How Centrica is tackling HR transformation on a fixed budget


HR transformation projects can be all-consuming, both financially and in terms of resources. But carefully targeting its investment helped energy company Centrica stay on course. Cath Everett reports. 

Although the advantages may not be immediately apparent, sometimes having a fixed budget can really do you a favour.

This is what energy giant Centrica found after embarking on a huge global HR transformation strategy at the start of last year.

The aim was to standardise systems and processes across its businesses in the UK, North America (US and Canada), Norway and the Netherlands in order to gain greater operational efficiencies.

Charles Donaldson, its programme director, explains: “We got budget approval in a tough time for the industry and the business, and we’re expending significant investment. So we’re very clear with our stakeholders that the budget is locked and we can’t go back and get any more.”

This means that when different parts of the organisation push to maintain some of their traditional ways of working or try to keep any best-of-breed applications, the programme team can put a price on such activity and make it clear that doing so will have financial repercussions elsewhere. “A finite pot of money really focuses minds,” he adds.

A key element of the programme involves introducing Workday’s cloud-based HR software across all of the utility provider’s international operations.

The rollout, which began in July 2015, is expected to take a year and will enable HR self-service, which was first implemented in the UK business in 2008, to be introduced elsewhere.

Operational efficiencies

Among other improvements, the firm’s 15,000 engineers across the world will be able to take advantage of a mobile and bring your own device (BYOD) policy for the first time, making it easier to access the system.

Rob Cook, group head of HR systems, explains: “We have a large mobile component to our workforce and systems in the past haven’t really met their needs. But we see mobile and BYOD as a way to engage positively with those not in the confines of buildings.”

This “lost opportunity in terms of engagement” manifests itself in small ways, such as personal details not being kept up-to-date in the system, which hopefully will now change, he adds.

Another key element of the initiative will include providing business leaders and line managers with access to analytics-based people data such as staff turnover, available skills and big areas of spend like overtime or contingent labour, in order to improve decision making.

Moreover, Centrica has also rolled out the shared services model it adopted for transactional HR activities in the UK in 2006 to its North American business and is exploring whether or not to follow suit elsewhere.

Such services are supplied by its business process outsource provider, Aon Hewitt, which has also acted as the company’s key implementation partner.

“If all the countries operate in a consistent way with the same processes and data, the opportunities for efficiencies are inestimable,” says Donaldson.

“But from a staff viewpoint, we also have plans to create an internal job market, which means that if they move around, they’ll be using familiar systems and processes no matter where they work, which is of great benefit too.”

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