Transforming the workforce through the right kind of digitisation


At HR Indaba, Adcorp revealed how ‘tech on steroids’ enables a more efficient workforce.

In a “new normal”, HR has had to rethink their processes to support new levels of resilience and efficiency. With the right digital implementations, some organisations have completely transformed the way they do things – even if they’ve had the same processes and systems for the last four decades.

One such organisation is Adcorp. At this year’s HR Indaba, Adcorp’s HR executive for people enablement, Zameer Ahmed, shared how the professional services company achieved this transformation.

In a highly entertaining presentation entitled, “How Adcorp used HRIS to transform process management and employee experiences”, Zameer started off by showing the audience an image of an unidentified chemical’s make-up. The attendees had to guess what it was: a carbohydrate, a chromosome? The answer was… a steroid.
A system that’s lean and agile – not buff and bulky

What does getting exceedingly buff and an HR information system have in common?

Today’s HR leaders need an information system that enables “an employee experience on steroids,” explained Zameer. “Your HRIS needs to provide improved onboarding and employee self-service so that you’re not burdened by admin, which means you can improve your decision-making and productivity.” This system, Zameer cautioned, shouldn’t be buff and bulky, however – it should be lean, agile, and sleek.

It's through this lens that Adcorp effectively implemented an HRIS on steroids. Although, Zameer pointed out, it wasn’t a straightforward journey to get there, and the process involved significant change management. He explained that Adcorp has 16 brands, and each one has their own policies and rules. For the past 40 years, along with Excel, they’d been using a solution that only catered for finance and operations – there was no performance module, nothing to manage recruitment, and no learning and development function.

Dirty data and a tech refresh

“Whenever there was an acquisition, the new brands were loaded onto the pre-existing, non-HR system. So, we had a database of sorts, but we couldn’t extract the data out of it – it was like a dirty car wash,” quipped Zameer.
Adcorp couldn’t trust their own data, which meant that reports were painfully slow and provided no value. It was a mess, as Zameer depicted in an interactive word salad. Delegates were asked to shout out what words or numbers jumped out at them. “144!” “95!” “Nutters!” were the responses.

Turns out, the organisation had 144 group systems (some were just used as file storage, according to Zameer), 95 leave rules, and the HR department often felt like a bunch of nutters.

“But data is the new oil, right?” added Zameer. “So, we knew we needed a new system.”

“What was the first thing we did?” he asked the attendees. “You prayed!” shouted someone in the back.

Zameer admitted that yes, they prayed. But praying wasn’t sustainable, so the HR function decided to do a tech refresh. Whatever system they chose, it would need to be minimally configurable with a single, simplified solution. So, said Zameer, Adcorp chose Workday (“Or Workday chose Adcorp, we’re not quite sure,” he joked).
“How do I make my life simpler?”

The implementation of this new and improved HRIS started with design sessions, where everyone contributed their two cents. “It wasn’t fun, and it was difficult. We had to keep the big picture in mind, because we didn’t want something beautiful that’s complicated,” said Zameer. “So, we created a small decision-making team; I was part of it and so was the chief people officer. We needed to rationalise all our decisions based on the notion of ‘How do I make my life simpler?’”

The 95 leave rules became two, leave liability was reduced by 40 percent, and across the disparate brands there was now policy consistency. The process didn’t involve digitisation for digitisation’s sake, Zameer pointed out; rather, it was underpinned by simplification.

He added that there was significant change management because this new, simplified way of working included fundamental policy changes. Resistance was reduced as the decision-making process was designed in such a way that there couldn’t be a stalemate (in the small decision-making team, there was always an odd number of people who had to reach a consensus, two against one, for example).
Simplify to amplify

According to Zameer, a major improvement in operational efficiencies was due to improved data integrity and reporting, much of which was now automated. Adcorp now had one HRIS solution, with a single sign-on for recruitment, learning, the works. Crucially, the employee self-service on steroids meant that accountability and ownership was shifted to employees and line managers and was not solely on HR’s shoulders.

Zameer concluded by sharing some parting advice to delegates who are dealing with a nightmare system. “Assess your current information system: what is it giving you versus what do you want? Reduce the size of decision-making teams and don’t complicate things – simplify to amplify!”

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