Change Associates recently welcomed fifteen guests to a select HRIS event in partnership with Workday at Home House. We are immensely grateful to Ger Hussey of GSK and Martin Jackson of Grant Thornton for their open and honest case study accounts of their own HRIS-enabled people transformations.

We’ve put together a synopsis of these stories below – drawing out the key points made by our speakers around how to make a success of HRIS-enabled transformation, offering recommendations, and not forgetting the key watch-outs and ‘even better ifs’.  

If on reading either of these stories, any of the issues chime with what you are doing or you would value an informal conversation about transforming your people proposition, please contact David Cruise, Director, Business Transformation, on 0207 101 1979.


Lessons learned from two HR Transformations

Ger Hussey, VP HR Transformation, GSK, on the issue of a culture of control and the need to standardise before automating

“If I could do it again, I would standardise, optimise, then automate.”  (Ger Hussey)

HRIS implementation at GSK highlighted the fact that embedded cultures cannot simply be bulldozed out of the way purely by stating the benefits that tech solutions can bring.  HR and IT functions, usually speaking different languages, are both culturally resistant to change translating it as a loss of control and therefore will be naturally resistant and dwell on the perceived ‘risks’ rather than the positive outcomes that are possible. The idea of ‘standardisation’ of processes can also have the same effect and therefore a solid business case and palatable way of introducing them into the culture are essential for a successful implementation. 

Recommendation 1: understand the culture and set expectations that it will accept

The implementation at GSK also reinforced the fact that you really must think people before tech.  People have to want to use a system and believe that it will enhance their work life or they will not readily adopt it.  Therefore understanding the customer or user experience is key and this will only come through understanding what success will feel like for them and finding a common language or terminology which helps breakdown prejudice.  At GSK one simple renaming of the system to ‘Gemini’ made the system feel a little more bespoke rather than the singular ‘HR’ focus of Workday as a system and the standardisation that it could bring. 

Recommendation 2: customer/user experience is key to success – use language to break down barriers

Traceability of peoples actions and ability to report on these was a major selling point for the HRIS implementation at GSK.  Simply tracking the input of objectives and other performance management information was a major benefit but also the system enabled visibility of how well the standardised processes were being adopted by the business through the tracking of misdirected tickets which worked really well and when a reduction was demonstrated served to really improve confidence in using processes. 

Recommendation 3: use misdirected tickets as a measure of how well the process is going

As is usual, the rush to implement a HRIS such as Workday in order that it will solve all the problems can be or is a false economy.  It is true that the implementation can highlight needs to further optimise processes, as was the case at GSK,  but this should not really be happening at this point.  One of the key learnings from the project was therefore that automation or systemisation as a result of comprehensive standardisation and optimisation of processes is always going to result in a more successful implementation.  

Recommendation 4: standardise, optimise then automate.

Martin Jackson, Programme Lead, Business Transformation at Grant Thornton: on regaining credibility by putting process before configuration

“Spend time designing the vision, the experience, before translating to process and jumping to configuration. Workday won’t answer all the questions” (Martin Jackson)

Workday had been implemented in 2014 at Grant Thornton, but in 2015 it was perceived not to be delivering the expected benefits. In fact, HR headcount had doubled with a low base ratio of 1:27. There was an urgent need to rebuild HR credibility within the business. HR and IT relations had broken down – HR had perceivably ‘done Workday’ without talking to IT. From the start, there was a need to manage expectations with the business and rebuild relations. It was assessed that a shift in language could change the perception of users, managing customer expectations more positively.

Recommendation 1: use language positively – for example, don’t use the word ‘self-service’ – use ‘direct access’ instead.

Recruitment was a pain point for Grant Thornton. Key talent needed to be acquired and fast. The decision was taken to focus on the Recruitment workstream. Plus there was an urgent need to prove to the business that the Workday implementation issues could be solved. There were six systems stitched together including RPO and a need to manually re-key. The team were using spreadsheets and hard printed copies in the process. Huge error rates meant information was being sent to the wrong addresses causing vast amounts of extra work. Cost per hire was 50% above the industry standard.

Workday Recruiter had been licensed but to this point hadn’t been implemented. However, lessons learned in 2014 meant a shift in approach was taken – instead of jumping straight to configuration the team spent time designing the vision and process. What experience did they want the hiring manager and candidate to have? Once this was outlined, this vision could be translated into process, and finally the tech configured. Key to making this work however was having people in the team with the product and process knowledge to know what would work. Workday won’t necessarily answer all the questions at this early stage.

Recommendation 2: make sure you have the right team in place with the right product and process knowledge to help you design your vision, translate that into process, then determine the technology requirements.

Cost per hire reduced by 38% – Grant Thornton are now ahead of the industry standard. Quality of hire has also improved. Most importantly – improving this process gave the function credibility which then unlocked further investment. Integration with social media, using the company’s own brand for recruitment (instead of an agency) and e-signatures at final stage all served to further transform the process in a competitive industry where speed-to-hire is critical.

You can also read our research into how to select and implement a HRIS. Download it here.

Image copyright: The staircase, Home House, Portman Square

Sian Dodd
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