e-HR in action B&Q’s HR project manager, David Foote,
explains how the DIY retailer is reaping the benefits of a solid e-HR
infrastructure with its SAP HR system
On average, B&Q has 1,100 new joiners, 800 leavers and 10,000 contract
changes each month across its 320 UK stores. With a significant increase in the
labour force expected in the coming years, HR project manager David Foote knew
he had to find a way of easing the strain on the HR department by streamlining
That was in 2000, and while many companies are still debating the whys and
wherefores of an e-HR strategy, B&Q leapt straight in. Foote’s willingness
to bite the bullet has meant that the number one DIY retailer in Europe is
reaping the benefits of a solid e-HR infrastructure on which to build from both
an HR and business standpoint.
"We needed to upgrade our HR technology to make sure we benefited from
extra functionality, increased accuracy of information, extended reporting
mechanisms and streamlined processes," says Foote. "Our SAP HR system
has given us this."
To help achieve its aims, B&Q employed the services of HR specialist
Arinso UK, which has a track record in implementing SAP systems. Arinso made
sure the design of the system was tailored to a store-based environment,
encouraging exhaustive testing by the organisation.
"We had two user testing groups – one that took 2,000 existing payroll
records that were entered into SAP HR to see if the same pay figures were
arrived at, while the other team was tasked with dreaming up wacky HR and
payroll scenarios to see how the technology reacted," says Foote. "We
spent five months on this phase, but it was worth it as the first payroll went
A working party was established to assess the best way to roll out SAP HR.
The personnel administration and organisational management modules were rolled
out first, with time management (which includes a clocking facility) following
An interim solution was developed to allow the administration of the HR
processes to be managed by the existing central HR team, but many tasks would
eventually be devolved to store managers, and it was planned that each store
would be online to the SAP HR system via a PC.
Roll-out to stores initially focused on the larger B&Q warehouses that
already had mini HR infrastructures and strong administration capabilities and
then continued with the B&Q supercentres.
Training on the systems and the reviewing and modernising of business
processes emerged as the major issues. The latter saw most of the HR work able
to be managed at local level, dispensing with manual reporting systems, which
had involved duplication of effort.
As well as increased capability, efficiency and access to information, Foote
identifies a major benefit of the system as putting the control of information
in the right hands as well as ultimately fulfilling the dream of making the HR
function more strategic.
"We have seen a substantial reduction in the number of pay queries and
calls to our support desk. Also, we anticipate being able to reduce our store
staff costs simply by giving managers accurate reporting of weekly costs,"
he says. "The HR function across B&Q will increasingly be one of
expert consultancy, providing advice, support and guidance to line managers on
Despite positive reports one-HR, it still remains to be judged on its
ability to provide a prompt return on investment.
With pressure on the function to adopt the business partner’s approach, this
is hardly surprising, but as Wayne Carstensen, managing director of Arinso UK,
points out, the less immediately apparent benefits should also be recognised.
"Employee/management reviews, for instance, can be done online and then
provide the basis for needs analysis and allow an organisation to work
one-learning programmes and career-pathing," he says.
"E-HR is a strategic enabler and, as such, a part of the shared
services and business process outsourcing options available to business to work
in a more efficient manner, says Carstensen. "However, if an employer does
not have a structured technology backbone it can become costly to implement and
integrate a holistic solution to realise benefits. The bottom line is that
long-term benefits are achievable, but the actual timescales depend very much
on the organisation and industry."