TomTom beats a path to Workday

Janine Milne Profile picture for user jmilne June 2, 2016
HR systems will put employees in the driving seat

Over the years, we’ve created something with lots of Band-Aids.

That’s the situation (and it’s a familiar one) with TomTom’s HR IT systems, according to Arne-Christian van der Tang, SVP group human resources.

TomTom, the Dutch-owned makers of the eponymous satnav brand and other mapping aids, has a “mixed bag” of HR systems. These connect and communicate with each other – with varying degrees of success. Van der Tang explains:

You can imagine that as we operate in 35 countries and have over 4,600 people, we did not always have the best experience. That’s quite an understatement; it’s quite a horrible mess.

So, for example, although the recruitment system has the name as the core HR system, the two do not communicate at all. Information has to be sent via email from the recruitment system to the main HR system. It’s a process that is less than ideal for everyone concerned – from the candidate through to the HR team and managers.

“It simply didn’t add up” or fit with the company’s vision for its business across Europe, says van der Tang.

One version of the truth

TomTom announced in January that this battery of cobbled together HR systems would be replaced with one cloud-based solution from Workday.

Van der Tang would love to share the successes of the project, but they will have to wait, as the company is still in the middle of the implementation. The countdown has started for a December 1 launch date.

Before siding with Workday, van der Tang said that TomTom “did a full sweep of the tech landscape”, including looking at best-of-breed options. This cherry-picking option was quickly rejected – the company wanted to move away from the problems of having disparate systems work together (however excellent those individual systems may be). Van der Tang argues:

With best-in-class we’d still be managing six or seven relationships and we’d be a relatively small client and we’d be too dependent on the speed to market with innovation.

So Workday’s ability to provide one-version-of-the-truth across the company and plus its ability to simplify data management was extremely attractive, according to van der Tang:

Everything we do is based on working with big data, but when it comes to our employee data, we’ve never had access to one record of truth where you combine the core data with smart data.

It means that HR and senior managers will have information to make better data-based decisions with measurable outcomes.

But just as importantly, the wider business case is that this will help create a great user experience for everyone. There’s a scarcity of talent in the markets TomTom operates in. One of the deciding factors in attracting top-notch developers and engineers is TomTom’s culture and ethos. Van der Tang adds:

A prerequisite for that is that we want to create a great experience, from candidate onwards.

TomTom plans a ‘big bang’ launch of the main core HR systems in December. As pay reviews take place just two months after the launch date, TomTom thought that it was too risky to preload data for that, so that is one of the elements that will follow on later.

Recruitment is key element of the changes, says van der Tang:

We’ll grow another 15% this year, so recruitment and attraction and the onboarding experience are critical and our ability to leave a half-way decent impression with all our candidates.


Businessman behind touch interface cloud people network © maxsim -
HR sees the initiative as an opportunity to change and simplify some of its historical HR processes and revisit its authorization procedures. While there will undoubtedly be some standardization, there will be some flexibility built-in, reflecting the difference approaches between business units. On the performance management front, for example, while some groups will continue with twice-yearly reviews, engineers are used to 360 degree feedback after each development sprint.

Van der Tang is spending a lot of time travelling to the major tech offices in Europe communicating the changes. While there are inevitably some pockets of resistance, for the most part it’s proving an easy sell.

Particularly when he reminds people of how “sad” they will be to part with their current recruitment model and having to click about 20 times just to see someone’s résumé.

Once up and running, van der Tang hopes simply that using Workday will make everyone’s jobs easier. From managers’ perspective, Workday will give leaders a much better insight into performance as well as retention and the talent pipeline overall.

Employees will hopefully move closer to having a system that is far more employee-centric, rather than driven by HR processes and job codes “which no one cares about except HR”.

But HR is not forgotten. As van der Tang says:

In HR obviously were just happy campers. Our mission is to be recognized as a fantastic place to work in technology and everything I just talked about is going to help us get close to that.

Image credit - Businessman behind touch interface cloud people network © maxsim -

Disclosure - Workday is a diginomica premier partner at time of writing.

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