By Frank J. Mendelson
Editor’s Note: Ashok Bildikar, Chairman and Managing Director at Neeyamo, is considered an entrepreneur and an innovator in the business world. He has been instrumental in setting up businesses from the start and nurturing them to a global scale. Bildikar has founded multiple startups over the last 35 years, and now plays a pivotal role in steering Neeyamo’s course of being a market leader in providing global payroll and employer of record (EOR) solutions.
Part 1 of this spotlight was published in the July 2023 Global Payroll issue.
What are the things you would like to see payroll vendors address in the next three years?
It's a difficult question to answer as it varies depending on each customer's and organization's specific needs. While it's difficult to speak for all payroll vendors, our mission is to continue integrating technology into all aspects of the payroll process while also providing compliance expertise and customizable solutions that meet each customer's unique needs.
What do you see as to the value and limits emerging technology, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI) have in managing a global payroll?
The benefits are virtually limitless. These technologies can streamline processes, reduce costs, and improve accuracy. AI validation ensures data integrity is top-notch. Of course, there is a huge role for AI to play in managing complex payroll requirements across multiple countries and regions.
Robotic process automation (RPA) and other automation tools can hyper-automate processes, eliminating manual dependency and increasing accuracy. However, while technology can provide significant value, there are limits to its capabilities. For example, changes in tax laws and other legislative updates may still require manual oversight to ensure compliance.
Moreover, while AI tools can handle a significant portion of employee queries, the need for human interaction to provide empathy and establish a connection with employees cannot be understated.
From what you are hearing from colleagues, what are the internal synergies you think may be strengthened in companies with a global workforce?
Global companies need technology integration to create a single source of truth and facilitate seamless collaboration. Standardized processes across locations reduce waste and improve productivity. A culture of collaboration, inclusiveness, and respect fosters a robust and unified workforce in a borderless work environment. By leveraging these synergies, multinational companies can achieve exceptional performance, improved innovation, and enhanced customer satisfaction.
What have been the professional and personal challenges you have faced as you moved into global payroll from domestic payroll?
Fortunately, I have been involved exclusively in global payroll; therefore, I have limited personal experience adapting to this field. However, based on my observations, some struggle with managing multicultural employees and navigating diverse country regulations.
What’s the emotional experience of being in your position, and what have some of your experiences been like?
There are numerous accounts of employees in challenging circumstances who have received timely payment and resolution of personal issues expressing their appreciation for the payroll professionals involved. However, the payroll processing team typically experiences tremendous pressure during payment periods, often resulting in their inability to attend to personal emergencies. As a result, I am constantly striving to identify methods to alleviate these pressure points from the payroll processing workflow.
What is one of the most difficult payroll situations you have been in?
Early in my career, a rounding error in the payroll software resulted in a one cent payment discrepancy while calculating arrear payments for a collective bargaining agreement. The error caused a strike and plant shutdown, highlighting the importance of precision in payroll calculations. After identifying and correcting the software issue, we quickly generated a separate payment run to compensate the affected employees and restore operations.
What are the most important qualities of effective leadership?
Effective leadership requires vision, integrity, communication, adaptability, empathy, and accountability.
Tell me about your management and leadership approach today?
I firmly believe in the power of empowerment and inclusion. By fostering a culture of collaboration and trust within a team, individuals are encouraged to take ownership of their responsibilities and work towards achieving shared goals.
How has your approach to change management helped to make a successful organization?
Global payroll is subject to frequent changes due to evolving regulatory requirements in multiple countries, client compensation and benefit policy adjustments, and new payroll models such as earned wage access (also known as on-demand pay). Our organization has established a culture of adaptability and innovation to address these challenges through effective communication with clients and employees, comprehensive training and support programs, and strong leadership. As a result of these efforts, we have contributed significantly to the overall success of our global payroll operations.
Can you describe your hiring practices and why this is an effective way to develop talent?
As a firm believer in nurturing fresh talent, I advocate recruiting recent college graduates and providing them with comprehensive training and orientation to develop them into skilled professionals. Though this approach can be challenging and time-consuming, it is ultimately rewarding. Despite the significant demand for payroll professionals, the current educational landscape lacks structured training in this field at the college level. While organizations like PayrollOrg are taking steps to increase qualification standards, educational institutions must invest more effort into developing a pipeline of talented individuals who can meet the industry's needs.
What career and life advice do you give to a new employee in payroll?
The career and life advice I would give includes the following:
- Learn payroll processes and regulations thoroughly and focus on accuracy and attention to detail while using tools and staying organized to meet deadlines
- Communicate clearly with all parties involved and build relationships with colleagues in other departments
- Keep learning and stay current with industry developments and prioritize work-life balance for your health and well being
What is the approach you take to include religious and cultural diversity awareness that helps to make yours a high-performing organization?
Our approach to including religious and cultural diversity awareness begins with establishing a culture of inclusivity, providing diversity training, encouraging open communication, and celebrating diversity through events and initiatives.
What are some pieces of learned wisdom from your on-the-job experience that you can share regarding being effective and efficient?
In the current era of hyper-automation, it is now imperative for payroll professionals to contemplate and automate tasks previously performed manually. This approach enhances accuracy over time and alleviates the pressure involved in day-to-day payroll operations. Payroll professionals should strengthen their domain expertise and audit/assurance proficiency to function as trusted consultants for their clients.
What kinds of skills, training, and education would be most useful for someone moving into a managerial role in payroll?
A successful payroll manager needs technical knowledge of payroll processes, software proficiency, analytical and communication skills, leadership abilities, a bachelor's degree in related fields, professional certifications like the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) or Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC), and ongoing education and development to stay up to date with regulations and best practices.
What were some of your early career lessons?
Investing in people yields better returns than just focusing on process and technology. People are the driving force behind successful processes and technology.
How did you get started in your career?
It all began as a programmer and, before I knew it, four years had passed. I was at Phillips, and my journey in the technology arena had begun.