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Executive Spotlight

Meet Sharon Tayfield, MCIPP, Chief Operations Officer, Praxima Holdings

By Frank J. Mendelson

1475039816_93341Editor’s Note: Sharon Tayfield, MCIPP, is the Chief Operations Officer (COO) of Praxima Holdings. Praxima markets payroll/HR software to service its own international client base and takes the software to the market as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) and hosted solution. Sharon is tasked with ensuring that Praxima remains compliant in all the regions in which it operates and, most importantly, that its clients’ employees are paid on time every payday. Sharon has direct responsibility for the implementation and operational areas of the company. In 2014, she completed the CIPP Payroll Technician Certificate. She is a registered tax practitioner in South Africa and a member of the U.K.’s Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP).

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

I read global publications covering payroll, finance, and HR issues and attend regular updates and conferences hosted by several professional bodies. I am also a practicing member of the South African Institute of Tax (SAIT) where I am required to maintain an annual continuing professional development quota.

How would you advise someone whose company is just beginning to expand to a global payroll with regard to risk management and compliance?

Compliance is a vast area to cover, and I would encourage a company to ensure that it has some input from a local service provider or it has taken steps to ensure that the person responsible for managing the payroll in those areas has received adequate training.

The use of a global consolidator, or a regional consolidator, certainly reduces some of that risk, provided that adequate steps have been taken in the vetting process. Of course, any local service provider would need to be adequately vetted. I came across a local service provider that appeared from the public domain to be a good fit, but an in-country visit revealed that there was only one person involved in the entire operation!

To manage risk, one needs to constantly be reviewing the controls that are in place and, where necessary, making adjustments. When challenges do arise, one needs to address these and take steps to ensure that procedures are put in place to avert a recurrence of the challenge.

Is it possible to have a single global payroll solution and service?

Where a company has operations in many different regions, with different time zones, I would advocate for a regional approach that may or may not be with the same service provider.

I would see something akin to an EMEA region/Americas & Far East region as a natural split. Many larger organizations that have tried the single global payroll solution have tended to move back to the regional approach over time. If we are looking at an in-house solution, then a global solution is likely to be more achievable providing each region follows the same methodology and there is consistency across all regions with regard to setup of the system being used. There needs to be a global plan in place that all regions follow.

What are the biggest challenges for global payroll teams?

Ensuring that globally mobile employees are correctly taxed. We often encounter clients that have one or two expats who have “escaped” paying tax because of their mobility and the fact that internal controls at the client may not have been adequate.

What countries are the most complex for global payroll and how do you prepare for them?

As a company, we have more exposure to African countries, and the challenges there are more around the lack of technology infrastructure and a reliable economic background in which to operate. For example, Zimbabwe currently is facing a major cash shortage. Payments to cover statutory payments are often receipted at a lower value than the original transfer—a reminder that in Africa we face these problems—with a result that the shortfall needs to be funded in cash. With the cash shortage, this is adding to the complexity of dealing with payroll in the country at present.

In terms of complexity in payroll globally—Argentina leads the way followed by Brazil, with Belgium and Italy ranking in the top 10. In preparing to expand into any of these countries, one needs to get a full understanding of the local regulations and to focus on learning as much as possible about the country before commencing operations.

How would you describe your present strategy with regard to managing risk and compliance on a global basis?

As we have been developing our software to launch to the market, we have had to spend far more time looking at IT security and compliance issues around data storage.

How did you become involved in global payroll?

As with most people within payroll, I did not choose payroll as a career—it chose me. I started off in finance and was the Financial Director of the property division of Anglo American Corporation. Payroll and HR fell under my remit. I then moved to a payroll company, and as our clients in turn extended into new business markets, we moved into those areas with them. It was a real partnership. After relocating to London, I worked with a global consolidator as the U.K. Operations Manager. My love of tax and compliance has certainly helped me make the transition to global payroll with relative ease..

What are some of pieces of wisdom you can share in regard to being effective, efficient, and legally compliant?

I think you have to have tested plans in place and you need to constantly be reviewing these. Payroll is very task-oriented, and it is crucial to ensure that these are all well done. When you add different countries into the mix, the planning takes on even more significance. So, I would say you need to ensure you have well laid out and tested plans to cover each region.

What non-payroll-related education or training would be most useful for an individual moving from domestic to global payroll?

Having a basic understanding of taxation and accounting concepts would certainly assist anyone moving from domestic to global payroll. An undergraduate course in a law subject would also be very helpful, as often one needs to be able to digest pieces of legislation in order to ensure that the employer is applying the legislation correctly.

What are some of the skills you bring to your position that are particularly suited to a position in global payroll?

The ability to build strong client relationships and communicate across all levels of an organization are definitely suited to global payroll. Project management and financial skills are equally important. The ability to think laterally and to find a solution when there appears to be none on the horizon is a definite plus in a global payroll role.

What are the most important qualities of effective leadership?

For me, honesty would need to rank as the top quality, with communication, positivity, commitment, inspiration, and delegation closely following.

What is your leadership style now?

My style is a cross between a paternalistic style and a democratic style. I try to involve my team in the decision-making process wherever possible.

What are areas of additional education and training you think will be important to global payroll professionals?

I think that a course in project management is something that would certainly be a useful tool to have in your toolbox.

What strategies do you use in team-building?

It is generally acknowledged that companies that promote teamwork enjoy higher productivity. To build that team, you need to have a common goal and that goal needs to be clearly communicated. You have to create opportunities for open communication, because it is only as team members communicate with each other that goals can be successfully achieved. Providing opportunities when the team can “play together,” from the concept of “work together, play together,” is important. So, having times when the team can share a meal or spend time away from the work environment is important. An example would be a craft day that the team attended. The chance to meet outside of work builds stronger relationships as well.

How do you personally manage to balance work and pleasure?

I am by nature a “busy” person, and when I am not involved in payroll matters, I spend my time serving my community where I am very involved in youth work. I also enjoy walking, and whenever the rain stops in the U.K., I get my hiking boots out. I also dabble in art and crafts, and I have recently been inspired to start painting with watercolour.

What books are on your recommended reading list?

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team  by Patrick Lencioni.