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Velux sheds light on global HCM for the age of GDPR

Jessica Twentyman Profile picture for user jtwentyman May 10, 2017
The Danish skylight manufacturer’s recent roll-out of cloud-based HR software from Workday was designed to help it adapt to the demands of growing globally while staying compliant.

Three factors influenced Danish skylight manufacturer Velux’s decision to roll-out cloud-based human capital management (HCM) software from Workday.

The first two will sound pretty familiar to any company on a globalization journey: first, to put in place a worldwide platform that could handle data on its 10,000 employees across 40 countries worldwide; and second, to enable those employees’ immediate line managers to make better business decisions around staffing and skills.

The third factor, however, is one that many companies may not even have considered yet - even though the clock is ticking. Velux realized that it needed to prepare itself for the impact that the EU’s upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is likely to have on the way it collects, manages and stores information on employees.

It’s an important point, because GDPR will come into effect on 25 May 2018. But with just over a year to go, there are worrying signs that many companies aren’t ready for it. Earlier this month, for example, analysts at research company Gartner predicted that even by the end of 2018, more than 50 percent of companies affected by GDPR will not be in full compliance with its requirements.

Lawful processing of HR data under GDPR is just one potential trap into which they could fall. According to a recent blog post by lawyer Debbie Heywood at Taylor Wessing:

For HR teams, traditional justifications for lawful processing of employee data may have to be revisited, together with the way in which data is collected, used and retained.

In search of compliance

Back at Velux headquarters in Copenhagen, director for strategy and change Jacob Kjeldgaard Olsen says he’s confident that the company’s Workday implementation, which went live in February this year, will help the company address head-on the demands of GDPR. But two years ago, the company was in no state to do so, he says. Each country and even locations within those countries, he says, had their own ways of doing things:

Some employee data was in HR systems, some of it was in Excel spreadsheets and Access databases. So we had lots of different tools and systems that were used locally. Some of our locations would have a reasonable set of processes and software. Some would have close to nothing.

Since we came from a set-up with no global system and no global processes, we knew we needed to do something to be sure we could be compliant with the new standards, especially in a company that’s getting more global all the time. We knew we needed to take charge of how we share information about employees in different countries and different locations.

Because of that, the effort to migrate data into the new Workday system was a massive one, he says. In fact, it needed to take place in three rounds. The first round focused on limited data from limited locations, to create prototypes for data migration. The two subsequent rounds incorporated more data, along with learnings from the first round. Says Olsen:

This was a major part of the project, given where we came from. A lot of data was not readily available in formats that could be used. Definitions were different and so on, so we almost had to start from scratch. Some data could be copied from old systems, but a lot of the effort was manual. It’s a major undertaking to do something like that. It’s a lot of work and it’s work that you need to get right.

Prioritization process

Velux also needed to decide which modules of Workday’s system to implement. The basics of HCM - handling people joining, moving and leaving - were clearly needed, just for the sake of having basic records, so these aspects of the software were given priority.

Performance, talent management and compensation came a little later, as the company already had global processes established in these areas, so they were relatively easy to implement. It also prioritized the need of line managers that oversee employees on a day-to-day basis over those of HR professionals working in a back-office, shared services set-up, says Olsen :

One of our guiding principles was that we wanted all this to be as easy as possible for line managers. By choosing Workday, we felt we chose the most user-friendly system and, by prioritising the processes most frequently needed by managers, we felt we could honour that principle. So some of the processes that are only used by HR professionals in our organization took lower priority and some of that will come later.

For now, Olsen says, he’s very happy with how the 11-month rollout has gone, saying that it came in on time, on budget and to the scope originally planned. But there’s more to come, he adds:

We have things in mind. In the US, we’ve already started a payroll, benefits and time and attendance project based on Workday. We already know that we want to implement absence management, which so far we’ve only done in a few locations. And then we’re also looking at recruitment and at the development and customization of more reports for managers. So we have a lot in the pipeline.

As that work continues, Velux intends to take an ‘employee experience’ or ‘employee-centric’ point of view, says Olsen, defining the ‘moments that matter’ in an employee’s experience of working for the company - onboarding, for example, and performance reviews. In that way, he hope that the company doesn’t get too bogged down in back-office HR processes and puts its focus instead on the routine encounters that employees have with their immediate supervisors:

As for GDPR, it’s given us peace of mind, but we know there’s more to compliance. There’s a lot of manual work and process work needed as well. But we now have a foundation to being compliant with employee data, to manage information about our people, globally, in a professional way. And as we continue to grow globally, there’s an increased need for sharing people data across borders - something that can be very hard to do without a foundation like this.

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