Enabling Global Human Resources at Willis Towers Watson with Oracle HCM Cloud

Brady Jensen, Senior Director, Global Human Resources Operations, Willis Towers Watson
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Brady Jensen, Senior Director, Global Human Resources Operations, Willis Towers Watson

Brady Jensen, Senior Director, Global Human Resources Operations, Willis Towers Watson

In colonial Latin America, the imperial viceroys in Mexico and Peru would ask the Council of the Indies in Spain for direction and instruction, and then wait – perhaps impatiently – for a response that could take as long as two years to make its way across the world and back. Now, the same exchange between a Spanish bank’s headquarters and its Latin America operations happens instantly.

Today’s business world is global and connected, and no longer accepts boundaries or lag times. Key leadership roles are filled with executives from around the world. Functions are off-shored to hubs that operate 24 hours a day in multiple languages to provide critical enterprise services. Teams collaborate across borders to bring the precise mix of skills required to address complex client demands. And in the background, human resources tries (and struggles) to keep pace using 20 year-old software that was created to support local operations and with limited ability to operate in this global, virtual world.

This was the challenge we faced at Willis Towers Watson. In 2016, we combined Willis, a global insurance broker, and Towers Watson, a leading risk and human capital consultant. This merger also involved the simultaneous acquisition of Paris-based insurance broker Gras Savoye. Collectively, we now employ more than 50,000 employees and contingent staff in more than 90 countries. With three enterprise systems, a home-grown “international database” and numerous local systems, there was no single source of information about our people.

  A central driver of the Wills Towers Watson merger was simplification, standardization and integration of processes and programs in order to operate as one global enterprise  

Last month, we completed a two-year journey to implement a modern human resource information system that can support our global business today, and as it continues to grow and evolve. For the first time, our leaders, managers and employees have access to accurate, comprehensive information about our worldwide workforce through Oracle HCM Cloud via an easy-to-use, graphically-displayed directory. Through this transformation, we learned three things about what it means to enable a truly global approach to human resources…

1. Data must be global. Information about our employees is critical in a business where, to use the cliché, our only asset is our people. The challenge was that each company defined terms in different ways, often reflecting out-of-date practices that could not be changed given the rigidity of legacy systems. Each company lacked a meaningful taxonomy to define the work employees do. Despite the central role information technology plays in many of our businesses, we had no way to identify software engineers or other information technology professionals. This impaired internal mobility and prevented the shifting of resources to new priorities and growth opportunities across the organization.

The foundation of managing data lies in designing transparent global structures that describe what someone does, where they do it and who they do it for. Yet at the same time, data is local and trapped in payroll systems, spreadsheets and tribal knowledge. And in most countries, human resources functions have unique data needs for compliance with local legislation. Oracle HCM Cloud provided a way meet these challenges.

The core is one global configuration where most data is maintained through a centralized human resources services function. Key person and employment attributes are defined consistently around the world, master data is shared with Oracle E-Business Suite Financials and one global career framework defines enterprise job structures.

However, nearly 30 percent of our company lacks the necessary network and organizational infrastructure to directly access the system. So, we developed a unification hub that provides a spreadsheet interface to bulk upload data until the necessary infrastructure is in place by early 2019. This hub also provides a mechanism to integrate new acquisitions quickly, a key objective for a company that expects growth to come, in part, through acquisitions. HCM Cloud legislation functionality supports the local country data requirements, enabling regulatory reporting and local processes for payroll, benefits and leave administration.

2. Processes must be global. A central driver of the Wills Towers Watson merger was simplification, standardization and integration of processes and programs in order to operate as one global enterprise. Employees needed consistent and equitable total rewards and working conditions to prevent barriers and enable collaboration. Managers needed to lead teams blended from multiple legacy entities and different countries. And, we needed one way of managing people-related processes and programs.

Our “one way” is our global common model of standard business processes enabled by Oracle HCM Cloud. These processes have simplified workflow and approval requirements delivered through manager self-service transactions, backed up by global operations and regional delivery teams. We drove adoption of this model through detailed standard operating procedures supported by a worldwide network of subject matter experts. These global processes help ensure a consistent level of quality in our data, which in turn feeds numerous enterprise functions, such as compensation planning.

While we are a global enterprise, our employees live in local jurisdictions that have their own requirements, practices and labor markets. We had in-country human resources representatives develop variants and extensions to the global common model processes and localization supplements.

3. Insights must be global. With a solid foundation of accurate, cohesive data maintained through robust processes, we can turn to what will truly transform our human resources function and our company’s data-based insights. Through Oracle Transactional Business Intelligence, we will deploy simple dashboard-style reporting for all managers to use in understanding the dynamics of their teams through attrition, performance and diversity metrics. As the depth of our data grows, we can use predictive modelling and other advanced analytic tools to deliver intelligence to business leaders. Also, we can develop workforce plans to address potential skill gaps, improve diversity and gender balance, and identify the leadership of the future.

Talent today is global and connected, and works across the borders of geography and time zones. Simple and efficient business processes, plus accurate and consistent data, produce meaningful insights that unlock the potential of that talent.

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