After years of working as an HR leader, Rick Hammell had that big moment that changed everything. He experienced the struggle of paying global employees, which at times left his own people with late paychecks and dwindled trust—all caused by miscommunication from outsourced payroll partners. So, looking to solve the challenge of managing, onboarding and paying an international workforce, Rick founded Elements Global Services in 2015.
And he did so while simultaneously creating the Employer of Record (EOR) model and establishing a direct approach to helping customers globally expand, onboard, manage and pay remote talent through one provider with legal entities in over 160 countries. Today, Elements is the largest and most experienced Direct EOR.
The company is now onto its next big milestone as it reintroduces itself as Atlas, simplifying global expansion and hiring with one platform and enhanced EOR solutions.
The SHRM Blog sat down with Rick to learn about his company’s growth and how it's changing the name of the game by connecting talent and employers all over the world.
SHRM Staff: Your company has announced a new name and the launch of a new platform. What was the catalyst for that decision?
Hammell: The new name reflects the launch of our new SaaS-based Human Experience Management (HXM) platform, which simplifies global people operations with unified software and solutions that guide companies on their growth journeys.
I started Elements when I saw businesses struggling to navigate global expansion. Today, as Atlas, we're unveiling a new evolution—a global technology solution supported by experts and redefining the market with a single platform. It’s built to provide the best human experience based on our years of experience and best practices when navigating the challenges of quickly deploying and paying international employees while ensuring compliance with local regulations.
The Atlas platform allows customers to manage the entire employee lifecycle—from onboarding and managing compliance and benefits to paying employees accurately and on time. It also enables self-service capabilities that drive real-time insights and improved business outcomes.
Atlas differentiates itself as the largest 100% Direct Employer of Record (EOR). We remove third- and fourth-party vendors and solve complex global HR operations challenges via local entities and expert-powered technology.
The Atlas brand more closely celebrates our vision—we see a future where growth thrives across borders and cultures. You'll see this in our new name—recalling the ancient myth of our namesake but updated for modern times—and our new logo—the signature “a” holds aloft three dots representing our focus on supporting customers, the people who work for them and our own Atlas people.
SHRM Staff: You’ve suffered the same frustrations that Atlas solves for companies around the world. What experiences in your HR career helped shape Atlas?
Hammell: Prior to founding this company, I was a client of this industry. As the Head of HR for a global company, I experienced challenges paying global employees. At the time, we didn’t have our own entities—a necessity when it comes to hiring and paying an international workforce. So, when I was walked through the Global Professional Employer Organization (PEO) process of managing global talent, I realized the difficulties that would arise.
Many of the companies offering a solution were essentially brokers that would outsource HR and payroll services to third-party providers in different countries. Unfortunately, this gets costly and difficult to manage.
That was my “aha” moment! I knew that a direct entity was a better and more streamlined solution, built on my experience with the indirect model.
From the beginning, the company was built on the Direct EOR model—a term I coined while simultaneously starting this company. With entities in over 160 countries, we enable our clients to expand with faster speed to market, reduced costs and lower compliance risks through localized expertise and support.
SHRM Staff: How did your HR career experience shape Atlas company values?
Hammell: As a minority CEO, I’ve faced a lot of cultural and societal challenges. And these challenges have been present throughout my professional journey, but I never allowed myself to be the victim, only the victor.
I want everyone in Atlas to feel comfortable in their own skin. We focus on representation and equality within the organization, not just to hit a quota but because we mean it. Therefore, diversity is one of our core values.
When I look at who we are, we are a global company that looks global. And this value is embedded in our own company. Our people live all over the world and speak more than 90 languages, supporting our clients. Diversity and inclusion are at the core of Atlas, and we enable this through our business model and technology.
SHRM Staff: How does Atlas live out those values?
Hammell: Our business model broadens the career opportunities for people working in underserved locales. Until Atlas, many organizations couldn’t access talent in countries they didn’t have an entity in. . Similarly, for startups and smaller businesses, it helps to put them on the international playing field—turning commercial innovations into viable global enterprises.
We’re enabling innovative companies and global talent to connect, an option that once wasn’t possible. Think about that; we have a platform that gives opportunities—that’s global impact. We help people, and this is our foundation.
SHRM Staff: What do you have planned for attendees at the SHRM22 Expo?
Hammell: Attendees can expect demonstrations of our new platform, insights from the Atlas leadership team, giveaways and more!
On June 13 and 14, key Atlas leaders and I will discuss the EOR industry, the new Atlas platform and its functionality, global onboarding, and everything you need to know about global people operations. Each session will fall under the categories expand, onboard, manage and pay.
By attending all four sessions, attendees will have a chance to win a YETI adventure gift package. Additionally, when they attend at least one session, we’ll make a $25 donation in the attendee's name to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago. This is an organization that is meaningful to me, as it reflects our value of positively impacting the communities that we serve.
I’m excited to introduce Atlas at SHRM! You can find the full agenda here.
The team looks forward to seeing you all at Booth 4035!