Published 23. Jun. 2016

How to Transform HR into a Strategic Business Partner

Human Resources


The Need for an HR Platform and Integrated Talent Management

Ramboll operates in a range of industries, from building and transport to energy and telecommunications, and in a wide range of locations, from Scandinavia to India to Qatar. It handles more than 40,000 projects a year around the world. In such a people-intensive business, it’s all about the talent, according to Søren Carlsen, group HR director for Ramboll. In fact, he believes the company is its people. “Everything we do is about employing the very best talent in the market, asking them to work together, to team up and deliver professional services to our customers. We have people – no more, no less.” Ramboll grew from 2,000 employees in 2000 to 10,000 employees in 2010, largely through acquisition. As Ramboll grew, the company’s leadership team realized it lacked visibility into its global talent pool.

The challenge? Come up with an HR platform and integrated talent management.

The acquisition years left Ramboll with a tangle of disparate, local HR systems in various countries. “We did not have a unified HR database,” says Carlsen. “We weren’t even sure how many employees there were in the organisation. We did not have global processes – we had local processes. We had no common methodology – no matrix or language or mindset – for HR and talent.” As the company expanded, it was asked to work on larger and larger projects by drawing staff from many parts of the organisation around the world. According to the executive board, the ability to move talent around seamlessly would be crucial for Ramboll’s success. “That was the business approach, to say that we have grown from 2,000 to 10,000, which has been great,” Carlsen says. “But if we want to double in size, which is the ambition, we need to do other things to become another size. That was the business case.”

The tipping point was when the lines of business began to feel the pain. “It was very difficult to move talent and skills between different lines of business in different countries because we didn’t have a common language, we didn’t have a system,” he explains. Due to the lack of a common language on talent and a methodology for leveling out jobs and skills, Ramboll experienced problems when staffing from different countries for a specific project. Sometimes it came down to simple things, such as different perceptions of the skills required, or the responsibilities of a senior project manager.

An Integrated Solution Built for the Cloud

When Ramboll began looking for a new approach, it quickly narrowed its search to cloud-based solutions. “Having a cloud system with easily accessible technology using a browser – that was interesting for us, compared with a more classic ERP,” Carlsen says. “We didn’t want to invest a lot in internal IT structures.” “Workday provides an integrated HR and talent management solution,” says Carlsen. Other companies that Ramboll evaluated emphasised one aspect such as talent management or recruitment. Only Workday had what Ramboll needed in a single, cloud-based solution. With it, there’s no need to build integration between core HR data and talent. “This integrated solution reduces costs and the risk of mistakes,” Carlsen says. But it was also crucial that the technology was easy to use. Having a unified system was part of that. “It’s easy to go and look for the specific data or analysis you want, because you don’t need to leave the system and check out reports from different modules and combine them. That makes it much more user-friendly compared to other systems.” Finally, Ramboll needed a flexible system that could support global best practices while simultaneously accommodating local regulations and they had it with the integrated solution, “In the countries in which we operate, we have not seen a situation where we could not adapt a process to be compliant with local regulations,” Carlsen says.

From a Reactive to a Proactive HR

Ramboll’s Workday deployment began in September 2011. “From signing the contract to going live with the full organisation on master HR data processes it took 14 months, which was on time and on budget,” says Carlsen. The benefits of the unified system are already apparent to Carlsen and his team, even after just a few months. What stands out is how easy it is to make changes. “In the classic ERP environment, to make a change, we would need to call for a consultant, which would cost 300 U.S. dollars an hour and take 14 days. With the unified system, someone can say, ‘Please go change this process,’ and we are live with the new process in half an hour.” In addition, the role of HR is changing from reactive to proactive, now that the business can get clear, accurate workforce data from Workday. “We are able to deliver much better quality services and better HR intelligence to our organisation with the same resources,” Carlsen says. “Before Workday, we had hardly any HR data. The things we could deliver were very basic. So we are moving from that to delivering live data. And we can begin building a workforce-planning model that will help our organisation in its growth strategy. In the past, we had only a small chance of delivering any sensible insight to them. Instead of just sitting and waiting for things to happen, we can actually be prepared because we will know what is likely to happen,” says Carlsen. “For instance, we can now anticipate possible turnover. Suddenly we can provide much better turnover numbers so that I can help my line of business executives to say, ‘This is the approximate number of employees in different job families who will leave next year’. And we can be prepared for that. Though we can’t predict the future exactly, we will be more agile.”

One Language, One Direction

By far the biggest benefit to Ramboll is the ability for its far-flung offices to understand each other better. “Having a single system creates a shared mindset. It creates a common language,” Carlsen explains. “We can begin to talk about exchanging talent in a new way.” Carlsen and his team are now rolling out global processes for talent development and performance management. “Our offering to the market is knowledge-based projects for a sustainable world. For us to be able to do that, we need to be able to combine the talent and experience from different parts of our organisation, do it fast, and do it in a way that addresses customer needs,” he continues. “We have much more insight into our organisation. It will be easier for us to staff up our projects in the best possible way, to serve our customers in the best possible way, and to do it as fast as we can. At the same time, we can reduce the level of risk within our organisation because we’ll know more about what will happen, and we can be better prepared for that.”

Summary of Business Benefits

  • A single global source for HR and talent data.
  • The ability to move talent around the world to staff projects more easily.
  • A common understanding of professional roles and responsibilities.
  • Process changes that take 30 minutes instead of two weeks.
  • Managers and employees empowered with easy-to-access information.
  • A system that can scale as the company grows.

Workday will be attending the 600Minutes Leadership and HR, Sweden, event on May 17, 2017 as  a solution provider. For more on our upcoming events, visit the Event Calendar»