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At Welcome Break, 4,500 of its 5,000 motorway service workers wear someone else’s uniform, whether Starbucks, Waitrose, KFC, or others – but they are still Welcome Break employees.
Part of the way the company squares this circle, in terms of culture, lies in its use of social collaboration technology – in this case SAP Jam, which came with the SuccessFactors software-as-a-service technology SAP acquired in 2011.
Karl Jolly, director of people at Welcome Break, and who worked at Pret à Manger in the early days of the fresh fast food chain, describes the business change behind the decision to deploy social collaboration software.
Of Welcome Break’s shift from being a self-catered motorway services company to one that houses a clutch of brands, he says: “The back story is we wanted more ‘branded’ managers, and to give them better systems. We decided on SuccessFactors, and, within that, we fell in love with Jam. It gave us something the whole business could engage with, and that was cutting-edge.”
Jolly leads a team of about 20 people and is the director responsible for optimising the company’s £50m employee cost, which is spread across 200-plus franchised businesses that include Starbucks, Waitrose, KFC, Burger King, Subway, Ramada and Days Inn.
The company became a SuccessFactors customer three years ago, shortly before the cloud HR software supplier was acquired by SAP. Jolly is positive about Welcome Break’s experience of the SuccessFactors suite, especially Jam.
“It is fantastic – it speaks to the business so well,” he says. “It is a fast-moving environment that we work in.”
The company has 200 to 300 people working at each site, which will have a Jam group. Staff are also part of a brand group – Starbucks, KFC and the rest. Team managers can also set up groups, and employees can join various self-created social groups.
“They can do whatever they want with it,” says Jolly. “We did not want to wrap them up in rules. It gets them engaged.”
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At the time, they did not “go out to buy a social media platform – it was more part of the SuccessFactors deal”, he adds. “Jam also gave us a platform for communicating the launch of other modules.”
But is Welcome Break connecting the social collaboration activity with hard-nosed business process improvements?
“First, we turned off the intranet and used the Jam groups instead,” says Jolly. “That has brought benefits in terms of the distribution of reference content, how-to content, and also arranging meetings, and the documents for those. The spreading of best practices is another benefit.”
The company’s shift from own-brand to branded catering has made its services more like shopping malls – “like a Westfield or an airport”, says Jolly. “People expect a higher standard of service now, with better people doing better things.”
He says the SAP technology has played a role here in training staff to work with different brands and use their material and systems while infusing Welcome Break’s historic culture and service values into these offerings.
“The technology binds the teams together. We are quite a small business, with a family feel, but you get the benefit of working with world-class brands such as Starbucks.”
As a result of using SuccessFactors, as a whole, the company says it is achieving six-figure savings each year. “In terms of Jam, this year we have had 9,000 documents shared,” says Jolly. “That’s a lot of information shared around at zero cost. And there is definitely more we could do with it.”