Jon Schausten, CPP, is the former Payroll and HRIS Manager for Vertellus Holdings, LLC.
As of this interview, Schausten is planning to leave Vertellus Holdings, where he has worked for the past eight years. At Vertellus, Schausten managed the payroll and payroll taxes and co-managed benefits within the United States, including oversight of all human resources information systems (HRIS) and expatriate and nonresident alien taxes. He also directed payroll for Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Schausten has worked in payroll and human resources for more than 20 years, with experience in payroll at Healthcare Therapy Services, the Steak n Shake Company, and Arbonne International. His payroll experience includes multi-state payrolls, union payrolls, and international payrolls, including implementations in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
Schausten served as President of the Indianapolis Chapter of the American Payroll Association (APA) in 2013 and 2017 as well as other roles. In 2011, he was named the Indiana Payroll Person of the Year.
At a national level, Schausten has served on the APA President’s Board of Advisors since 2017, Hotline Referral Service, Social Networking Committee, Strategic Payroll Leadership Task Force (SPLTF) Manufacturing Best Practices Subcommittee, and National Speakers Bureau, and Global Payroll Management Institute. He also participated in the Job Task Analysis Survey Meeting. In 2017, his department won an APA Prism Award for Management.
Where are you seeing change in the dynamic world of global payroll?
In the world of a payroll professional, the only constant is change. The changes in payroll in my 20 years amaze me. Companies recognize that payroll holds an incredible amount of employee data. Business leaders need to understand who works at their company, how long they have worked there, what skills they possess, and how they perform. At Vertellus, I used this data to provide global salary expense information for our finance team to prepare a salary forecast cost for our annual budget, provide compensation information to our recruiters to create competitive salaries for job offers, inform managers about the skills and education of their employees, and to perform annual salary planning globally. Payroll professionals will continue to evolve to provide more and more analytical data and strategic planning to help companies succeed.
What emerging trends have captured your attention?
The first is in capturing global employee compensation and consolidated payroll services. I received more and more requests to understand employee compensation at global sites both in local currency and U.S. dollars.
Our treasurer uses this information for financial information requests for our Board of Directors, financial reporting, bank audits, and tax filings. Our controller uses this information to audit actual payroll cost versus our budget amounts, account for overtime, and external audits.
The second major trend lies in using a consolidated payroll service.
Our current state remains stuck in the past—each global site uses a local payroll service agency to process and report payroll information. While this works for paying employees in their respective countries, it created countless challenges to consolidate and capture information at the corporate level. I currently rely on onsite human resources or accounting to report payroll transactions and totals to me upon request, which require a scramble to meet quick turnaround times.
The trend I am seeing with Celergo and Immedis centers on payroll professionals who use dashboards that detail a rollup total of payroll cost for a company or dissect down to the country level, and even by employee, using only a few clicks. This option to see real-time payroll expense data provides payroll teams the ability to share information at a moment’s notice.
What are the challenges companies face when moving into a global payroll?
The biggest challenges facing companies moving into global payroll reside in documenting processes, consistency, and reconciliation. Like anything new or facing change, the best way to manage a payroll is to set clearly defined policies and procedures to ensure the process operates as defined. All successful payrolls run with documented processes to allow multiple people to operate the payroll. With the processes documented, the payroll team can consistently pay the employees on the regularly scheduled payday. This means that the data required by managers, employees, human resources, and banking should run seamlessly for payroll.
All global payroll professionals know that people expect to be paid on time and without issue. In my experience, establishing clearly defined processes drives consistency. Finally, ownership of the payroll requires reconciliation between payroll and finance, as well as between the global sites and the corporate office.
Payroll requires accountability and reconciliation, and the ability to report payroll information to finance for financial reporting to post the payroll expenses and liabilities. The ability to roll up the global payroll information and data to a corporate level allows for reporting and audits—internal and external.
What are some of the lessons learned that have served your professional growth?
The best lesson I learned coming up in payroll goes back to not being afraid to ask questions or seek help. To that end, becoming a member of the American Payroll Association (APA) and subscribing to the Global Payroll Management Institute (GPMI) provides timely and informative updates on government changes that affect payroll.
How do you manage to stay on top of your game?
The classes offered by the APA and GPMI cover topics that impact everyone in the payroll profession. Their specialized classes are important to provide guidance in areas that payroll professionals may not have experience or knowledge. These resources served me in obtaining my Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) in 2002 and help me every day in payroll in the United States and abroad. I also like to utilize resources people may not know exist. For example, the IRS sends out a weekly payroll update. I review and find items relevant to my job or others I know in payroll. In addition, every payroll service offers news and legislative updates that I subscribe to receive, as well as from other vendors in the fields of retirement, compliance, audit services, etc. This does create some duplicate feeds of the same topics, but I would rather receive too much information versus nothing at all. Finally, I also subscribe to updates from law firms that I work with or worked with in the past as they share updates that sometimes do not fall in mainstream updates that most payroll professionals receive. The more that I know, the better it helps me in my job and my career!
What leads to success in global payroll?
I hear people laugh when I say that payroll can drive strategic information for finance, human resources, and operations. The most common phrase I hear is, “How can payroll help me do my job?” Well, let me tell you. In my 20 years of payroll, I can tell you within a month of working on a job who the best operations managers are in a company. The managers who reach out to me to understand their time and attendance to ensure that their employees are paid correctly each pay, how to help them with a payroll question, or where to go with an HR-related questions demonstrate that they value their employees.
I have found that the managers who care and support their employees’ success understand the value of people and teamwork. The managers who I hunt down every payroll to find out why someone is missing punches or does not have time reported for a day off are almost always too busy to care about their people, and they are the ones who struggle in other areas of their job.
I have a sign in my office that states, “Payroll is the reason why people come to work!” It could not be truer. The other ways that payroll professionals offer strategic support lies in immeasurable data.
Our payroll and human capital management (HCM) systems hold all demographic information for employees and their history. I cannot tell you how many times I surprised finance, accounting, or human resources on what data I can provide in an instant. For example, at one of my last jobs, the human resources lead was looking for a new supervisor to replace a supervisor leaving for another position with a different company. She was going to look outside the company. I suggested that she look at internal candidates to fill the role, but she was concerned that no one on the team had the experience or the education required for the job. I created a query of our employees’ experience, education, and company job history to identify internal candidates qualified for the job. Because of sharing this information, the company promoted someone already working in operations to the supervisor role. This served as a win for the organization by showing we cared about our employees and wanted them to grow. There was also less training due to the fact that the employee understood the operations of the company, plus it saved recruiting cost for the site.
What are the soft skills that can help a global payroll team?
The biggest single challenge facing payroll teams growing globally is communication. In payroll, I find people like to huddle in their own roles and responsibilities—and can be so focused that they forget to share how something that impacted their job might also impact someone else on the team.
Every manager needs to have regular meetings with their teams to share ideas, suggestions, frustrations, and thoughts with the group to help work through opportunities to help the team. This grows exponentially if the teams are global and in different locations in different time zones! This lack of communication reaches critical mass if everyone operates in silos without talking to each other. In my experience, every government finds ways to collect taxes on income and every payroll owns features unique to that payroll.
However, what if you have someone on your team who dealt with a similar issues or problem, but no one talked to each other? Your team now works on the same issue that another person on your team already solved, which is a waste of time and money for the organization. This is another example of why the APA and GPMI are such great resources for payroll professionals. Through courses, seminars, webinars, and events such as the Annual Congress and the Global Payroll Management Forum, APA and GPMI deliver tools and teach payroll professionals that you are not on an island by yourself, that other people face the same issues.
The APA and GPMI show people how to network and communicate within a payroll network to learn and find opportunities to solve problems.
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