What made you take the leap to join and help set up Paydata?
I first met Paydata founder Paul Hajduk when I was working at Going Places and Paul was brought in as a reward consultant to work on a first of its kind strategic project. It was a really interesting project and Paul and I stayed in touch. A year or so later when he was setting up Paydata with Alan Bentley, I was really interested in the chance to be part of somewhere with a strong ethos right from the start.
Personally I was at a cross-roads between going more firmly down the Finance route if I stayed where I was, or joining somewhere that was looking to develop salary surveys that had traditionally been a neglected market. They were often seen as a way of establishing client relationships, rather than being seen as valuable projects in their own right. The quality of the surveys themselves were not always designed with the customer in mind, it was more about the numbers. However, Paydata had that wider perspective, that each salary represents an individual employee, and surveys need to be contextualised to provide real insights that HR specialists can use to inform their approach. I was interested in providing customers with these concrete insights and we were committed to doing these surveys well. It was a shock at the beginning though – on my first day at Paydata, I had to go to Gatwick airport and ask in each store for their HR department’s number, to start an airport retail salary survey!
What have been the biggest changes for you at Paydata?
Whether it’s a 15-minute or one hour presentation, or chairing an HR Group meeting, it’s always daunting to get up and speak to a room full of people on the spot, who could ask you any question about a range of topics. I’ve learned a lot and it’s true that if you put yourself in an uncomfortable situation, you expand your comfort zone. I started out doing a bit of everything when the business was in its infancy – liaising with customers, analysing data, creating databases, writing reports, but naturally found myself enjoying talking to customers, finding out what they need and understanding them. The world of reward is quite small with familiar faces. I like the journey of getting to know people and have kept in touch with many customers as they moved around different companies and progressed their careers.
What have been the biggest changes within the world of HR and Reward?
Technology has transformed the workplace – in the early days of producing surveys, we would post a floppy disk out to customers for them to provide their data. When we produced the report it would be a lever arch file posted out and we worked with fax machines. We worked completely remotely for the first few years, until we opened our first office. That much has stayed the same with Paydata, as we have always embraced flexible working, meaning that we can attract a diverse range of talent to our team. Many of our employees work remotely and require flexible hours to accommodate commitments such as childcare.
There has definitely been more of a focus on employee wellbeing. Over 10 years ago there was talk of work-life balance, but organisations increasingly see the value of taking a more holistic approach to wellbeing, which was evident in the last recession. In recent years, there has been a greater focus on financial wellbeing, with more employers offering Employee Assistance Programmes, and recognising the importance of mental health.
Pay equality has to be the other biggest change, with the last four to five years seeing increased discussion and analysis around the Gender Pay Gap, which naturally created a focus on fairness. This has widened to encompass pay equality generally and whether organisations operate fair and transparent pay structures.
There has also been a lot more focus on benefits and total reward packages. Five to 10 years ago, these packages would be looked at every two to three years; now it’s every year. There is an interest in demonstrating the total value of the package beyond base pay. This also helps to engage a range of employees across generations, with employees having choice over their options, selecting them based on personal preference.
What have been your highlights?
It’s a nice opportunity to look back and take stock, as we are always striving and looking forward to what’s next and how we can continue to best meet the needs of customers. For me, the highlights have been watching the team grow, see people developing and being given more responsibility in line with our growing number of projects and services. It’s also a highlight to hear how our employees’ and long-standing customers’ families have grown – children starting at school, learning to drive. Supporting people is at the heart of what we do and it’s a huge source of pride for me that I work with genuinely nice people.
The establishment of Paydata’s Hope 20 Foundation has also been a key highlight. I’ve enjoyed being involved in the charity work over the last three years and it is a genuine way which we can raise money and give something back.
And finally, being able to provide information, evidence and facts to every customer who reaches out, to enable them to do their jobs, is genuinely why I love this job. The gratitude of individuals when we give them the confidence to push back on certain aspects of projects, design their strategy, inform their approach to pay and determine whether they are under or overpaying people is so important.
What is it about Paydata’s culture that has made you stay for 21 years?
Having recently been called ‘Mr Paydata’ by my colleagues, I do feel somewhat a part of the institution! But I have been given the opportunity to shape and mould our culture and this reflects the values that we now share as a team. The culture we promote is one where everyone wants to do the best they can for our customers. There’s such a family atmosphere, we all know each other so well and we still keep in contact with former employees – everyone is kind and respectful to each other and we enjoy each other’s company.
What does your 21st anniversary mean to you?
I never thought I’d stay at the same place as long as I have done. It means a lot to think of what we have achieved over that time and how we’ve grown. To think that I was the first employee, I’m proud of what we’ve built, especially when I think of how Paydata provides a living and career for our people. It’s a responsibility I take seriously. You put so much in; I am personally invested in our success. I have all the Paydata memorabilia from our first letterhead to a ‘t’ in the garage for my own name, which is taken from our first office’s sign. It’s been more than just a job, it’s been a way of life for me.
What are the biggest challenges facing HR directors over the next 21 years?
Technology has already had a profound impact on HR and reward and will change the nature of job roles for the better, shifting the focus from creating data to acting upon this. More information will be available at your fingertips and the key challenge will be how to make sense of this, spotting the right trends and acting on this information.
It will also become increasingly important to be able to effectively interact with people. No matter what technology is involved, there will still be mental health issues to overcome, which some people say is being exacerbated by technology in the age of social media. People skills, the ability to talk to and persuade, are increasingly scarcer and will command a premium. People will always be the ultimate customer and the role of HR and reward is to manage both the technology and the communications requirements of an organisation.
What is your one top tip for HR Managers?
Find the right people you can work with and keep them. If you can’t find these people, find a good group of external providers who you trust and can act as an extension of your team.
What do you think the next 21 years will bring for Paydata?
We have been one of the earliest consultancies to focus on reward in a broader sense, activating it across the business, rather than focusing purely on numbers. We must continue to push the envelope, innovate and improve what we do. Our focus on getting a solution that’s best for the customer shows our personal approach, supported by our approach of using evidence to drive the crafted outputs and strategies we design with our customers.
How do you relax when you’re not at Paydata?
I teach people how to ring church bells, which is all about sequences and numbers and people, which I really enjoy. I play the guitar and write and record my own songs, and I am also Captain of my town’s local badminton team in a top County League in Northamptonshire.