In retail, the impact of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation often take the technology spotlight—after all, it’s more exciting to talk about a shelf-stocking robot or a smart fitting room than human capital management (HCM) software. But without the infrastructure of HR and finance in place, those other technologies can’t make an impact. The cornerstones must be firm or the house may crumble.
At a recent digital event we hosted, Workday Industry Insights Europe, Franziska Wiehoff, head of HR IT at Fielmann AG, and Nicola Skeels, HR systems manager at Harrods, took part in a customer panel led by Dr. Teo Pham, founder of the Delta School, an online business school for e-commerce and social media.
Fielmann, headquartered in Germany, is an eye-wear company with 800 stores in seven European countries, and Harrods is arguably the most famous—and the largest—department store in Europe. Wiehoff and Skeels shared what’s most important to them in an HR system, why they chose Workday HCM, and the benefits they’ve gained from it.
The power of a single platform was a common theme for both companies. Decentralized, disjointed systems with no integrations and dozens of different applications weren’t working, and in some cases employees didn’t have access to HR systems, or there was no way to effectively reach out to employees and managers. In some cases, the largest share of workload fell to the HR shared service team; in others, stores didn’t have the staff they needed, leading to long customer wait times. Both Harrods and Fielmann sought out a new, unified system for data visibility and full integration.
Great system usability was important, as well as the ability to digitize a high percentage of processes. A user-friendly mobile application for employees was key, too. As Skeels shared, “the majority of our employees are either based in shops or distribution centres—they’re not on a computer day-to-day, so having the mobile application and being able to update their details was definitely a real positive for us with Workday.”
The pandemic disrupted retail operations across the globe, and many retailers have found ways to innovate through difficult times. Fielmann developed a digital waiting list to help manage store capacity, and also asked customers to make appointments on its website, Wiehoff said. She shared that the pandemic accelerated Fielmann’s digitization efforts, moving some projects from “someday” to “right now.”
Making the rapid switch to remote work brought a new wrinkle into the Workday deployment process for Fielmann, but the organization found that working remotely made it easier to collaborate quickly with teams in other countries and solve problems quickly.
Learning also had to continue despite physical distance, including employee onboarding and training programs. Skeels shared that Harrods moved all of its onboarding online due to the pandemic, and used Workday Talent Management’s learning modules. Even with this change to onboarding, she shared that a new employee on her team said that virtual experience was just as effective online as it would have been in person.
With Workday HCM as the cornerstone, retailers find benefits across the business. For Harrods, the biggest benefit is having a singleplatform for all its HR processes and data, as well as total confidence in data security and accuracy. In addition, Skeels shared that Harrods reduced its bonus and salary review process from three months to one-to-two weeks.
At the time of our digital event in January, Fielmann was in the deployment process. Wiehoff said that “Workday has changed the way we look at business processes,” and the organization can base its approach on Workday best practices and apply them globally with minimal changes.
The priorities and experience of Harrods and Fielmann are not isolated. Industry trends concur with the importance of a unified, user-first approach to enterprise software built collaboratively on a single source of truth. In an analyst session at the event, Philip Carter, chief analyst for IDC in Europe, talked about the effects of disruption on retail and how a new retail operating model is emerging.
At the heart of this new model is a new digital roadmap, built on strong connections between finance, HR, and other functions. Leading the charge toward this new way to work together is a team of C-suite leaders across all disciplines bringing their expertise to the table. And then, as Carter said, “those leaders need to come together, to deliver this integrated technology architecture that is open, intelligent, and extensible.”
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