By Frank J. Mendelson
Editor’s Note: Cyndi Miller, CPP, Director of Global Payroll at Webflow, Inc., has more than 25 years of global payroll experience leading the global payroll function. She improves operations to ensure compliance, accuracy, and efficiencies, while scaling the payroll operations with the growth of businesses. Her professional experience includes mergers and acquisitions and creating and implementing Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) compliance.
What are the persistent challenges for companies that have, or are moving into, global expansion?
One of the lingering challenges for companies is navigating cultural differences and language barriers. It can be difficult to communicate effectively with employees, partners, and customers in different countries and time zones, which can lead to misunderstandings and mistakes. I have found that with some payroll vendor models, I had to work with a team in a time zone that required me to have 11:00 p.m. or 5:00 a.m. meetings.
Additionally, companies may struggle to adapt their services to meet the unique needs and preferences of employees in different regions. I had one region that expected our payroll vendor to be available in our office once a week to walk through their payslips with them. Our solution was to set up “office hours” via phone or Zoom for that team, however, it was difficult to find an in-country provider willing to meet the teams’ expectations.
Internally, the challenge is the set up of ownership of the different aspects to global expansion. Legal, stock, HR, payroll, accounting, treasury, finance, IT, and operations must collaborate to determine what can be leveraged internally and what can be outsourced.
Part of the internal organization challenge is complying with local laws and regulations, which can vary significantly from country to country. This requires a significant investment in legal and regulatory expertise, as well as ongoing monitoring and compliance efforts. If you do not have the team to leverage internally, you will need to outsource those services and ensure that there is a budget available. For example, if you have a benefits team that does not have expertise in global benefits, you may need to find an external resource to help ensure compliance in that area.
Finally, companies may face logistical challenges in managing payrolls and operations across different countries and time zones. Adapting payroll practices to meet the unique needs of employees in different regions is necessary. Successfully navigating these constant challenges requires careful planning, investment, and ongoing effort to build strong relationships with stakeholders, business partners, and payroll providers, while adapting to changing payroll and statutory regulations to meet the needs and expectations of the team members.
Selecting the right payroll vendor for your company is determined by your company needs and your future footprint. One thing that has helped me determine which vendors would be considered is if you have internal support that can be leveraged or if you will not need to have a vendor with the expertise that is lacking internally.
Having a flexible payroll vendor who works as a trusted partner is one of the most important aspects to the payroll process. It will allow you to either sleep at night or require you to work odd hours in the mornings or evenings to sort out issues in various time zones.
Once the internal and external teams are aligned, processes and workflows will need to be established. Automation will need to be added along with the accounting, banking, treasury, benefits, and human resources information system (HRIS) to complete the implementation.
What would you like to see payroll vendors address within the next three years?
Based on industry trends and insights, some of the things that companies and customers may expect from payroll vendors over the next few years include enhanced data security and privacy measures, better integration with other HR and financial systems, improved mobile and self-service capabilities, and more personalized and flexible payroll options. Additionally, vendors must keep abreast of the changing regulatory landscape and provide proactive support and guidance to their customers for compliance support.
Since laws and compliance requirements are constantly changing, it can be challenging. If you are processing payroll in one country, it is far easier to receive the compliance updates and stay on top of that single country. It is when you are processing payrolls for multiple countries that assistance and expertise are greatly needed. If you are unable to leverage your internal business partners, you may need to seek outside resources, such as your payroll vendor or a contracting firm.
Having a payroll vendor with artificial intelligence (AI), or a resource that can determine compliance and taxation based upon the country and the data, would be a game changer. Although I have seen payroll vendors have resources, they are not integrated with the payroll data to apply compliance with the nuances of your payroll.
What are the most important qualities of effective leadership?
The most important qualities of effective leadership include strong communication skills, including active listening, having integrity, the ability to inspire and motivate others, a willingness to take risks and make tough decisions, and a commitment to fostering a positive and inclusive work culture. Effective leaders also prioritize the development and growth of their team members and can adapt and innovate in response to changing circumstances and challenges.
Ineffective leadership not only leads to morale issues but can also result in a loss of productivity and, in many cases, lead to high turnover.
Collaboration is also a skill necessary in global payroll because there are so many dotted lines to various other business partners and functions that either feed into or impact payroll data or calculations. You need to be able to collaborate with your business partners, which encompasses other traits such as listening, transparency, communication, knowledge sharing, and overall accountability.
Integrity does not just mean to have high moral standards; Integrity means advocating for your team while doing what’s right for the individual and the business as a whole. This, in turn, fosters trust in your team.
The main quality that everyone needs in all areas of business is resilience. Mistakes are made and you may be met with challenges. You need to be flexible enough to pivot and meet those challenges, take ownership of decisions, and focus on a corrective course of action while helping the team to adjust course amid those challenges.
The wonderful thing about being an engaged leader is that you are constantly learning. Your old skills will be utilized while new skills will be learned and strengthened. Your leadership style will evolve with the type of leader your team and the organization needs.