Editor’s Note: Nadia Camarena, CPP, is a Senior Global Payroll Manager for Netflix, Inc., who has 25 years of experience. From a humble start at the age of 15 in bookkeeping, her career encompasses many different industries that include small business, automotive software, and the tech world. Her current responsibilities at Netflix include managing payroll in EMEA, LATAM, APAC, and North America. She continues to build and lead a strong global team to ensure an efficient and effective payroll infrastructure, allowing the opportunity to process payroll in as many countries/regions as possible.
How is the role of the payroll professional changing?
The roles and responsibilities of a global payroll professional are in transformation. We are required to work with internal multiple teams and understand the impact of an international payroll across the organization. I’ve learned that success is directly correlated to effective communication. It’s important to loop in all key stakeholders when making decisions to ensure alignment. For example, I work closely with our talent, employee services, legal, tax, accounting, global mobility, stock, and financial planning and analysis teams.
What are the chronic challenges for companies that have moved or are moving into global expansion?
The answer is complex. There are five major challenges:
- Maintaining compliance—Every country in which you do business has its own rules and regulations to monitor for compliance.
- Selecting a global payroll provider—Weighing the pros and cons of selecting a global payroll provider vs. local payroll providers and finding a vendor that understands your company's culture and vision.
- Reporting global payroll data—Gathering data together in a timely fashion from multiple payroll vendors worldwide takes time. More often than not, this is a manual process, which means the data is error-prone and requires a lot of formatting and manipulation.
- Understanding costs and resources—Global expansion is expensive and can be difficult to implement in the beginning. The key is finding the right talent and partner to support your company’s initiatives.
- Ensuring security—Having less control and outsourcing employee personal information can be unsettling. It’s important to set clear expectations with your global payroll provider early in the relationship.
What resources do you use to stay current on the latest trends and legislation in payroll?
Global resources are important. I rely upon the American Payroll Association (APA) and my local payroll chapter, the Silicon Valley Chapter of the APA. I also monitor various webpages for information (i.e., the Global Payroll Management Institute (GPMI)) and read publications, such as Global Payroll.
Additionally, I read the newsletters from my current local payroll providers and subscribe to blogs/emails from the “Big 4” accounting firms.
What are the biggest challenges for payroll teams, and what is emerging to address these challenges?
The global payroll lifestyle presents a unique
management challenge. This includes working across multiple time zones and devoting the time to appreciate the cultures of the countries in which we are involved. We must also deal with different currencies and valuations. As noted above, we must coordinate with multiple payroll providers and stay up to date on compliance and regulatory legislation, and, of course, review and manage numerous local contracts.
What strategic advice would you give to a company moving from a domestic to a global payroll?
Planning is essential. Research and do your homework. Talk to as many payroll professionals as you can who have successfully done this before. I suggest that before selecting a vendor, ask for references and take the time to contact them to find out the “good, bad, and ugly.” Further, ensure all internal key stakeholders are aligned by having periodic check-ins. Also, manage the move with a project plan to clearly identify the roles and responsibilities of all participants.
What are some of the insights you can share with regard to your preparation to comply with GDPR?
Take the time to analyze your current processes/procedures, contracts, and systems. I found consulting with my internal legal and HRIS team very helpful and educational. The second step is to identify high-risk areas, educate your team, and assign a point person who will provide updates.
What are some of the considerations a company should ask to determine if there is good fit with a prospective vendor?
There are a number of ways we approach vendor review. We ask for and leverage references from their current clients. We’ll review the length of the proposed contract and clarify the exit clause. Our team will assess whether the vendor’s vision and culture align with my company’s vision. We’ll assess whether they have the right products and technology to move us into the future, are scalable with global growth of our company, and provide 24/7 support.
Why and how did you become involved in payroll?
I always wanted to work with numbers in some capacity as an accountant. I took my first payroll accounting class in high school. I learned payroll gross-to-net calculations via a “pegboard” that had multiple carbon copies. I was fortunate enough to start my part-time working career as a payroll data entry specialist for a small bookkeeping firm while still in high school.
What are some pieces of learned wisdom from your on-the-job experience in regard to being effective and efficient?
There are three aspects of business management that I think are important:
- Prioritization and time management are essential to your success.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get help in areas where you need to strengthen.
- Learn from your mistakes; take time to debrief to assess what went well and what didn’t.
What kinds of skills, training, and education would be most useful for someone moving into a managerial role in payroll?
All of these are success factors:
- Problem-solving skills
- Team-building skills
- Communication skills
- Curiosity about the business outside of payroll
- Paying attention to detail
- Analytical and strategic thinking skills
- Advanced presentation, Word, and Excel knowledge
- Time management skills
- Delegation skills
- Accounting knowledge
What were some of your early career lessons?
I learned that when an issue arises, stand back and look at the big picture. Consider the future of the organization and develop a long-term solution/strategy that matches the company’s vision.
What career and life advice do you give to a new employee in payroll?
I advise our new hires to ask a lot of questions. They need to take the initiative to stay on top of current payroll tax laws and legislation; understand the “why” behind current processes and procedures before proposing a change; and identify manual tasks and look for ways to streamline and automate.
What are the most important qualities of effective leadership?
There are five qualities I’d highlight that are components of effective leadership:
- Integrity—As a leader, it’s important to be true to yourself and do the right thing. The key to building relationships is having trust and living by your values.
- Passion—The energy a leader displays can have a significant impact on others. The leader must believe, inspire, and care about the task at hand.
- Courage—Be bold and speak your mind even if you disagree with the topic being discussed. Give timely feedback to co-workers and be receptive to negative feedback.
- Communication—Leaders must be clear and concise at all times. Set goals and have a vision of what needs to be accomplished.
- Innovation—Creative thinking and constant innovation are essential to the fast-paced world we live in. Think outside the box and don’t be afraid to try new things even if you have failed in the past.
What is your management and leadership approach today?
My management style is very much built on trust. I have a hands-on approach for training new members or processes to ensure success. I also am able to step back to oversee the process as a whole vs. the granular level. I have created a space for open dialogue with my direct reports and allow them to manage their professional path. I’m always available to provide guidance and roll up my sleeves to assist in any way possible. I’m passionate about personal development and continuing education.
How do you hire?
I’ve had a lot of success and some great hires who were already part of my payroll network or referred to me from a trusted colleague.
How do you balance work and pleasure?
Having been with Netflix for 9½ years, its corporate culture allows me to have a flexible schedule. My boys, Nikko (12) and Noah (7), play baseball and basketball. While attending their games and practices, I’ve learned it’s important to live in the moment and turn off work.
What books are on your recommended reading list?
Two books I’d recommend right now are: “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Olou, and “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg.
Can you share some stress management techniques you have found useful?
I include a workout before going in to work. Travel is broadening and enlightening. And most importantly ... retail therapy!
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