By Frank J. Mendelson
Editor’s Note: Emilia Faz is the Senior Manager of Global Payroll for Etsy. She has been a payroll professional for 12 years, including full cycle accounting and serving as an HR manager. She has experience in managing benefits and equity and has processed payroll in more than 18 countries. Faz has worked for the restaurant industry, and in private and public companies.
What emerging trends in global payroll are demanding your attention? How will they exert impact?
The most prominent trend is a shift when it comes to mobility. More and more companies are beginning to allow remote work, which means an increase in mobility. This is impacting payroll in a huge way because we must remain compliant and update internal policies to avoid any negative impact this could cause. For a global company, this also means keeping up with the changes in laws at the state, federal, and global level. It is also going to push public companies that offer equity plans to track these movements and make sure allocations are done correctly, so that payroll reporting is accurate.
What are the chronic challenges for companies that have, or are moving into global expansion?
One of the pain points for someone in payroll when it comes to global expansion is finding in-country experts to guide you through the road bumps each new country will present. Even though the payroll process may be similar, each country is different and has different requirements.
What is the difference in responding to urgencies in global payroll versus U.S. domestic payroll?
I think the urgency remains the same across both. We handle the most sensitive aspect of someone’s livelihood—their pay. So, there is never a level of priority. It should all be a priority.
What have been your experiences on successfully navigating cultural and other differences on a world-wide stage?
When I process payroll for Latin America, it comes easy since Spanish is my first language, and I can easily hop on a call with a vendor. However, it can be difficult when dealing with countries such as France or Singapore since tax forms will always be in their language, but we always find a way to manage. I think having the correct support when moving into a new country is important for any global company.
What area would you like to see payroll vendors address in the next three years?
Global vendors need to understand that while the primary goal is to process an accurate payroll, we also need local experts who are not just ready to help with payroll, but who can ensure we are compliant in every aspect.
What is your unpopular opinion on payroll?
Payroll should be its own department in every organization. It should not be managed under HR or finance because payroll clearly falls somewhere in between those two specializations.
What are some essential practices and strategic choices to manage risk and compliance?
I work closely with our internal and external auditors to make sure we manage both. We are responsible for maintaining Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act compliance. It’s crucial to map out our processes carefully and make sure our audit process is effective.
What are some of the insights you can share around preparing for, and staying in compliance with, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)?
Regardless of whether you’re global, I highly suggest following the GDPR guidelines. We deal with the most sensitive information, so training your team and others how to handle that will always be beneficial. We always tap into our resources as well and partner a lot with in-country experts to make sure we remain compliant.
What emerging trends do you see in meeting the payroll needs and compliance in payroll management for mobile employees?
I think it’s crucial to create internal policies that will have clear guidance for both employees and managers. It’s nice to have flexibility but moving around has an impact on your taxes and earnings. Sometimes this isn’t top of mind for everyone until tax time rolls around.
What should a company consider to determine if there is a good fit with a prospective vendor?
The first step is going in prepared with a list of your must-haves. Understanding not only the current difficulties you face with payroll, but also any pain points other shareholders have will help determine what is necessary for improvement.
How did you get started in your career?
I started in payroll by plain luck. I went to school for something entirely different but when the opportunity presented itself to not only learn payroll but full cycle accounting, I jumped on it. I now have both an accounting and human resources background, but my heart will always be in payroll.
What are some pieces of learned wisdom from your on-the-job experience that you can share regarding being effective and efficient?
Always question the reason for the way things have always been done, so that you can gain a better understanding. Most of the time, people continue to go through the motions without realizing there may be a better path.
What were some of your early career lessons?
We are only human and we will make mistakes. What matters most is that we take accountability, learn from those mistakes, fix them, and make sure they aren’t repeated.
What career and life advice do you give to a new employee in payroll?
Take everything as a learning opportunity. It will help you grow in your career and in life. I try to always see the positive even when it seems impossible.
What have been the professional and personal challenges you have faced as you moved into global payroll from domestic payroll?
The biggest professional challenge when moving into global payroll is learning about the cultural differences and pay components in each country. Time difference may also present a different set of issues. I remember at one point in a previous job, we were in the middle of setting up an entity in India and that required 10:00 p.m. calls that sometimes lasted over an hour. It comes with the territory, of course, but sometimes it’s not easy when you’re also a mom and are wiped out from a busy day.
What’s the emotional experience of being in your position?
It can certainly be overwhelming at times, so you must learn how to manage. I have always felt that our job can be a thankless one. You can have things go right and never hear a thank you, but the minute something goes wrong, it all comes crashing down pretty quickly. Thick skin in this game is a must.
What are the most important qualities of effective leadership?
Being transparent about the things that will have an impact on your team is an extremely important trait. I believe a good leader will always be there to support their team, both professionally and personally. You also must acknowledge that everyone learns differently, and you must be able to manage the different personalities on your team.
Tell me about your management and leadership approach today?
I go in fully trusting that my team is doing the job that they were hired to do. I make it known that I am there to support them but without being overbearing. I want to make sure my team is working in a positive environment. I want to be successful, but I can’t be a success without making sure my team is successful first. So, I make sure they have all of the tools they need.
How do you personally manage to balance work and pleasure?
When I am done working for the day, I try my best to shut down “Emilia the Payroll Manager,” so I can focus more on being “Emilia the Mom” and “Emilia the Wife.” It’s not always easy to keep your work and personal life separate because things that happen at work can plague your mind for the rest of the day. Reading, exercising, and the occasional date night are always good for my soul.
What books are on your recommended reading list?
I am a sucker for a good psychological thriller, which can be a good diversion after a long day. My favorite author right now is Freida McFadden (“The Inmate”), so I recommend all her books.
What are some stress management techniques you have found useful?
Gym and coffee...lots of coffee. Honestly, it’s very important to be aware of your mental health. Give yourself grace and ask for a break when it’s needed.