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Workday Elevate - how real-time data analysis supports people managers at Lore Group and Equiniti

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright May 27, 2024
At last week's Workday Elevate in London, customers Lore Group and Equiniti spoke about their experience of how faster data analysis helps manage costs and build employee engagement.

At Workday Elevate, a man and a woman are seated on stage in a discussion - @philww
Workday Elevate with Andrew Stephenson (@philww)

People and financial management vendor Workday hosted a one-day event for customers and prospects in London last week, just days after revealing plans to invest over half a billion pounds ($700m) in its UK activities over the next three years. As ever, hearing how customers are using Workday in their own organizations provided the most interesting sessions. Speakers from luxury hotel operator Lore Group and shareholder services provider Equiniti emphasized the impact on cost management and employee engagement. For both, being able to analyze detailed information from across the workforce is proving hugely valuable.

Both companies spoke about their use of Peakon, the employee listening app that Workday acquired early in 2021. One of the goals of that acquisition was to bring insights from employee engagement metrics into operational decision-making. Equiniti provided a great example of this combination in action, where predictive analysis of attrition signals has helped it cut its average time-to-hire in half. Andrew Stephenson, Chief People Officer at Equiniti, explains:

We very much focus on predictive attrition. It's very accurate in our organization. In fact, it's so accurate that, one, we can direct managers to attempt to intervene if it looks like something's happening in their organization. But more importantly, we can spool up our recruitment teams, based on the teams that we know are going to have attrition because Peakon is telling us that.

We've taken our average time to hire and improved it by 100%. We're typically now filling jobs in typically 25 days because — we're not making offers — but we are actually recruiting into areas before the people have even left. It's better if we can make them not leave. But where they do go, we are miles ahead of the curve of bringing new talent in.

One of the reasons why the Peakon data is so reliable is that Equiniti globally has achieved a 91% response rate to its monthly surveys. Stephenson says that actually responding to employees is the key to getting to that level of participation:

I think you wouldn't get that level of response rate if people didn't think that one, they can trust you and two, that you're going to actually do something with the information.

Transparency and trust at Equiniti

Transparency is also an essential factor in building trust — people need to feel that management is being honest with them. That's perhaps a different ethos than was prevalent in the nearly two centuries since Equiniti first got started, operating pensions for the British Army. He goes on:

People don't trust organizations, and this is not a new thing. Why would you? If you follow industrial relations back to the 18th century, companies want to get the most work for the least money, and employees want to do the opposite way round.

What we have today, though, is much more prevalence of people wanting to work with a company, not for a company. They want to understand what's in it from both sides, and how do you create that. They want to know where the company is going to go and and how that will affect them. So our start point is as much transparency as it's possible to have in an organization.

One of the ways in which Equiniti provides that transparency is through its leadership hosting live broadcasts to employees every six weeks. This covers a business update and any HR updates, along with issues that have come up in Peakon and live questions from employees during the broadcast. These might be about anything from corporate acquisitions through to the state of the washrooms in a particular building. He says it's important to tackle difficult issues such as market exits or layoffs as well as good news, being upfront about what the company is doing and why:

I think a lot of the lack of trust in organizations comes from you not knowing why something happens, and it coming as a surprise to you. Now, as we all know, [especially] HR professionals, there are some things you just can't share too much in advance of plan. But if you're constantly talking about what is the strategy of the organization, and then when you do make an announcement, you can explain how it fundamentally fits into that strategy that people can work back, then there's a huge degree of acceptance that it's the right thing.

So transparency, honesty, and going back to your question, how do we get 91%? We answer everything, however tough it is. People can see that we are genuinely looking at it every month, and making active decisions off the back of it.

The monitoring also extends to picking up when the data shows that a manager has been encouraging their team members to enter a favourable score. He elaborates:

We can pick that out of the data and we can go and educate them why that's not the cleverest thing. We don't just want the number to go up. We want a genuine environment where people are truly bought into what we're trying to do.

Managing payroll costs at Lore Group

Lore Group, which runs prestigious properties such as the Pulitzer Amsterdam, Sea Containers London and the Riggs Washington DC, also looks at Peakon data and has been comparing its performance against hospitality industry benchmarks in metrics such as workload, growth and staff turnover. Being able to drill down into live data across its operations means it can act quickly rather than having to wait for the numbers to be collated and analyzed. Jon Dawson, Chief People Officer, says:

Because everything's in one place we can make more effective decisions quicker.

As a hospitality business, keeping on top of costs is a big focus, with consumer spending uncertain at the moment, while labor costs are rising. Until rolling out Workday between February 2022 and May 2023, the company had operated 22 different HR, payroll, learning & development and engagement applications. Bringing everything into a single system that runs across all its properties, including becoming an early adopter of Workday Scheduling, has transformed visibility into day-to-day payroll expense. Dawson says:

Putting all of those things together, with all of those rules behind it, to actually come up with a global payroll report that a front-office manager or restaurant manager or bar manager can literally have, in real live-time, they've got that labor forecasting, they know if they go into that report they get real live data coming in, that's absolutely game-changing.

One example of savings comes from an app that Lore has built in Workday, which alerts line managers when someone is about to cross the 40-hour threshold at which their US workers have to be paid double time. This saved $25,000 last year. Lore is currently working on bringing agency staff into the same integrated system, which could provide further savings. Dawson comments:

The scheduling products is probably, for me, the golden nugget for us. That's where you can really get the ROI on your investment.

Skills development and careers

Another area where Workday is making an impact at Equiniti is in providing new opportunities for staff to develop their skills by contributing to short-term projects elsewhere in the organization. Stephenson explains:

There's tasks and opportunities that come on and go off. When your workforce is dispersed right around the globe, however good your management infrastructure is, it's very hard to go, 'There's a person sat in India who would be really good for that task that's going to happen in Minnesota.'

What Workday will allow us to do is to just optimize the people with the talent from anywhere in the globe. So that they can dip into that role, deliver something great for the company, hopefully learn something themselves, and then dip back into another area. So we're really excited at the add-on that gives us in the flexibility of our workforce.

The culture at Equiniti encourages managers to look out for the wider goals of the organization rather than focus solely on their own specific function or team. He goes on:

If I'm truly working with that [organization-wide] peer group, and I've got somebody in my unit who's the highest talent we've got in the group, and actually, they could be more useful over there, then I'm very happy to do that. That's the mindset we try and instil right across the organization, that we just want the best people in the best place. It's not about individual little unit successes. It's about the wider goal.

In some cases, that includes a recognition that an individual's skills development may be best served by a stint at another employer, particularly if they work in a market segment where the opportunities for advancement within Equiniti are more limited. Stephenson says it's important for the company to be frank with employees:

The drawback of having incredibly good retention, which we have, is there's less places to move into in stable markets. We are very honest with people about where the opportunities lie within the organization, when they may get them. We will clearly talk about how you can make lateral moves, because that's a great opportunity to to build your career.

But we'll also be honest that in some of the very stable markets, the best career trajectory may be to move away from our organization. We'll connect you with our alumni group, and we'll keep you engaged and we'll stay in touch with you, because we know you may come back with more skills. That's being incredibly honest with people, that that may involve in-out, as well as just a straight linear career path.

My take

Many vendors these days are talking up the benefits of consolidating data and functionality into a single platform, and Workday is no different. Having these customers on stage reinforced that message with real-world examples where having live data at their fingertips is helping them manage costs and react faster.

Interestingly, while AI was a big topic in the Workday presentations at this event, it was more of a subtext in the customer conversations. Both Equiniti and Lore Group acknowledge the role of AI in areas such as predictive attrition and scheduling — these wouldn't be anywhere near as useful without it — but the technology isn't an end in itself, it's just the means to a better business outcome.

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