A good HRIS can make the daily life of HR professionals and the businesses they work in much easier. HR Leader looks at the experience of Western Australian-based property group Hawaiian and how it managed a smooth and seamless HRIS integration
Hawaiian is a Western Australian-
based property group which
owns and manages an Australia-
wide commercial, retail and hos
pitality portfolio. Established in
1993, the company is a family-owned busi
ness which employs 70 staff.
Ellie McBride, Hawaiian’s human
resources manager, says the company has
always invested in HR both at an opera
tional and strategic level. This approach has
been driven by the vision of the CEO to dif
ferentiate the business from its peers by
investing in HR and marketing as funda
mentals of the business, she explains.
With this commitment, she says, it was
clear that the business needed a user-friendly
and customisable HRIS that could take its
existing HR processes online and ensure the
company continued to meet the expecta
tions of staff.
“Many of our staff had worked in pre
vious workplaces that offered employee
kiosk facilities, including online leave man
agement through to online performance
reviews and we felt we could not consider
our investment in HR complete without a
similar resource,” she says.
At the same time McBride was research
ing a potential HRIS, the business decided
to outsource its payroll function, which then
introduced the need for an externally hosted
HRIS that could also act as an interface to
its outsourced payroll supplier. While the
outsourcing decision was based on cost-
effectiveness and efficiency, a big concern
for McBride was that she would lose the
reporting functionality that its in-house pay
roll software had provided.
It was important to find a solution which
was easy to use for staff of all ages and lev
els of computer literacy, McBride says.
Other factors included the volume of HR
administration generated by the business, a
wider business goal to move to a paperless
operation, as well as overall improvements
to its record-keeping practices.
The HRIS needed to include a full suite
of functions that could be rolled out over
time as the business embraced the system
and became fully customised at a user level,
McBride explains, limiting any dependence
on an external host once it was operational.
“Given we were researching externally
hosted solutions, privacy and security were
a priority and we needed to provide assur
ance to our employees that their information
was secure,” she adds.
Hawaiian opted for a solution provided
by EmployeeConnect, and McBride says that
so far there has been “fantastic feedback”
from all staff with regards to the efficiency
it has created and the general appreciation of
staff having access to their own records.
From an HR administration/manage
ment perspective, all the functions are yet
to be rolled out to the business and the retrospective data
input has been challenging with regards to time, but she
says the reporting functionality “has served us really well.
As soon as we went live with the HRIS we learnt so much
about our business that we had not anticipated initially.
Information about our EEO status to detailed turnover
analysis has been a value-added exercise, as it now enables
us to see ourselves for what we really are and respond
Building the business case
Despite there being an existing appreciation and under
standing of the benefits a fully functioning HRIS would
provide, the Board of Hawaiian still called for a case to be
put forward for approval.
With regards to ROI, McBride says improvements in
leave management and planning at a frontline level were
required because manual processes had seen the opera
tion compromised on a number of occasions, leaving the
business to rely on temporary staff or paying overtime.
Furthermore, with a high level of processing and admin
istration associated with previous HR and payroll
processes, the HRIS has replaced one FTE resource and
reduced paper-based processes entirely. “These were all
part of the initial business case and 12 months on con
tinue to support the investment,” she says.
Riding the learning curve
As with the implementation of any new process or sys
tem, basic change management was critical, according to
McBride. While she says the introduction of the HRIS to
the business was managed well, the level of ongoing train
ing was not anticipated. “When you are using something
every day it becomes second nature to you, but for those
who only log in occasionally you need to be there to talk
them through some of the functions.”
McBride was determined that the HRIS would not be
perceived by the business as replacing HR as a service,
and that as a tool it would enable her to spend more time
dealing with the things she should be focussing on.
“What I did not expect was the interest the new HRIS
generated with some of our managers about their teams.
It has been a real pleasure to see leaders within the busi
ness that did not previously analyse their teams the way
they now can, suddenly ask me for more information and
want to discuss what more the HRIS could do for them,”
“Something I was concerned would create a perceived
barrier has actually opened the door further.”
HR tips and tricks
Ellie McBride, human resources manager for Western Australian-based property group Hawaiian, says any company considering an HRIS should do their homework and decide what it is that they want from an HRIS. "It is really easy to get excited about all the 'bells and whistles' some solutions provide, but if you are a small-or-medium-sized business you may only need a few components and it is important you don't lose sight of these," she says.
"Research and compare - ask the provider what it is about their solution that differentiates them from other products on the market and why you should choose them. Get references; ask to speak to some of their existing clients to find out their experience of using the HRIS. Make sure they are similar-sized businesses with similar challenges to you."
It is also wise to consider after-purchase service and ongoing costs, McBride says. Being a WA-based business using a Sydney-based supplier, she wanted someone at the end of the phone when she needed it, but explains that she did not want to be charged every time she sought advice on their product.
Customisation and flexibility are also crucial, because McBride says the software should adapt to your business if the business changes. Lastly, she says user training is critical, because you "only have one chance to make a first impression and you need your users onboard and engaged - so get all the glitches sorted before you introduce them".