#PayLikeAPro: Ferdinand Dragtstra

“Pay like a Pro” is a new interview series by Payzaar where we are talking to a variety of industry experts to share their personal perspective on a number of different topics around payroll technology, ranging from trends they observe, challenges they had to overcome, visions they have for the industry, career advice they would give others, etc.

We’re happy to feature our first expert: Ferdinand Dragtstra – Global Director HR & Business Services Operations at Exin Group.

Ferdinand Dragtstra

Global HR, Global Payroll & Business Services Director, expert in Digital Transformation.

Ferdinand has over 16 years of experience in Business Process Outsourcing, Human Capital Management and Technology focusing on optimization and transformation of organizations. He has held roles in Dublin, Bangalore, and Barcelona. Through his roles which include Global Director HR Operations and Business Services at EXIN Group, Member of Board of Directors AIG Greece, Global Director of HR Shared Services for Air Products and Chemicals with responsibility for 22.000 employee payroll divided over 40 different countries, labor relations, and technology. Client Services Manager at human capital management solutions provider, ADP, and Lead of the transfer of an IT Service Center from Dublin to Bangalore India for HP, Ferdinand has become an expert in Organization/Digital transformations, leveraging technology people and strategies supporting organizations objectives. ”

“Payroll has always been a process that “just has to work”. It only became visible when something went wrong: late payment, incorrect pay. Now it is becoming a strategic function with the help of technology #PayLikeAPro #ExpertInterview #Payzaar”

1. How and why did you personally get into the world of global payroll, up to and including your current role?

I got into global payroll through a career in Business Process Outsourcing. First in IT, then via SAP and SAP HR for a global car manufacturer I got into technology for HR and a new world opened up for me seeing the impact – in the positive sense of the word – that technology can have on People processes in organizations. In a next step I joined a new initiative from ADP and moved into a global HR Services lead role at a client after that, building a global payroll strategy including shared service centers in Asia, US and Europe servicing 20K+ employees’ payroll on monthly basis, spread over 35 countries. Currently I am focussing on digital transformation of acquired companies for all HR and People processes.

2. As a global payroll architect, what are the main pillars of the global payroll strategy? And what challenges are you facing implementing that strategy?

To me, the global payroll strategy has the following main pillars to lean on, not specifically in this order: 1. Central control, visibility and transparency, 2. (Local) legal compliance and minimized risk, 3. Standardized processes of pay. While implementing this strategy you can run into local resistance towards this. Comments like “This process you can´t centralize” or “This country is different” are often heard. While new technologies are modernizing, people tend to hold on to the “old” process. So the key is to make new technology easy to adopt and minimize the disruption in order for people to embrace the change and let go of the old ways of doing things.

3. With changes in technology, how has global payroll evolved over the last 2-3 years?

Payroll, through technology, has become central and key to corporate processes instead of being an ancillary pillar. Technology ensures accuracy and “one version of the truth” in people data and functions as the base for other technology like Salesforce. Payroll has become part of strategy instead of being only tactical in talent retention.

4. What changes & trends in the payroll industry are you personally particularly excited about?

Not only payroll but HR in general has become a strategic partner in the C-suite. It has become clear that the most valuable asset are the people. Through technology we can help people focus on knowledge development and value-add jobs while robots are supporting the repetitive, administrative processes.

5. How are you keeping up with the industry trends?

I am keeping up with trends through webinars, reading articles on new developments, but also visiting Industry leading conferences like Unleash, Workday Rising.

6. What key lessons have you learned along the way and how have they helped you to develop and grow in your career? What advice would you offer to payroll professionals based on your own experiences and why?

I have learned that although each country has its specificity towards payroll regulation, the themes are alike everywhere: Base Pay, Overtime, Pension, Benefits etc. This allows for alignment, improvement and standardization. Payroll professionals traditionally have become experts on one specific country, but understanding the general approach they can develop into global experts advising or handling multi-country payroll. This way they can broaden their horizon and expertise and therefore create more value for the organization. Embrace technology!

7. Payroll is often a function that is a bit overlooked in many companies. How can we create more awareness for the payroll profession within the broader corporate context?

Payroll has always been a process that “just has to work”. It only became visible when something went wrong: late payment, incorrect pay. Now it is becoming a strategic function with the help of technology which actively supports knowledge retention, cost reduction, planning of new production facilities etc., to name just a few. By understanding as payroll professionals the relation and integration between payroll and other processes inside the company we create more awareness.

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