Editor’s Note: Robyn Maslouski, CPP, is Director of HR Services for Cardinal Health, a Fortune 19 company, headquartered in Dublin, Ohio. There she supports the Cardinal Health Global HR Operations team members with HR, payroll, and benefits administration. She has team members in Mexico, Switzerland, China, Japan, and Singapore who support more than 20 countries. Robyn’s work with them involves the rollout of new functionality, resolution of defects, and deployment of programs. Robyn has spent many years in the payroll profession in the telecommunications, banking, and health care industries.
What are the emerging trends or issues that have your attention?
As my focus has turned to global payroll, I realize that, globally, tasks are more manual and the role is very tactical. In the United States, we have made great strides in automation. Outside of the United States, we still use a lot of paper.
What resources do you use to stay current on the latest global trends and legislation?
I am a subscriber to the Global Payroll Management Institute (GPMI). In addition, there are other country and regional teams I’ve joined. On LinkedIn: Global Payroll Association, Payroll World (U.K.), and Payroll Professionals. I subscribe to BNA Bloomberg’s International HR Decision Support Network and International Payroll Decision Support Network.
How would you advise someone whose company is just beginning to expand to a global payroll, with regard to risk management and compliance?
f you are just starting to go global, find a consultant to assist. The resources available are emerging, but they’re not quite built out like they are for the United States. You may want to look at a global network of professional firms providing audit, tax, and advisory services or an individual consultant who has prior experience.
What are the biggest challenges for global payroll teams?
Time zones and language. During standard time hours, I have employees in time zones that are 15 hours apart. So, it makes for a lot of repetition in meetings and discussions. As for language, luckily we all speak English; but I am sometimes limited in helping them out if they have documents or questions from employees in their local languages. Google Translate has become a very good friend - un muy buen amigo, Yīgè hěn hăo de péngyŏu, en mycket god vän, 非常に良い友人.
What countries or regions are the most complex and how do you advise that a company prepare for them?
From a regional standpoint, I can tell the following differences: Latin America is much more laid back than Asia, with EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) being in the middle. In EMEA, our team has been able to support employees across multiple borders. However, in Asia, since the language doesn’t go across borders, we’ve found that we’ve had to have more in-country expertise rather than relying on a regional service center.
As for complexity, most of them have their own nuances. In the countries I’ve worked, I would say most complex awards go to Brazil, France, Spain, and Russia.
What type of payroll processing model do you use in global payroll, and why does this work best for you?
It varies, centralized/decentralized; regional/local. Cardinal Health has two different models:
Local processing with either a cloud-based HCM or a local HR application along with a local payroll provider
A cloud-based HCM provider processed by regional HR operations team members and supported by the Global HR Operations (HR, Payroll, and Benefits Administration), which is based in the United States.
This is our model right now and we are looking for ways to optimize it. When we acquired a business in 2015, we had four months to stand up 20 countries. We went with the “quick” option of using a global vendor who provides cloud-based HCM services for that business, but we’ll continue to look for ways to optimize our model.
What are some of the considerations a company should ask for to determine if there is a good fit with a prospective vendor?
For Cardinal Health, our technology consideration was whether or not the global payroll provider could interface with our specific HCM system. We have more than 100 employees in different countries. So, dual maintenance between the HR system and the payroll system is tedious and results in errors. Our biggest requirement was to confirm we could eventually send the data stored in our HCM system to the payroll vendor.
How did you become involved in global payroll?
I have worked in U.S. payroll for a long time, covering the United States and U.S. territories. When Cardinal Health acquired a business that gave us a global presence, we didn’t get any HR/payroll/benefits infrastructure with it. So, we had to stand up our own HR service delivery model. I have done many, many HR, payroll, and time system implementations, and I was asked to work on going global. After we went live, my job was transitioned so that my only scope is global HR operations.
What are some pieces of wisdom-your on-the-job experience-you can share in regards to being effective, efficient, and legally compliant in the sphere of working in global payroll?
Ask questions. Working on our global implementation was the first project in a long time where I wasn’t the subject matter expert. I had to ask and research and then re-ask to give our provider a requirement. Acknowledge what you don’t know and ask as many resources as you can for guidance.
What non-payroll related education or training would be most useful for an individual moving from domestic to global payroll?
Make the effort to understand the cultural significance in the countries in which you operate. Depending on how much time you’ll spend in a foreign country, you may even want to study up on other languages.
What are some of the skills you bring to your position that are particularly suited to a global payroll position?
I love doing research, so branching out to an area that’s new to me was exciting and great for my development plan. I had to make myself vulnerable to ask questions and acknowledge what I didn’t know.
What is your leadership style now?
My top five Strength Finder® strengths are Developer, Restorative, Empathy, Context, and Relator. This means that I am performing at my best-and it takes the least amount of energy-for me to develop people, see situations from their point of view, bring the past forward, and enhance relationships. I think these five strengths work well in my new role supporting our global operations team. I have had to build close working relationships with people I have never met face to face. We all work with people we’ve never met face to face. However, in a global organization, you have to learn to work together while learning new cultures and overcoming potential language barriers.
What are key qualities you look for in people you hire?
The best trait that I look for in a candidate is assertiveness. I need people who see something lying on the floor and pick it up. One of my biggest pet peeves as a leader is seeing a “campfire.” This is the label I put on an issue that exists and everyone is just sitting around it looking at it and waiting for someone else to tend to it or put it out. If someone doesn’t have assertiveness-or they always wait to be asked to do something-then that is hard to train or coach someone to develop.
What are some of the unique aspects in running an efficient and effective global payroll operation?
At Cardinal Health, the global payroll operations dottedline report to me. I strategize from the United States while the in-country operations team members report to their in-country leadership.
In my last role, I had more than 30 direct and indirect reports who all worked in the same physical area where I worked and who I saw every day. We supported our clients Monday-Friday, predominantly from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Now, I have only one direct report and have less than 10 individuals who dotted-line report into our team. These people sit in five different time zones, representing up to a 15-hour time difference. I’ve enjoyed flexing my schedule to work different time zones when needed. For example, right now we are down a person, and I am backfilling her responsibilities in Korea. So, when it’s time to work on Korea’s payroll, I flex my schedule to predominantly work APAC (Asia-Pacific) hours.
Another aspect I’ve really enjoyed is understanding each of the team’s cultures, holidays, and observations. When I attended the American Payroll Association’s Global Payroll Management Certificate Program in Atlanta last summer, I went to the World of Coca-Cola. At the end of the tour, you can try different Coca-Cola products from around the world. I made a point to try a product from each of the countries our Operations team is in. Surprisingly, the carrot and onion soda from Japan was actually quite tasty.
How do you feel your approach to change management has helped to make a successful organization?
I am a big proponent of change management. In my opinion, if it’s not documented and communicated, then it’s really not done. Given the fact I previously worked in our HR Service Center supporting the United States, I have tools at my disposal that our global team members don’t. So, I can leverage the technology we have in the United States to help share information and documentation with my global team members.
How do you balance work and pleasure?
As I sit here working at 9 p.m., it is tough to think about balance, but I feel my new role supporting global payroll makes the balance a little easier. If I’m up all night working with Asia, I can rearrange my schedule to take off hours during the week to get that balance back