New Namely president on the need for HR tech innovation

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Namely, a human resource technology platform provider that services small to medium-sized companies, recently appointed Graham Younger as its new president and chief revenue officer. Younger is an industry veteran who has worked at SAP, Oracle and, most recently, online storage service Box. Employee Benefit News recently spoke with Younger about his mandate for Namely, why suspicions over cloud services are unwarranted and why spreadsheets still play a role in HR executives’ daily work lives.

EBN: What are the special demands of today’s HR and benefits executive?

Younger: When you look at the human capital management market, customers and employees are the two most important things in any organization. Looking after your employees and making sure that you attract and retain the best talent is what differentiates companies in a competitive standpoint. The battle in who succeeds and excels and who leads in the future will be largely based on execution.

This is an incredibly important area to address. To provide companies with the tools to look after their employees and give them tools that are intuitive, easy to use and look like the kind of tools that they were using their personal lives on their smartphones is important. I believe this is a massive opportunity and if you look at the amount of people we can touch moving forward, it’s a huge challenge.

EBN: Are you surprised at how paper-based HR departments remain these days?

Younger: That’s one of the huge opportunities that we have. If you look at the way this sector has been addressed in the past, there’s an absolute need for progress or disruption of current and existing processes. The fact that things are paper-based today in such a large function within an organization cries out for a solution to that paper-based process. People are still using spreadsheets to manage the most important and largest investment that they will ever make in their human capital.

One of the reasons why I’m so compelled to solve that problem is if you can go in with value and provide people with an application that’s easy to use, offers value and solves an existing problem, ultimately that’s all you can ask for as a company that wants to grow.

EBN: Why do spreadsheets still have such a lock on HR executives? Is it a technology that they’re accustomed to, or is it because all the latest technology goes to the profit centers and not to HR?

Younger: They have had a lack of access to great technology because of the expense associated with implementing that technology. If you look at on-premise software back in the PeopleSoft days, it’s not just acquiring that software, implementing that software for mid-sized companies was deemed prohibitively expensive. Now we’re giving them accessibility from a price point. We’re providing a cloud-based software as a service that has a quick time to value that ultimately makes sense to them from a financial perspective. That allows them to set it up quickly, get value and not have the same level of both financial and time investment to bring value to their employees and disrupt what they’re doing.

EBN: Is there any trepidation for putting employee information on the cloud?

Younger: If you look at cloud computing and at Amazon Web Services, which we use, it’s actually more secure than distributed computing and client-server computing. Back then, those solutions were islands of information and had multiple points where you could breach and obtain information as a bad actor.

The way that cloud computing is set up, it’s a bit like going back to the mainframe days where it’s centrally stored and managed. The security protocol associated with the data centers and the partners that we deal with are the very highest in compliance standards. It is more secure than having information sitting in a spreadsheet or having information in workstations around the office that ultimately could leave on a laptop.

I think we enhance that level of security in maintaining the employee confidentiality and making sure their records stay only in the hands of the people that are meant to have it.

EBN: What’s the first new piece of HCM technology that you’re working on?

Younger: We’re looking at how we innovate. Human capital management, payroll, benefits and analytics are a big focus for us. It’s not just managing the employees but it’s getting the insights from those employees and looking at how you can turn those insights into real actionable strategies within your organization to maximize the return you get from that human capital.

We believe that the real ROI is not just releasing the people who are managing the spreadsheets or from cumbersome administrative process. We’re allowing them to analyze the data associated with their people and then invest in those strategies to drive that competitive element that differentiates them from their competition.

The companies that ultimately are going to make it as easy as possible and provide that information to empower their people and provide the right data to act quickly will be the ones that win. I think Namely is right at the heart of that that third wave of solutions in this space.

EBN: Namely provides an HR platform for midsize companies. Are you looking to grow that target demo?

Younger: We certainly have enough runway with the mid-market opportunity in the U.S., but I have experience in the enterprise market Fortune 500 global citizens. While I do believe that there are a lot of other companies serving that market, I think that as we invest we don’t want to limit ourselves. While it’s not our current focus, it certainly would be something that we would evaluate as one of our growth engines in the future. I spent 12 years working in London and being in the U.S. for 12 years so certainly the ability to run a European and global business is something that Namely will very much have focus on at some stage in the near and midterm.

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