How John Holland’s People & Culture function is fuelling business growth

Working within a bigger mandate for digital transformation has been critical to implementing a new cloud HCM platform, according to Peter Howell, group GM organisational development at John Holland

Working within a bigger mandate for digital transformation across the business has been critical to successfully adopting and implementing a new cloud HCM platform, according to Peter Howell, group general manager organisational development at John Holland.

The people & culture function is supporting a significant growth strategy in the John Holland business, which was acquired by China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) in 2015.

John Holland has evolved from being a successful engineering and building contractor to a leading integrated infrastructure and property company, securing billions of dollars in new projects across Sydney and Melbourne.

“We have a clear growth strategy with the business set to double in size by 2020,” said Howell.

“With such steep ambitions, we need to ensure this strategy is future-facing.”

John Holland currently employees around 3300 people, but, with a vision to double the business in the next four years, Howell said managing people effectively will be more important than ever.

“That’s why we’ve launched a digital transformation program designed to maintain our market-leading position throughout this change.”

John Holland’s people & culture team has been tasked with the challenge of recruiting 3000 new employees over the next three years to manage this phase of growth.

“Having a better view of employees also helps us retain staff so we can understand where their next role will be and how we can continue to develop their careers”

“We wanted a digital HR solution to free our line managers from piles of paperwork, empowering them with access to people and organisational data,” explained Howell, who was speaking ahead of a series of events about how HR is leading John Holland into a new frontier of digital transformation.

“We also want to ensure our business is equipped to handle this new growth.

“With a number of large projects in the pipeline, we needed to improve staff utilisation rates and make it easier to manage employees.”

This includes staff visibility – knowing where people are, their skillsets, when they’re available for projects and what they’re doing next.

“Having a better view of employees also helps us retain staff so we can understand where their next role will be and how we can continue to develop their careers,” said Howell.

SAP SuccessFactors’s HCM platform
John Holland opted for SAP SuccessFactors as the HCM platform system to help support business growth and facilitate digital change throughout the company’s HR processes.

Before implementing SAP SuccessFactors, John Holland had a number of different systems managing each part of the process including payroll, performance management and online learning.

“These systems weren’t integrated so organisational data was incomplete, making it difficult to visualise or draw meaningful conclusions,” said Howell.

“Many of our processes had to be completed manually and we had a number of skilled workers completing paperwork at desks when they’d deliver much greater value out in the field.”

“Going forward, the people & culture team can be more focused on long-term planning and producing high-performance individuals instead of working solely on day-to-day processing”

Howell explained that SAP SuccessFactors’ HCM system had a convenient, modular approach to deployment.

“This is a large investment for John Holland and we wanted to address a specific business need for succession planning that could be scaled as required,” said Howell.

The business value this has demonstrated to the internal leadership team means it has been able to rapidly increase investment in the platform as the full-suite HCM solution is now being rolled out.

“Having a digital solution means we can support the dual ambitions of John Holland – growth and change – through our hiring and people processes,” he said.

The changing role of HR
The implementation of the HCM solution fundamentally changed the role of HR in the business of John Holland.

“We’re seen as a strategic partner that drives wider company ambitions,” he said.

John Holland is currently tendering for a number of major projects as part of its growth phase, and the HCM system is integral to delivering on this.

“We need to know we’ll have the talent to support work as new projects come online – either through developing internal talent or recruiting new staff,” he said.

“We’ll have to hire an enormous number of people but don’t want to compromise on quality.

“This means being more future-focused in our hiring approach – looking at behaviours, teamwork and ensuring teams are set up for success.”

“Being able to highlight how this project is aligned to the broader business plans has made it much easier to get C-Suite buy-in”

Howell said that HR is a critical partner in this goal, putting the broader strategy into action through people.

“By being able to align HR with this ambition, we have become a key driver of the business,” he said.

HCM platform business benefits
Howell explained that the five biggest benefits of SAP SuccessFactors’ HCM system include:

  1. Employee retention: By tailoring training programs we are looking to increase satisfaction, improve retention and attract talent.
  2. Strategic growth: Aligning resource needs with business growth ensures projects are supplied with the necessary skills.
  3. Remote working: The SAP SuccessFactors HCM solution can be used remotely, untethering employees from desks and improving productivity.
  4. Performance management: Continuous performance management enables employee reviews to be aligned with projects instead of an annual review cycle.
  5. Personalised experience: Staff are given the tools to take control of their own careers and receive individualised career opportunities.

In working on a project of this scale, Howell added that the “biggest pearl of wisdom” he can share with other HR professionals is the importance of working within a bigger mandate for digital transformation.

“We’ve been able to accomplish so much change in such a short period of time by working with our chief information officer, Chris Walsh, who is driving digital transformation across the business,” he said.

“Being able to highlight how this project is aligned to the broader business plans has made it much easier to get C-Suite buy-in.

“We’ve been able to show why there’s a need for HR to keep pace with technological changes.”

Peter Howell will be speaking at a series of breakfast events on 16 November (Perth), 23 November (Melbourne) and 29 November (Sydney) about how HR is leading John Holland into the new frontier of digital transformation. Click here for more information or to registerFor more information on SAP SuccessFactors, the workforce of the future, the role of technology and what these mean for HR, visit SAP HR Insights. Image source: supplied.