Deborah Williams: Taking payroll personally at TMF Group Deborah Williams: Taking payroll personally at TMF Group

Deborah Williams: Taking payroll personally at TMF Group
12 May 2015

In her own words global head of HR and payroll at global-reaching TMF Group, Deborah Williams "knows what good looks like." Maybe it's her 25 years in HR and payroll, her grounding as a business analyst, years spent developing retail strategy that "put Ceridian on the map" or spearheading service delivery at AsdaWalmart. She imparts payroll wisdom to Dawn Gay from her home-working base in Lancaster.

HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO WORK FROM HOME ON SUCH A GLOBAL SCALE?

We work in an industry of home-based people who 'work to live' and I have to live near the airport to be able to travel, so being near an airport is important but with my job you can live anywhere as long as you are flexible. We [TMF Group] have 105 offices in 85 countries already set up to deliver payroll. With multiple offices in multiple countries, I can spend weeks away at a time but I enjoy the travel.

WHAT CULTURAL CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE RUNNING IN-COUNTRY PAYROLL?

There's the language barrier as English is always the 'business default'. With cultural diversities, I take time out to do my research to gain an understanding of the culture and history of a country. There is a wealth of information at our fingertips and I think it is worth the investment and time.

Everybody wants the same results: a happy client who wants to get paid accurately and on time. I've had challenges when things go wrong and working across time zones you need to ensure you have a good team to support you. You can't always control everything, but when things are incorrect you work together with your team to put things right.

TELL US ABOUT THE CULTURE AT TMF GROUP?

TMF Group is a very personal company, which is also very business aware and astute, but there's an intimacy. We use webinars, conference calls and are using the intra and internet as much as possible, so in a global business such as ours, wherever they are. And this connection is important, particularly in the case of our payroll business, where around 45 per cent originates in Latin America.

HOW DO YOU TOUCH PEOPLE'S LIVES IN PAYROLL?

Responsibility for payroll is a very personal thing. People work for money to pay the bills and to live their lives and if my team don't do their job, people don't get paid. Therefore that responsibility is huge and it’s hard not to be personally involved. At Asda I was paying over 180,000 people and then 72,000 at Logica – you have to take it personally.

WHY IS YOUR GLOBAL TEAM SO IMPORTANT TO YOU?

You have to rely on your team to have the right expertise and recruit very good people (who are better qualified than you) and rely on their skills. I believe in open communication in management. Payroll is about the team as well as compliance, control and accuracy. I could not do anything without my team - it's hard work coaching sometimes, but investment generates rewards.

HOW DO YOUR TEAMS DELIVER INTERNATIONALLY?

With 85 different legislations we excel in 'global to local' support with a central co-ordinating team who work with experts who are in the country: for example, experts in expat payroll and experts who co-ordinate world payroll. We are really lucky at TMF as we have some very smart TMF people in-country and we work together to ensure we offer the best service we can together.

Our co-ordination team work across the world, implementing in-country to set up the payroll and interface with the client or third party. The countries then deliver the payroll.

An enterprise and production team deal with the global supply chain and global processes. The team is based in Australia and Hungary. That's achallenge, but you get around that because people work longer hours and they are flexible. My PA is based in Manila. She works UK hours from home and can take her kids to school – she's amazing. The world is definitely a smaller place in this respect.

WHAT QUALITIES ARE IMPORTANT IN A PAYROLL EMPLOYEE?

Our ability to change is so important. Also having a 'trust environment'. You can't do a global role without trust - it's an unwritten language. Payroll is based on trust, as you trust people to come to work.

We all fall into payroll. We have to be starter-finishers. There are many shapes and sizes that make a good team, inspirational people and good technologists and we have fun. We are able to have honest and open conversations and have a life. I genuinely believe people come to work to do a good job and want to be competent.

WHAT ARE YOU A STICKLER FOR?

I'm into documentation. I hate being dependent on an individual for process work so I ensure that what we have is fit for purpose and documented. I believe in three pillars of growth which are the key to good business – communication, cultural awareness and being commercially astute.

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR 2014?

Our USP is servicing the client from their country and offering local support as a global supplier. An operations team sits locally in every country to ensure standardisation and optimisation across the countries and that's what I was brought in to do. I want to run a 'programme of excellence' focusing on the top countries and developing standardisation in how we pay and how we input data.

This year we are focusing on our top 32 countries to make sure standardisation and optimisation take place. We have set up a service centre in Poland to centralise our account management support, ensuring we can provide one voice and one point of contact to the client.

 

In her own words global head of HR and payroll at global-reaching TMF Group, Deborah Williams "knows what good looks like." Maybe it's her 25 years in HR and payroll, her grounding as a business analyst, years spent developing retail strategy that "put Ceridian on the map" or spearheading service delivery at AsdaWalmart. She imparts payroll wisdom to Dawn Gay from her home-working base in Lancaster.

HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO WORK FROM HOME ON SUCH A GLOBAL SCALE?

We work in an industry of home-based people who 'work to live' and I have to live near the airport to be able to travel, so being near an airport is important but with my job you can live anywhere as long as you are flexible. We [TMF Group] have 105 offices in 85 countries already set up to deliver payroll. With multiple offices in multiple countries, I can spend weeks away at a time but I enjoy the travel.

WHAT CULTURAL CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE RUNNING IN-COUNTRY PAYROLL?

There's the language barrier as English is always the 'business default'. With cultural diversities, I take time out to do my research to gain an understanding of the culture and history of a country. There is a wealth of information at our fingertips and I think it is worth the investment and time.

Everybody wants the same results: a happy client who wants to get paid accurately and on time. I've had challenges when things go wrong and working across time zones you need to ensure you have a good team to support you. You can't always control everything, but when things are incorrect you work together with your team to put things right.

TELL US ABOUT THE CULTURE AT TMF GROUP?

TMF Group is a very personal company, which is also very business aware and astute, but there's an intimacy. We use webinars, conference calls and are using the intra and internet as much as possible, so in a global business such as ours, wherever they are. And this connection is important, particularly in the case of our payroll business, where around 45 per cent originates in Latin America.

HOW DO YOU TOUCH PEOPLE'S LIVES IN PAYROLL?

Responsibility for payroll is a very personal thing. People work for money to pay the bills and to live their lives and if my team don't do their job, people don't get paid. Therefore that responsibility is huge and it’s hard not to be personally involved. At Asda I was paying over 180,000 people and then 72,000 at Logica – you have to take it personally.

WHY IS YOUR GLOBAL TEAM SO IMPORTANT TO YOU?

You have to rely on your team to have the right expertise and recruit very good people (who are better qualified than you) and rely on their skills. I believe in open communication in management. Payroll is about the team as well as compliance, control and accuracy. I could not do anything without my team - it's hard work coaching sometimes, but investment generates rewards.

HOW DO YOUR TEAMS DELIVER INTERNATIONALLY?

With 85 different legislations we excel in 'global to local' support with a central co-ordinating team who work with experts who are in the country: for example, experts in expat payroll and experts who co-ordinate world payroll. We are really lucky at TMF as we have some very smart TMF people in-country and we work together to ensure we offer the best service we can together.

Our co-ordination team work across the world, implementing in-country to set up the payroll and interface with the client or third party. The countries then deliver the payroll.

An enterprise and production team deal with the global supply chain and global processes. The team is based in Australia and Hungary. That's achallenge, but you get around that because people work longer hours and they are flexible. My PA is based in Manila. She works UK hours from home and can take her kids to school – she's amazing. The world is definitely a smaller place in this respect.

WHAT QUALITIES ARE IMPORTANT IN A PAYROLL EMPLOYEE?

Our ability to change is so important. Also having a 'trust environment'. You can't do a global role without trust - it's an unwritten language. Payroll is based on trust, as you trust people to come to work.

We all fall into payroll. We have to be starter-finishers. There are many shapes and sizes that make a good team, inspirational people and good technologists and we have fun. We are able to have honest and open conversations and have a life. I genuinely believe people come to work to do a good job and want to be competent.

WHAT ARE YOU A STICKLER FOR?

I'm into documentation. I hate being dependent on an individual for process work so I ensure that what we have is fit for purpose and documented. I believe in three pillars of growth which are the key to good business – communication, cultural awareness and being commercially astute.

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR 2014?

Our USP is servicing the client from their country and offering local support as a global supplier. An operations team sits locally in every country to ensure standardisation and optimisation across the countries and that's what I was brought in to do. I want to run a 'programme of excellence' focusing on the top countries and developing standardisation in how we pay and how we input data.

This year we are focusing on our top 32 countries to make sure standardisation and optimisation take place. We have set up a service centre in Poland to centralise our account management support, ensuring we can provide one voice and one point of contact to the client.