Editor’s Note: Katinka Sleyffers, RPP, is an International Payroll Manager at Nutanix Netherlands, BV. She started in Dutch payroll with Fletcher Hotels in 2011. In 2014, she began her career in global payroll at G-Star Raw C.V., a retail company, as an International Payroll Specialist. Sleyffers led the transfer of the payroll processes from a local in-country payroll model to a global, fully outsourced payroll model for all 35 foreign entities. After the implementation, she became a payroll manager and led the team to further streamline processes within the company.
In 2017, Sleyffers moved to Foot Locker Europe BV, where she was engaged in finalizing the Pan European Payroll project (transfer to one system and one vendor) and led a team restructuring the payroll processes across 23 countries within EMEA. During her time with Foot Locker Europe BV, the business moved into Asia where Sleyffers helped implement a new payroll model.
In her current role, one aspect of her job includes managing a global payroll data automation project for the 36 countries across EMEA and APAC, which includes optimizing current payroll processes and exploring changes to the current payroll model.
What is the impact and consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic to global payroll?
While the world is slowly coming to terms with the new normal and businesses are trying to cope with the changes that come along with it, I see an encouraging sign coming out of this situation. During these extraordinary times, we are working much more closely with colleagues in HR, finance, legal, and tax. Although we always work with the organizational vision in mind, conflicting departmental priorities can come between us sometimes. Today, the conflicting priorities are pushed aside as we guide the company through the maze of COVID-19 governmental measures across the regions. It allows all areas to consider the different views as we move forward together to make the best decisions for the company for the long term. Ultimately, this is building a stronger relationship between the departments.
What emerging trends in global payroll are demanding your attention? How will they exert impact?
We have an increase in employees with cross-border responsibilities. An emerging trend in global payroll is processing the payroll for these mobile employees. Global payroll professionals need to start growing our depth of knowledge in the areas of global mobility and taxation.
What are the biggest challenges for payroll teams and what is emerging to address these challenges?
What makes global payroll fascinating is the fast evolution of governance, compliance, and technology. The challenge for payroll teams is to be able to keep up with all aspects but not to lose sight of the bigger picture.
A payroll team will have to have the right balance of the right people, the right skills, and the ability to be agile with the developing changes to stay effective. This will need to happen regardless of whether the company follows an in-country managed payroll or employs a fully outsourced managed service. To this day, there is still not one solution that fits all when processing global payroll. Therefore, a team needs to be capable of adapting quickly to keep up with the speed of payroll evolution.
To keep up with the rapid changes, we must be proactive. Trying to become and/or stay proactive is a challenge, as payroll is usually the last stop in the information chain. If payroll is involved from the start, we can be that added value a company needs.
What strategic advice would you give to a company moving from a domestic to a global payroll?
Choose your global payroll vendor with care and ensure that they carry out the research into prospective vendors with due diligence. Always follow up on references from existing clients of potential vendors, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Hasty decisions for a quick and cheaper transfer can lead to long-term difficulties. Settling for second best can be a false economy. A payroll vendor should match the chosen model of the company as well as the culture of the company. An ill-chosen payroll partner will become very costly for the company and have a direct negative impact on the payroll processes and potentially the payroll team. A well-chosen partner builds a long-term relationship and is added value to the company in payroll processing, payroll compliance, and payroll reporting.
What are the value and limits to emerging technology, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI) in managing a global payroll?
Maintaining high-quality payroll data is one of the biggest challenges in managing global payroll. If the payroll vendor is provided with poor-quality data, the payroll results will be of poor quality. If the payroll is poor in quality and even inaccurate, it will lead to unsatisfied, frustrated employees, and that can lead to talented employees leaving the company which can be costly for the company.
Increasing data accuracy is essential. Global payroll is perfect for implementing robotics in the validation of the data. Within global payroll processes, robotic process automation (RPA) can add value in providing data to the vendor and decrease the time taken with validation of the payroll output, creating more time to spend on analysis, compliance, and customer satisfaction.
However, in my view, robotics can only be an efficient tool for global payroll if the processes up and downstream are completely in sync with each other.
How did you get started in your career?
In a previous, non-payroll-related job, a miscalculation in my own pay started my interest in Dutch payroll and led me to change my career path. I found the rules and regulations both interesting and exciting, and I knew I was keen on starting in payroll. I followed the Dutch payroll course, studied at home while working, and enrolled myself in the exams. After a long search, I was given my first chance at working in Dutch payroll. I then advanced by taking another course, home schooling myself, to get the papers of the Advanced Payroll Services in Dutch payroll. After three years in Dutch payroll, I was ready for a change. With the encouragement of my wife to take another risk, I started looking for a position in international payroll.
My opportunity came, and from the start, I knew I found that global payroll is where I wanted to be in my professional life. I love the process of global payroll, the different laws, regulations, and knowing that every country has its quirks. I cannot wait to see what global payroll has in store for me over the coming years.
What have been the professional and personal challenges you have faced as you moved into global payroll from domestic payroll?
The first thing my manager said when I started in global payroll was “... now forget everything you have learned and have been doing when processing Dutch payroll.” At first, this seemed to mean that I was having the rug pulled out from under me in everything that I had studied hard to learn; however, I quickly saw that this was exactly what I needed to do.
Starting with gross elements and ending with a net pay is the only commonality across countries worldwide. Everything in between is different per country. Countries have their own tax rules, social security, and regulations. Their own nuances can change the outcome per country—there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. This is what makes working in global payroll so fascinating.
Because there are so many differences in each country, it is simply not possible be able to be the one behind the controls managing global payroll across 36 countries. I had to give control away to the local partners and put a lot of trust in their knowledge, advice, and that they would do the right thing. I was also faced with a new payroll platform and had to learn its possibilities alongside the details of all the different payrolls. I felt like I had lost my experience in Dutch payroll and my expertise.
My specialty in Dutch payroll may have lessened but has not resulted in losing my expertise all together. I still use it as a reference every single day. Global payroll has given me a network full of knowledge and expertise. I have learned to trust local payroll partners and not to be afraid of asking the right questions to get the information I need. While my Dutch specialty has been less of a focus, I have broadened and gained expertise in global areas.
What is your management and leadership approach today?
Global payroll for me is about the focus in the three “P’s”—people, process, and payroll. If you have the right people and a structured process, then an accurate payroll will follow.
In my management approach, I focus on getting the best out of my team. I do hold very high expectations of all the people I have had the privilege of managing, as I have seen the potential and recognized the strengths that they all had to bring to the team. However, I never expect more from my team than I would expect from myself.
Through continuous coaching, I like to see the team exceed their own expectations of themselves by pushing to strive for excellence in everything they do. I encourage my team to create chances and not to be afraid of making mistakes. Errors happen; we are all human. It is about learning from what happened to avoid those errors happening again. I want my team to trust the knowledge, judgment, and expertise they have and to be confident to make decisions for themselves. It is in this way that we can then harness the potential in possibilities to create better working procedures and processes.
I have learned that when you trust your team to do the job they are hired for, you respect each individual and you are honest with them, then you come a long way. Whether you work with five team members or 18, together everyone achieves more, and I strongly believe that a team works best together when based on trust.
The last thing I want to share about my leadership approach today is that I am a firm believer in the following: “The more information you share, the more you receive back.” In my teams, I encourage everyone to share information and their knowledge with each other. This will help in succession planning and ultimately the growth of the individual.
What books are on your recommended reading list?
The books I recommend putting on your reading list are the following:
- “The Culture Map” by Erin Meyer. It opened my eyes to how my own culture is perceived against other cultures and how to understand different cultures to get the best out of an international team.
- “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. Great tips on the art of stress-free productivity. Who does not want to be productive and stress-free at the same time?
- “Surrounded by Idiots” by Thomas Erikson. This is my current read. It already has given me a better understanding of my own personality type. It provides tools to understand and influence those around you—from body language to conflict handling. This can be used both in and out of the office.
- “Zoals Verwacht Loopt Alles Anders” by Berthold Gunster. This one is more for my Dutch colleagues until the English translation comes out. The book is based on the theory of “Omdenken—The Dutch Art of Flip-Thinking,” which is transforming problems into opportunities. With this way of thinking you look at reality the way it is, and you focus on what you can do with it. You use the problem’s energy to create something new.
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Frank J. Mendelson is Acquisitions Editor for the Global Payroll Management Institute (GPMI) and the American Payroll Association (APA).