Serving more than 150 airports worldwide, ASL Aviation is a fast-growing global aviation company with airlines based in Europe, South Africa, Asia and Australia.

Its fleet of more than 160 aircraft are operated by their airlines in Europe and Australia and associate airlines in South Africa, Thailand and India. Over the years, the business has expanded its presence through a series of strategic acquisitions, mergers, and partnerships.

It’s also diversified its services to cover various segments of the aviation industry and now employs over 3,000 professionals worldwide. This rapid growth however presented a problem to the company’s HR team…

With so many employees spread across the globe, and each of their offices using different processes and systems, how could they manage that workforce effectively? We sat down for a chat with their Group HR Director Ian Reece, to discover how using Cezanne HR’s modular HR software platform had given them unparalleled levels of access and control of their workforce operations.

TLWR? You can watch the video here…

Hi Ian, tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with ASL

I’m the Group HR Director for ASL Aviation and I’ve worked for the company for 33 years. I’m based in Dublin, and [as a company] we have interests across many European countries, as well as farther afield in India, Thailand, and South Africa. Most recently we’ve acquired a business in Australia.

What’s your biggest challenge as an HR professional?

The biggest challenge [for me] is the competition for talent – we’re competing in a very small market of different aviation competitors. It’s very difficult to make sure our talent pipeline is always full, ready and prepared for the next challenge.

Has your business been affected by a shrinking workforce?

Yes, and we’re having to approach alternative markets for the skills we need. For example, we’re going to the colleges and schools really trying to introduce aviation [to students] as a career choice at a very early age. This is something that’s a long-term plan for us and, although it doesn’t solve the today’s problems, it’ll hopefully reap success in the coming years.

What do you believe will be the core HR trends of 2024?

Diversity is the key challenge for ASL Aviation as it’s a highly male dominated industry. So, we’re part of the IATA 25 by 25 initiative to increase the number of female workers in the organisation.

We set a target for all our executives this year to increase the female talent in each of their departments by 3%. In most areas of our business, we’ve managed to achieve that target it’s something that we’ve monitored monthly using our Cezanne HR software.

We’re also seeing a trend in changing attitudes, particularly around IT finance staff who will deselect you as an employer if you don’t offer working from home. We as an organisation offer hybrid working of up to three days working from home and two in the office. But, for some people that’s still not enough and they’re looking for 100% working from home. This is a difficult challenge for us in our industry, but one we’ll have to work hard to overcome.

Why did your business choose to invest in HR software?

ASL has grown through acquisitions over the years, and what that tends to mean is that we add perhaps 500 employees at a time through the acquisition of another business. During our earlier years, we were using an older HR software platform, but it was limited by user numbers and not really suitable for us as a growing business.

We looked to seek out a new HR system, but Cezanne HR was already being used by a company that we acquired, and we decided it was the right product for us. We set about adding another four companies to what was essentially a subsidiary company. So, it was perhaps a reverse process to most HR implementations, but it worked very well for us in terms of workforce administration!

How has Cezanne HR helped improve your organisation administration processes?

We have devolved HR functions at ASL, meaning we have HR functions in each of the countries that we operate. What Cezanne does for us is successfully bring it all together and act as the single source of truth for our people data. From a head office perspective, we have a helicopter view of everything that’s happening in the airline, and it’s very accessible in terms of day-to-day administration.

That single source of truth we have means we’ve been able to retire a lot of duplicate systems within our organisations, such as areas of the business that were keeping information in things like spreadsheets, notebooks or legacy HR systems all the time.

We’ve also been able to integrate Cezanne with a lot of our flight operations systems, our engineering systems and our flight safety systems. So, we have this one single source of truth for our data, which makes everything very simple for everybody.

Are there any features within Cezanne HR you couldn’t live without?

For me, the, the search and data upload functions are the most important features. This is because Cezanne allows us to easily upload all our data – such as payroll for example – on a monthly basis from third party software or from multiple countries and multiple jurisdictions. Before, we had no way of combining them at all; but now with Cezanne, we have one source of information.

Also, we’ve found it to be a highly flexible system. To give an example, we introduced a process [using the Performance Management module] called my PMD two years ago, which is our performance and development programme. From that, we were able to introduce regular performance assessments – including employee and executive self-assessment.

We can see who’s completed performance-related tasks, who’s not, and who’s behind the curve. We have the data to guide our decision making and actions, and it’s available to us very easily.

That flexibility also extends to if we need to make changes to our HR processes. The Cezanne system allows us to do that ourselves, and we’re not having to go back [to the Cezanne support team] to ask for major changes.

How has the Cezanne HR Onboarding module helped your new joiners settle into a hybrid working environment?

The Onboarding module has been very useful because we’re recruiting from people all over Europe. They don’t have to turn up to an office on day one and the Onboarding module allows us to do a lot of the education before people join us.

It allows us to streamline our administration. Everything, from the compulsory health and safety training to the ordering of uniforms, and the ordering of airport identity cards, the collection of essential data… it’s all done through Onboarding in Cezanne. And, we can track where everybody is in the process.

How have you found the support from Cezanne HR?

I always get excellent service from the account management team. The responses I get are always quick and they’re always followed up. If they don’t have an immediate solution, they investigate things and come back to you promptly – so we really rate it! In fact, some of the back office staff here at ASL who work on the APIs say they rate Cezanne as perhaps the best supplier they deal with in terms of cooperation and ease of use.

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