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Renault follows in Nissan's tracks with global Workday rollout for HR

The French carmaker is following its strategic partner Nissan in rolling out cloud HR software from Workday, and it has learned some lessons from its Japanese compatriot

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French carmaker Renault is currently embarking on a global rollout of Workday's cloud HR software across 120,000 employees following a successful implementation across the business of its strategic partner Nissan.

Speaking at the Workday Rising event in his native Barcelona last week, Alfonso Dez David, alliance general manager of global digital human resources at Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, talked Computerworld UK through its journey with the software at Nissan, and how that has impacted the ongoing rollout at Renault.

For context, the strategic alliance partnership between Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi is not a merger or an acquisition, instead the three companies are joined by a unique cross-sharing agreement.

This agreement, it would appear, has now extended to cloud software choices, as Renault is adopting Workday's SaaS Human Capital Management (HCM) software globally, following a successful 110,000 employee rollout at Nissan wrapped up in September 2016.

Workday implementation at Nissan

The adoption of Workday at Nissan wasn't a straight road however. In September 2012 Nissan was running multiple on-premise HR systems across its regions, with no link between them. It was running both Success Factors and Oracle PeopleSoft in North America, SAP HR software in Europe, and Japan was running an internally developed mainframe system "from the 70s," Dez David said.

So the board decided it wanted to upgrade its HR systems but also take the opportunity to consolidate around a single technology and, boldly, to go with a cloud-based SaaS system.

At the time of the decision Diez David said the board demanded that there be "no more internally designed HR processes" and that it would use off-the-shelf software across the regions. This, he said, took some convincing across the the regional offices who asked: "You want me to take the personal data of my employees from my secure server to the cloud?"

However, after considering some other SaaS HR software, the decision was made to go with Workday following its Rising event in Las Vegas in 2012, and the deal was signed in January 2013, with a four-wave rollout designed to start the following year.

Read next: What to expect from Workday version 30 and beyond

Nissan piloted Workday HCM in smaller regional markets like Hong Kong (with the Infiniti brand) and South Africa before rolling out to North America and Japan in early 2015, followed by EMEA in September 2015 and completing the implementation in September 2016. Since then it has worked towards adding learning, recruitment and talent modules, as well as Workday Mobile access for its employees.

Teething issues and benefits

In terms of teething issues, Dez David said IT had to design custom integrations to several of its third-party payroll systems, which are anything but consolidated across Nissan, an SAP time-tracking application in Europe and finance systems which are not unified under a global ERP system and often reliant on spreadsheets.

Read next: Nissan-Renault brings in App Dynamics to manage its global websites

The aim of implementing a global HR system was to give Nissan the ability to compare "apples with apples" when it came to talent, as Dez David put it. Previously, things like appraisal ratings differed depending on the region, meaning talent mobility across the organisation was virtually non-existent.

Next, Nissan wanted to start to leverage talent analytics to optimise shift patterns. For example, in Europe, a factory floor supervisor would rely on Excel spreadsheets when viewing if they had a full team ahead of shifts, and would have to ring around other teams if someone was signed off sick. Now they have dashboards as a simple way to view where people are.

Lastly, it wanted an HR system employees could use to self serve for simple requests like a shift change or leave request, instead of taking up HR capacity.

Lessons learned

Now, as it embarks on a similar rollout of Workday at Renault, Dez David has learned some lessons from the Nissan implementation.

First off, he says "be user-centric" and preempt the impact the new system will have on people. He admits they didn't do this as well as they could have at Nissan and with the Renault rollout the focus is on recruiting 'champions' to visit offices to run training and answer questions users may have.

Dez David also recommends using a rollout like this as an opportunity to focus on data quality, as simply lifting and shifting employee data from an old system to Workday brings lots of inaccuracies with it. By getting ahead of this data quality issue you can save your organisation issues down the line.

Lastly, he advised to budget for data privacy concerns, as this requires resources and outside help, especially ahead of GDPR.