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Executive Spotlight

Meet Theo Curey, President, ADP Global Human Capital Management


By Frank J. Mendelson

Theo Curey is President, ADP Global Human Capital Management. He is responsible for serving ADP’s multinational clients with their integrated suite of human capital management solutions including payroll, time and labor management, HR, and benefits. Curey received a BS in chemistry from Davidson College and his doctorate in chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin.

How do you see the role of the payroll professional evolving, given the emergence of technology and data-driven HR decision-making?

Payroll practitioners today have an unprecedented amount of tools available to aid the transition from a tactical function in the organization to a more strategic role. The tactical need doesn‘t go away, but the process becomes more automated with advancements in robotics, reducing the time a payroll professional has to spend on such tasks. With improved user experiences for workers, we see employees empowered to answer their own questions, which in turn reduces the call volumes into a payroll department. This means payroll professionals will have more time to spend on generating important analyses to help the company make real-time decisions based on actual organizational data.

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

My go-to resource is ADP’s in-house legislative and monitoring teams, which operate around the globe. I’ve always learned a lot from listening to ADP’s clients, both in one-on-one meetings and at industry and ADP-hosted events. For example, our annual ReThink conference, which attracts hundreds of clients of every size and from every industry, is a highlight of the year when I get to really connect and have enlightening conversations with our clients. We also have ongoing collaborations with industry experts and are proud to have built close working relationships with these authorities over the years.

What would you advise for a company moving from a domestic to a global payroll in Latin America?

Payroll outsourcing in Latin America is relatively new, at least in comparison to other regions, so the market is still somewhat immature. As anyone who has worked with companies operating in Latin America knows, the region is meaningfully diverse culturally and linguistically. Therefore, it’s always smart to be sensitive to cultural differences from one region/country to another if you’re moving to a shared services model, and to select your team carefully. You’ll want to make sure they have the right payroll knowledge and language capabilities that will prove essential on the ground. Another tip—be sure that you’re comparing apples to apples, that your global payroll model will cover the same services you have today.

What are some of the considerations a company should weigh to determine if there is good fit with a prospective multicountry payroll vendor?

Multinational companies typically operate in numerous countries with a wide range in employee populations and detailed requirements. Those who have made the transition to global payroll understand the reality that getting payroll done in one country is very different than how it is done in another. Across countries there are many factors to deal with. They include varying levels of government bureaucracy, frequently changing legislation, the influence of workers councils, and different levels of acceptance of technology—just to name a few. As it’s often said, “the devil is in the details.” Therefore, when thinking of working with a partner to help with global payroll operations, there are many factors to take into consideration including answers to questions such as:

  • Does the multi-country payroll outsourcing (MCPO) vendor offer solutions for large and small employee populations?

No two multinational companies are the same, but most have a mix of some large populations combined with a tail of smaller population countries. Part of the purpose in working with an MCPO is to simplify your operations, so you should expect that they can accommodate your footprint.

  • Can the MCPO adapt to my complexity?
When I talk to our clients, it’s clear that they are all at very different points along their organizational lifecycles. Some are wholly ready to fully outsource every country. Others have to start in certain regions or countries because of funding, dependence on other projects such as rolling out a global HR system, or even something as simple (or not so simple) as internal politics. What is important is that your MCPO vendor can work with you to adapt to your evolving needs over time. You may be ready for a global solution in some areas and not others. That’s OK – that’s reality. At ADP, we’ve spent decades building a global presence so that we can match our capabilities with client needs.
  • Is the vendor investing in innovation?

Is there clear evidence of the vendor investing in things like enhancing the user experience, improving integration with other HR and finance systems, simplifying processes, reporting, analytics, and adding functionality? The vendor should be able to point to recent, specific improvements in these areas as well as provide a compelling roadmap for the future. It may sound mundane, but the integration between payroll and other systems, such as HR, is really important. Watch out, though—the term “integration” is like calling something “blue”—there can be a wide range of interpretations. You should work with a vendor that is investing heavily in integration.

  • Is the vendor on top of legislative changes?
People in the industry often say that legislative changes are happening quickly and point to the thousands of tax code changes that occur annually in specific countries such as the United States and elsewhere. That may be true, but what I think is more impactful is the rapid evolution of monumental legislative changes such as eSocial in Brazil or General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, as they are game changers in the world of payroll. You should expect that your vendor is on top of these changes long before they become a reality.
  • How strong is the vendor’s internal and external audit program? Is this a clear area of investment?
Companies should reasonably expect their MCPO partners to perform regular and rigorous audits of their partners’ security and capabilities as well as their own. Adherence to standards in infrastructure, security, business resiliency, transaction processing, and change management are just some examples of controls your vendor should be able to demonstrate.
  • Does the vendor have a significant number of live clients, willing to give referrals, in all of your in-scope countries?

Rolling out multi-country payroll services is a significant undertaking for any organization. An MCPO provider with longevity in this market will have learned its lessons and honed its service capabilities across many client implementations—and current clients’ willingness to endorse the vendor will speak volumes.

How and why did you become involved in payroll and ADP?

Coming to ADP, for me, wasn’t about payroll—it was about purpose. What I learned, even before I joined, was that the people of ADP are passionate about doing the right thing for their clients. It was their love for what they do that made me want to be part of the team.

What are some pieces of learned wisdom, from your on-the-job experience, in regards to being effective and efficient?

I must admit that I’m still learning! Here are a couple of techniques I employ personally and with my team that I believe help with being efficient and effective. First, I am strict about basic meeting hygiene. If we’re going to have a meeting, then we should send out the agenda/purpose in advance so everyone has a chance to get their thoughts together. Then, during the meeting, I ask everyone to put away electronic devices that distract them. You can’t expect to get to a good outcome if people are doing emails or texting at the same time. Second, my teams and I always develop a “Plan B” when facing an important situation. I’m sure you’ve been in situations where you and your team came up with a plan, and then it started to unravel when you began executing. The issue is that it can take a lot of time to get the team back together and agree on a new approach. That’s why I like to think through what could go wrong with our original approach in advance and have a “Plan B” ready to go in the event we need to pivot.

What kinds of skills or training would be useful for someone moving into a managerial role in payroll?

I believe today’s payroll professionals see a changing world with new requirements coming their way. The role of analytics, for example, will continue to grow as business leaders demand more sophisticated analysis of the workforce and how that translates into business results. So building a foundation in analytics—not solely reporting—will help support those needs.

Another example is the impact of globalization on the payroll function. It’s a big journey to go from a single-country focused organization to having global responsibility. My view is that having significant experience or training in change management will make the company and the payroll professional more successful.

FrankMendelsonFrank J. Mendelson is an Acquisitions Editor for the Global Payroll Management Institute. He has been working with the American Payroll Association since 2009 as an editor for PAYTECH magazine, and has presented workshops at the Annual Congress on effective communication.