Editor’s Note: Anthony Katchusky is the Director of Global Payroll for Auth0, an identity management platform with a mission to secure the world’s identities so innovators can innovate. Katchusky has spent more than 17 years in payroll, more than 14 of them working in a global payroll capacity. He excels at forming payroll teams that work well with other departments and stakeholders. He also excels at installing best practices and audit routines, in addition to system implementations. Katchusky’s current initiative is to help deploy a global payroll focus and develop standard operating procedures for a global company with employees in more than 30 countries. In addition, he is assisting with system updates and implementations to help bring a more intuitive global payroll processing approach at Auth0. During his free time, Katchusky is an ambitious traveler who can’t wait for the COVID-19 pandemic to end and get back to normal. He also enjoys the outdoors, shark tooth hunting, sports, playing games, and enjoying life with his beautiful wife and family.
What is the changing role of the payroll professional?
There are many buzzwords in today’s world that come to mind: scalable, application programming interface (API), return on investment (ROI), and automation. With these words in the spotlight, payroll is evolving into a multifunctional team, whose responsibilities have gone beyond ensuring that employees are paid accurately, on time, and in compliance. Now, teams are charged with system maintenance, implementations, keeping up with technology, and becoming even more valuable to the finance and HR departments. In addition, many teams have had to adapt to a remote life due to COVID-19 whereas payroll had been typically an in-office function. Prior to COVID-19, one common theme in my network was how employees are more productive when they work from home as needed. Now that we are many months into this pandemic and teams are thriving and being more productive, I suspect this may become more the norm in a post-COVID-19 world as some firms become more remote-friendly.
What emerging trends in global payroll are demanding your attention? How will they exert impact?
The predominant trend I experience is the need to remove human data entry in multiple systems. Often what we must do as part of this trend is limit the number of systems (or providers) and find a one-size-fits-all solution to streamline global payroll needs. While it can be a scary thought that payroll personnel may be eliminated, the opposite is the norm. Historically, I have added staff to help maintain the new system, audit changes, and document operating procedures. From discovery to implementation to go-live and beyond, the projects are advantageous to payroll teams. They get firsthand knowledge on the ins and outs of the new systems and its workflows, which further develop their careers. This idea goes along with the notion that payroll teams are becoming more than payroll subject matter experts. They are now system experts, wage tax experts, compensation analytics experts, global expansion experts, and auditing and compliance experts, etc.
What are the chronic challenges for companies that have moved or are moving into global expansion?
Global expansion is a heavy topic, and heavy topics require a well-formed team that can work together to help make key decisions for the company and its direction. Many questions need to be addressed before employing someone in a new territory. Will the company create a new subsidiary or branch or explore other options? Will the company open a local bank account? Will there be a physical office within the country? These are just a sliver of the many questions to ask when looking into global expansion. All too often, I see decisions to hire employees within a country driven by someone outside the team, and the results can be costly when not done right. Finance, HR, recruiting, facilities, payroll, and IT are all necessary to have on a committee, along with the senior leadership, to drive the campaign.
What resources do you use to stay current on the latest trends and legislation in payroll?
The network of peers created by many years in the field is the best resource anyone can ask for. In addition, I use the Global Payroll Management Institute (GPMI), the American Payroll Association (APA), Bloomberg BNA, local government websites, and news wires like Deloitte, PwC, and Grant Thornton. Many of the global payroll providers offer local news wires for many global locations as well.
How can a payroll department provide support on a strategic level to corporate finance, HR, and other departments?
A global payroll department is a wealth of information and should be present in planning meetings to provide strategic insight. From reporting analytics needed for budgeting and forecasting for finance to true business partners with HR—continuing all the way up to strategy and expansion meetings with the C-suite, payroll professionals are providing analytical insight, local compliance governance, and key recommendations. By having payroll included in the planning process, there is a more unified consideration in the project to find the best path for the company as well as the employee experience.
What is the difference in responding to urgencies in global payroll vs. U.S. domestic payroll?
Domestically, the payroll team usually has a direct line of access to resolve urgent issues fairly quickly. For example, a last-minute termination can have a final pay wired the same day within moments. In my experience with non-U.S. payroll urgencies, there are a handful of contacts to reach out to, and often you must wait for a response. This makes an immediate resolution nearly impossible. Often you must reach out to a local finance manager in addition to your local vendor. With respect to their time zone, you’re likely to lose a day to be able to resolve the issue. I find the best strategy to minimize this is to audit the global payroll at a much more granular level than the U.S. payroll. I find this leaves only the timing of payments in question. Often, you can see when this is a potential issue, so you can communicate effectively. Having local feet on the ground such as HR or other finance personnel is a wonderful perk for a U.S.-based global payroll team when it comes to response time. Local employees generally appear to be more receptive to resolution communications when they have someone local on their side to work with or relay the information through. So, while the U.S. payroll is normally the one under audit from the auditors, I find it best to audit the global payrolls with a much deeper dive to avoid fire drills as much as possible.
What have been your experiences on successfully navigating cultural and other differences on a worldwide stage?
I owe a lot of credit here to the Global Payroll Management Institute (GPMI). Many of the conference breakouts or articles I have read have prepared me for cultural differences more than any other point of reference. Knowing whether to get to the point and not highlight a good before the bad, always having enough business cards on hand for your meeting, developing trust by talking about life outside the firm, or simply making sure you announce yourself on a conference call if you joined a moment late, the GPMI has offered me many suggestions to be successful on the global stage. I’m happy to report they have all been successful.
To highlight knowing the cultural differences, here is an example. One of my negative experiences before gaining knowledge from the GPMI happened when I spoke to a vendor in Western Europe. We had a meeting to terminate the service. Before I broke the news, we provided wonderful comments on our working relationship. We were only terminating them because we outgrew them and needed more service than they were able to provide. But they just heard the good news. When we followed up with a thank you note and meeting notes, they responded not understanding why we were terminating service and thought they were providing great services to continue for renewal. So, the lesson here was learned quickly. The resources on this topic provided by the GPMI have been one of the best investments for me. Thank you, GPMI.
What are some of the consequences and value of effective communications in global payroll—internal and external?
Having effective communication also means having to have a sense of the culture you’re working with. For example, I have worked with a vendor in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) where my team was communicating to add a payment to an employee for working on a holiday. We called it “holiday pay.” The vendor wanted to deduct “PTO hours” in conjunction with the payment and was asking for what days the employee took holiday. These are two different ways the employee would have been affected. This could have affected the employee’s net pay as well as the employee’s long-term pension savings. Understanding the different terminology to effectively communicate across the globe is needed to navigate global payroll. Best to remember, we are the ones reaching out to these in-country partners for help, not the other way around. Don’t assume they are looking to understand your own terminology and/or culture.
In Part 2 of this Professional Spotlight in an upcoming Global Payroll issue, learn about Katchusky’s insights on vendor selection, management, his early career lessons, and more.
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Frank J. Mendelson is Acquisitions Editor for the Global Payroll Management Institute (GPMI) and the American Payroll Association (APA).