Nationwide Building Society has embarked on an ambitious transformation programme, consolidating the majority of its HR systems onto one platform. Neil Lewis, head of HR operations, tells Sarah Clark how this new HR system will drive efficiency, maintain engagement and get the organisation fit for future.
What does your role involve?
I head up HR shared services for 17,000 employees across the Nationwide Group and I’m the internal sponsor for the HR systems transformation programme. Every programme has an internal sponsor – a member of the leadership community who steers it and acts as an advocate among their peers.
What are your current HR challenges?
As with any organisation, our challenge is to enable our people by providing a great HR service. We start from a position of strength, as Nationwide is currently ranked 11th in The Sunday Times’ list of ‘Best Companies to Work For’. We consistently hit high engagement scores in our employee surveys and three quarters of our staff say they are passionate about working for Nationwide. We need to maintain this level of engagement and continually support a growing organisation.
What is the HR systems transformation programme?
It’s a three-year programme that will transform the technology that underpins not only our HR shared services but the whole of the HR operation. In 2013, we looked at our IT offering. When we considered the underlying technology that supported our on-premise system, I realised that we had to step back and take stock. As a result, we decided to condense everything onto one platform. It will help to reduce costs, increase engagement and enable us to recognise employees who are contributing towards our corporate goals. It’s not just about modernising a system – we are getting fit for future so that we can support a growing and successful business today, tomorrow and for years to come.
What business results do you hope to see?
It will give us a better view of our data, drive better conversations and give people the same level of real-time technology as we use everyday outside of work. We will be able to focus more on our employees’ needs – whether that’s a three-minute fact-find or an in-depth conversation about their careers – they can speak to us directly via self-service or web chat. We’re giving time back to our managers and employees to focus on their personal goals and careers. My main focus will be on the qualitative benefits of this transformation and the positive impact it’s having on our employees. We’ll be making sure that we have a talent pipeline for the future, not just for five years’ time, but for 10 years, 20 years and beyond.
How will this offer a great experience to employees?
Our people are the heartbeat of the business strategy, so it’s really important for us to know that our people can do their job without having to worry about the processes that sit behind HR. If our employees have all the right information and support they need in their work-life balance, they will be able to deliver a genuine experience to our customers. We will be able to give our people quality HR information – such as pensions, employee benefits and HR policies – at their fingertips, enabling employees to manage their work lives in a more engaging and interactive way.
What tips can you give to HR leaders looking to implement technology into their service delivery?
Consider the strategic direction of your organisation and understand what your business requirements are. It’s not just about what your technology needs to do now, but what it needs to do in five years’ time. For example, if you want to support a more agile workforce through mobile working or ‘bring your own device’ technology, you need to think about the HR IT infrastructure to support this. Don’t underestimate the effort it will take to investigate the technology out there in the market. The investment of your time will be well worth it.