Finnish industrial giant Kemira moves to digitized global HR

Gary Flood Profile picture for user gflood July 5, 2021
Kemira has partnered with HCM, payroll, HR service delivery, and workforce management solutions provider UKG to adapt to both global and local HR needs.

Image of Kemira researchers in a lab
(Image sourced via Kemira )

Headquartered in Helsinki, Finland's Kemira is a global leader in sustainable chemical solutions for ‘water-intensive industries,' such as pulp and paper, municipal and industrial water treatment, and oil and gas. The company, which has over a century of business behind it, strives to provide product and expertise to customers to bring optimal product quality, ensure the safety and hygiene of water, and maximize yield from energy resources.

Employing over 5,000 people in 37 countries, the firm claims to be one of the largest companies in the global water chemical industry, maintaining a dedicated network of experts, production facilities, and R&D centers around the world. At the heart of that network is the firm's Human Resources (HR) capability, with HR at Kemira taking the shape of a decentralized model, with 60 HR professionals located around the world.

How that operates at ground level, Director of Digital HR and Workplace Development, Mirka Janhonen, explains: a HR manager in each country is responsible for employee lifecycle management, while global teams are focused on areas such as talent development, performance and reward, and people processes.

Janhonen states it's also a way of working that means a high level of HR activities need to take place on a local level across the company. In turn, that has required HR teams to rely on printing out lots of Word or Excel documents and other manual processes. Janhonen has been leading the internal charge at the company to move to what he styles as "digitized HR".

Improve privacy and security

This programme started way back in 2009, with the initial implementation of SAP SuccessFactors for performance and development, as well as other modules in the intervening years. But more was needed, she says, as while this solution worked on a global level, HR managers working locally continued to rely on manual processes, storing HR documents in multiple places, including physical copies that could easily be misplaced. Janhonen explains:

The need for digitized HR at a local level, to align with the global level, was a big challenge. Our global presence means language is another key factor and unfortunately a single global platform and decentralized HR model couldn't tackle this effectively. We knew we needed something to integrate into our existing HRM (HR Management) platform for more effective document management and enable HR managers around the world to more easily upload, manage, and access employee documents and templates, as well as modernize local processes.

Another key drive was making it easier to get more transparency in areas like data compliance, but also ways to improve privacy and security (from a global manager's point of view, when trying to access employee documents they'd need to first go through the HR manager in that specific country, which was not only time consuming, but meant all anonymity was lost).

‘Get as much paper out of processes as possible'

Janhonen says the ideal technology to take Kemira on to the next stage of digitized HR would be a solution that not only would integrate with its existing HRM package, but also provide effective document management for HR managers and get rid of as much paper out of processes as possible. After exploring a range of systems, the company found what they needed from the UKG HR Service Delivery platform.

In Kemira's case, that is made up of an employee file management solution and an HR case management application. The former was a pretty important factor in the procurement, she notes:

One thing that particularly caught our eye with UKG's solution was the file management features, especially the configurability to adapt to local processes; that meant we would be able to set workflows as we liked. Given our need to cater to various countries, this played a significant role in our purchasing decision.

Critical documents digitized

So was this the right decision? It seems so, given that Janhonen believes the vendor has been able to integrate "perfectly" with the firm's existing core system, and even embed an additional layer of integration which enables users to access key personnel documents from the central employee portal.

Even better, modernizing HR service delivery on a global level has taken a lot of administrative load off HR, and also given senior management "peace of mind" that critical documents have been digitized and are no longer in any danger of piling up somewhere, waiting to be filed. Janhonen says: 

Our HR team now has more time to focus on our people and other business-critical tasks to move the organization forward. This solution has given local HR managers the ability to upload, manage, and access employee documentation, as well as templates and other useful information-in fact to date, 25,000 documents and over 100 request forms available for employees to use have been uploaded. The system also automates workflow, so that employee requests are routed to the right person.

Other key benefits of digitized HR at Kemira, she adds, are improved HR process speed and visibility, with processes such as leave approvals being accepted faster than ever before. Janhonen says: 

Lastly, the solution has brought customizable HR processes that are perfect for cross-cultural companies like ours, while our HR teams put innovative processes in place regarding COVID-19, such as permission forms to work in the office or at home.

‘The importance of ongoing digital transformation'

We asked if there was anything surprising that had come out of this successful burst of a move to more paperless and integrated HR working at the company. Janhonen believes the major lesson learned was the importance of ongoing digital transformation in the company's business processes to keep its systems up-to-date and teams working together effectively.

Over the next six months, Janhonen says the focus will be to enhance the employee experience further by making use of process automation and analytics in the platform, as well as possible moves to single sign-on (SSO) and e-signature features, especially when recruiting and onboarding new employees. And as she concludes,

This project has really helped us modernize our HR processes, and we will continue on our digital transformation journey.

A grey colored placeholder image