Club Med finds a happy digital medium for its 'GOs' with Workday

Profile picture for user pwainewright By Phil Wainewright December 2, 2019
Holiday operator Club Med switched from PeopleSoft to Workday to support its rapid expansion and provide a better employee experience

Water sports equipment on beach at Club Med Kani, Maldives © Akram Rahim - shutterstock

All-inclusive holiday operator Club Med has embarked on a rapid growth path following its acquisition by Chinese investors in 2015, with the goal of increasing capacity 30% by 2020. But its HR team soon realized this would not be sustainable while their operations were still dependent on a PeopleSoft system dating back to 2002. At the very least, they needed to switch to more modern recruitment and learning tools. In 2017, they decided to give themselves three months to find a replacement.

They settled on Workday, and by December that year had started rolling out recruitment and core HCM to a first tranche of 2,000 users in mainland China, Hong Kong and Thailand. A global rollout to 2,000 office-based users went ahead in May 2018 and then at the end of 2018 came the final push to the remaining employees across all the company's resorts. The full Workday deployment includes core HCM, recruitment, learning, time tracking and expenses.

Founded in the 1950s, the iconic Club Med brand has become well known for its luxury, all-inclusive holidays at purpose-built beach and ski resorts around the world. Initially serving a largely French-speaking market, it has become a global brand and now operates in more than 40 countries, with a big part of its current expansion focused on serving the Chinese tourism market.

Modernizing the employee experience

A unique aspect of the Club Med experience are its GOs or 'Gentils Organisateurs' — the title given to its resort staff. Sharing meals, activities and nightly entertainments with holidaymakers, they are at the core of the customer experience, and therefore Club Med recognizes the importance of keeping them happy. But the digital experience offered to employees was in need of an update to bring it into line with the customer experience, says Arnaud Lietout, VP IT Business and Support Applications at Club Med:

Self-service is important for that. You have [as a customer] a personal area on the Club Med website to manage your bookings. You have also, as an employee, your personal space to develop your career yourself, to fill a lot of data, to change your bank account alone not asking for some one else to it, and so on.

As well as recruiting six to seven thousand new GOs every year, Club Med also moves its GOs between summer and winter resorts twice a year. Introducing Workday has brought more autonomy and transparency to this process, says Sylvie Brisson, Group Director of HR, in an interview earlier this year with French magazine Capital avec Management:

Twice a year, the GOs will indicate where they want to go and what they want to do. The resort managers will then be able to look at the profiles of candidates and build their future team online. Later on, GOs will even be able to chat online with their future colleagues before the start of the season, to start building relationships.

Self-service engagement

Club Med was an early adopter of Facebook Workplace, which GOs use to share information about activities and news within and between resorts. Each resort has an e-GO who is in charge of social networking and they use Workplace as a convenient resource for finding images, videos and other material to share online. Workplace is not yet integrated with Workday, but it is an important tool in helping team members engage.

Brisson says the new HCM system will also play an important role in engaging new recruits before they reach their resort:

Workday will let us send them personalized messages, such as presenting the team they'll be working with. Because living 24 hours a day with customers, with their team, their colleagues, their manager, can be daunting for some candidates. Workday will ease their integration into the Club Med culture.

Introducing self-service to a holiday resort is not as straightforward as rolling it out to an office, where everyone has their own desk and computer. This was an important topic to address, says Lietout, as access to the system would depend on issues such as the network quality at each location, availability of wi-fi, and mobile coverage. In addition, in some countries, you can't assume that employees will have their own mobile devices. So Club Med provided self-service desktops or tablets in the resorts, as well as allowing people to access Workday from their own smartphones or personal computers.

Making automation flow smoothly

The move to self-service was a big change from the previous PeopleSoft-based system, which was almost entirely used just by HR people, says David Gacon, VP Organisational Transformation and HR Digitalisation at Club Med.

Now it's something which is really oriented to employees and managers, so a big shift. And you see that, the scale of implementation, [this is] the very first project or business line that is touching every single employee in the company.

That change means there were some cases where previously, to get the job done, HR had made workarounds behind the scenes. Those processes had to be reworked so that the automation flows smoothly. There were also some adjustments to make once the system rolled out, where workflow automations that had seemed to make sense on paper proved impractical in reality.

For example, any updates to compensation and benefits had required approval by an HR specialist. This didn't work any more when the rest of the process was delegated out to managers at the resort and, for example, there were 200 recruitments needing approval ready to open a mountain village in the Alps in December. The solution was to use notification rather than require approval each time, says Gacon:

Since then, I try to push through notification. Create some reports, regulate the system, but trust the system, don't be on the critical path of validation.

Finding the right level of digital

As well as supporting the company's global ambitions — the earlier PeopleSoft system had been designed for the company's largely French operations at the time — the Workday system is helping Club Med meet the digital pillar of its corporate strategy. This is not a rigidly cloud-first strategy so much as finding an approach that fits each business need, says Lietout:

We call it 'happy digital'. Because we are not a tech company, the way we think about it is, how to drive the right level in terms of digitalization for customers and for our employees.

Image credit - Water sports equipment on beach at Club Med Kani, Maldives © Akram Rahim - shutterstock

Disclosure - Workday is a diginomica premier partner at time of writing and funded the author's travel to Workday Rising in Milan, where the interview with Gacon and Lietout took place.