Editor’s Note: Jay Conforti is a Director in KPMG’s Chicago office who has more than 15 years of experience in HR and payroll. Currently, he is helping organizations transform global HR and payroll operations through target operating model strategy, operations efficiency, organizational design, technology, and outsourcing. Conforti led three of the largest global HR/payroll shared services transformations performed over the past five years. Prior to joining KPMG, he was a Senior Manager supporting global HR and payroll service delivery operational teams both onshore and offshore for a financial services company along with having prior experience in the HR outsourcing business area at a global consulting organization.
What is the changing role of the payroll professional in regard to greater interaction with HR, data analysis, managerial, and strategic planning?
The role of a payroll professional continues to evolve over time. It is moving away from an exclusive focus on data entry. Now, a payroll professional has become a strategic partner working with various parts of an organization’s business (i.e., finance, HR, IT). Also, the role of a payroll professional is requiring additional skill sets outside of solely processing payroll (i.e., specific technology experience, global experience, reasonable analytical thinking along with sometimes having worked with external outsourced payroll providers).
What emerging trends in global payroll are demanding your attention?
Trends I’m currently seeing in the global payroll market include the pressure building for global—or at least regional—solutions. Global HR and finance deployments are driving global payroll solutions to minimize interfaces. I see that compliance risk continues to grow, thus increasing the need for more specialized expertise. The rise of global shared services organizations is driving standardization, but enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendors have yet to deliver on global HR/payroll systems due to cost. Single-sourced service providers do not have depth and scale across all geographies today. We are filling gaps with hybrid/aggregator models and using cloud technology to facilitate integration.
Is there a frequently asked question or function that you expect will no longer be part of the conversation in global payroll?
Not specifically, but clients continue to ask, “Is it fact or fiction that a global payroll strategy exists and, if fact, is it really needed in my organization?”
What resources do you use to stay current on the latest trends and legislation in payroll?
I rely upon the American Payroll Association (APA), the Global Payroll Management Institute (GPMI), the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and my continual interaction with various external payroll providers.
How can a payroll department provide support on a strategic level to corporate finance, HR, and other departments?
It provides support by continuing to partner with all of these areas and to communicate how these areas have both “upstream” and “downstream” impacts that can impact how the organization’s payroll is executed, both timely and accurately.
What are the biggest challenges for payroll teams?
The challenges payroll teams face include having only domestic payroll experience, understanding the “upstream” and “downstream” impacts that can effect payroll processing as a result of interactions with groups like finance, HR, IT, etc., succession planning, and handling additional transactional types of work outside of payroll (i.e., compensation, mobility, HR data management).
What advice would you give for a company moving from a domestic to a global payroll?
Prior to moving from a domestic to a global payroll, the organization should look at its overall strategy. A large component of that strategy would be to understand scalability, what type of service delivery model will be used to deliver the work (i.e., shared services, locally, Center of Excellence, outsourced), and if the organization plans to expand its footprint there in the future. Also, as part of the strategy, it’s important to look at what work gets done, who does the work, where the work will be done, and ultimately how.
What are some essential practices and strategic choices to put in place to manage risk and compliance?
You must ensure that you have internal controls in place on all of your payroll processes and a governance structure in place.
What are the emerging trends in data management and data security?
In data security, we are seeing a focus on the following six areas:
- Data sensitivity
- Authorized super users
- Transmission protocols
- User ID and password management
- Security role definitions and assignments
- Global data privacy changes in the European Union
In data retention, the focus is on strategy and historical data.
What emerging trends do you see in meeting the payroll needs and compliance in payroll management for mobile employees?
In this area, employees are being able to tailor their own personal stream of external and internal content, news, updates, and push notifications based on their unique needs and preferences, available across all devices.
Employees are becoming able to quickly, effectively, and securely communicate with customers, colleagues, teams, and groups. Think of it like a secure WhatsApp—a simple and powerful search experience enables accurate access to policies, procedures, people, and points of view. This means being able to continuously refine the information and delivery through analytics and social feedback and providing up-to-date employee payroll information.
What are some of the considerations a company should ask to determine if there is good fit with a prospective vendor?
These considerations should include the following:
- Capability to meet business requirements
- Transition capability and approach
- Employee experience/customer satisfaction
- Company profile and qualifications
- Presence in required markets and capabilities
- Technology and compliance
- Measurement and reporting
Why and how did you become involved in payroll?
I honestly fell into payroll. I started my career early on as a payroll tax analyst, and I remember telling one of my former managers, “I’ll never end up being a payroll manager.” But she made me eat my words.
As time went on, I learned more about payroll and ended up overseeing both domestic and global payroll operations in prior organizations. My prior experiences then led me into a consulting role where I now have the opportunity to work with clients, helping them in the global payroll space.
What are some pieces of learned wisdom from your on-the-job experience that you can share on being an effective, efficient, and strategic business partner?
Really taking the time to roll up your sleeves and understand how processes work within the organization from an end-to-end perspective. This then enables you to have meaningful dialogue and conversations with other groups outside of payroll to educate individuals on the upstream and downstream impacts that come from other areas that directly impact payroll processing.
What kinds of skills, training, and education would be most useful for someone moving into a managerial role in payroll?
Effective communication, critical thinking/analytical skills, delegation, and team-building.
What were some of your early career lessons?
You think you know what you want to do right out of college, but that doesn’t always end up being the case. Open yourself up to listen to your peers who have prior experience. Be able to take both your strengths and weaknesses and recognize that everyone has areas of opportunity to grow and to continue to develop themselves.
What career and life advice do you give to new college graduates?
Be open to new career opportunities, take your time, and don’t rush into wanting everything right away. Career progression comes with time, experience, and continued patience.
What are the most important qualities of effective leadership? What is your management and leadership approach today?
I am a very hands-on type of manager but also empower my team to be critical and decision-makers too. I also promote an open-door policy with everyone and really take the time to not only listen to folks, but also get to know them as individuals. I also strive to push folks to do their best while also providing them opportunities to grow within their roles while also planning for the future with an eye toward succession planning.
What approach do you take to include religious and cultural diversity awareness to make yours a high-performing organization?
I continue to be educated (both by internal and external training) and be self-aware of the various religious and cultural diversities of not only my team members but also of other individuals within KPMG.
How do you personally manage to balance work and pleasure?
Having been with KPMG now for more than five years, the firm really does stand behind having a work/life balance. The firm has been very supportive of both providing a paternity leave for fathers while also stressing to take time away when needed. I’ve had two children (now 6 years old and 3 years old) while at KPMG, and I’ve learned there are times when it’s time to “turn work off” and step away to be focused on the family. This is a practice that I continue to follow and promote with all of my teams as well.
What books are on your recommended reading list?
I don’t necessarily have a favorite book, but being a consultant, when I’m going to read something it’s going to be something fictional in nature (non-payroll-related). Some of my favorite fictional authors are David Baldacci, Nelson DeMille, and John Grisham.
Do you like our content? Join the GPMI community to get free education and articles straight to your inbox!