Monday, 24 March 2014

Workday and German Works Councils

Whenever you implement any HRIS in Europe, there's always questions around data privacy, works councils (WC), unions, etc. At our company, we have manufacturing sites in Germany and are covered by strong works councils there and elsewhere in Europe. As a result, the US based implementation teams are always concerned that this additional activity will add to their timing on projects. Having lived in Germany for many years prior to the UK and seen a few launches in this area, a few thoughts specifically on Works Councils which are prevalent in certain European countries. It depends on your company, what you need to do, but some perspective from here.

1. We are a multi-national and have implemented multiple HRIS over the years in Europe, both in-house hosted ERPs (PeopleSoft HCM) plus SaaS solutions (recruitment, training) and homegrown systems (succession planning) as well as various and sundry.

  • It does require additional efforts, in particular in the area of documentation. For example, a standard request from the WC is for a list of all fields that will be populated on an employee, and who has access to that data, and where it will be interfaced. From a systems perspective, I think this is a good business practice to have such detail regardless, but it seems to be an effort to get this in place. 

  •  I know WD offers some back office functionality of various reports, etc. but this will be a manual effort for us, to compile what fields we are using, and for what purpose. We may be able to utilize some of the reporting functionality to address which ones are being interfaced. 

2. The WC will want to see a demo of the system, and ours expect to see the screens in German. Fortunately WD has German screens, so we're ok there.

3. There is always some talk about the location of the server. In the past, we placed our Psoft server in Germany as we have a big data centre there, and it would alleviate some discussion. In the meantime, we've had other SaaS solutions hosted outside of Europe. It seems that as long as the provider has good documentation about their controls in place, this is no problem.

 4. Those 'comments' fields in Workday may cause some discussion.  Historically, our WC and other data privacy advocates are concerned about free-form comments fields as they have the potential to store a variety of data or other information that should not be held in a system. While our HR colleagues are quite keen to use the comments fields that are associated with the Business Process approval steps, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. In the past, we've had to agree with the WC to audit any comments boxes in PSoft to make sure that nothing was being stored in the for German employees.  Their preference would have been to make those boxes not available for entry at all.

5. What other customers in country X are using Workday?  This seems to be a common request from an in-country WC.  I have seen as well, that if a WC is nervous or against a software application, as a part of the process they will bring in someone on their side to provide input and help them to ask the relevant questions about the application.  As long as you have internal expertise in a software, this should be fine.

6. Expect everything to take additional time.  In our company, most WC have a good relationship with the firm.  However, this topic is also carefully managed as well.  For example, if the company has to make headcount reductions, they will time the new system introduction for a different meeting, so as to not provide leverage to the WC.  It's also a task to understand if your responsibilities; some WC require the right to be 'informed' while others require 'co-determination', which can slow down your process immensely.  When we first implemented PSoft, from a systems and business process perspective it would have taken three months to launch our German sites, it ended up taking us one year due to the requirements in this area and the permissions that needed to be obtained before we could capture data.

In summary, Workday is like any other SaaS HR application.  The fact that it is a US hosted solution should not deter you from using it.

Workday does like to point out its global awareness in that they do allow for certain key personal data fields (e.g. religion in Germany) to be displayed/hidden at the customer/country level.   That is a slight improvement over Psoft, where everyone saw the religion field.  (That being said, we only put setup values into it where we wanted it used, so the users were effectively blocked from using it where no setup values existed).

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