All systems go as HR and IT work together

For
any technological initiative to work, you need company heroes prepared to fight
the cause and see it through. And while they do not have to be of the caped
variety, a crusader’s approach will help – especially when you have some 40 HR
staff spread across diverse locations to get on board.

Implementing
a new HR and management system at Skanska Construction Group earned the dynamic
duo of group HR admin manager Hazel Sagoo, and IT project manager Paul
Bonnefin, the label of HR heroes. In doing so, they have given the profession a
textbook lesson in showing how HR and IT can work well together.

Skanska
is one of the top four construction organisations in the UK. The group has
17,000 employees worldwide and operates as a network of local and national
companies. Even if you don’t know the name, chances are you have seen its work,
with high-profile projects such as the Swiss Re ‘gherkin’ building in the City
of London, and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

In
2002, Skanska embarked on a major internal initiative to ensure it continued to
recruit and retain the best people by putting a resource in place for
integrating the personnel management and training functions at its 15 UK
offices. Another objective was to provide Skanska’s management with the ability
to gather and analyse core strategic data, and make it available across the
company.

After
market research and an evaluation programme, Skanska chose the Workforce Human
Resource & Personnel Management software from specialist software house
Intellect Business Consultants. A 12-month test and roll-out followed to
implement the software nationwide, which replaced a combined HR and payroll
system (the integrated training manager module was added later).

The
changeover involved a complete rationalisation of the company’s postcodes and
job codes – especially as the decentralised nature of the company structure had
led to each business unit adopting its own system. Moreover, Sagoo and Bonnefin
had to encourage system ownership on the part of HR staff across 15 locations.

"Once
we had addressed the principal IT issues, we were faced with the more thorny
question of how to ensure genuine ownership of Workforce by the many HR teams
across the country," says Sagoo.

"We
decided a Big Bang approach to the roll-out was the only way forward and
involved our training department in what we hoped would be a shock-tactic plan.

"Intellect’s
Peter Reeves conducted an extensive training session for the trainers prior to
setting up a schedule of sessions for our 40-odd HR managers. The basic message
was that if they didn’t attend the training, they didn’t get Workforce –
encouraging them to learn the system from the outset."

The
tactics worked. Skanska’s HR teams enthused about the initial training and
subsequent testing over four months with a dummy database. Each HR user was encouraged
to feed their experiences and wish lists back to Sagoo and Bonnefin, who fine tuned
the system.

"Workforce
is such a flexible system and we were easily able to add new screens, tailor
fields and develop the overall look and feel thanks to the Soft Screen
customisation tools," says Bonnefin.

"I
have developed a set of reports in response to our HR users’ requests, and we
now have around 40 – and the list is growing as they become aware of just how
powerful a system it is."

Skanska
HR director Robert Wallace claims the system has fulfilled his criteria of
allowing managers to access group-wide information in minutes. Previously, it
would have taken hours. It is also allowing them to keep the workforce better
informed.

"In
communicating with our people, an area where many companies fail miserably, we
now have a valuable tool to streamline and add clarity to the process," he
says. "One of our key mantras is that we believe our people should be told
annually that their salaries have been reviewed, as well as what their total
compensation package has been for the past 12 months and, where applicable,
what their bonus targets are to be for the next 12 months. This year, Workforce
made this previously frantic exercise a piece of cake."

Skanska
is currently involved in its biggest people investment programme ever, says
Wallace, and the Workforce system will greatly ease the admin process.

"In
the wider Skanska picture, the emphasis is also on people issues, offering to
all our people a great management programme. We believe our UK operation with
its supporting infrastructure will have a lot to contribute to this group-wide
mission."

www.workforcehr.com

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