How to live the dream

Hewlett Packard’s e-HR initiative harnessing global HR processes has reaped big rewards, including £28.2m worth of savings.

It’s something most boards could only fantasise about when launching a new strategy: 100 per cent return on investment (ROI) within six months and cost savings to the tune of £28.2m within the first year. But technology solutions giant Hewlett Packard (HP) is living that dream and it’s all down to an employee portal called @hp. It was introduced three years ago as part of a major e-HR project to implement global HR processes (including self-service) across 160 countries.

“A lot of the statistics used to measure the impact of the original implementation of the portal were based on the expenditure on HR administration and the number of people involved in it,” explains Mike Taylor, HR director for UK & Ireland at HP, whose products and services span handheld PCs to largescale IT solutions. “A significant number of those individuals have now moved into strategic roles alongside the business, where they perform more value-add tasks rather than engaging in straightforward administrative work, which we have largely eliminated,” he says.

Taylor is one HR director who doesn’t shy away from figures. But then he has an impressive set of statistics to wave under the board’s nose and a cast-iron way of gathering data about the workforce, which numbers 8,000 employees across UK and Ireland. The @hp portal currently clocks up 141,000 worldwide users daily, handles 300 million transactions a month and features 330 business applications relating to HR, finance, procurement, facilities, legal and more.

As well as HR administration, the portal has made savings in a number of areas, including £1.7m in HR IT maintenance and a 20 per cent reduction in travel costs.

Added to this, its management reporting tool, Bluebook, which takes data accurate to the last 24 hours direct from the organisation’s Peoplesoft system, arms Taylor with the facts and figures he needs to sell further HR initiatives to the board.

“If you’ve got the management team asking for accurate information about what’s going on within the organisation, it can often take time to pull that together. If you get it wrong, your credibility is at question,” says Taylor. “I know the data is accurate, it’s quick and it’s enormously helpful for building a business case for the board.”

HR within HP UK & Ireland (which is typical of all its global operations, says Taylor), divides itself into two core groups: business partners, who work alongside managers to help them derive the right people strategies to meet their business goals; and a team of shared service HR staff working right across the business. That team is then subdivided into areas such as reward, compensation and benefits, staffing, training and development, employee relations and HR operations.

Although introduced as an HR tool, the portal’s usefulness has always extended outside of the function and has evolved into a vital corporate communications vehicle. Chief executive, Carly Fiorina, uses it to provide employees with updates on the business and employees can direct an e-mail to the managing director of their respective country. But perhaps the best demonstration of @hp as a communications channel for the company was during HP’s merger with Compaq in 2002 – the largest merger ever to date in the technology sector. On the day that the merger was formalised, the site received two million hits.

“It gave employees access to information immediately, 24/7. We could post information on the kind of organisation we were going to be, key appointments, processes and whatever else,” says Taylor, who himself came from Compaq. “It became an incredible communications tool to get information to everyone at the same time and in the same format.”

Of course, the major upside for leading edge companies when it comes to technology-led initiatives is that employees are more ready to accept them and the change they bring. The traditional IT/HR divide simply doesn’t exist within HP, claims Taylor (it has a global HR IT function), and he also observes a creeping effect that technology is having on younger HR staff.

“The days of putting address labels on envelopes and dealing with bank details are rapidly disappearing. Individuals coming to work in HR now have an opportunity to do the job at a different level, to contribute in different ways and use technology to make things happen. So I do see a different breed of individual coming through, but we still let them experience those areas as it’s an important step to them making the maximum contribution as a business partner,” he says.

Clearly this new breed will be helping Taylor to continue to respond to the business needs of the organisation.

“As well as becoming a much larger organisation as a result of the merger, it has meant that we’re beginning to work in areas that are new to us and that we’re engaged in contracts and pieces of business that perhaps wouldn’t have touched us before,” he says.

“My big challenge is to make sure the organisation is geared up for this and to make sure that we are aligned to our customers in the most appropriate way. The success coming our way means we have to continue to push and change.”

Taylor’s tips for running an employee portal

  • Make the portal easy for all your employees to access and use
  • Make the information relevant and available so people recognise it as a valuable business tool
  • Keep it simple – work on an ongoing basis to maintain simplicity and relevance

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