Empowering change at Airswift Empowering change at Airswift

Empowering change at Airswift
17 Nov 2017

“One of my proudest achievements during the five and a half years I’ve been with the company is developing a dedicated team in which everyone takes ownership of their own work.”

Despite the challenge of a company merger earlier in the year, Colette Tierney, expatriate payroll and billing manager at global recruitment services provider Airswift has guided her team to great success. At the inaugural Global Payroll Association Awards in May, they scooped the prestigious accolade of Expatriate Payroll Team of the Year.

The coveted prize was awarded for their high levels of commitment, flexibility and relentlessly positive attitude in the face of working across complex jurisdictions, tackling multiple currencies and conforming to tight deadlines. Colette talks to Cath Everett about her experiences: Tell us a bit about your team and what you

think makes it different?

The team, which is based across both Manchester and London in the UK, covers the Europe, Middle East and Africa and consists of nine payroll and billing co-ordinators, two team leaders and myself. We pay thousands of contractors in lots of difficult locations in five different currencies, which includes reimbursing their mobilisation costs and other expenses. We then re-charge this money to numerous clients that also have complex local billing requirements. So it’s quite a challenge.

One of my proudest achievements during the five and a half years I’ve been with the company though is developing a dedicated team in which everyone takes ownership of their own work. This has been accomplished by giving each individual responsibility for the entire cycle so they can see the whole picture. We also make sure they’re aware of legislation and tax and the implications of not doing things correctly, and each payroll and billing co-ordinator adheres to a series of controls. So staff training has really paid dividends and we’ve been investing in it heavily in terms of time and internal and external courses. People have become more empowered as a result of having access to this constant training and cross-training to cover each other during absences. It’s about identifying skills gaps and then building the team’s knowledge in vitally important areas such as legislation and the culture of local offices.

But winning the Global Payroll Awards was also a major achievement. They’re a truly inspirational team of which I’m very proud.

What impact has the merger had on what you do?

Global mobility and recruitment firm Air Energi Group merged with oil and gas recruiter Swift Worldwide Resources in January to form Airswift Holdings. The company now operates out of 52 offices around the world, employs 800 staff and handles 6,000 contractors. So with its size and reach, it can service all of the world’s super-majors and is ideally placed to be the global leader in providing workforce solutions for the energy infrastructure and process sectors. These solutions range from creating employment contracts to undertaking health checks for people working abroad.

But it’s a huge job to sync the underlying technology. On the billing side, we’re currently merging both companies onto one system to enable daily billing and instant access to information. The aim is to reduce duplication when keying in information and to increase accountability – we’re in the middle of doing that now and should be finished by the end of the year.

Payroll systems we’ll deal with further down the line though. At the moment, we’re using a combination of outsourced and in-house provision, so it will be a slightly longer project and we’re exploring it now. But as with any merger, we’ll need to streamline processes and will review our current practices and procedures across the world.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

The biggest headache is that there’s no one off-theshelf solution for global payroll. Mostly you have to use a mix of in-house and outsourced solutions, but the outsourcers only provide easy countries as standard. So yes, they’ll do the US, UK and Australia in phase one, but they won’t have facilities in more difficult countries like Angola, Iraq and Azerbaijan until two or three years down the line, if at all.

As a result, we tend to operate payroll locally for nationals, while ex-pats are processed in the UK. But there are risks to performing operations locally – it can be costlier as in-house people sometimes need to be backed up by local providers such as tax advisors. On the other hand, it may make sense to have people on the ground if there are a lot of legislative changes. You just have to make a call for each situation on what best fits the business and how best you can achieve compliance.

“I’d never considered payroll as a profession before, but I realised that it required a lot of versatility and quick thinking and it suited my skill sets as I love problem-solving and communicating. ”

How did you get into global payroll in the first place?

I first fell into payroll about 30 years ago when I was on reserve for the Post Office and used to go around London on a motorbike if people were off sick or on holiday so I could replace them behind the counter. Then they asked me if I’d like a month’s intensive training to manually calculate payroll and I loved it.

I’d never considered payroll as a profession before, but I realised that it required a lot of versatility and quick thinking and it suited my skill sets as I love problem-solving and communicating. So I may have fallen into it, but it was the perfect job for me. After working for a variety of organisations such as the Scout Association, I completed my Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals’ foundation degree in payroll management and landed a role with the Royal Household. This was followed by working at Amazon dealing with global payroll for Luxembourg, Romania and Belgium – and it made me realise there was a bigger world out there.

Global organisations were coming to the fore and there were opportunities for expansion. I then moved to Apple and helped to move their payroll over to a European hub, while starting my Masters degree in payroll and business management. But every position gave me a great understanding of the complexity of globalisation and the economy, which is necessary for an international role.

What other key lessons have you learned along the way?

Global companies want managers to have a wide range of skills and a broad strategic view as the world continues to become a smaller place. This means that you’ve got to be on top of everything from different legislation to pensions. So you need a very adaptable and flexible skill set.

But part and parcel of that is being able to embrace change – grab your opportunities as they present themselves, even if you haven’t done something before. And research and learn as much as you can. There are plenty of global bodies that you can ask questions of, but also tap into other people you know, your networks and your peers, both in the company and across the industry.

 

“One of my proudest achievements during the five and a half years I’ve been with the company is developing a dedicated team in which everyone takes ownership of their own work.”

Despite the challenge of a company merger earlier in the year, Colette Tierney, expatriate payroll and billing manager at global recruitment services provider Airswift has guided her team to great success. At the inaugural Global Payroll Association Awards in May, they scooped the prestigious accolade of Expatriate Payroll Team of the Year.

The coveted prize was awarded for their high levels of commitment, flexibility and relentlessly positive attitude in the face of working across complex jurisdictions, tackling multiple currencies and conforming to tight deadlines. Colette talks to Cath Everett about her experiences: Tell us a bit about your team and what you

think makes it different?

The team, which is based across both Manchester and London in the UK, covers the Europe, Middle East and Africa and consists of nine payroll and billing co-ordinators, two team leaders and myself. We pay thousands of contractors in lots of difficult locations in five different currencies, which includes reimbursing their mobilisation costs and other expenses. We then re-charge this money to numerous clients that also have complex local billing requirements. So it’s quite a challenge.

One of my proudest achievements during the five and a half years I’ve been with the company though is developing a dedicated team in which everyone takes ownership of their own work. This has been accomplished by giving each individual responsibility for the entire cycle so they can see the whole picture. We also make sure they’re aware of legislation and tax and the implications of not doing things correctly, and each payroll and billing co-ordinator adheres to a series of controls. So staff training has really paid dividends and we’ve been investing in it heavily in terms of time and internal and external courses. People have become more empowered as a result of having access to this constant training and cross-training to cover each other during absences. It’s about identifying skills gaps and then building the team’s knowledge in vitally important areas such as legislation and the culture of local offices.

But winning the Global Payroll Awards was also a major achievement. They’re a truly inspirational team of which I’m very proud.

What impact has the merger had on what you do?

Global mobility and recruitment firm Air Energi Group merged with oil and gas recruiter Swift Worldwide Resources in January to form Airswift Holdings. The company now operates out of 52 offices around the world, employs 800 staff and handles 6,000 contractors. So with its size and reach, it can service all of the world’s super-majors and is ideally placed to be the global leader in providing workforce solutions for the energy infrastructure and process sectors. These solutions range from creating employment contracts to undertaking health checks for people working abroad.

But it’s a huge job to sync the underlying technology. On the billing side, we’re currently merging both companies onto one system to enable daily billing and instant access to information. The aim is to reduce duplication when keying in information and to increase accountability – we’re in the middle of doing that now and should be finished by the end of the year.

Payroll systems we’ll deal with further down the line though. At the moment, we’re using a combination of outsourced and in-house provision, so it will be a slightly longer project and we’re exploring it now. But as with any merger, we’ll need to streamline processes and will review our current practices and procedures across the world.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

The biggest headache is that there’s no one off-theshelf solution for global payroll. Mostly you have to use a mix of in-house and outsourced solutions, but the outsourcers only provide easy countries as standard. So yes, they’ll do the US, UK and Australia in phase one, but they won’t have facilities in more difficult countries like Angola, Iraq and Azerbaijan until two or three years down the line, if at all.

As a result, we tend to operate payroll locally for nationals, while ex-pats are processed in the UK. But there are risks to performing operations locally – it can be costlier as in-house people sometimes need to be backed up by local providers such as tax advisors. On the other hand, it may make sense to have people on the ground if there are a lot of legislative changes. You just have to make a call for each situation on what best fits the business and how best you can achieve compliance.

“I’d never considered payroll as a profession before, but I realised that it required a lot of versatility and quick thinking and it suited my skill sets as I love problem-solving and communicating. ”

How did you get into global payroll in the first place?

I first fell into payroll about 30 years ago when I was on reserve for the Post Office and used to go around London on a motorbike if people were off sick or on holiday so I could replace them behind the counter. Then they asked me if I’d like a month’s intensive training to manually calculate payroll and I loved it.

I’d never considered payroll as a profession before, but I realised that it required a lot of versatility and quick thinking and it suited my skill sets as I love problem-solving and communicating. So I may have fallen into it, but it was the perfect job for me. After working for a variety of organisations such as the Scout Association, I completed my Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals’ foundation degree in payroll management and landed a role with the Royal Household. This was followed by working at Amazon dealing with global payroll for Luxembourg, Romania and Belgium – and it made me realise there was a bigger world out there.

Global organisations were coming to the fore and there were opportunities for expansion. I then moved to Apple and helped to move their payroll over to a European hub, while starting my Masters degree in payroll and business management. But every position gave me a great understanding of the complexity of globalisation and the economy, which is necessary for an international role.

What other key lessons have you learned along the way?

Global companies want managers to have a wide range of skills and a broad strategic view as the world continues to become a smaller place. This means that you’ve got to be on top of everything from different legislation to pensions. So you need a very adaptable and flexible skill set.

But part and parcel of that is being able to embrace change – grab your opportunities as they present themselves, even if you haven’t done something before. And research and learn as much as you can. There are plenty of global bodies that you can ask questions of, but also tap into other people you know, your networks and your peers, both in the company and across the industry.

 

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