At the height of lockdown, this April, Reward Strategy caught up with Aaron Mudd, European pay and benefits manager at Lush, on sociocracy, COVID-19 and being recognised by the company’s founders.
Here’s a snippet of the conversation that took place:
RS: How did you come to work in pay and benefits?
AM: “I was thinking about what to do after school and my dad was pushing me into computer science at university, but I didn’t want to do that. I decided to get a job and maybe go to university in the future.
“I found a job that I thought was quite interesting and got it, it was doing the admin for a guy that owned a few nightclubs in Bournemouth. The payroll manager asked me to help one day and I really enjoyed the connection payroll had with employees, dealing with their issues and helping them find solutions. That payroll manager was then made redundant and I was asked if I wanted to take over. That’s how I fell into payroll, 17 years ago.
“I’ve been at Lush for close to 10 years now and we have grown quite big in that time. I really enjoy what I do, so about five years ago I asked if I could expand my role from the UK into Europe, as well as look at the benefits side of things - they said yes!"
RS: You work across payroll and benefits, does that mean Lush has a separate reward function?
AM: “No, it all sort of comes to me.”
RS: So what exactly does your job entail and what does your team look like?
AM: “In the UK I have seven in the payroll team, which equates to about five full-time individuals, and they look after UK manufacturing, head office, digital teams and UK retail.
“I don’t manage the day-to-day of Europe on a whole, as each country has its own experts, but I have recently started managing France.
“My role across Europe is to offer support and guidance as we (in the UK) have experienced most of the issues they come across five to 10 years in advance.”
RS: Do you have separate benefits professionals in your team, or does everyone do both?
AM: “Everyone has a combined role on both pay and benefits, but we also have a people experience team who will look after benefits.
“Most countries will have someone running people experience and I will work closely with that person, but if they don’t - for example, countries that may only have two or three stores, someone in finance will often be relied on to come up with a benefits package, so I’ll step in and help create something in that country.”
RS: Does the the payroll function feel valued at Lush?
AM: “Oh yes, immensely so. I think that before I joined, they had a year of quite high turnover of payroll staff. There was one month where the whole of our manufacturing site just didn’t get paid, there was a temp doing the payroll and they didn’t escalate any issues and missed the payment deadline.
“I think it takes something like that to happen to highlight the importance of payroll. When you have 900 people in a factory not being paid, you wonder if they are actually going to turn up for work.”
“Lush understands the importance of payroll. The founders always mention the work we are doing, paying people.”
RS: There are many payrollers that feel undervalued at their companies. Do you think COVID-19 will change how the function is portrayed?
AM: “I think the pandemic will emphasis what an essential role to the business payroll is, but the profession’s profile has been building for a while. Since things like the auto-enrolment requirements came in, the apprenticeship levy and with constantly changing legislation, more people have recognised payroll and been coming to them for solutions.
“I would say that payroll professionals need to adapt to all the changes that come their way and become leaders on them, speak about the affects they will have on the business and have their voice heard.”
Read the full interview here.