By Frank J. Mendelson
Editor’s Note: Troy Markusson is a Vice President of Global Payroll for McKesson and a self-proclaimed “Payroll Nerd.” His payroll journey started in the mid-‘90s as a payroll intern in Canada before moving into a payroll accounting role. Markusson turned his attention to consulting in the late ‘90s and helped implement new payroll solutions to address Y2K concerns. In his consulting roles, he implemented new payroll solutions for many Fortune 500 companies, as well as higher education and state government in the United States. In 2009, Markusson joined ADP as the organization’s Senior Director Services and Operations in North America. For 10 years, he supported the company’s largest global clients on ADP’s global payroll solution. In 2019, he became McKesson’s Vice President of Global Payroll where he oversees the payroll operations and strategy for North America. He also supports the European market in consulting on payroll technologies and process improvements.
How did you get started in your career?
My career in payroll started by luck. I never set out for a career in payroll. My plan while in university in Canada was to become a certified accountant and maybe someday have my own practice. After my second year of studying, I was lucky enough to secure a summer internship at a government agency in their payroll department. My first summer was spent filing payroll paperwork, entering timesheets, entering direct deposit information, and answering the most basic of employee inquiries. I was fortunate enough to land a second internship in the same agency. By the end of that following summer, they offered me a full-time role being the lead specialist on their part-time payroll. This ultimately led to a promotion to payroll accountant a year later.
What were some of your early career lessons?
Take chances and put yourself out there for new opportunities. After less than two years in my dream job as a payroll accountant, my boss asked me if I wanted to go onto the SAP payroll implementation. At the time, I said no because I was loving what I was doing, and I had no background in IT. He encouraged me to push my comfort zone, so I made the switch. A year and a half later, I was encouraged to consider consulting. I laughed and asked, “What does a 25 year old know?” and “Who would pay for me to be a consultant?” Ten years later, I was a Senior Manager in Consulting Services.
What career advice do you give to a new employee in payroll?
I always tell any new employee, whether new to payroll altogether or just new to the company, to ask a lot of questions. Challenge and question, in a healthy way, to really understand the why behind why you are doing the task. I also encourage them to bring suggestions forward to drive improvements. Everyone has great ideas and sometimes it takes someone coming in fresh who has the best suggestions. I had an intern years ago at ADP come in and he suggested he could build some macros to automate steps that previously were taking hours to complete. He ended up joining full time after graduation and is now having a successful payroll career.
What resources do you use to stay current on the latest trends and legislation in payroll?
The American Payroll Association (APA) and Global Payroll Management Institute (GPMI) are a great resources for me – from its monthly publications to the organization’s ability to ask all members questions via email and the wonderful conferences and webinars it has. The association is a great resource for new payroll people trying to get their certification and for senior leaders. I also feel it is important to connect with others in the payroll space. I never turn down a payroll webinar where I can meet new payroll leaders. Those become invaluable resources as you go through unknown situations, like COVID-19 or a system outage.
What are the things you would like to see payroll vendors address in the next three years?
I would love to see the payroll vendors continue focusing on technology advances and improve the employee experience as it relates to payroll. We are at an exciting time now where artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can begin to really bring great value to employees and proactively address issues before they become one or answer questions before employees even know they have one. Imagine a system that proactively lets the employee know that they may have tax issues later in the year because it looks like you moved but forgot to inform payroll; or to let the employee know that they have reached their annual taxation limit so you will see an increase in net pay until the end of the year.
I also would love for the largest vendors to help our agencies and governments get up to speed with technology and get out of the snail mail business. COVID-19 proved that we could do 98% of our jobs remotely, but unfortunately, we still needed to come into the office weekly to pick up mail from government agencies and courts. In 2022, we should not have to rely on this method of communication.
What emerging trends do you see in meeting the payroll needs and compliance in payroll management for mobile employees?
This is one area I believe most systems and departments have some work to do. With today’s mobile workforce, and being able to work from anywhere, more states are going to start pushing for income for the 10 days a year an employee is working from their state. Many systems today can only report this out on a percentage of time for a particular period and does not get down to the level of detail states will demand. Again, this should all be able to be accomplished through daily time tracking or IP addresses capturing where employees are logging in for the day.
What are the most important qualities of effective leadership?
First, surround yourself with smart people and listen to them. Do not be intimidated by having people in the room who are smarter than you. Challenge those individuals, allow them to solve the most difficult problems, and allow them to grow.
Getting to know your team members is critical. Take the time to check in on people individually. Pre-COVID-19, I would make sure I was walking the floor daily and talking with the associates. I was having lunches and coffees with all associates. Now, we must get a little more creative and my walking the halls has turned into “Walks with Troy” where I spend 30 minutes a day going for a walk over the phone with an associate just checking in. I learn more about the business, and I believe it increases engagement more than any formal program when you show a genuine interest in your team members.
To the senior leader focused on the future and strategy of your company, I would say pull in your youngest employees or talk to your high school or college-aged kids and ask them what type of workplace they want to work at for a career. You better start planning now for those answers.
Finally, have fun. Payroll rarely gets the employees calling to thank you for delivering on time payroll. Many times, it is your department getting yelled at because of someone else’s mistake. Payroll cannot say we can get to that tomorrow because of our deadlines, and sometimes all-nighters are necessary. We must take the time to laugh, and we must make our environment one that people want to come back to the next day. Some of my fondest memories in my career are playing nerf basketball at 3:00 a.m. while the team is awaiting payroll signoff and celebrating a happy year-end with sparkling fruit juice in wine glasses.
How do you personally manage to balance work and pleasure?
You need to take the time away from work and recover. I am blessed to have a wife and three kids who I love spending time with. Shut down when you can, leave the phone notifications on silent, and have other passions that keep your mind busy, so you are not thinking all the time about work. I do believe if you have fun and find the job you are passionate about, your time spent working doesn’t have to feel like work.
Share some stress management techniques you have found useful.
I never thought I would be the type to enjoy meditation, but I tried it 10 years ago at a leadership retreat and continue to do it today whenever I am feeling overwhelmed. YouTube “10 minutes guided meditation” is all you need. With COVID-19, and the new working model, I change up my day often. I try to get out for a few walking meetings a day when I can (if you haven’t tried walking one-on-ones, I would highly encourage them), watch a webinar on the back patio getting some fresh air, or take the latest edition of GPMI”s Global Payroll magazine and read at your local coffee shop. I am also looking forward to new “Work-ation” opportunities to work from some unique locations throughout the country in our new model.
Share your thoughts on how to incorporate professional development into the lifestyle of a full-time job.
I am a passionate leader focused on the development of others. I am a firm believer in the 70-20-10 development model where 70% of your development is on the job, 20% is from interactions, and 10% is from formal learning. I believe it is the 70% that is often overlooked. It is crucial that we all take the time weekly to self-reflect on the 70%. Ask yourself how you did on that difficult call and how things could have gone better, get feedback from others on that presentation you did for HR last week, or find that stretch assignment with IT where you could really be challenged.
Finally, make development of your organization a priority. Find those “hungry” individuals within your team and make sure you commit time with them. Feed them and keep them full; if you are not filling them up, they will look to get fed elsewhere.