Norconsult Embraces HR Disruption Head On

With continued global expansion, Norconsult, a leading multidisciplinary consultancy firm for social planning, engineering design, and architecture, disrupted its approach to HR to better engage its people.

Headquartered in Sandvika, Norway (just outside Oslo), Norconsult is one of Scandinavia’s leading multidisciplinary consultancy firms for social planning, engineering design, and architecture. The company has more than 3,800 employees in 97 offices across four continents.

With continued global expansion, the business recognised the need to better manage its most important asset—its people. I caught up with Guro Ruud Cedell, Norconsult’s head of human resources, to discuss how the business disrupted its approach to HR to better engage its people.

How did your HR landscape look before you made the decision to transform it, and what were the main business drivers for doing so?

The real challenge was that we had multiple HR systems and no single source for people data. There was one for performance management, one for recruiting, and another for learning—all across different geographies. It took weeks to get the necessary data, which meant that the numbers were often outdated by the time they got into the hands of the user. This made it especially difficult for the company to ensure that the latest information was being presented to the board. We also didn’t have any self-service capabilities, which led to the duplication of many simple tasks.

Workers in the HR department were spending most of their time in the back-office reconciling data rather than working on more strategic initiatives. When you don’t have a single view of data, it impacts everything. From a talent management perspective, we were relying on spreadsheets to match employee skills with requirements across the business, which was time-consuming and totally inefficient.

What were the areas you wanted to prioritise when looking at transforming the way your global HR function operates?

Having all of our HR data in one system was the main area we wanted to address. This would give us access to real-time, accurate data and also help us enable self-service for our employees. That would free up our HR team to focus on more strategic tasks rather than paperwork. Talent management is also another area that was critical for us, and we wanted HR data to provide visibility into the skills we have or do not have across the organisation. Without a single view of the entire workforce, it’s very difficult to understand the skills gap and either hire new staff or develop the existing workforce to meet these needs.

There’s a lot of talk about digital transformation in the media, but this truly was a disruptive project for Norconsult. Tell us about that journey and how you had to think about this disruption?

Well, the decision to choose Workday Human Capital Management is the biggest technology deployment Norconsult has had to date. With such a large deployment, the change management process was critical, and we went to great lengths to ensure that employees, managers, and HR personnel were well-informed and adopting the new processes quickly. You have to embrace a culture of change and everyone has to come along for the ride. For example, we decided to provide short user guides about how to use Workday in place of classroom trainings or videos. To ensure that this was the best way to train its workforce on the new software, we ran ongoing assessments and made adjustments where needed.

“With Workday, we now know the competencies of our workers across different departments and geographies. We didn’t know that before.”—Guro Ruud Cedell, head of Human Resources, Norconsult

From a technology standpoint, Workday’s ability to allow us to automate business processes greatly benefits HR and administrative workers, more importantly it challenged the “old way” of thinking and changed the way work processes had been typically handled without a core HR system. This required some additional effort to get people up to speed on the technology, and meant that the staff needed to have an open mindset and be willing to change in order to be successful.

Do you have any examples of day-to-day HR tasks that changed? 

The two that immediately spring to mind would be employee onboarding and the termination process, both of which are crucial to the business. Workday gives you the opportunity to connect with employees before they start, so many of the administrative processes can be kicked off before they even step through the door. You want employees to feel a part of the company from the outset, so if you can remove some of the administration tasks from their first day, they can focus on building relationships rather than pen-pushing.

Then there is employee termination, be that voluntary or enforced. That takes up a huge amount of time, with a lot of back and forth between departments, such as team managers, payroll, and the HR team, not to mention producing letters and reference requests. If all of those tasks require manual intervention, that takes a lot of resources. With Workday, the end-to-end process is automated. That is so powerful for a business like ours.

For example, the value of the time we saved in the first year—by redefining the onboarding and offboarding processes using Workday HCM—is equivalent to $120,000. With Workday, we have achieved new efficiencies in the onboarding process. HR personnel and new employees saved 60 minutes, and managers saved 30 minutes. Similarly, when employees leave the company, the new process saved employees 35 minutes, managers 30 minutes, and HR personnel 25 minutes.

Are there any other tangible improvements from moving to a single tool?

The impact of Workday flows into much of our day-to-day work. For example, during the bidding process for our clients, Workday helped us save 30 minutes per generated report and 15 minutes per process—due to self-service—which resulted in $280,000 in cost savings in the first year.

The value of time saved by managers in the first year of using Workday Human Capital Management is equivalent to a total of $60,000. As a result of the improvements that we have made to our business processes, managers have saved a lot of time. The compensation change process takes 80 percent less time, job requisitions 75 percent less time, and promotions 72 percent less time. With Workday, we now know the competencies of our workers across different departments and geographies. We didn’t know that before.

We have one system, one structure, and one place where we can make changes and find the information we need. If you look at all the numbers, as a result of consolidating our HR processes into a single system we have achieved savings of $460,000 and exceeded ROI projections by 56 percent in the first year.

You can learn how Workday is helping Norconsult optimise business processes and reduce time on administrative tasks in this infostudy.

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