HR heads from Jaguar Land Rover, Lufthansa and Sberbank share the challenges they faced in digitizing HR and what it takes to implement it and match employee expectations.
HR technology has certainly transformed how HR functions for the better. However, if not implemented well, it could reflect in business performance as well. This is what was discussed at length at the SAP SuccessFactors conference and exhibition held this month in the UK. In one of the panels, HR heads from large businesses such as Jaguar Land Rover, Lufthansa and Sberbank deliberated on the challenges they faced in digitizing HR and implementing it in their organizations to match employee expectations.
All agreed that to make workforces embrace HR technologies, HR systems have to be intuitive and similar to the consumer technology youngsters today are used to, and expect in the workplace as well.
Yulia Chupina, deputy chairman of the executive board at Russia’s Sberbank agreed that one can’t provide a good customer experience without providing good employee experience. “Unfortunately, we are lagging behind. If you look at where banks are investing, it is for external customers, not for the employees,” she shared at the SuccessConnect London conference. She revealed that Sberbank is belatedly catching up with the latest HR technology and with the help of SAP’s SuccessFactors technology, the company plans to streamline its workforce data and analytics.
This may not be enough, though. Chupina shared that the bank’s IT team identified 40 gaps between its requirements and SuccessFactors’ capabilities, leading to some discussions and customizations as the bank sought a mobile solution that could provide a seamless service. Chupina believes that getting Sberbank’s internal HR technology right will help it to improve its customer service as the banking industry faces an existential threat from newer fintech (financial technology) companies.
Julian Simee, senior manager, corporate HR strategy, Lufthansa, also agreed that investing in HR technology would ultimately enable the airline to provide better service to passengers. “If, at the end of the day, our employees are not happy with the internal processes and are not able to get their HR dealt with easily, at some point it is going to translate to our customers,” he opined.
He further shared a concern with implementation going wrong as he mentioned that cloud HR means a move to self-service HR, and if the company gets it wrong, it will breed resentment among its workforce. “We don’t just want managers to deal with HR, we want them to deal with our customers, and create digital business. If we don’t get the experience right, they are going to be spending their time doing HR,” he said.
He shared how the airline learnt this the hard way a few years ago, when it first tried to update its HR technology. The attempt was not accepted well by the employees and the managers rebelled by printing out the electronic forms and posting them back to the HR department, rather than using the system as it was designed.
“If you have a poor process and make it digital, you just end up with a poor digital process,” said Simee. He then shared that considering the past experience, Lufthansa is now cautious of such blow-ups and has rethought and simplified its HR processes, ensuring that the same procedures are followed across all parts of the business. This time, Lufthansa has taken time to build support from its employees and to get business leaders and the works council on board. “If we don’t get it right, we will end up having a boycott of the transformation,” said Simee.
The airline started as a government agency, was then privatized and has gone through numerous mergers, gathering employee data in systems covering 140 countries. Due to this, the company data looks chaotic such that something as simple as whether an employee is male or female is recorded in completely different ways in different HR systems. Hence, the company is now looking to ensure that its pool of HR data is accurate. “We are now thinking about whether to have employees enter their new data one time (on SuccessFactors),” he said.
Like Chupina, Simee added that the airline plans to allow its HR staff and employees to access the company’s HR systems remotely. “We hope that SAP will catch up on the mobile element,” said Simee. “We do have a large mobile workforce, and they want to do their HR matters when they are sitting on the couch at home.” Although not expecting much savings on investments made in HR technology, the airline is certainly hoping it will make the HR processes more efficient and more transparent.
Jaguar Land Rover, in a bid to keep its internal systems up to date with the rapid developments in automotive technology, and changes in the way people own and use cars, is in the process of updating its HR systems. With significant growth in revenues and workforce, the company had to turn to mobile devices to allow more flexible ways of working for its increasing workforce.
“We looked at how we centralize our HR and how we map our technology, to make it scalable and effective,” said Jon West, HR director, manufacturing for Jaguar Land Rover. The change required clear communication with employees and managers, listening to their feedback, and being willing to recognize problems when they arose to fix them. In line with that, West shared, “I think we were lucky because we had a relatively young HR team that could see the possibilities. There were some people who were worried about the transformation that we had to take on the journey.”
Another challenge the company had to overcome was to have a single, “clean” set of HR data about its workforce. “We have been doing quite a few data-cleansing exercises, asking people to update their data,” said West. “We are now at the inflection point.” Although it is still early, but West says surveys and data from the HR helpdesk show that satisfaction with HR has improved. It is significantly easier to carry out performance management of employees using the new technology, he said. “You are probably saving 10 hours per manager across 4,000 or 5000 managers.”
This in turn impacts how well managers and employees accept the HR technology, making it a “no-brainer”. He also shared that until the company introduced SuccessFactors, its HR department was growing in line with the workforce. Now, Jaguar Land Rover can employ fewer HR staff relative to the size of the workforce and they have more time to focus on added-value work.