participate in relevant certification programs, webinars, and courses to keep current on payroll legislation and compliance practices.
  8. Maintain open communication and collaboration with other departments, such as HR, finance, tax, and legal teams. Changes in legislation often have implications beyond payroll, and cross-functional collaboration ensures a holistic approach to compliance.
  9. Partner with Internal and External Audit to conduct regular audits of payroll processes to identify any gaps or potential compliance issues.


What are some pieces of wisdom gained from your on-the-job experience that you can share regarding your effectiveness and efficiency?

On-the-job experience provides a dynamic learning environment that enables professionals to develop skills, knowledge, and efficiency. It fosters growth, adaptability, and continuous improvement, ultimately contributing to effectiveness in the workplace.

By actively engaging in tasks, problem-solving, and decision-making, I have gained valuable experience and become more adept at performing my responsibilities efficiently.

Exposure to various scenarios/industries, challenges, and processes, has enabled me to acquire a deeper understanding of the systems, work, and industry, which can be leveraged to make informed decisions and optimize efficiency. Being hands-on helps me to familiarize with the organization's workflows, procedures, and systems.


What kinds of skills, training, and education would be most useful for someone moving into a managerial role in payroll?

Strong foundational knowledge of payroll processes, tax regulations, employment laws, and compliance requirements is essential. As a global payroll manager, strong leadership and management skills are crucial such as project management experience including the ability to manage project plans, dependencies, critical path activities, and milestones. I am dedicated and passionate about my profession, and I would offer my skills to work with personnel from various levels of the company. This is essential for ensuring that stakeholders understand payroll processes and the impact on payroll and employees’ experience.


What is one of your professional accomplishments or a situation you dealt with successfully?

One of the most significant professional accomplishments happened during the COVID-19 pandemic and involved successfully simplifying global payroll from multiple payroll operations with a single service provider. By leading the payroll implementation and migration, we ensured a smooth transition from manual processes to an automated system. This included coordinating with stakeholders, managing data migration, conducting user training, and resolving any issues that arose during the implementation process.

After the implementation, the organization could effectively manage payroll operations across multiple countries or regions while dealing with varying tax laws, labor regulations, and reporting requirements. This included coordinating with local payroll providers or experts, ensuring compliance, and maintaining accurate records for each jurisdiction.

You must define a robust governance model for global payroll services by building a strong team to ensure that business and organizational priorities are aligned and met in a timely fashion. This includes accurately calculating taxes, deductions, and benefits, filing required reports on time, and maintaining proper documentation for audits.

You must possess a strong aptitude and proficiency in Excel and advanced analytical skills to support investigation and resolving payroll discrepancies or errors promptly and accurately. This involves identifying the root cause of the issue, coordinating with relevant departments or employees, and implementing corrective measures to prevent similar discrepancies in the future.

One must establish a clear vision for the payroll team and set achievable goals aligned with the organization's objectives. This includes the ability to promote a positive work culture and encourage collaboration. Other qualities include demonstrating resilience, staying calm under pressure, and effectively managing stress. Always view challenges as a lesson to learn and focus on things which can be controlled instead of dwelling on what can’t be changed.


What is your management and leadership approach today?

My management and leadership approach today includes the following:

  • I effectively combine stakeholder feedback and internal resources and needs to build a compelling and bold payroll vision and strategy for cross-functional partners and teams
  • I involve and collaborate with team members to review and build a strong payroll process so they feel it is our process instead of Bee’s process
  • Each individual capability is unique, so you want to assess the competencies and readiness of each team member. This helps you to build a career path for the team member, and to provide an appropriate level of guidance and support including clear expectations and areas of improvement.
  • You can help team members to succeed by providing access to the tools and resources they need to enable professional growth. This helps foster a culture of open feedback, active listening, and constructive dialogue.
  • Being emphatic by understanding and managing your own emotions and the emotions of other team members
  • I set challenging yet achievable goals, monitor progress, and encourage team members to hold themselves to a higher standard by taking ownership at work


How do you personally manage to balance work and pleasure? 

I balance work and pleasure by doing the following:

  • Implement a schedule by putting it on a calendar to allow for dedicated work hours as well as time for leisure activities, hobbies, and personal commitments
  • Clearly define boundaries between work and personal life by setting aside dedicated periods of time to disconnect from work-related technology and digital devices
  • Cultivate mindfulness by being fully present in the present moment
  • Take advantage of vacation time and plan regular breaks throughout the yea


What are some stress management techniques you have found useful?

Meditation helps me manage stress, improve concentration, and find peace, clarity, and balance in my daily life.

Frank J. Mendelson is Acquisitions Editor for PayrollOrg.
Do you like our content? Join the GPMI community to get free education and articles straight to your inbox! 

Next Issue:

Directing the Payroll Action

Meet Emilia Faz

Country Spotlight