Illumina’s Head of HR Information Systems on the Speed of Innovation

Pat Leckman, HR senior director at a leading company in the emerging field of DNA sequencing, discusses ACA compliance, building a global HR team, and what employees want in their business technology tools.

Illumina is a life sciences company that by all measures is a leader and innovator. Fast Company reports it’s the “undisputed leader in the emerging field of DNA sequencing in the U.S.,” and more broadly, 90 percent of the world’s sequencing has been generated using lllumina’s technology.

Pat Leckman, senior director of global total rewards and HR information systems at Illumina, attributes the company’s success to its culture. In a Human Resources Executive webinar sponsored by Workday, she describes Illumina’s culture as “innovative, collaborative, fast, open, dynamic-driven, and fun.” When Illumina and Workday executives met many years ago, “there was a meeting of the minds around innovation and the way to drive rapid market adoption through software,” said Leckman. “We continue to see them as a very innovative, like-minded company.”

San Diego-based Illumina has more than 5,000 employees in 20 locations around the globe. In the webinar, Tom Starner of Human Resources Executive Online interviewed Leckman, who discussed Illumina’s wildfire growth, how colleagues use the Workday Community portal, and how Workday is designed for continually evolving regulatory change like the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Read on for highlights of the conversation.

Growing HR Support

Leckman said that since 2012, Illumina has grown global staffing transactions by 200 percent, HR processes by 35 percent, and added 200 software integrations and 70 reports. “All those amazing deliverables were generated by a really small internal HRIS team of five people,” Leckman said. “They are Awesome with a capital A. So the total cost of ownership for Workday has been incredibly impressive for Illumina.”

Workday Community

“Workday has an amazing customer portal that’s full of information, and it’s so interactive,” Leckman said, and explained how learning from other Workday customers has impacted the company’s compensation processes.

Illumina conducts a number of compensation actions per year across base, variable, and equity pay. “We’ve been able to support all of those processes in Workday, bringing in other talent information such as performance, retention, and succession planning, so that we have a broader talent strategy discussion when making compensation decisions.”

Much of the company’s ability to support and grow its compensation processes resulted from suggestions the Illumina HRIS team members submitted in Workday Community. “Our team is logging suggestions which get noticed by the product development team at Workday and can make it into product releases,” she said.

When Illumina and Workday executives met many years ago, “there was a meeting of the minds around innovation and the way to drive rapid market adoption through software,” said Leckman.

ACA Compliance

“When we first started looking into ACA, along with our partners and auditors, it was a scary time because we did not have all the final rules from the IRS yet,” Leckman said. “But, because of Workday Community and because of the way reporting is designed within Workday, we were able to assure our auditors on our ACA compliance. Then, we met all the filing deadlines with ease.”


On her first day on the job at Illumina six years ago, Leckman turned on Workday and “I was floored by this whole suite of HR reporting,” she said. “The reports are so well-formatted and so well-delivered that it’s information at my fingertips versus having to go through a structured reporting.”

Keeping Pace with Business Change

Leckman shared the challenges of a rapidly growing organization. “It’s difficult to say, ‘I’m going to drive a business strategy that’s three years out that’s never going to change.’ So the reporting that’s served up to the business is very situational. It supports the moment-in-time discussions with the businesses,” she said.

She adds that Illumina has conducted many acquisitions, which can be tough for an HR department in a fast-growing company. “We’ve been able to build business data loads that allowed us to support acquisitions that come to us at the 11th hour, and we’ve been able to get teams into the system so they will have access to all the Illumina toolsets that they might need to do their jobs,” she said. “So, using the flexibility and the architecture, our awesome team has been able to support our business growth.”

Engaging the Future

“When I joined, the idea of personalized medicine using genomics to influence drug therapies and medical therapies—I was hoping to see it in my daughter’s lifetime,” Leckman said. “I’m now seeing it in my lifetime. The ability to sequence a cancer tumor and understand whether radiation or therapy is going to be effective for that type of tumor—and, if not, what else is available—is amazing.”

She continued, “When I parallel that to Workday, what’s interesting is that they’re very committed to the education market, and they’re bringing Workday into universities. If you look at millennials and the way they engage with technology, it is much more intuitive, it is much more multifaceted, and it’s much more engagement oriented.”

She added that Workday fits in with her technology lifestyle. “I have my toolset: I have my iTunes, Netflix, Amazon, and Workday,” she said. “It’s all delivered on my phone; it’s all delivered on my iPad. It’s just one more ability to manage my life effectively and efficiently.”

Workday’s focus on understanding how millennials want to interact with technology in their daily lives is important, she added. “I see Workday as having a head start in influencing that generation through their education outreaches, as well as the way they build their software.”

Posted in:  Human Resources

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