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Michelle Whitfield on bringing Meta’s payroll up to date

While Meta is known for being cutting-edge, its payroll needed an update. Working with ADP created a more contemporary operation that continues to keep up with the latest trends.

When Michelle Whitfield joined the multinational technology company Meta, she was excited to join a dynamic business that was at the forefront of technological innovations. 

However, she soon realized that the payroll department was still using old-fashioned methods. Paper payslips and a sometimes-nebulous mashup of unexplained numbers left employees confused — and didn’t match Meta’s tech-forward ethos.

Meta is the parent company of social media platform Facebook, as well as Instagram and WhatsApp. Now, the company is setting its sights on developing the Metaverse, an expansive virtual reality world. 

As a payroll leader whose main focus has always been to ensure maximum accuracy and efficiency, Whitfield partnered with ADP to infuse Meta’s payroll department with some of its own innovative spirit.

ADP ReThink Quarterly: Can you tell us a little bit about your background in payroll?

My first job was calculating piecework at a clothing manufacturer in my hometown. Depending on how many different jobs the machinists did, I’d calculate how much their gross pay was every day. And if we were wrong, they’d come and complain. They were the best team of auditors I’ve ever worked with.

I later got the opportunity to work for PricewaterhouseCoopers [PwC], where my team supported the payroll for the whole Safeway grocery store chain. At that time, this included more than 100,000 employees and 500 stores. I’d been at PwC for a little while when I realized that it wasn’t a good fit for me. I decided I wanted to do more. I realized I wanted to be part of defining payroll strategy, not just be tactical.

In 2007, I joined [the engineering and technology company] Honeywell as their EMEA [Europe, Middle East and Africa] payroll leader. Honeywell had 140,000 employees in 85 countries at the time, but they hadn’t yet invested in developing a strategy for their global payroll. I designed a strategy to standardize platforms and processes. Our goal was to have 80% of our process be the same, regardless of what platform we were using in which country. After two years, Honeywell added the APAC [Asia Pacific] region to my responsibilities. 

Honeywell was ADP’s second client on GlobalView in APAC. We created a really, really strong relationship with ADP in APAC, with open lines of communication.

ADPRQ: How did you end up at Meta?

In 2020, a connection I made at ADP’s ReThink conference introduced me to Sue Taylor, who is the chief accounting officer at Meta. Sue explained to me her vision for Meta’s future and what part payroll would play in that. 

So I joined Meta in April 2021, excited to do something really cool at a really cool company. It was interesting to move from a company that was more than 100 years old to a company that is so young and is changing so much. I went from working within formal practices and standards to a much more agile approach. That was the biggest change. 

But the culture of collaboration was also very different. There was so much opportunity to try new things and think about what the impact was going to be on the employees.

ADPRQ: What challenges did you encounter at Meta, and how did you tackle them?

Though we’re a leading technology company, our payroll and payslips are very old-fashioned. Just a normal piece of paper with your gross pay on it. As a technology organization that is shaping its payroll strategy, one of the key questions for us was: “How do we create a more sustainable and efficient process while at the same time creating a contemporary feel for payroll?”

We selected ADP GlobalView for our largest countries, except for the USA. With GlobalView, we’ve introduced the MyPay payslip. The payslip in ADP MyView is a great contemporary take on the traditional one. It’s so much more digestible than a paper payslip that lists a bunch of numbers that mean nothing to you. And it’s great to be able to see how your pay compares to previous months and see where your money is actually going.

The feedback from our employees has been excellent. They are loving the new look and have said they now understand their payslip for the first time.

We are now well underway in implementing ADP GlobalView for our largest countries. In November 2022, we went live with GlobalView in the U.K., followed by Ireland some months later. We’ll have another five countries added in the coming year. This covers 80% of our global payroll outside of the United States. So whether you’re in Uzbekistan or Argentina, you will have the same payroll experience.

ADPRQ: In your experience, what factors are necessary to make payroll run more smoothly, and how has ADP helped your team achieve this?

Payroll is a bit like a manufacturing line. There are raw materials, which you take through a process to make something, and by the end of it, you have a product. If you imagine making a car, you have about 4,000 individual parts you have to consider. The same goes for a payslip. With a payslip, almost every item is different per employee. To produce a payslip in a month, there could be a million different parts, depending on the size of your company and the complexity of your industry. And you need all of those parts to get your net pay correct and to get the product — the paycheck — to the employee.

So how do you make sure you’re getting all the parts correct without wasting valuable time? You want to minimize the time spent on quality-control as much as possible. It helps that I’m essentially the laziest person in the world. I want to make sure that if I have to do something, I only do it once and don’t have to repeat it again, because that’s just a waste.

The thing is, payroll transformation doesn’t ever end. It’s continuous. Legally, the regulations in every country change at least once a year, and the technology has to keep up with the demands put on employers through those legal changes. We need platforms that can keep up with these changes without sacrificing efficiency.

That’s where ADP comes in. They invest heavily in research and development in payroll. They’re constantly looking at how they can make payroll easier and how to best support their clients. They’re always looking at what’s the next big thing, from a payroll perspective, and we benefit from that wealth of knowledge on a regular basis.

ADPRQ: How do you see your relationship with ADP developing in the future?

I’m sure everybody’s heard about the Metaverse; it’s one of the key initiatives that we have at Meta. I’ve been discussing ways in which you could potentially use the Metaverse for training and development, for example. I also recently received a deck from a hackathon that took place at ADP Brazil, and it was all about how they could use the Metaverse and Oculus to help support some of their functions. It’s super exciting to think that, maybe at some point in the future, Meta and ADP could do something together in the Metaverse. 

Because ultimately, as an employer, you don’t want your employees thinking about their payroll. Payroll is like electricity: You don’t miss it, until it’s not there. It should be invisible. And so with payroll strategy, you’re always asking: “How can I make sure that I’m taking as many variables out of the process as possible? How can I make it efficient? How can I answer the questions that employees might have before they even ask?”

Every employee deserves an accurate payment and needs to know that their organization cares about them. And that’s why we do what we do in payroll.

Contact ADP to discover how your organization can innovate and streamline your global payroll processes.

Luisa Rollenhagen

Luisa Rollenhagen is an Argentinian-German freelance journalist based in Berlin. She’s worked for publications including Deutsche Welle, GQ, The Guardian, and BuzzFeed.