IN Conversation with Mary Holland: Women in Global Payroll

Mary Holland is the Global Director of Strategy, Development, and Training at the Global Payroll Management Institute. She was conferred with “The Payroll Woman of the Year” award by the American Payroll Association in 2016.

Mary is a certified Mary Hollandpayroll professional and holds in depth knowledge about global payroll. From being a global payroll practitioner, to training and equipping others in the subject, Mary has come a long way.

IN Team from Neeyamo caught up with Mary Holland at Neeyamo’s flagship event Rendezvous with Neeyamo at Goa in Feb 2017.

This article weaves around her journey in the field of global payroll and is bound to be an inspiration to others who wish to set their course to traverse in this field.

IN: Tell us about yourself, GPMI and your role there?

My name is Mary Holland. I am a certified payroll professional (CPP) with the American Payroll Association (APA). I work for the Global Payroll Management Institute (GPMI), which is a non-profit organization and subsidiary of APA whose goal and mission are to provide global payroll education and networking opportunities across the globe.

GPMI provides world-class education programs, webinars, on-demand courses, virtual classrooms, and an annual global conference (Global Payroll Management Forum at the APA Congress) to promote the payroll profession for payroll providers and practitioners across the globe. The goal of GPMI is to provide payroll professionals with the tools and skills to excel at global payroll for their respective organizations and become strong leaders. We have a community with approximately 8,500 subscribers. GPMI has its e-magazine that is published 11 times in a year with pertinent global articles. GPMI offers in depth education for several countries and conducts virtual and in-person classroom sessions for professionals who wish to get earn a certificate in various aspects of payroll. Classes are also available on demand.

At GPMI, I am the global director of strategy, development, and training. My role is to look for ways to promote global payroll, education, partnerships, and vendor opportunities, attend trade shows to help promote GPMI and the global payroll profession and look for training opportunities and ways that we can all connect across the globe. I look for subject matter experts who are willing to help and donate their time to GPMI by writing articles, presenting webinars, participating in twitter chats, or posting on LinkedIn on our behalf.

IN: How do you see payroll as a viable career option for women in this age?

Payroll is a functional role present in any organization that employs people. I feel payroll is a very strategic role. I’ve witnessed people referring to it in some countries as a female-dominated role, but in most cases, I believe it is a healthy mix of both genders. The role has certainly evolved over time. It has moved from being looked upon as just a back-office function to being viewed as a more strategic role.

“Payroll will provide you with a seat at the executive table and will let you be a part of discussions around mergers and acquisitions, organizational cost projections, compensation reviews, and the like.”

For women who are entering the role, you are going to have an opportunity to advance in many areas. There is never a dull moment. In the global space, you are always learning something new every day. You have an opportunity to meet and work with people from different cultures, connect and gain vendor management skills, use project management skills, and work with the accounting and finance teams. So, roles change drastically. The world has gotten smaller, and the roles in payroll have changed as well to adapt to changing times. The value an individual can bring to the table to various sets of stakeholders is of paramount importance to meet the company’s goals because at the end of the day we are really working to help support the company so that it can become profitable and be a leader in its industry.

IN: You have been interacting with so many different companies giving them ideas about how they could firm up their payroll, and their strategies that they build around their payroll management process. Do you see more women emerging as leaders?

Globally, we are seeing women being given the opportunity to be in what we call higher level roles within payroll – be it senior managers, directors, or vice presidents. In larger organizations, we see a compartmentalized approach; wherein there are leaders identified for specific segments of payroll such as tax. I’m aware of organizations that have vice presidents who supervise transactions around tax and only tax – and this is simply because of the volumes of transactions that they handle under that banner. The skill-set here will require coordinating with the executives, communicating with management, and letting them know of impending risks and then partnering with teams within the organization to mitigate the risks. In smaller organizations, you may have a payroll manager who takes care of all aspects of payroll. He/she may, however, be the custodian of information that drives business decisions and hence works hand in hand with the strategic layer of the organization.

I believe, global payroll provides ample opportunities for individuals who would like to venture in that direction. That being said, we are seeing a surge in the job market from companies that are seeking individuals with experience in managing multi-country payroll. As organizations opt to go global, they expect the payroll team to be able to support and drive initiatives as required.

IN: You were named Payroll Woman of the Year in 2016. So, can you give us a feel about your journey to get there?

The first thing I am going to say is I am extremely honored to have received the award. I was truly surprised. It was a complete shock for me.

I became involved with payroll probably 15 years back as a finance manager and having payroll responsibilities as an add-on. (I had a payroll manager reporting to me, and hence I was initially not hands-on with the payroll processing part.) As the economy changed, I had to be the hands-on person monitoring payroll and stock, and at that point, I realized that I needed the right education to excel in payroll.

Back then, I did not know anything about the American Payroll Association. I had just seen an ad in the local paper about a payroll class that was offered at a community college. I decided to go and take the class, which was indeed an eye-opener for me to payroll. It was a nine-month class that kind of went through everything that you needed to know about payroll. I found out about the courses and the various publications offered by the APA and that it also offered a certification exam. The instructor in the class encouraged me to get my certification. I did not have a real requirement to become a Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) because payroll was not my only function in the organization. I was responsible for other pieces of finance, including fixed assets, and general ledger, but took the opportunity to take the CPP exam.

So, I took the time to study and then sat for the exam. When I passed, I realized that I needed to give back to the people who wanted to take the exam like I had done or needed some help and support. I volunteered to teach classes for a local APA chapter in the Silicon Valley in California, and then I ended up being the director of the chapter’s education programs. I later had an opportunity to go to the California payroll conference event and that is when I first met Dan Maddux, Executive Director of the APA. He gave an opening speech at the American Payroll Association – about its benefits, the rewards of giving back to the community, and a little about the organization.

From that point, I got more involved and volunteered for more chapter committees where I realized that I was learning something new and was well outside my comfort zone. I later signed up for committees on the national level with a wide array of working models – such as the hotline committee where we receive questions on payroll topics from APA members and we assist them with finding answers. I later became the chapter treasurer, and then was elected to a two-year term as president. Following that, I took charge of chapter hospitality for two years and then moved into being the director of the California payroll conference for a couple of years. For me, volunteering my time became more about helping others. The payroll community is a group of people who you can network with and develop friendships with, helping you through good and bad times in your life.

The APA awards education grants to individuals who show an ability and desire to improve themselves (one can easily apply for them) and I won one such grant through which I was given the opportunity to attend any of their classes for free for one year. I also got to attend the APA Congress for free, which was an experience in itself. Virtual classes also were made available, and I remember taking most of them – I saw this as an opportunity to enhance my skill-set to be able to continue to move forward and help my organization.

Later, I joined a global committee for the APA and worked with expatriates and on various global projects. We did not have GPMI at the time, but we worked on articles that had content about doing payroll in countries outside of the United States. One of the projects that came to the committee was developing a new educational opportunity – the Global Payroll Management Certificate Program. I volunteered to participate in making that program a reality as we worked through several global outlines and produced content for the course. – I was then asked to be one of the presenters for the course when it was offered for the first time later that year.

I received the Meritorious Service Award from the APA for in May 2011. Two years later, I won the Special Recognition Award. My career slowly and steadily transformed from handling just U.S. payroll to global payroll, and I started getting involved with global operations for my company. That is when I volunteered to write articles on the global payroll. I was pretty much hooked on the global payroll, and the APA knew that. I felt truly honored for receiving these prestigious awards, which were capped by being named Payroll Woman of the Year in 2016. Through this journey, I have gotten to interact with some wonderful people and make friends for life. If you ask me what has been the best part of this journey thus far, I would say it would be an opportunity to help payroll professionals expand their horizons and giving back to the association through the services that I render as they help me do what I like doing best.

IN: How can payroll professionals expand their career?

I would encourage payroll professionals to constantly learn. – At this time, it is pivotal to keep your skills updated. In addition to that, I would advise the seniors to mentor young professionals. Being a mentor helps you see the newer challenges that people encounter in their roles. You are indirectly helping yourself go a long way while you are helping someone else be successful.

At times, it is overwhelming to step outside of one’s comfort zone to ask for help – to admit that you do not understand something and that you require training. This could mean that you might have to juggle your personal life, sacrifice a few pleasures like weekends off, and allot time just to study. If you want to achieve what you want, you will have to put in those hours of study and more importantly, believe in yourself and your dreams.

“Nothing is going to be easy, but at the end of the day, once you’ve achieved your dream, you have the very reward that you wanted – YOU MADE IT!”

IN’s TAke

Payroll is a functional role present in any organization that employs people. The role has certainly evolved over time from being looked upon as just a back-office function to a more strategic role.

As organizations opt to go global, the payroll team is expected to be able to support and drive initiatives and for that payroll, professionals should constantly learn and keep their skills updated.

Mary has a wealth of knowledge in the field and we’ve always found her very engaging. She is a wonderful human being and is a pleasure to talk to. We wish Mary the very best in all her endeavors.

To know more about Global Payroll, Visit http://bit.ly/20sQmHW


Every successful global payroll engagement needs a silver lining

by Anika Panwar

E&Y’s Global Payroll Survey brought out that, 55% of executives were unsure of the existence of a global payroll vendor that could provide payroll services in all their countries of operation. The market wants a solution that is not only cost-efficient, flexible, and scalable but also makes no compromises on the quality and accuracy. Ironically, despite the quantum leap made in the global payroll practice, the concept of “single yet globalized & localized” payroll service has not made headway against this myth.

Global Payroll


The real question when dealing with global payroll lies in – ‘how one administers payroll and stays updated with the changing compliances and laws of the land in all countries that they are present in, and do it accurately?’ To top this off, the dubiety in the availability of a globalized payroll technology solution – which brings us up to the bigger questions – is there really a “single” go-to solution for all your global payroll needs? If so, who and where are these “SINGLE GLOBAL PAYROLL VENDORS”? How does one test their capability? We’ve compiled a few prominent indicators that one could keep in mind in their quest to select a capable service provider.

Necessity is the mother of invention. ROBOTICS AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE DRIVEN SOLUTION – No global solution is complete without having in place a software that not only guarantees viability but also ensures a high degree of quality and accuracy. The key is to look for a solution that strikes a perfect balance between technology and user-experience. A system that uses robotics driven automation to focus on the error-prone, repetitive tasks such as input/ output validation, a calculation based on an algorithm, etc. Artificial Intelligence is key for intelligent assistance to end-user through data/ information mining from the database. E.g., Chat Bots.

Go Beyond-. PAYROLL ISN’T JUST ABOUT “GROSS-TO-NET” – Going beyond than just “gross-to-net” processing to a fully managed payroll service testifies the provider’s deep domain knowledge and his ability to provide a global solution. A fully managed payroll service entails input collation, inputs preparation, payroll processing, payroll help desk, data management, and timekeeping. It further includes administering payroll and in-country related compliance with a dedicated payroll help desk and, other HR related services.

Last straw. DON’T IGNORE YOUR SPARSE WORKFORCE–Larger global payroll players tend to provide their services only to those countries where their clients could guarantee a significant employee count or have a “minimum headcount” condition, often ignoring countries with sparse employees. This forces most organizations to look out for local in-country service providers to cater to smaller groups of employees resulting in them having to deal with multiple providers for the same service. Assessing the provider’s ability to serve the underserved markets irrespective of the headcount is a very crucial factor. A single vendor approach results in a uniformed service delivery experience and single-provider accountability for all Global Payroll needs. This also ensures hassle-free process in gathering/ receiving payroll inputs, which might otherwise become a cumbersome task.


Emerging Trends in Centralisation of Global Payroll

Reprinted from Global Payroll-March 2017: The official magazine of Global Payroll Management Institute

  1. What emePriyankan Goswamirging trends or significant issues have your attention in global payroll?

The most significant trend in recent years is that organizations are starting to move toward a centralized or standardized model for managing global payroll, as it has proven to drive efficiency and scale. Industry leaders are starting to accept the usefulness of a single solution to global payroll in terms of technology and are backed by a single service provider.

At the same time, payroll is increasingly taking an employee-centric approach and has moved from being a traditional bridge between the HR and finance functions to a more strategic tower that defines business decisions and employee morale. One key challenge that we witness, of course, is the resistance to change, which is coupled with decisions resulting in the continuation of an old school of thought, rather than opting to optimize and standardize one’s processes through a wholesome global payroll strategy.

  1. As the role of the global payroll professional grows, what are key qualities you look for when hiring?

For me, more than anything else, it’s attitude. One may not have experience, but if one has the right attitude, the job gets done. Top that off with skill development and an appreciation for good work, and one can get the job done better than ever before. Add some mentoring and the right dose of motivation and that person can move up the ladder. That’s what is important in a growing yet challenging industry like the global payroll business. Having said that, of course, I look out for people who are good with numbers as well as communication. I look for people with integrity and the ability to learn quickly.

  1. What resources do you use to stay current on the latest trends and legislation in global payroll?

Decisions of payroll and compliance should be based on multiple sources. Articles and information are available in resources such as this publication, Global Payroll because the information comes from peers or leaders in the industry who have a lot to share in terms of experience and knowledge.

At Neeyamo, we take feeds from three types of sources. The first is an independent in-house compliance and research division that scans through several documented databases and resources for changes or updates in legislatures; the second is pre-qualified in-country experts or compliance partners who share reports on legislature changes, and the third is reliance upon updates from global advisory firms.

Here, the rule of thumb is to cross-validate any legislature change made with all these sources and update our systems as needed. If even one source implies a different story, we then investigate to ascertain the facts. We will contact a country’s appropriate authoritative body directly when needed.

  1. Is it possible to have a single global payroll solution and service?

I feel certain that the question “Can there be only one technology solution to global payroll” will soon become one of the past. It has already become a reality. It is just a matter of time before everyone starts moving in that direction.

  1. What are some of the considerations a company should ask to determine if there is good fit with a prospective vendor?

In today’s terms, I would recommend the following: Delivery capability, including quality and ability to transform and transitions.

  • Delivery capability, including quality and ability to transform and transitions.
  • Technology capability one needs to evaluate the technology being used. It will determine  the level  of automation and standardization one can achieve by selecting the vendor.The  Level of scalability  of the vendor to meet your growth or accommodate dynamic changes in  your organization. At the  same time, it is important to have culture fit to one’s  organization.
  • The Level of scalability of the vendor to meet your growth or accommodate dynamic  changes in  your organization. At the same time, it is important to have culture fit to one’s  organization.
  • Commercial proposition and benefits including the value-adds that the vendor can bring in.

Try to ascertain an answer to the question: “Would I be one among 5,000 customers or would I be one of their special 100?” It is equally important that you feel cherished as a customer.

  1. Share any thoughts about how your approach to change management has helped to make a successful organization.

The key to designing and driving change is to work collaboratively with the stakeholders who would be impacted by the change. For any org-level change such as centralizing global payroll, we follow what we refer to as the “Study-Analyze-Recommend” process and we carve out the blueprint to manage the change accordingly.

Taking global payroll centralization as an example, one can get started by conducting a high-level understanding of current as-Is processes in applicable countries to identify the actual scope for standardization.

This can involve charting out the localized centres where payroll is actually managed such as regional offices, shared model, etc. During this period, one needs to go through existing documents containing process maps and process documents to help understand the As-Is processes and identify and document existing best practices.

One also needs to identify immediate issues and challenges that need focus. Issues such as existing vendor-related risks like contract expiry, people related challenges like attrition, unionized agreements, planned holiday of key resources, and audit findings, etc. It is important to identify historical or recurring issues that needed to be accounted for.

Next, analyzing the data streams must include taking stock of the different technology/systems that are used for upstream and downstream processes such as movement of time and leave data and commissions, etc. This also needs to identify key control points and enablers for each process/data stream. It also is important to have clarity regarding the people involved in roles, activity, and effort.

Once one has detailed insights into these areas and every affected stakeholder is identified, a collaborative solution can be created and effectively implemented.

  1. What are some of the unique aspects of running an efficient and effective global payroll operation? 

Well, global payroll operations, especially if you are a service provider, can sound a bit complex because of its sheer nature. As such, I have great respect for global payroll leaders who have carved out their niche in the industry over the last couple of years.

However, the operations can be well managed if the whole complex piece is broken down into smaller structures. For example, your entire operations can be sub-grouped into different teams such as global payroll implementation, payroll delivery with regional-or country-specific teams, project management office (who also manage risks), compliance team, technology and configuration, partner management, help desk team, etc. These teams can be further broken down by client needs (if you are a service provider) or regional specific teams based on location being operated from; but the key to managing the whole gambit is to make sure every single team member sees the big picture and works in sync by being aligned to the overall organizational or business goal. Leadership with integrity and continual improvement is of utmost importance. I would say that the mantra to successful operations management is to effectively manage the four pillars—people power, process excellence, customer delight, and risk mitigation.


The Global Payroll Management Institute (GPMI), www.GPMInstitute.com, is the world’s leading community of payroll leaders, managers, practitioners, researchers and technology experts. Subscribers connect with each other through networking discussions, collaborative opportunities, and access to education and publications dedicated to global payroll strategies, knowledge, research, employment, and training. GPMI also publishes several global payroll texts and white papers as a benefit to subscribers. Get more information at www.GPMInstitute.com