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Workday HR comes calling at Avon

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright June 14, 2016
2 years after rolling out Workday beauty brand Avon has a global view of HR data that helps optimize processes and deliver strategic insight to the business

Avon lipstick
Perhaps you've seen the TV ads in which fashion bloggers test out mystery consignments of cosmetics, and then discover, to their surprise, that the packages are from Avon. Or if you've hailed a black cab in London recently, you may have been offered a free lipstick sample. The 130-year-old cosmetics brand, traditionally sold door-to-door by local agents and still faithful to its direct sales model, is on a mission to reinvent itself to appeal to a digital generation.

It's all part of an ongoing transformation plan that started several years ago. Having sold off its US operation to private equity earlier this year, NYSE-listed Avon Products is in the midst of a new corporate turnaround plan that will see its headquarters move from New York to the UK and the loss of 2,500 from a total global headcount of more than 30,000 staff. It's at times like these that having accurate HR data to hand really matters.

It's now two years since Avon implemented Workday across its global operations, replacing a mix of PeopleSoft in some countries and largely payroll-based records in the rest. So its HR team has a much better handle on key metrics than it used to, says Helen Gowler, commercial business and global HR portal lead.

Visibility is critical, especially for leaders and finance. Even going through org model changes, we can pull the data, we can understand some of the themes, we can look to do some restructuring and process validation. Execution is great, because the data is always real-time.

As a result, HR's input now has much more strategic influence.

We're really on the executive table now in the sense of finance. Other key areas and leaders within the organisation actively rely on our data. So it's pivotal to some of those decisions that are being made. I think that's given HR significant value.

Analytics for optimization

The Workday implementation two years ago came at a time when the business was transforming its operations to focus on organisational effectiveness, simplification and growth. Now that the job of process transformation is largely completed, the HR team can start to make more use of analytics to focus on optimization, Gowler believes.

There are times in any organizational model where there's key focus areas, of where there's organizational change and you're supporting that. So you're a bit more inward-focused than you are at other times.

But I do think we're on the cusp over the next year or so of looking more at that predictive piece. That's where I think that we can really add value to HR and the business.

Wouldn't it be great to be able to have a business that's making strategic decisions based on some of the insights that we are giving on our talent data? [To be able to say] this is where we are going to be in 6 months time, do we really want that? Do we want to change what we're doing?

We've yet to really start to roll that out. We're focusing right now on our analytics, on our dashboards and our insights for the business. We've segmented our reporting and dashboard functionality by stakeholder group, so as much as we can have dashboards for HR, dashboards for managers, dashboards for talent.

The HR team can also optimize its own effectiveness, she adds.

The evolution of our data governance program this year is, I want to look at fine tuning processes that are now established within Workday and understand whether we can simplify them or whether there's any improvements that we can make on the back-end process. We need to look at the scorecards that we had last year. The business is changing, so the beauty of it is that we can change some of them. That's what we need to continue to do.

Global dataset

The decision to adopt Workday was crystallised by the business setting strategic goals that couldn't be met without an upgrade to the existing HR system. Those goals needed a cloud-based system that was intuitive for users, the HR team felt. Going cloud also made it possible to standardize globally on a single dataset, as Gowler explains.

We had Peoplesoft as our system of record but it was more of a central repository. We had half of our countries sending us a CSV data dump file every two weeks on a scheduled basis. [Files arrived] each week of the year, depending on the country. So in real time, we didn't have that information at hand.

We also suffered from different data definitions depending on how people perceived a certain data field. There's a significant amount of auditing and rework that had to happen
before we could even get to some of the intelligence we wanted to get to.

Now Workday serves as the authoritative identity database for the entire IT infrastructure, including the Active Directory service that governs email accounts. Over a hundred downstream business processes reference Workday to validate users and their access rights, says Gowler.

The deployment had to be completed within an 18-month timescale. The journey began in May 2013 when the first core process design workshop took place. 44 countries went live in April 2014 and a further 16 in September that year.

The timeline was fierce but we delivered. We ended up coming out with standard core processes for all our key elements of HR.

Now we have advanced compensation, we have the talent module, we have the performance module, we significantly use the dashboard functionality. We have gone from an organization where every country did SOX [Sarbanes-Oxley] controls to one core global SOX control management.

Change management

Careful change management was essential to make a success of the project. That started with getting the requirements definition right, says Gowler.

We went through quite an expedited deployment schedule so it was imperative that those HR generalists and business partners and leaders were on board.

We needed common data definitions, common core processes and we needed to go through that whole design phase. We brought SMEs [subject matter experts] in from all around the world to a few workshops. We were engaging them from the start to try and build that in going forward, because it was significant change.

The next step was to 'train the trainers' to take the new system out to the user base. Change management and training leads were identified for each geographical area and then brought to the UK for an intensive training session before being charged with delivering the training in their markets. That network of contacts is still pivotal in continuing to manage the Workday system, says Gowler.

With Workday came data visibility, and with data visibility comes questions. We needed to ensure, once we deployed, our first focus was to have a data governance strategy in place.

We needed to make sure our data integrity was key because without that, even if we then developed dashboards, and data insights, who was going to use it or trust it if they didn't feel it was there?

Owning the data

It was important to give these stakeholders ownership of their own data and see the benefits of having it available, she explains.

We went through a program last year of creating monthly data scorecards [for] the key data fields that were critical to the business or some of the downstream systems. So therefore on a monthly basis, we would manage the error rate.

The beauty of Workday is you can then drill down to the individual country level and we visibly shared those results by region on a monthly basis.

So we could see some of the trending and where we had issues. It gave us insight as well as if we had any process issues we needed to look at. Then we also started to manage process time as well, for key things like hires and terminations.

That has delivered results, with the hire process reduced from 6 to 4 days, and a similar reduction in the termination process. More importantly, being able to point to measurable process improvements builds trust in the system.

Now we're rolling out all our dashboard functionality to our different segments of the population, it comes as a given that they can trust the data. And now we're just providing the insight, rather than having to explain the data too.

I don't think that whole change management piece will ever stop. It's a constant culture change I believe now.

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