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Rockwool invests €2m in global HR project

Manufacturer interviewed other companies about their HR systems before choosing a system to harmonise its processes across 38 countries

Manufacturing company Rockwool is investing more than €2m in an HR system to cover 28 manufacturing sites around the world as it shifts its strategy from selling locally to developing international markets.

The Denmark-based company specialises in stone wool insulation for the construction industry and has traditionally sold its products in local markets.

But with new products under development and international business growing, it plans to use cloud technology to introduce the same HR and management processes globally.

“Our products used to be insulation, which has regional markets,” said Wouter Bak, director of Rockwool’s HR centre of excellence. “But now we have global products that need global service, global marketing and management teams around the world.”

Rockwool, which has 11,000 employees worldwide, previously operated each of its manufacturing sites as a self-contained unit with its own management team and HR systems. Only one global HR tool, Microsoft SharePoint, was used for performance management.

That made life difficult for the firm’s international managers, who had to use a combination of email, PowerPoint and spreadsheets to perform simple tasks, such as awarding merit pay rises to employees in different countries, said Bak.

In 2013, the company realised it needed a global HR system, to make it easier to manage staff across multiple countries and to help employees transfer from one country to another.

“We went out to define what we wanted,” Bak told Computer Weekly. “Did we want to start with performance management and a core database, or did we want a full HR suite to implement gradually? The business case was based less on cost savings, and more on global harmonisation of processes and giving managers accurate figures at their fingertips.”

Bak and his team began evaluating HR systems in late 2013, and produced a shortlist of potential suppliers, including Cornerstone, SuccessFactors and Workday.

Talking with other customers

Before making a final choice, the Rockwool team held in-depth discussions with customers of each supplier.

“We actually called and had deeper sessions with 20 clients of these companies, asking them whether they were live with the technology, what was their experience, what was their journey, and did they have any advice and tips,” said Bak.

On the basis of these discussions, Rockwool chose Workday because it was the only complete HR suite that had the features the group needed, said Bak. The firm signed a contract with Workday in April 2014 and appointed DayNine Consulting as an implementation partner.

HR processes across countries

One of the biggest parts of the project was the need to define HR processes that could be used internationally across the organisation.

Rockwool put together a core team of 20 people, with representatives from DayNine, Rockwool’s corporate HR team, the Group IT team, and HR managers from the US, Canada and the UK, which acted as lead countries for the project.

The team agreed to follow Workday’s standard HR processes as far as possible, said Bak. “One of principles was we keep it standard, as simple as possible, and to change that only if there are legal reasons,” he added.

The group held its first design session in May 2014, followed by a full week in early June. They agreed to follow 200 standard processes, and customised 50 that were specific to Rockwool.

The team organised two roadshows in each region, attended by one HR person, an IT specialist and a consultant from Day Nine to explain the project and answer questions.

“Each local organisation was really equipped, and had a draft project plan,” said Bak.

Going live

The team rolled out Workday across all 38 countries, and went live for HR managers on 8 December 2014, before making self-service technology available to managers and staff on 15 January this year.

The three year project required an investment of between €2m and €3m, said Bak. 

Some 50% of Rockwool’s employees used the new system within the first 36 hours of it going live, and it is now seeing more than 2,000 unique users a week.

Business benefits

The project has given Rockwool access to accurate, up-to-date information on its workforce. Managers can view information about their teams online that previously took HR a week to collate.

“Our reports are more accurate, more trustworthy,” said Bak. “You can see whether there are people moving, including up-and-coming changes. I am sure we now make better decisions earlier.”

The project has also simplified the HR structure, so that employees and managers can easily see who to go to, to accomplish specific tasks.

“It makes it very clear for managers who to go to for what,” said Bak.

Spending more time with people

Rockwool’s HR staff are now spending less time on paperwork, and more time speaking with employees and managers.

For example, in the past, 25 people had responsibility for keeping the company’s 1,200-page organisational charts up to date, using the corporate typeface and design, and these were often inaccurate, said Bak. Now the charts are created automatically by Workday.

“We are saving a lot of administration handling,” he said. “People are more focused on dialogue with employees. At the mid-year review, they have time to talk to managers, instead of saying they are too busy.”

Data compliance is also improved, said Bak, as Rockwool can specify what data each employee can view, based on their job role or geographic location.

Plans for more HR tech

Rockwool’s managers are also using the Workday tool to examine the structure of the organisation.

“It is now easy to see where we have additional layers, with fewer controls,” said Bak. “It is easy to look at that, and challenge the organisation to compare it with another similar organisation.” 

The company also plans to introduce an applicant tracking system across the organisation next year, to replace a range of technologies used for hiring new staff.

Read more on HR technology

  • Medical company Elekta transforms its HR processes by replacing legacy technology with cloud systems serving 3,800 staff in 24 countries.
  • HR technologies are moving away from managing staff in favour of helping them become more productive.
  • Alcatel-Lucent expects to have its cloud HR platform used in 62 countries by the end of the year, replacing ageing on-premise HR IT systems.

For example, a trial in the Benelux region has shown that four or five candidates a year who are rejected at interview would be suitable for other positions in the organisation, and Bak is keen to replicate this across the whole company.

“It is very important to generate a common database of candidates that have applied to Rockwool,” he said.

The company also plans to give its factory workers access to Workday to book holidays or report sickness days, following a successful trial in the UK. In other countries records are currently updated by administrators.

Bak told Computer Weekly that if he was implementing a similar project again, he would put more emphasis on improving data quality.

“You only see inconsistencies in data once you put it into a global system,” he said. “For example, you only see the variation in job types between France and England when you have both together in one system.”

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