Bringing clarity to HR and delivering 3 hours of savings per employee!

Nestled in the heart of Reading, Berkshire, Sapphire Balconies is a well-established family business that’s at the forefront of providing and installing rigid balconies.

From futuristic high-rise developments to leafy midrise residential developments, Sapphire’s innovative balconies adorn some of the largest building projects across the globe. With a proven track record and growing customer portfolio, their business was thriving and in 2023, over 100 permanent members of staff were employed at the organisation. However, this presented something of a problem.

Their family-run origins meant there wasn’t a full-time HR function to cater for the needs of a growing workforce. And, whilst the company made the sound decision to invest in the Cezanne HR software platform, it still needed an expert HR professional to bring their people operations together and both refine and manage their workforce processes.

Step forward HR Manager Michele Bamford. She joined Sapphire in 2023 and since then, she has been on a journey with both Sapphire and Cezanne in refining every aspect of their HR function. This is her story so far…

Hi Michelle! Tell us a little about yourself and your role with Sapphire Balconies

So, I’m the HR Manager here at Sapphire and I joined in April last year. We’ve got about 100 permanent staff here in the business, but in HR it’s just me – so I must be quite the HR generalist! I’m often dealing with everything: from employee relations, to recruitment, to remuneration reviews, performance management, training and development.

My role really is incredibly varied and there’s never a week that goes by without some sort of surprise, which keeps things interesting!

What were the people operations like at the business prior to your arrival?

Before me, they had external support and were predominantly quite self-sufficient. But, in line with the growth journey of the business it was time for someone to come in house permanently, and that’s where I came in.

In this client success story, we discover how Cezanne has helped Sapphire Balconies manage their people operations seamlessly.

Luckily, the Cezanne system was introduced just before I joined. As a result, when I arrived at the business, I was able to start centralising all the company’s main personnel information and bringing together all the basic HR practices – such as absence management, performance management, onboarding etc… into one place.

What would you say the Cezanne system has had the biggest impact on your people operations?

I’d say the Onboarding software module has made the biggest impact for us so far. This is mainly because we have a such a rigorous onboarding, screening and recruiting process. The Onboarding module supports all that with having all the information we need centrally… everything is just in one place and there’s no duplication of data going on. It’s certainly helped the entire end-to-end process a lot.

The level of reporting we have through the system has also helped save so much time for us. It’s removed a lot of the errors we used to experience due to manual tasks. In fact, we’re currently rolling out a quarterly appraisal system through the Cezanne system, which I’m confident will streamline our performance processes even further; making them more efficient, and worthwhile for the employee and line manager.

We expect the new system through Cezanne to save each one of our 100 or so employee 3 hours per year, and in turn each line 3 hours per reportee – this equates to £££££’s saved!!!

What effect has the Performance module had on your performance management processes?

We’re still getting to grips with the Performance Management module, but the signs are really promising. I think it will be instrumental in the employee journey and their development. I strongly believe this will also facilitate engagement and improved morale whereby discussions [about staff performance] are live, directly related to performance and results, and therefore not seen as a waste of time by anyone.

You also have the Cezanne Absence Management module. How has this helped your business managing absences?

The ease of use with the Absence Management module is excellent. Like Performance, we’re still in the roll-out phase, but once line managers are confident in monitoring and managing absence levels, this will really help support us.

One thing we’ve noticed immediately though is the level of automation, especially with leave to carry over – which is really good. For me, having picked this up half-way through being set-up has been a learning curve: but, once you know how and why things have been developed in a certain way, it’s really intuitive.

How would you rate the support you receive from Cezanne?

Excellent! The general support is really good, and the online platform [customer support portal] covers the fundamentals. Our account manager (Emma) has been incredibly patient and integral in our journey, particularly in the last 8 months! I didn’t always find it logical to understand from a ‘new eyes’ perspective, looking in…. Emma and the account team made it logical to me, which was brilliant.

As I’d joined after the software had been implemented, I didn’t know what the capability of it was. Also, I was so early on in my role here and they hadn’t had an integrated HR function before… there was nothing for me to fall back on. With any new HR software, you need to get the process flow, you then need to activate the processes… it’s a huge undertaking, especially when you’re new in-role!

What would you say to a someone who was looking into getting an HR software platform like Cezanne?

That’s a good question! I would probably say don’t look at it at face value. Of course, understand how it works and what goes on in the background first, but also don’t just look at the functionality – know what you want to get out of it. If you’re shopping around for different HRIS platforms, look beyond the capabilities – look at what you want to get out of it, and what results you want the system to deliver for you.

And finally, would you recommend Cezanne to other HR professionals?

I would! It has a lot of potential, but the challenge [for anyone] is understanding it all before you start!

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