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Saab recognizes the importance of ‘experience’ for new hires as it standardizes on ServiceNow HR

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez May 15, 2020
Swedish defence company Saab brought together all functions across the enterprise to roll-out ServiceNow HR and rethink employee onboarding.

Image of a Saab submarine
(Image sourced via Saab website)

Saab was founded in 1937 as a defence company to protect Sweden's borders and its people. The organisation recognises that it has relatively modest resources compared to those in other countries, but prides itself on a motto of being ‘born smart'.

This motto plays into every part of its strategy, from building fighter jets and submarines, to thinking about how it manages its 17,500 people. With this in mind, Saab wants to be ‘smart' about how new employees first experience the organisation.

Making new hires productive from day one, as well as giving them a first rate experience - from recruitment right through to on-boarding - will not only drive efficiency through the organisation, but also improve employee satisfaction with the company.

With this in mind the company has brought together a cross-functional steering committee to help rethink its processes for the entire hiring experience, as it standardizes on ServiceNow HR Service Delivery and ServiceNow Lifecycle Events. The digital transformation team is taking an agile approach and doing regular releases, at least once a quarter, focused on delivering immediate value to the business.

Henrik Weber, Digital Transformation Director at Saab, outlined the project at ServiceNow's virtual Knowledge 2020 event - which you can access yourself here. If you'd like to take a look at all of our coverage from the event, feel free to browse diginomica's dedicated Knowledge 2020 resource hub here.

Speaking about the project's goals, Weber said:

It was really hard for us to get our new employees, consultants and contractors fully productive on day one. We were running into a lot of challenges in ensuring that they had the right equipment, the right applications and right options to do their job straight away.

This was something that was also identified by our head of group quality, Sunil Joshi. He saw that this was really key for efficiency and quality, being able to digitise the employee onboarding process.

When it comes to some of the targets we set early on, we said that we wanted to have globally standardized processes for onboarding. That was really important to us, to reach efficiency and to be able to use the platform in a smart way. One thing we really wanted to do was really minimise the administration and minimise the amount of hours new people need to put in to get productive.

Saab set itself a target of giving at least 12,000 hours back to the business per year off the back of the new employee experience project, but also sought to boost new employee satisfaction by at least 25%. Weber said:

It's a very important first impression - the onboarding process - and will set the tone for the rest of your journey through the company.

It all started with a Word file

Weber said that Saab used to manage its onboarding process using a Word document, which was essentially a checklist to make sure that the organisation didn't miss anything when hiring new people. He knowingly admits that this was not the best solution and certainly isn't an efficient process. He added:

Looking at that Word file, we knew we had to change things. We wanted to create a more simple, easy and transparent way to follow through on onboarding. We wanted to reduce administration by increasing automation through the whole process.

To do this we needed to build cross functional cooperation in a better way with clear responsibilities between the different group functions.

Saab onboards approximately 2,000 new employees every year. It also brings in approximately 1,000 new consultants and 3,000 contractors.

Fredrik Spets, who works in Weber's team on the ServiceNow project, explained that the digital transformation group realised very early on that it couldn't realise Saab's ambitions by working in isolation. IT needed a really tight relationship with HR, as well as the support of a cross-functional support committee. Spets said:

HR was running an implementation of Workday alongside this, so it was good timing to do this. We put a good vision together and we made sure we teamed up with all the group functions, because this was a cross-functional process that was going to run through IT, HR, security, procurement, property. [There are going to be] different kinds of user types, so we needed to sum up these different kinds of perspectives.

One of the key decisions was to work in an agile way. Bringing quick value to the business.

A phased approach

Spets explained that Saab adopted an agile approach to implementation, where continuous releases take place no longer than every three months. The aim being to provide value to the business as soon as possible, as well as building that employee experience. He said it is a priority to "start with the important things first".

Spets and Weber assembled a small focus team with the necessary skills around business analysis, solution architecture, as well as incorporating integration architects. They also advocate for the use of a very active reference group. Spets said:

We put that [reference group] together and we also switched that up for every release. So we were always getting the right perspective.

It would have been hard for IT to drive the change in security, for example, or vice versa. So we needed them to be together in one team to make joint decisions.

Saab has already carried out a number of releases. The first of which focused on IT requests for new starters, where the team worked with various service owners to create a simple starter kit that could be used for all new employees.

This was followed by digital security training that could be carried out remotely and before an employee's first day, so that when they officially join the company they can pick up their badge on day one and have access.

Saab then created a digital experience for pre-boarding, which includes a knowledge hub about the company, as well as tasks such as uploading a photo. This also now includes the security briefing and IT requests noted in the previous releases. Spets said:

We put all tools aside and drew up a vision for what was going to be the ‘best' employee experience from an onboarding perspective. This is what we came up with. We focused very much on the phases - the recruitment phase, pre-boarding phase, the onboarding phase. Then we identified the different activities

What we realised was that this pre-boarding phase was really vital for us. We needed this communication area with employees from the time they sign the contract, but before they start. If the line manager and the new hire can do all the things they need to in a structured way before they start, then we've got a really good flying start.

So far Saab has seen 1,200 IT equipment orders, 1,200 application orders, 2,000 security briefings carried out, and 15 employees complete pre-boarding (this is still in the pilot phase).

The project has been that much of a success that the company is now considering how it can extend its use of the ServiceNow platform to more broadly incorporate the ‘Saab employee experience', versus just new hires. Spets explained:

Our steering group saw that this has so much potential that's even broader than onboarding. Now we are looking at the full people experience with this initiative. So after the summer we are going to dial into the various transitions and moments that matter for people at Saab. And then we will look at the offboarding experience too and tie all this together.

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