Rick Hammell on Atlas, his company that helps employers manage talent in other countries – and why he had to set it up.
Like most entrepreneurs, Rick Hammell built his company Atlas because he identified an area where others were having difficulties.
“The seeds of Atlas were planted a couple of years ago when I was working in the Middle East for a US government contractor. We had relocated some employees and their families into the region but [we] were having difficulties with managing various parts of their experience, including payroll, due to the reliance on a complex network of third-party providers,” he explained.
Hammell found out the hard way how difficult it was to outsource some of the finer, bureaucratic details that come with employing a global team.
After employees started missing paychecks, Hammell had to set up his own entity in the Middle East in order to manage the process himself.
“I quickly discovered that a host of other organisations were also having similar problems and I knew that a better solution was possible,” he said, of his decision to set up Atlas.
Atlas is what’s known as ‘employer-of-record’ (EOR) software. Its platform helps companies that want to expand globally to manage compliance and pay, and onboard staff – without having to rely on multiple third party providers spread over lots of jurisdictions.
Buoyed by the rise of flexible working models over the past few years, Hammell and his team have been busy expanding Atlas.
It now owns entities in more than 160 countries. It offers clients country insights based on where they’re expanding into, as well as legal and compliance advice.
‘I think that employers have now come to recognise just how vital remote working options are for retaining top talent, especially in the tech industry’
– RICK HAMMELL
Ireland is a key part of Atlas’ operation with the company’s Europe GM, Ruairi Kelleher, based in Dublin. Kelleher spoke to SiliconRepublic.com previously about Atlas’ expansion in Europe and how it has capitalised on the flexible working trend.
“Over the past three years, the working world has changed irrevocably. Many workers now view the option of remote working as a requirement rather than an added benefit,” said Hammell.
That means, of course, that companies have no option but to expand their current talent pools into different countries as staff become increasingly transient. For many workers, all that’s needed is a laptop and an internet connection. It’s the employer’s responsibility to take care of the rest.
Before flexible work was so commonplace it was perhaps easier for employers to concentrate all their talent in one jurisdiction.
As Hammell pointed out, the Great Resignation that swept over the US and other parts of the world in the wake of the pandemic was a rejection of existing workplace practices.
“I think that employers have now come to recognise just how vital remote working options are for retaining top talent, especially in the tech industry.”
“But adopting a borderless working approach doesn’t just make it easier to hang on to the talent you have; it also allows you to widen the pool of available talent and hire the right person for the job, regardless of where they live,” Hammell added.
In November 2022, when Kelleher spoke to SiliconRepublic.com, Hammell offered a brief summary of his predictions for the EOR market in 2023.
He said at the time that the search for new talent would take precedence over the search for new markets in the decisions of companies to look beyond their domestic markets.
More recently, Chicago-based Hammell doubled down on his earlier comments.
“In the next couple of years, I believe that the most innovative and successful businesses will be the ones that embrace the new borderless working environment.
“Beyond the obvious business benefits of accessing the best global talents, building a global workforce fosters a diversity of perspective and a culture of trust and accountability that will serve your company in more ways than you can imagine.”
What advice does Hammell have for companies that are beginning to widen their talent pool into other countries?
‘Adopting a borderless working approach doesn’t just make it easier to hang on to the talent you have; it also allows you to widen the pool of available talent and hire the right person for the job, regardless of where they live’
– RICK HAMMELL
Whether they use EOR software providers or not, they should be mindful of the amount of work involved.
“Going remote is not just as simple as applying existing processes for onboarding and management to a new region. Every country has different employment, tax and HR laws that an employer must remain compliant with. It can take months to get an entity set up correctly in a country, which means it will take even longer to start actually hiring and onboarding employees.
“And that doesn’t even mention the cost, which can average about $80,000 (€75,000) per country.”
However, from his experience, Hammell reckons that “most employers are now at least willing to consider remote working”.
They have little choice in the matter. As Hammell said, “The world is becoming increasingly global — don’t get left behind!”
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