Re-energizing HR: One company’s journey

Re-energizing HR: One company’s journey

Posted by Christopher Cameron on January 06, 2016.

One of the trends we examined in our Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report was the need for HR to get better at keeping pace with changes in the business. With only 5 percent of survey respondents rating their organization’s HR performance as excellent, and 32 percent rating it as underperforming or “getting by,” it seems clear that many HR organizations are struggling to deliver what the business needs (see Reinventing HR: An extreme makeover). This could have been the case with the HR organization in one company we worked with —but it wasn’t. Instead, HR leaders took the opportunity afforded by the business’s dramatic turnaround to reinvent HR in similar bold fashion.

Though well-known in its industry, the company had been struggling in a very competitive marketplace until a new CEO came on board. His vision for transforming the company, and even the market, focused on new innovative services and a mission to eliminate customer pain points. Inspired by the business’s marketplace success, the company’s HR leadership resolved to align HR service with the upward trajectory of the business and to re-energize the HR environment.

HR adopted the business’s guiding principle to remove pain points, this time directed to internal customers—the company’s approximately 45,000 full-time employees. How could HR change its current service model to remake the customer touch points, simplifying and improving the overall experience? What would it take to bring its external customer service promise—smooth systems, simple solutions, and innovative approaches—inside to benefit employees?

Four “mantras” became the project’s guide. We believe they are valid focal points for any company embarking on an HR transformation.

  • Focus on the employee experience. The project team resolved to walk in the employees’ shoes, paying attention to what really matters to employees, the pain points they encounter, and how those pains could be eliminated.
  • Challenge the current state. Too often, HR processes and systems are the product of years of evolution and adaptation to meet specific needs that arise. In this case, the current HR operating environment—a highly customized HR on-premises platform—was a major impediment, frustrating both HR and IT. To support the transformation it envisioned, the project team chose to replace legacy on-premises systems with a suite of cloud-based technologies. Workday’s Human Capital Management (HCM) system was the backbone of this new HR platform and included compensation, performance and succession management, employee and manager self-service, mobile capabilities, and onboarding. Integrations between HCM and payroll, time & attendance, learning management (LMS), workforce management, and numerous legacy systems established Workday as the hub of HR.
  • Configure, not customize. Workday’s configurable business process framework incorporates HR leading practices and inherently limits the scope of application customizations, which helped HR standardize and simplify practices. The move from traditional, heavily customized, on-premises human capital systems to cloud-based systems introduced tremendous change in how the IT teams manage Workday’s biannual feature release updates. To respond to this challenge, IT embraced the company’s external customer service focus, making dramatic changes to address, serve, and support what had become a far different HR operating system. Transitioning from its linear, waterfall development approach, IT teams have embraced an agile methodology better aligned to more frequent, incremental delivered updates. With few application customizations to develop and support, IT teams shifted focus to new features that could be more easily configured to meet the HR “customer” needs. The bonus: becoming more nimble enables IT to not only better support HR but also its other internal customers and the broader business.
  • Embrace new ways of doing things. Change management played a critical role in the overall effort, particularly since the project’s go-live was a “big bang” effort launching the HCM, time & attendance, and payroll systems simultaneously. To facilitate change, the project team’s change management specialists engaged in a thorough and carefully managed communications program that leveraged more traditional media, such as email and the employee portal, along with dynamic enterprise social media. The brand values that helped drive the company’s market success were also woven throughout its communication plan, improving engagement and impact. Moreover, the company’s considerable marketing and creative production skills were leveraged to produce television-commercial-quality project videos that generated excitement and buy-in from the project team and employees.

The original business case for the project had several objective elements that were expected to drive a return—primarily based on improved process efficiencies compared to current processes and savings realized by eliminating or reducing costs associated with on-premises systems and the need to support a large scope of customized applications and associated upgrades. Perhaps the truest measure of the project’s success, however, is in how well it met its primary goal—simplify and improve the employee experience. Employee feedback, gathered through comments on the company’s internal social network, indicated a very enthusiastic response to the new systems. A telling example: one VP, after using manager self-service for the first time, pronounced it “ATM easy.”

While this project is a good example of HR following the business’s visionary lead, we also encourage HR to lead transformation in its own right. New technologies and cloud-based systems are redefining the role of HR and improving its overall effectiveness by creating sustainable systems of engagement—improving productivity, collaboration, and data-driven decision making. With results like these, HR can be the leader that inspires other functions to take their own “re-energizing” journey to better support the business.


Christopher Cameron is a senior manager in the HR Transformation Workday practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP. He has more than 20 years of experience helping clients deliver HR, financial, information security, and other strategic technology initiatives.

As used in this document, “Deloitte” means Deloitte Consulting LLP, a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP. Please see www.deloitte.com/us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

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