Afifa Siddiqui, CEO at Canadian Payroll Services tells us about online HRM systems.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Afifa Siddiqui: It’s been different and we’ve tried to make the most of this unusual time! My husband and I are both working from home, in a condo that wasn’t built with two offices. We’ve had to engage our humor on a regular basis – because the alternative could get ugly 😊. To keep well, we’ve kept busy throughout these months and are loving the flexibility that working from home has introduced to our schedules.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Canadian Payroll Services.
Afifa Siddiqui: I started my career as an electrical engineer, but when the jobs in my industry began being outsourced, I became emersed in a long job search. When the interviews I was doing didn’t feel like a good fit for me, I suggested someone else in my network. After a few rounds of this, I realized that in finding the right fit for so many, I found my own new job too: recruiting.
Leaning on my experience and professional network in power engineering, I founded my first business, a niche recruiting firm focused on placing consulting engineers in the hardest-to-fill roles: Cronos Consulting.
My current business, Canadian Payroll Service (CPS) began as an experiment, spun out of Cronos. It was designed to meet the needs of some of our then biggest clients in energy and industry; but what we discovered was a growing need for remote payroll, and specifically for remote Employer of Record services, across the market.
CPS’s clientele is now broadly based, but our service offering is focused: we employ remote Canadian workers on behalf of global companies. We deliver a full employee experience, complete with benefits and perks comparable to global, corporate employers. We scaled by focusing on delivering a specialized service to an ever-growing market. We target businesses in the USA, UK, EU, Germany, Australia, and other countries, who want to hire remotely in Canada.
How does Canadian Payroll Services innovate?
Afifa Siddiqui: I believe that Canadian Payroll Services delivers market-changing service to our clients. Unlike many of our competitors, we’re focused on developing deep local expertise in Canadian payroll, human resources, and employment standards and laws. Our account managers are certified human resources professionals, and our back office is staffed by certified payroll practitioners, all of whom work exclusively in Canada.
We empower our clients to hire in Canada, without setting up a local entity, and in doing so, we take on all of the administrative burdens pertaining to employment, the most important of which is compliance. We work with the best employment lawyers in the country to ensure we can deliver great service while also consistently doing things the right way.
Starting with my first business, Cronos, I have always believed in the importance of developing and owning tools. At CPS, we’ve partnered to deliver a global payment platform to our clients, and are working to create best-in-class, self-serve tools for workers.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Afifa Siddiqui: We haven’t been untouched by the pandemic, but as an essential service, CPS has managed to maintain and even grow since the start of the pandemic. The need for remote payroll and EOR hasn’t gone away. If anything, with so many businesses going remote in response to the pandemic, it’s grown. We have benefitted from hiring managers’ growing comfort with hiring remote and abroad, and their need to reduce overhead costs without compromising employee experience.
CPS’ service allows our clients to employ top talent in Canada, without creating a local entity, registering their business, or setting up a physical office. Instead, we hire their candidates on their behalf and ensure they have a great onboarding experience without ever leaving their homes.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Afifa Siddiqui: We shut down our downtown Toronto office last year, on March 13. We knew that the province would soon issue a shutdown order and that it would be safer for our team to work at home. At the time, we thought the move to the remote would be temporary. Like most people, I didn’t anticipate the full scope of what was to come. But while there were rocky moments during the transition, we soon found that the team at CPS was working happily and productively from home.
This accelerated and expanded my long-term plan to offer flex work and some days working from home. For now, most of the team is working permanently from home, with a few going into the office to perform key duties. It’s been a rewarding experience for our team, but It’s also forced us to change a lot about how we do HR, from remote working agreements to supply our team with equipment, to employee engagement.
The most important lesson we learned was that we’re adaptable, even more than I knew. A year on and with an ever-growing team, many of our current employees have never worked in the office or met any of the team in person.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Afifa Siddiqui: Going fully remote ourselves has brought us closer to our clients and forced us to streamline our processes. We understand the employee experience of CPS placement workers like we never did before, and we’ve responded accordingly. We’ve learned that human connection matters more than ever, in a remote world. That’s meant emphasizing one-to-one touchpoints, be that through Teams or phone calls. We’ve also learned that the best thing a tool can do is simplify your experience. In a remote environment, any added complexity can lead to compounded errors and frustration. That’s informed our entire workflow and how we approach development.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Afifa Siddiqui: CPS did not qualify for or require government grants during the pandemic. However, we keenly understand the importance of them and how they’ve buoyed the business ecosystem around us.
Your final thoughts?
Afifa Siddiqui: It’s been a tough year, and the one ahead of us won’t be easy either. However, this experience has revealed some of the emerging truths about the future of work that we should all embrace. We’ve learned that remote work is possible and profitable for most employers and employees. We’ve learned that health and safety, sustainability, and Corporate Social Responsibility need to go beyond a handful of training sessions or donations each year. The future of work is flexible, fluid, and diverse and it’s the companies that embrace this that will succeed.
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