Successful HR database multi-site roll out – Presentation by Samantha Parr, HR Specialist

Samantha Parr HR specialist at Wesco Aircraft, talks about the four steps to a successful HR database multi-site roll out.

(Samantha Parr, Wesco Aircraft) First of all just some introductions, so my name is Samantha Parr and I’m the HR specialist at Wesco Aircraft.
Wesco Aircraft is an aerospace distributor of different fasteners and parts for commercial and military aircraft. We’ve got about a 1000 employees globally and about 240 employees across the UK and Europe.
What I’m going to do today is just talk you through what I’m calling the four steps to a successful HR database multi-site roll out. But before I do that what I want to just do is give you a little bit of scene setting, I wanted to take you right back to the start of our project and just give you a bit of a sense of where we were before I tell you where we are now.


    So we were quite disjointed; we had numerous Excel spreadsheets, we had paper files, some of the function was managed by finance teams so for employees certainly and managers they were unsure as to which person to come for or for what piece of information, whether that information was going to be accurate and how timely that information could be gotten hold of. The other thing that we wanted to do was to make sure as the HR function that we were demonstrating the value added activities we could bring to the business.

    So with that in mind our initial aims and objectives were to make sure that we chose a tool to maintain the momentum of driving the HR function forward. We wanted to take a piece of software that was flexible enough to work for Wesco rather than Wesco having to work around the parameters of the software.

    We needed the capability to deliver continuous improvement – It’s a key objective for Wesco and it’s certainly a key objective for us as a function. We needed to make sure that not only were we able to deliver this improvement, that we were delivering consistent processes. So every employees experience and every line manager’s experience, whether it was in the UK or any of the different sites, it was the same.

    We also needed to make sure that we improved HR’s compliance with some of the key industry standards, some of the things that we were interested in making sure we complied with was Sarbanes and Oxley and SC21.

    Finally, but not least we needed to make sure that we engaged our employees and our managers, we did this by choosing the self-service element of the software to really bring them and give them an interactive experience and also allow them the responsibility and accountability of their data.

    We also wanted to make sure that we aimed for a culture of education and when I just take you through some of the modules and some of the deliverables that we have achieved, we are definitely making sure that all of our employees are engaging and taking ownership for their learning.
    So for a successful multi-site roll out, these are what I call the four steps to success. First of all you need to make sure that you acquire the right software and in doing that you need to make sure that you go about it in the right way. You need to also make sure your data collation and the integrity of your data is paramount.

    The other thing that you need to think about are the training workshops and this isn’t just simply how do you use the software but what are the benefits, what are you going to bring, how are you going to use this software as an employee, as a manager and as a HR professional.

    The final point is configuration and maximisation, I’m going to give you a summary of some of the things we’ve done with the flexible software we’ve chosen, but this final point is ongoing. This is the one that is the most rewarding and exciting opportunity with the software of choice.

    So the first one – acquiring the software. Some of the things that we thought about were both from an internal and external perspective. We needed to make sure that we were delivering a piece of software that wasn’t just for HR. That it was going to be a value added business tool as well.

    In order to do that we thought about not only the business strategy and the direction of the organisation but what was our vice presidents drivers, what did he want to do with the business and the HR function. For us it was simple, he was coining the phrase “culture of education”, so we needed to make sure that our software enabled that and delivered on that.

    The business strategy for us was, like I’ve already mentioned, Sarbanes and Oxley, compliance standards and it was also to maximise our sales growth. So we needed to think about a piece of software that wasn’t just for right now, it was for the future in terms of recruitment but also in terms of if we were to increase the size of our organisation, so we needed a piece of software that could cover a growing workforce.

    Obviously we thought about our HR strategy, we thought about the things that we wanted to deliver on and in doing that we thought about the resourcing that we needed to achieve, we thought about the learning and development processes and policies, what we also and most importantly thought about organisational effectiveness.

    We also put together a justification to the board and the culture at Wesco isn’t about justifying your existence, so cost for us wasn’t the main driver, what we were clear on was what are our objectives, goals and measures. So how do we say to the board, how do they know when we have achieved our objectives? So we needed to make sure that we gave them some quantifiables and we talked to them about what we perceived to be the cost benefits and also the employee engagement benefits and certainly the benefits from a culture of education. The external processes were just as important if not more important because you don’t just think about software in isolation, you need to think about lots of different providers. So in doing that we actually invited lots of providers to our site, we asked them to do the sell – tell us what the benefits are, tell us about the cost and in doing that we were also able to get hold of some references from other employees and employers that were using the software of our choice. We took the opportunity to identify some objective measures, so we were very clear on what are our critical success factors.

    So for us we needed to make sure that employees had self-service, we needed to make sure that we could have a flexible system to grow with our business, we needed to make sure that we could deliver on managing and measuring the training input and output of the organisation. The other thing that I found really valuable was the opportunity to find out about case studies and that’s the reason why I’ve chosen to accept my invitation today to come and talk to each of you.

    The reason why I really benefited from case studies was speaking to other HR professionals about how they are using their software gave me ideas. So quite a few of the things that I’ve rolled out has been from an experience like what you’re going through now or even meeting and speaking to other professionals using software. Something that we also thought about was when we were doing our justification to the board, let’s use a series of measures that they are familiar with, so we chose to use the same measures that we use in our performance development appraisal process, which sounds quite simple but we basically said what meets our expectations, what exceeds our expectations and what is below our expectations. And using those three simple rules we were able to accumulate a score for each piece of software.

    The next step is data collation and integrity, what I would say at this point is I was absolutely nervous as hell, we were going from a tried and tested method of storing employee’s personal data, to moving it to a brand new piece of software. So at this point I needed to make sure that not only was myself and my team trained in using the software but we were also reassured and confident that when the data was in the system that it would remain and that it would be consistent and accurate every single time. We created a project plan for mapping the data on to the system, but we also did our own internal dip checks and data reconciliation. So we got some of our gurus, quite often the people that are in payroll are fantastic with excel, so we got our payroll team to do some reconciliation against the data and just randomly select employees and just check their information.

    The data integrity was a critical success factor for us because what we were saying to employees was we were going to move your information to a web based piece of software. That obviously caused some concerns as to the security of the software, so we needed to make sure that we tested their access levels, we only made sure that certain employees and certain managers had access to certain parts of the system. The other way that we did that was once we rolled out the software, we got every employee to check their data and to make sure that the information was accurate so their again we had another check of the integrity of the data in the system.

    The third step is the delivery or the roll out – the physical roll out of the software and we chose to do this in a series of interactive workshops. We spent quite a bit of time meeting with all employees and line managers but we decided to invest that time so they had a more value added experience. What we actually did was design separate line manager and employee training, we thought about the about the groups of employees that we were putting together. So we recognised that it was important to get a multi department, multi-site collection of employees.

    We needed to think about the IT competence of those individuals because some people within our organisation aren’t used to using the computer, don’t have to use the computer and we also thought about who are our champions across the organisation, who are the people that are going to come out really energised and really positive from the implementation of this software. We tried to kind of spot those throughout each of the workshops so they were going out and sending the positive messages that we were trying to create. We created a safe environment, so we set up a series of test employees and we allowed the real employees and the real line managers to go on and use the self-service in that test environment. So no question was stupid, they couldn’t break the software, they could try, they could navigate the whole way around and really get a sense of what it’s going to mean for them. We also took the opportunity to do the sell, so we needed to make sure the employees were aware of where we were going, where we’d been, how we were going to get to our aims and objectives, provide reassurance to them again about their data but we also set up a help desk. So we made it possible that if any employee had a technical issue or they had something that they couldn’t remember how to do or it wasn’t in the training manual perhaps, we had a helpdesk on our intranet and that came straight to us so we were able to interact with the employees even after the roll out of the software.

    Finally we chose to actually designate in branch HR super users. So they were super users to add starters, make transfers, remove leavers from the system, so these were the ones that were really keeping the data accurate because obviously were only as good as were are perceived and if our data is accurate, that has a positive recognition in respect to the function.

    The final step and as I said earlier on this is the step that doesn’t really have an end point, is the configuration and the maximisation of the software. This is the point that we have reached now and I am getting so much personal reward and I’m seeing so much influence and reward that’s moving across the organisation. Again we created a project plan for the system development and we were able to make the system work for Wesco. So we had a series of manual processes, we’ve still got some manual processes, but what we’ve been able to do is map them onto the system. And that has been fantastic, no longer do we have to rely on memory, no longer does one person have to have a different induction experience to someone else, everybody where possible is having the same experience no matter what sight they join Wesco.

    We continue to strive for added value and very much we have seen this purchase of this software as a business tool first and a HR tool second. Yes, it provides the house for our information but more so its providing the opportunity to strip back time out of processes, allow HR to focus on more value added activities so we can think about creating new initiatives, driving a wellbeing platform for example rather than getting caught up in administering information.

    Now the other things that I think is paramount when you think about implementing and rolling out a piece of software is that you maintain your passion and your drive and you are an advocate for that software, you talk about that software whenever you get the opportunity, you offer that software.

    We do have an operating system, however we are now starting to use some of the HR software to manage some of our other operational activities. So it really is a widespread arena for you to just get creative and use it however you want to use it. Some of the examples that we’ve done in terms of our configuration and our maximisation are obviously the multi-site roll out, which has allowed us to do individual requirements at each site, we’ve created an attendance management process that is aligned with our policy.

    We’ve got a really proactive approach when it comes to managing our attendance and with the use of the system we’ve managed to drive down and maintain a low level of absenteeism. We also have given employees the responsibility for their data integrity, they can self-serve their holidays, their home address, their beneficiaries, their bank details, their emergency contact, and their training requests.

    We’ve done, recently done a very intricate piece of processing in terms of the salary exchange scheme that we’ve offered for our benefits package and our pension scheme and that now integrates seamlessly with our payroll. So that would have been quite an intensive manual calculation month on month for our payroll, whereas now we’ve got a seamless integration and that jut ticks over and does it in a consistent way for each employee.

    Some of the other things is, we’ve given people the opportunity to write down what their aspirations are, we really look at succession planning when it comes to growing our employees throughout the business and finally we’ve actually been able to integrate the software with Outlook. So whether an employee or a manager is looking at their Cascade database or if they’re looking at their Outlook calendar they can see that they’re on holiday, training and attendance. So there’s a lot more visibility.

    The question on everybody’s lips in terms of the board is what is our return on investment? We’ve had numerous realised benefits, quantifiable amount of time has been saved in terms of the humdrum data entry, so no longer do we have holiday requests forms, no longer do we have medical appointment forms and various things like that. Everything is done on a self-serve interactive instantaneous. We now are getting a pull from managers, which is fantastic, so managers are saying to us ‘can we have? Does it do? I would like’ so we’re now getting the opportunity to create bespoke department specific reports so that a manager can go into the system at any point in time, with a click of a button get the data they need about their staff. It’s absolutely raised the HR profile, sometimes in organisations there can be a little bit of disparity or confusion as to what really happens within a HR function, certainly along employees. What this has actually been able to do is demonstrate to employees just the coverage and impact we have as a function, whether we’re supporting, whether we’re driving processes forward or if were making change.

    The final thing that it’s allowed us to do is have a business partnering approach because were thinking about it as a business tool we can sit down with our sales directors, are operational directors, our grass roots team leaders in the warehouse and we really think about what’s going to work for them. Certainly there has been a lot of challenges, there’s been a lot of perseverance required in terms of some of the software and some of the glitches and hitches and things that crop up, some of the unexpected but we now have realised that these challenges have now become opportunities and we relish those opportunities in the future.

    Just a quick summary there of some of the future projects we’ve got on our radar. We are going to do an electronic performance development review, an electronic overtime process, were going to create a visual which is a barometer of Wesco, were going to give some far more detailed management reporting and actually use the system to derive what our HR performance metrics are.

    So as a conclusion, I’d like to say that what we’ve talked about today are the four steps to a successful roll out, so that’s acquiring the software, its making sure your data’s integral and has integrity, you do the training workshops and you continually maximise and embed the software. Our software of choice was Cascade HR and payroll and they are literally just on the stand behind us but I’d like to take this opportunity now to ask who has the first question?

    We actually started back in 2008 and it took us probably about 18 months to actually do the rolling out of the software, so getting to the end of stage three and allowing every employee to use the system. Definitely the maximisation and the embedding of the software is what’s taking that bit longer but it’s becoming more rewarding.

    So the main advantages of Cascade for us were absolutely self-service, flexibility. The software allows you to configure the screens to your desire, if you have multiple sites with multiple different branding you can change that. Another key thing was the ability to look at all of our processes, so not only data entry but training, performance development, overtime, you know numerous things.

    The software providers gave us an excel spreadsheet which mapped across every single field that we had a piece of information for. So it was one massive, gigantic spreadsheet. We actually downloaded all the information to that spreadsheet, they took that away and put it into this system. That was the nervous point for me because I was like ‘how on earth can all of this information get into this system, on every single page, for every single person accurately’. We ran reports out of the system and compared it against the original.

    Every year we go to the CIPD conference and in 2007 we went around the HR software element to that and we were able to identify a few key providers. What we did though is we chose what our critical success factors were and we only invited providers that would deliver on those critical success factors.

    It wasn’t a case of inviting every single person, speaking to every different provider, we narrowed our search down and then we invited those chosen few on site.

    ‘How do you calculate the total cost of implementation, including all the time spent by everyone working at the company?’
    That’s a really, really good question, so not only will the software cost you money to buy, you need to think about your annual service fees, you need to absolutely think about the time invested from your HR professionals to actually deliver the software and roll it out, all of the training, so I don’t have a figure, I would be plucking a figure out of mid-air but what I can say is we’ve been very careful to make sure that our cost versus benefit analysis in the beginning was going to reap the rewards moving forwards. We needed to make sure that when we were delivering our return on investment that we were improving processes so that one of the biggest things for us is that yes, we invested a lot of our time to get the system ready but were now redirecting that time away from administrative activities. Were now directing it to more value added processes.

    I wouldn’t say resistance or difficulties because we were going from nothing, so they recognised that we needed to go to something, they wanted to be clear and we needed to make them understand why we had chosen Cascade and that’s why we chose to take a very structured and considered approach to make sure we had the measurable and also within Wesco, as I said earlier, it’s not about justifying your existence, so long as you are clear about your objective goals and measures, more often than not, they are keen to support you. We knew that one of his drivers was a culture of education so we pulled that into part of our justification to explain that it will deliver on that.


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