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Technology complicating your employee experience?

How one Fortune 500 simplified

Total Rewards

October 11, 2019

An insider’s look at Schneider Electric’s journey to improve the Total Rewards experience for employees.

When Schneider Electric, a global specialist in energy management and automation, began communicating with employees to keep them up to date on their global reward program in 2014, it seemed like a good thing.

But as the company grew, expanding into a plethora of sub-brands (e.g., Square D, Pelco, APC), that good thing turned into an increasingly complex experience for employees.

Founded in 1836, Schneider Electric is a French company with headquarters in Paris, Hong Kong and Boston. This Fortune 500 company in the industrial automation space booked US$30 billion in revenue in 2018 and has 142,000 employees worldwide. Its sub-brands are so prolific most of us see their products every day whether it’s the security camera you walk past at the airport, the touch screen cash register at the grocery store or the surge suppressor in your home. A corporation the size of Schneider Electric needed technology to simplify, not complicate, its employee experience (EX).

The genesis of the technological complexities at Schneider Electric actually began long before 2014 and continued over the years with a flood of content, vendors and data. It harkened back to the 1990s with the utilization of systems and business management tools that included Lotus, Excel and Q2C and continued until 2010 with Oracle, Siebel and SAP.

Presently, Schneider Electric uses Oracle Fusion, Service Now and Salesforce, but its HR simplification technology began with a Willis Towers Watson initiative that resulted in a system it now calls Galileo.

“People in our organization were completely overwhelmed,” said William Swanson, vice president of HR Shared at Schneider Electric. “They couldn't make sense of where to go to get things, whether in our own internal systems or to the different outside vendors we use. Remembering multiple URLs and passwords was a nightmare. We had to solve this problem.”

The simple business case behind EX

Schneider Electric also had reason to solve this problem beyond its employees’ valuable peace of mind. According to a 2015 Glassdoor research report on Fortune 500 census data, the average employee wastes 36 hours a year due to tool confusion and system constraints. According to Swanson, one hour of an engaged employee’s time is worth $60 to Schneider Electric, and an EX tool like Galileo could solve half of those wasted hours (giving more than 18 hours per employee back to Schneider) with an estimated ROI of 2,247%. In other words, employee confusion and frustration were literally costing the company money.

Enter employee feedback focus groups

Willis Towers Watson’s employee feedback focus groups provided Schneider Electric with the information needed to start building a new, best-in-class HR technology architecture that would simplify the Total Rewards user experience and, down the road, provide employees with functional service centers, systems and easy access to external providers. The first step, however, was hearing what was going on with its employees.

“The words that kept coming up from focus groups,” Swanson said, “included difficult, confusing, time, expense and support.” The key takeaway from the investigations: Just make it easy.

Additional input included general feedback around the disparity and complexity of tools to generate inquiries; onboarding employees was still considered “cumbersome and a big utilization of a manager’s time,” and employees found finance tools and processes to be too complex and confusing. The travel portal was not full service, and finding just the right tool was difficult.

“Employees were asking for a centralized location for all knowledge and support,” Swanson said. “Tool access was very important to them. In fact, nearly half of all employees surveyed contacted support for failure of tools.”

Employees were asking for a centralized location for all knowledge and support. In fact, nearly half of all employees surveyed contacted support for failure of tools.”

Will Swanson | Vice President HR Services, Americas Schneider Electric

“How we support our employees is really important, and what they started to tell us was, ‘I don't care if my cell phone screen is cracked, or if my paycheck is wrong, or if my expense report didn't get paid. And I don't care what internal department is supposed to figure that out. I want to go to one place, submit one ticket and get one answer, and you guys need to tell us without all the complexity in the background.’ And you know what? They're right.”

Enter Galileo

Sharing the name of the Italian astronomer known as the “father of the scientific method,” Galileo is an employee essential summary system. It went live for Schneider Electric’s U.S. employees in October 2018 as a single sign-on landing page for all personal HR information. The category tiles represent an employee’s current status, elections or monetary values and include:

  • Total Rewards
  • Cash and compensation
  • Paid time off
  • Benefits link (i.e., medical, dental benefits)
  • Vanguard 401(k)/Puerto Rico Savings
  • PayFlex
  • Worldwide employee share ownership plan
  • Useful links

The need for Galileo was greatest in the U.S. because a deregulated market created the most complex digital workplace in comparison with Europe and Canada where the governments take care of health care and retirement plans. “We have this unbelievable complexity in terms of what our employees need to use here,” Swanson said. Next up will probably be Mexico, which is also deregulated, as well as Brazil, Argentina and Chile, before Galileo is used in regulated countries.

It took a bit of pushing

Moving forward wasn’t always simple. Swanson said a single sign-on system posed potential problems with security, and there were plenty of naysayers along the way, including an information technology (IT) team that said it couldn’t be done. “It’s not IT’s job to tell us what we can and cannot do,” Swanson said. “It’s IT’s job to enable the business through technology. It’s okay to protect us from ourselves when we’re doing something dumb, but when we’re not, it’s appropriate to pushback. IT is not a gatekeeper, it’s an enabler.” Swanson had to show the internal team how it was being done elsewhere and plowed forward until he got the buy-in he needed.

What they learned from Galileo

According to Swanson, employees love the simplification and consolidation of tools into one place; a single sign-on enhances the site traffic by six times, and keeping it local — despite multiple efforts to globalize — got them over the finish line. “The days of us emailing our employees, asking them to update their addresses in our Oracle Fusion tool, which they never do, are over,” he said.

Four things Schneider Electric learned from its one-stop-portal, Galileo:

  1. Employees love the simplification and consolidation of all tools into one place.
  2. A single sign-on enhances site traffic by six times.
  3. Keeping it local, despite multiple efforts to globalize, got them over the finish line.
  4. The longer a system takes to buy and implement, the higher the risk of being hijacked.

The downsides: Vendor management on the back end could be challenging; high volume usage is not sustainable without constant reminders; and the longer it takes to buy and implement a system like Galileo, the more risk there is to being hijacked by other internal teams working on similar technology or deploying system upgrades that may run parallel to what you’re doing. Additionally, Galileo was small and going forward; Schneider Electric learned they need to think bigger. Still, Swanson said, “We created this portal with Willis Towers Watson on their upgraded platform, and it was basically our Total Rewards portal on steroids.”

The Results

Since Galileo launched October 8, 2018:

  • 42% increase in users (versus traditional Total Rewards statements)
  • 5,852 unique users and growing
  • 672% increase in usage (versus traditional Total Rewards statements)
  • 26,573 logins since going live
  • Average logins per day went from 50 to 336

Local one-stop-shop readiness

Currently, Galileo is the main employee portal providing read-only capabilities on key employee data, and for now it’s only in the U.S. It has no self-service capabilities at this time, but it does have capabilities for enhancement to a full employee portal.

“This time last year, we were jumping up and down about the launch and how great it looked as a read-only tool,” Swanson said. “We know now that we need to be in a place where we've got artificial intelligence behind it to help us evolve the experience. It needs to be on your phone, on your workspace and all over the place. So very quickly after launch, we went from celebration mode to realizing we needed to think about the next level.”

Looking forward

Meanwhile, Swanson said having the biggest impact on EX will mean keeping the focus on key processes, such as payroll management, time and attendance, benefits, travel and expenses, certifications and documents, and help desk. Moving up from a read-only experience, Schneider Electric wants to evolve into an interactive version that will allow users to edit their personal data and use self-service to request leaves and book travel. Next, multichannel will give employees access via one web portal and a mobile app. And artificial intelligence will be able to support the user on the portal with a virtual assistant or a chatbot.

“I feel good about what we've implemented,” Swanson said. “I think we have a long way to go, but it's one of those things where you don't know what the journey looks like until you start.”

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