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Professional Spotlight

Meet Fidelma McGuirk, Founder and CEO, Payslip


By Frank J. Mendelson, with Fidelma McGuirk 

Editor’s Note: Fidelma McGuirk is founder and CEO of Payslip. McGuirk has more than 18 years of experience in international business. She has headquartered Payslip in the Digital Innovation Park in Westport, Ireland–an entrepreneurial town known locally as Silicon West.

What corporate initiatives are you pursuing in 2018?

Our initiatives center on our Payslip mission for global payroll leaders—to deliver a great global payroll management experience (so they can get home on time pre-payday!). This includes three main initiatives:

  • First, we work closely with global payroll leaders on current implementation projects with international clients across the software, IT services, engineering consultancy, agriculture, and other sectors in 27 countries and multiple HCM and ERP integrations.
  • Second, we continue to innovate with Payslip and develop even greater employee self-service, consolidation reporting, and integrations.
  • Third, as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is rushing toward all European Union (EU) employers and U.S. companies with EU citizens, the fact that we integrated the GDPR principles by design into Payslip’s workflow, architecture, and experience means that we are assisting clients’ transition to a GDPR-compliant platform to save 32% of their global payroll processing time.


How do you envision the changing role of the payroll professional?

Payroll is a critical business process and, unfortunately, like a well-delivering IT function, not always appreciated until an issue arises. Payroll costs represent a key investment in all companies and, therewith, a key cost to the business.

The changing role is from being a back-office operator of a critical (but assumed it will get done) business process, to becoming a key contributor on one of the top recurring investment costs of the business.

Payroll professionals can raise their profiles by representing those costs and trends to senior finance and HR leadership, and key deliverables and improvements to the compliance and IT leadership team. Payroll professionals have insight that offers immediate value to the business’ bottom line.

Payroll professionals often work in a hothouse environment with tight deadlines and high dependencies. The use of consolidation software, either from their local payroll provider, their aggregator, or a middleware platform such as Payslip, can enable them to distill the informational nuggets from the weeds and present key value to the business. It is important that the payroll provider takes an active role in identifying what tools can increase their value add and contribute to the procurement process.

What emerging trends are demanding your attention?

Human expectations have been transformed by the digital age. Employees want their information accessible and delivered digitally. Hence, employers need to be responsive and provide an employee self-service tool. For employers with strong global cultures, they will want that employee self-service experience to be consistent globally.

Similarly, payroll professionals want to deliver payroll processes not just on time and accurately, but smartly. Therefore, they, too, require smart tools.

The global payroll service models are built on a traditional accountancy concept of aggregating or consolidating payroll processing bureau services. This model suits many international companies—but not all.

Some companies prefer to choose their own local payroll providers and have a direct relationship with them, or even have a blended strategy across regional aggregators (often for long-tail countries—countries with very small populations that are part of a multinational enterprise) and in-country providers where they have larger country populations. In these cases, it is vital that the global employer has a middleware that digitizes the global payroll process and imposes data protection policy adherence in a uniform and manageable manner.


What resources do you use to stay current on the latest trends and legislation in payroll?

Literature-wise, we follow the American Payroll Association (APA) and Global Payroll Management Institute (GPMI) closely and key publications by global mobility, payroll, HR, and finance influencers.

Outside of payroll, we have key resources that we listen to on innovations in technology development, cybersecurity, data protection, IT architecture and, most importantly, best practices in online user experience (user interface or UI).


What would you advise for a company moving from a domestic to a global payroll?

Design a process with redundancy and transparency. The technical requirements for any country can be advised upon by an in-country provider or aggregator, but if the process for your international payroll is specific to that, you are building friction internally in your organization. Our advice in Payslip is to design your global process, keep it simple enough to be uniform for redundancy and reporting, and flexible enough to allow for the local requirements. Choose a tool to reduce the risk of building a complicated myriad of country-specific processes.

What are the emerging trends in data management and data security?

Accountability is a key objective in new compliance and legislative requirements we see in many payroll markets. The hot topic for 2018 is the GDPR. It governs any data held by companies belonging to EU citizens. The compliance requirements of GDPR are very high, and there is high risk to global employers that fail to be ready.


What emerging trends do you see in meeting the payroll needs and compliance in payroll management for mobile employees?

Digital service delivery is expected by employees worldwide, as well as that the payroll delivery service maps against the corporate culture and global values. Cybersecurity is a key risk, and companies need to ensure their software tools have the best practice protocols and cybersecurity protections.

Two-factor authentication has become a given for employee self-service tools, and employers need to review their security processes to ensure they are not just password-protected anymore.


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

As Payslip is a technology company, we look at the vendor selection from a technology interface and process efficiency perspective. For a software provider, they need to check where the data is stored, protected, and managed, who has access to it, and what licensing and secondary licensing dependencies are integrated. There can be hidden risks with secondary licensing.

Regarding payroll providers, there are clear established methodologies to review the in-country competence and company fit of a payroll provider.

The critical criteria to include for the payroll providers regarding data protection relates to how they store and manage data in-house, how the data is exchanged, and who has access to what data when. Article 28 of the GDPR gives a good checklist that can help GPMI members.


What are some of the pieces of learned wisdom from your on-the-job experience in regard to being effective, efficient, and a strategic business partner?

I can summarize some of my rules of thumb in five key points:

  1. Ask the best companies in the world what they want to do better and build it for them–and for everyone else. Companies of all sizes want to follow best practices, or indeed to lead best practices. Make best practices affordable.
  2. If a task needs to be repeated, in a very similar or the same way, it can usually be programmed.
  3. People who specialize in technical payroll and operate in high-pressure time environments don’t usually have time or experience mapping processes. It’s good to come from outside that environment and be useful in saving them time and making their lives better.
  4. Everybody goes to work wanting to do a good job. People spend more time at work every week than with their families. It is vital as a company leader and multi-national employer to enable them to go home happy. Give them great tools and make sure they go home feeling productive and happy.
  5. Payroll always gets done. People always get paid. Payroll people often miss baseball games, recitals, and other family events to make sure it happens. We use this as our main mission at Payslip—to make global payroll professionals’ lives easier, so they can go home and enjoy their family time. We help them reclaim their evenings.


What are the most important qualities of effective leadership?

Respect and humility. That’s all we need to be great leaders.

I’ve led teams all around the world, with both experienced professionals and new resources. While local culture is important, if our underlying value is respect, it will be a strong foundation for all the work, challenges, and opportunities we meet.

Respect your colleagues—their skills and experience, potential, opinions, capacity, and local and national traditions.

Respect your customers—offer what you can deliver and be honest about it.

Respect yourself and work with integrity and honesty. If you treat people with respect, you will communicate regularly with everyone and be honest about what you can do for your customers with your resources in a given time frame.

Be humble enough to know every question or idea can revolutionize the world. Listen.

Then go deliver together.


How has your approach to change management helped to make a successful organization?

Change management requires a thoughtful process. Think of it in terms of these eight steps:

  1. Have a clear business case for change.
  2. Make a change plan with clear timelines and dependencies.
  3. Explain it to yourself—why is it needed, how will you do it, and why do it like that.
  4. Explain it to the most awkward annoying devil’s advocate person you trust who cares about the business.
  5. Map out your communications plan with clear waterfall messaging, timelines, responsibility, and feedback/evaluation loops.
  6. Do it.
  7. Follow your evaluation timelines and listen to the looped feedback.
  8. Realign your communication and keep going.


How do you personally manage to balance work and pleasure?

It’s very cliché, but it’s important to love your work and the mission of your work. That reduces the burden of any day. Outside of that, I put away my phone for key periods of the day so that when I am exercising, I’m free of it. When I’m with my children, I’m with them consciously and not distracted digitally. Running is my reflection time, so I think it’s important for everyone to have a way to recharge their mind space.


What books are on your recommended reading list?

My favourite book over the last year was David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell. He takes real life scientific data and reveals unexpected insights about how an advantage can be a disadvantage and vice versa. I look at the world differently since I’ve read it.

FrankMendelsonFrank J. Mendelson is an Acquisitions Editor for the Global Payroll Management Institute. He has been working with the American Payroll Association since 2009 as an editor for
PAYTECH magazine, and has presented workshops at the Annual Congress on effective communication.