Ticking all the HR boxes for one of Oxfordshire’s most important charities

As a regional office for one of the country’s most respected and well-recognised charities, Age UK Oxfordshire helps enable older people to love their later life.

The charity is run by a team of highly dedicated staff, helping deliver information and advice, exercise classes, dementia support, social activities and home visits for older people across Oxfordshire. Plus, they also have over a hundred volunteers to help deliver their vital services and assistance.

A growing workforce, however, was beginning to highlight serious problems for their HR team. A reliance on spreadsheets and manual processes were not only inefficient, they were also leading to inaccurate reporting and forecasting – something the organisation knew wasn’t sustainable.

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We sat down for a chat with Sarah Jackson, Age UK Oxfordshire’s HR Manager to discuss their journey with Cezanne HR and how the shift to a cloud-based HR software solution has benefitted the entire organisation.

Hi Sarah, tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with Age UK Oxfordshire

I’m the HR manager for Age UK Oxfordshire and we provide support and services to older people in the Oxfordshire area. We’re part of the larger Age UK charity which consists of around 150 local charity offices across the country.

In my role, I support both Age UK Oxfordshire and Action for Carers [a subsidiary charity]. We have just over 160 members of staff in total, most of whom work remotely. Because Oxfordshire is quite a large county, a lot of our work is done out and about in the community and directly with people in their homes.

My role is very much generalist HR. So, anything that’s HR-related – and sometimes not! – comes my way. Because it’s quite a big organisation and quite complex when it comes to the roles and the ways we work, my duties can be extremely varied!

What modules do you have with Cezanne HR?

We started with People Management [Cezanne HR’s core module] and then we added the Performance and Absence modules. We’ve also had the Recruitment module switched on in the past six months.

What challenges were Age UK Oxfordshire facing that led to investing in new HR software?

When I joined four years ago, the entire HR department was paper-based and reliant on some Excel spreadsheets. Everyone recognised that wasn’t a good way of doing things, and it wasn’t a sustainable way of working or growing safely, either. So, one of my first jobs after joining was to source an HR system that could efficiently manage all the day-to-day processes needed to keep our organisation running smoothly.

I came from a large corporate before I was with Age UK Oxfordshire. They had a very big, very sophisticated HR system I was used to using, so I knew in theory what I wanted our system to do. But interestingly, even that system – despite how big it was – had restrictions that we wanted to avoid.

Did you look at any other software solutions on the market?

We actually went to an HR show in London where a lot of companies were exhibiting – Sage were there, plus a few others. We were nearly going to go with another option, but when we started getting into the finer details of the software, we discovered their system was role driven, as opposed to person.

That meant we couldn’t attach different roles to one person, which for us was a problem as we have people working for us with joint or even multiple roles. That left us a bit stuck! We spoke to some of the other big names in the market and they all had the same thing. Plus, a lot of them just didn’t have the core functionality we needed.

It was turning into a bit of a nightmare until I spoke to one of our auditors and they mentioned Cezanne HR. I went back over all the information I’d learned about different systems and what they didn’t do, and when I compared it to what you guys could do, the Cezanne HR system ticked all our boxes. Once we got in contact and got things moving, it all came together really quickly.

How have your chosen modules helped with your HR team’s day-to-day operations?

The accuracy of our data was the biggest and most immediate difference the [Cezanne HR] software made. Although we had information on spreadsheets, before Cezanne HR I couldn’t run reporting… in fact, when I was doing my monthly reporting, I remember saying to my boss at the time ‘This is best guesstimate. It’s not accurate because I can’t categorically trust the data in these spreadsheets!’ I was finding errors in them all the time.

With spreadsheets, there was always that risk that you could press the wrong button or swap something round and everything just becomes broken. From an HR perspective, Cezanne HR’s software just gave me so much more confidence that the information we have is right.

The accuracy we now have in both our data and reporting has made a massive difference. We’re now able to easily see patterns and trends in our data, which is great as it helps us to shape where we’re going from an HR point of view. I can see where our turnover is, I can see where our absence spikes are… it’s all really helped.

Also, before Cezanne HR, we had a self-made in-house system for booking holidays and sickness which was online. Although our staff were used to using it, we found that the added visibility the Cezanne HR system offers is far greater as managers can now see calendars for wider teams, meaning it reduced the amount of holiday request clashes. They’ve also taken to using the Cezanne HR system really easily.

Have your original issues now been resolved?

Oh yes, absolutely. It [Cezanne HR] did exactly what we needed it to do and the system itself has been great. We’ve never had any issues with the core personnel data and I always put Cezanne HR’s name forward to HR colleagues when the subject of HR software comes up in conversation.

Are there any features you find particularly useful?

I don’t think I could live without any of it to be honest! I like the search functions, which let you whittle down the criteria for searches to make it easier to find what you’re looking for – I use that feature most days.

As an HR manager, I love the reporting functionality the Cezanne HR system offers. The quick clicks and links let me find things really easily and make reporting a lot more efficient. If ever I get stuck, I can use the help function which is great. If I get really stuck, I always know I can contact the support team and I know they’ll help me!

How has the system been received with your staff?

The staff have found it easy to use and intuitive from a self-service perspective. We give a basic induction to new staff on day 1 on how to use it; things like how to book your holidays, log absences etc… We rarely get people coming back to us in HR wanting to know how they find things, where to book time off… everything in the system is self-explanatory and it all works well for everyone.

How have you found the support from the Cezanne HR account management team?

Whenever we’ve reached out with a query, they’ve always come back to us promptly. I also really like the ‘Ideas’ option within the online help section where we can suggest new features or functions. It’s great to be able to make suggestions and know that they’re taken on board by the development team.

Would you recommend Cezanne HR to others?

Yes! I’m in several HR network groups and whenever anyone in those groups asks for advice about HR systems, I always mention Cezanne HR and offer to share my thoughts with them.