HR Tech Advisor Success Profile
Learn how Severn Trent Services achieved success by globally standardizing HR processes and technology to deliver business value.
Q: What has been your biggest HR Tech challenge?
With dozens of home grown systems supporting 2500 employees spread across 230+ locations in 9 countries, our biggest challenge was trying to measure our human capital. Without standard HR processes and a system to support it, we knew that if HR was to help drive the business we had to fix it.
Our CEO asked HR a reasonable question “What is our headcount right now?” but our answer was not acceptable “It’s approximately 2500 but if you give us a few weeks we can get you an exact number”. This started a search for a solution that would not only provide our executives fast answers to better run the business but it also created a chance for us to establish best in class HR processes. Standardizing our processes and normalizing our HR data are the two key elements of the project that delivered award winning business results.
Q: You knew that having all employees on one system would make standardization possible, but how did you know which system would be best for your specific needs?
We were not 100% sure we would make the right decision since all the sales pitches sounded really great, so we hired HCM consulting firm Knowledge Infusion (now Appirio) to do a search to help figure out which one of the dozens of possible providers could meet our business requirements.
Q: How did you ensure your business requirements were well defined before making your system selection?
We created a project team that included key HR and IT members from our main offices in the US, UK and Italy. Together with the consulting firm we reviewed what were our current systems, our current goals and future business plans. We also interviewed many of the managers and employees to better understand their needs. You really have to understand your internal requirements and what your biggest issues are before you start on your search, if you start looking at systems before you know your needs you’re going to buy something that doesn’t work for you. We were so thorough that some of our internal clients were getting antsy to pick something but we kept to our mission and it really paid off.
Q: What was the vendor selection process like?
After doing all the hard work of defining our business requirements, the vendor selection was relatively easy! We needed a global system that was flexible, scalable and easy to turn on in various countries to support our rapid global growth – some of the systems couldn’t do that so that helped us narrow our choices. Our parent company was using SAP and it worked great for them, but based on our defined requirements it wasn’t right for STS. We narrowed it down to two systems then selected Workday since it was easily deployable, was in every language where we had offices, and it was easy to turn on a new country within a day or two with localized info ready to go.
Q: Any advice to others looking to consolidate their HR systems?
Don’t buy a system because other people use it, buy the system that’s going to work for you. Our parent company pushed hard for SAP but there was too much up front development time and we needed to add a lot of people to keep the system ongoing. With Workday we can keep everything running well with only 3 people globally – all processes, including interfaces to payroll and benefits providers etc. Overall this was and is so much easier – just being able to turn on a country in a day was exactly what we needed.
Q: How did you leverage best practices?
Workday is preloaded with 180 different business processes based on best practices from their client base, so the STS team chose to use them without customization. Some users tested our HR skills by pushing back favoring their “invented by us” processes, but HR convinced them that if the end result is the same then it’s ok if how they get there is different.
Q: Any traps that you’d now know how to avoid?
In just over a week after launching the core solution we rolled out compensation globally, in hindsight it was a bit too fast for some of our users to adapt. One hangup was the 100% rule we set up requiring all approvals by everyone before we could complete the comp process. Also, for some of the ad-hoc processes some users were not sure how to launch them. We’re taking steps now to improve on how to help them get up to speed on these things.
Q: How did you measure success, namely ROI and business value?
For the first time we have been able to run a talent review with real-time, dynamic processes. While reviewing the top talent on line (with executive leaders in four separate locations around the globe), we were able to calibrate all the inputs from everyone to fine tune our definition of top talent. Once identified, we will then be able to put together Performance Development Plans (PDPs) for each person in the top talent pool to ensure they continue to develop to be ready for opportunities as they arise. Retention of top talent has a huge impact on business vitality.
As we continue to interact with executives and managers and determine what is important to them in running their business, we are developing dashboards or reporting that allows them to get real time data about their organizations when they need it. We are still finalizing many of these items, but the initial work is proving promising.
Finally, every transaction in the system is recorded with a date and time stamp and is fully auditable at any time. This gives everyone a high level of comfort knowing that we can track any transaction at any time in the system. We joke that Workday is like Las Vegas because “What happens in Workday, STAYS in Workday!
Q: What’s next?
Leveraging the newly standardized and normalized HR data to produce even better metrics. Some key goals are to track retention stats based on source codes (quality of hire by source) and do a heat map of churn with data overlays to help us become more judicious about when we should interact with managers to help and when to do interventions.
The CEO just asked me today “You know what I’d like to see next?” – this is the kind of executive level engagement we strive for and the STS HR team is up for the challenge!
Kevin Fretz, Director, HR at Severn Trent Services
Delivering results for STS for over 14 years, Kevin is responsible for Benefits, Talent Management, Learning and Development, Global HRIS, US Recruitment, Affirmative Action and EEO. Duties also include HR generalist roles for corporate departments (primarily Finance/IT, Marketing). During his tenure Kevin implemented the first globally focused Talent Management/L&D programs. Global programs span delivery/reach into US, UK, Italy, Spain, UAE, Singapore and China. The STS HR department was recently named winner of the 2013 Delaware Valley HR Department of the Year Award for Excellence for HR Technology.
Prior to Severn Trent Services, Kevin held various HR roles for Vanguard, General Electric and Advanta.
Severn Trent Services with global headquarters in Fort Washington, Pa., USA, is a leading supplier of water and wastewater solutions. The company’s
broad range of products and services is concentrated around disinfection, instrumentation and filtration technologies and contract operating services. Our operating services business provides contract management, operations support and systems improvements for utility, industrial and commercial water and wastewater customers in the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland and Italy. Severn Trent Services is a member of the Severn Trent Plc (London: SVT.L) group of companies. Severn Trent is a FTSE 100 company.