Interview with Mark Goodlake, group reward manager at Tullow Oil

Mark Goodlake, group reward manager at Tullow Oil, attributes his career success to the experience he has gained in a broad range of HR disciplines, and the lessons that he has learnt along the way. 


For example, at Astellas Pharmaceuticals, where he was senior director reward, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), before joining Tullow Oil last month as group reward manager, Goodlake learnt that reward helps to boost employee engagement. 

“At Astellas, we didn’t do anything unless it related to organisational values and strategies, so there was a joined-up approach,” he says. “That was a big learning curve for me. For example, we did a lot on health-related benefits and that was part of our journey towards being an employer of choice in the healthcare sector. So you could see there was a rationale to having these benefits rather than just thinking it’s flavour of the month.”

Goodlake began his career as an HR generalist before moving into reward. 

“I worked in talent management for a little while, and also performance management and as a generalist,” he says. “That helps me see things from the HR perspective, rather than just the reward perspective.”

Goodlake says that variety of experience enables him to see how reward relates to other business areas, rather than simply thinking about it in isolation.

Sense of fairness

But breadth of experience is not enough, says Goodlake. Reward professionals also need a well-developed sense of what is fair and consistent, particularly when dealing with conflicting opinions. “Sometimes, reward is about what management wants and what the employee wants,” he says. “Sometimes it’s a section of the business wanting to do something quite different and inconsistent.

“The mark of a reward professional is to take that independent view on decisions and think about what is right for the business and what is fair, rather than just a quick fix. That can make you a little unpopular at times, but it is quite important in this discipline.”

Global reward nous is becoming increasingly important for reward professionals as global employers strive to harmonise their benefits around the world, he says.

At Astellas, Goodlake and his reward team worked to align all aspects of the global employer’s reward package with the organisation’s business principles. “We had reward scans, whereby we went into each of the countries and compared the practices against the principles and then suggested any necessary improvements. That way, we got consistency without having the same policy in every country.” 

Global review

Goodlake is proud of the global reward review he worked on at Astellas, not least because it taught him how to take a flexible approach to managing reward in different countries.

He also cites his tenure at KPMG as a solid stepping stone in his career. “I worked at KPMG as a reward consultant for external clients and we advised on the grading structure for the UK judiciary, which was fascinating and quite a challenge,” he says. 

However, Goodlake says one of the most important lessons a reward professional must remember is to constantly review and check that they have understood the business needs and HR strategy of their employer, to ensure the reward approach supports these aims.

“I think that’s the fundamental route of it all,” he says. “Reward doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and sometimes I’ve been guilty of forgetting that we do have customers. We have to choose the most appropriate reward approaches for the business, and the need, not just what other people are doing.”


How would you describe yourself?

According to my 360-degree performance review, I’m pretty much analytical through and through. On the positive side, most of the time I can remain fairly calm in the job and I can see things from a different angle in terms of problem-solving. Being an analytical person, the downside of that means I’m a bit of a worrier, but I’m working on it. 

Who is your role model?

Outside work, I’m quite inspired by people who succeed against the odds, so I’ve read a lot about the polar explorers, such as [Sir Ernest] Shackleton and [Robert Falcon] Scott. I always enjoy their stories of how they’ve battled against enormous odds to win.

Do you read management books?

I read management books when I’ve got a particular problem to solve. For example, I’m currently reading a book on how to approach the first 100 days in your new role: Your first 100 days: how to make maximum impact in your new leadership role, by Niamh O’Keeffe, published by Financial Times Series in October 2011. I like practical books that give a roadmap of how to do something.

Before I joined Tullow, I read The guide to everlasting employability, by Michael Moran and Linda Jackson, published in February 2013 by Lulu Publishing. It makes you think about your own career and development.

Curriculum vitae

2014-present group reward manager, Tullow Oil

2003-2013 senior director reward, EMEA, Astellas Pharmaceuticals

1999-2003 European partner, performance and reward, Mercer

1995-1999 principal consultant, performance and reward, KPMG

1993-1995 international HR manager, Glaxo

1989-1993 senior compensation and benefits officer, Glaxo

1988-1989 personnel officer, Glaxo (now GlaxoSmithKline)