From nothing to everything: William Reed’s journey to HR nirvana with Cezanne HR

There comes a point in every company’s life when it must face up to the fact that something just isn’t working.

This was certainly the case with William Reed: an established B2B Digital Media company. They specialise in multi-platform digital and print media, research & insights and events & exhibitions.

With a growing global workforce of over 330 employees, they’d come to realise that their bespoke-built HR system was holding their business back. Their HR team was spending an inordinate amount of time on routine duties their software simply couldn’t cope with. Paper-based and disjointed processes were preventing the HR team concentrating on more strategic projects, whilst managers within the business had virtually no visibility over key information about their teams, such as career progression and development.

William reed events customer

Something had to change. Luckily, Cezanne HR was on hand to put them on a path to HR success with a brand-new system that could easily handle the needs of a growing global business. We sat down for a chat with the company’s HR business partner Samantha Bedington, to discover how the Cezanne HR platform has had a dramatically positive effect across the entire business.

Hi Samantha! Tell us a little about you and your role within the business

I’m an HR business partner with William Reed and I’ve been here for nine years. Our head office is based in Crawley, but we have offices in Chicago, Montpellier, Singapore and London.

We are a digital media company and we used to focus on very traditional forms of print, such as B2B magazines. But we’ve really diversified over the past few years to provide online content, face-to-face events, insights and data. In terms of size, we’re just over 330 employees globally.

William reed office company

What were the problems your company was experiencing that brought you to the Cezanne HR system?

Although our previous HR system was built especially for us, it was incredibly basic and couldn’t cope with the demands of having a global workforce – it was very UK-centric. It could manage absences for UK-based workers, but it couldn’t handle more complex French absence plans. We were having to resort to spreadsheets all the time!

Our HR team were spending an excessive amount of time just managing absences, which was ridiculous! We relied on forms and emails for notification of emergency absences, sickness etc. All this information was then having to be logged and managed by the HR team. It was all incredibly time consuming.

One of the other downsides was that the software support was totally inadequate. Because of the bespoke build, they didn’t understand how our system worked, therefore having consistent levels of support when we encountered problems was virtually impossible.

Lastly, everything with our previous system was stored all over the place. We had new starter forms in one place, documents in another… it was totally disorganised. With our new system [Cezanne HR], everything is centralised and easily accessible for everyone. This has not just helped from an admin point of view, but also helps us massively with data protection as we’re now a lot more compliant.

What modules do you have with Cezanne HR?

Along with the core People Management system, we also have the Absence module. Absence processes were one of the key areas we were looking to improve upon with the new software. In addition, we also have the Onboarding module, which is being rolled out soon and we’re currently in the process of getting the Performance Management module, too.

The Cezanne HR system appealed to us as we wanted to roll out the core functionality of our system as quickly as possible and then build on the system as time permitted.

How has the Cezanne HR system helped with your HR team’s day-to-day operations?

We don’t need so much HR administrative support as a team now. This means we can concentrate on more added value activities, such as improving general HR processes and implementing new procedures throughout the business. We don’t just have to focus on the day-to-day stuff, which can just drag everyone down.

As I mentioned earlier, our self-service system before was extremely basic. It offered managers nothing special at all aside from just knowing when staff were off. They couldn’t see, for example, when their employees last had a pay rise or a promotion. They had absolutely no visibility of how their teams were progressing career-wise. This meant we [HR] had to spend huge amounts of time dealing with a lot of questions and time-consuming tasks.

Now, managers can access everything they could possibly need – it’s a huge step forward and the managers love it! We can now work with them to provide next-level support, strategic planning and employee development – not just deal with the low-level stuff.

They’re the biggest things for us. With Cezanne HR, everything to do with HR is just so much neater and more efficient.

Have your original issues now been resolved?

Absolutely. I recently had a look back over our original requirements list and the [Cezanne HR] system has totally met them. In all honesty, it’s probably exceeded our expectations in several areas. I don’t think it ever really dawned on us how much we could do through an HR system!

The global capabilities of Cezanne HR meant we were able to solve a lot of the HR admin challenges that come with running an international business. You can’t imagine how much time that has saved us.

What have you found most useful about the Cezanne HR system?

The impact of the self-service functionality and what it can provide to both employees and managers have been genuinely significant. Given that we’re a company that specialises in digital content, our support functions had previously been a bit lacking. Now however, it feels as if we’ve taken a huge step forward as with Cezanne HR we can provide every HR-related thing through one digital system!

We’re also able to move away from emails and sharing things as attachments, which will save everyone time. For example, our onboarding process will solely be done through the Cezanne HR system. This means new starters can efficiently manage their tasks and information all in one place, and not be bombarded by a huge number of emails and attachments, which I think can be overwhelming.

Cezanne HR’s onboarding module lets us provide new members of staff with a personalised portal with lots of online company-focused content that is all stored in one place. They can take their own time in digesting all the information, rather than trawling through lots of email attachments.

I also love the fact that on the onboarding portal, you can see pictures of team members. It’s those little things that really help people get a feel for the company. This is helping us improve the experience for new employees and enhance our induction process, too.

How has the system been received with your staff?

Our employees’ reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. They’ve gone from absolutely nothing to having virtually everything they could need! When the system was introduced, we did some workshops to show our staff – especially managers – what they can now do. Considering the workshops were optional, we had excellent uptake and lots of employees taking an interest in what they could do on the system.

Our managers in particular really like it. They’re now able to take ownership and drive forward the development of their teams: the same goes for our employees to be fair. They can go onto the system and see everything to do with their learning and career development and take ownership of it all.

Would you recommend Cezanne HR to others?

Yes, I would – definitely! It’s always a gamble when you have a selection of systems to choose from and you finally opt for one, but there’s been no doubt at all we have chosen the right provider. The Cezanne HR system has undeniably met all our needs.

One other thing that stood out for us was the implementation of the system, which was rolled out very quickly over a few months. The support we get is great, and the Cezanne HR system is doing everything that we want – there’s nothing else we could ask for!

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