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Spotlight on Mark Graham

Mark Graham
Mark Graham

Chief Commercial Officer

Jan 10, 2019 4 mins

What is the changing role of the payroll professional in regard to greater interaction with HR, data analysis, managerial, and strategic planning?

As both technology and reporting improve rapidly, the global payroll professional has much more interaction with HR and finance. The in-depth, real-time reports that payroll can now provide are hugely important to other departments. They don’t just run payroll anymore. They are now global project managers and data scientists.

Senior decision-makers need qualified data to make critical decisions for the business, and payroll has that information at its fingertips.

It’s not just about getting people paid on time, it’s about where is the most cost-effective country to hire resources in, how to manage global compensation and benefits, and how to manage global payments and currencies in a smarter way to reduce administrative and overhead expenses.

What emerging trends in global payroll are demanding your attention?

Emerging technologies such as data validation and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are changing global payroll forever. The elimination of manual input and re-keying of information time and time again is freeing up payroll teams to focus on more value-added work like reporting and analytics. Some legacy providers are now finding it difficult to get their technology to deliver what the modern payroll manager needs.

How can a payroll department provide support on a strategic level to corporate finance, human resources, and other departments?

Payroll professionals will soon provide some of the most important information that will essentially shape the future of their organizations. The payroll department will need to understand and be capable of providing reporting—quickly and tailored to their C-level requests. Some of these reports include:

  • True headcount reporting
  • The true cost of employment
  • Starter/leaver statistics
  • Drill-down reporting tailored by location, job type, job function, age, and gender

What are the biggest challenges for payroll teams?

  • On-time, accurate payrolls
  • Fingertip reporting
  • Custom, scalable reports
  • Payments
  • Global oversight
  • Compliance
  • 24/5 support (being available 24 hours a day during the business week)
  • Addressing employee questions
  • Entering new markets

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

Always use a Request for Proposal (RFP) to get to the heart of what matters to your business and figure out if the fit is right for a potential vendor. It’s going to be a partnership that’s built on trust and requires expertise and ongoing communication to make it work. So, your RFP is the right time to get the facts you need to make a decision. Some examples of what you should ask:

  • Similar projects — can you obtain references from other clients they have worked with?
  • Data security — how safe is your data in rest and in transit?
  • ICP due diligence — what process do they use to ensure the right in-country partner provides a good service?
  • Technology — what technology solution will integrate with your existing platforms and processes?
  • Process map — how will the payroll process work?
  • Level of expertise — are real tax and payroll experts delivering your payroll? What value will they add?
  • Vendor’s ability to scale — can they bring on additional countries easily?
  • Financial stability of vendor — how solvent are they?
  • Technology road map — what is planned in future releases and how will this impact your payroll?

How can companies better leverage payroll data for strategic decision-making?

Data visualization and analysis are key here. Your payroll data is the most accurate, real-time employee data available in your company. Looking at the output against the true payroll costs will allow businesses to decide where they will increase/decrease their headcount.

But you need data visualization to actually see the data in front of you in an understandable, digestible, and readable format. This saves time and helps you spot trends and variances in seconds instead of looking through reams of spreadsheets for hours on end.

Your payroll data is important and should be presented that way instead of just numbers across pages where it’s impossible to make any sense of it.

Think about it, the human eye is drawn to colours and shapes, and if your data is shown to others in this way, it’s going to be easier to understand and valued much more highly than if it were on Excel sheets.

What were some of your early career lessons?

  • Always hire people who are strong in their area of expertise. If a good person comes along, do not let them go.
  • Set goals and targets. Analyze your and your team’s performance and change direction if you need to.
  • Invest in the future—in both technology and people.
  • Never stand still. There’s always someone coming behind so you need to keep pushing forward to make a difference.

What are the most important qualities of effective leadership?

There are a number of important qualities you need to encourage and deliver in leadership. It’s not an á la carte list; you don’t pick and choose the ones you like. Realistically they should all work together. A good starter list is that an effective leader:

  • Promotes two-way communication with their team
  • Provides encouragement
  • Gives praise when deserved
  • Plans ahead
  • Gives their team targets to work towards
  • Creates opportunities for employees
  • Strives for a fun and dynamic atmosphere
  • Builds a foundation of trust

How do you hire?

Always hire the best person for each role. Get people to join your organization who have a specific skill set that doesn’t already exist in your business. Do not be afraid to hire people who know more than you about certain things. Immedis hires a large number of our employees from referrals from our current staff. In my mind, this speaks volumes about our staff satisfaction.

How do you manage to balance work and pleasure?

You need to have a focus outside of your work. In my opinion, the family is a fantastic way to switch off from the pressures of day-to-day work life.

My wife and I welcomed a baby girl, Anna, in January, and she’s the light of our lives. We just moved over to New Jersey as well, so spending time with my new family is so important to me. I understand now more than ever that there have to be times during your working week that your laptop and phone are switched off!

I’m also really enjoying getting to know our team in New Jersey better since the move. Even though I miss playing a few rounds of golf with our brand ambassador, Shane Lowry—I’m getting some great practice in with the Immedis team at Topgolf driving range. It’s a fun way to unwind after work and get to know everyone on a more personal level. A bit of healthy competition is always good too. It brings a fun atmosphere back to the office when there’s some banter from the evening before!

This blog was featured as an article in the September issue of Global Payroll magazine – you can read it here

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