Grassy Creek is using on-line HR software solution Cezanne HR to improve the efficiency of its people management processes.

Grassy Creek is a private equity firm and the service centre for a number of independently-run companies, ranging from top end hotel and rental properties to IT services across the world.  The businesses together employ around 100 staff, including full-time salaried and casual hourly paid employees.  Very few of the businesses have a dedicated HR person and until recently, there have been no consistent HR processes or a dedicated HR system in place.

As the businesses have grown, however, it was recognised that the availability of up-to-date information about its workforce, together with a more consistent approach to managing people, would be beneficial.  Chief Financial Officer’s PA, Chantal van der Ende-Appel, was charged with the task of finding an HR platform which would give the business a helicopter view of its headcount and support a more formalised approach to HR.

“The owners needed something that would help them keep track of how many employees they had, how many hours they were working and what the overall salary bill was at any given time,” explained Chantal.  “The business is geographically very widespread and all companies operate completely independently, so having a reliable oversight wasn’t an easy task.”

The service centre, which has its HQ in Amsterdam, had been trying to use an HR platform offered by the vendor who provided the rest of their IT infrastructure, but had found it too complicated and labour intensive to set up.  Finding an alternative system suitable for Grassy Creek’s unusual structure and mode of operation didn’t, however, prove to be easy.

“Many of the products we came across were either too basic and couldn’t cope with the fact that we have multiple companies – or were far too fancy and required extensive training,” said Chantal.  “It was hard to find the middle ground, but we very much liked the look and feel of Cezanne HR.  It looks fresh and user-friendly and is flexible enough to meet our needs.”

Chantal was able to get up and running quickly with Cezanne HR after a one-to-one web-based training session. She trialled the system by setting it up initially for the service centre company itself – then gradually rolling it out first to the larger businesses within the group who had dedicated HR support.

The pilot phase has gone well and the plan is to have all businesses up and running on the system by the end of October.

Gathering data from a series of widely dispersed businesses – many of whom had been operating with very little formal documentation – has been something of a challenge.  “There has been a mixed response,” says Chantal.  “Some companies have appreciated the fact that the parent company needs an overview and can see that introducing an HR platform is a positive move.  Others have needed a little more convincing and it hasn’t always been easy to get hold of the data we needed – but I hope they will feel differently once they see how the system can help them manage people more effectively.”

To start with, Grassy Creek is using the basic HR module to record employee data and is managing holidays and sickness through the absence management module.  There are plans to introduce the performance management element of the programme further down the line.

Chantal believes that this will not just be of benefit to the business, but will also be a real bonus for employees themselves.  “I think it’s very important for employees to have access to one central place for their personal details and documentation and to be able to keep track of their annual leave entitlement,” she says.  “If holidays are not recorded properly, for example, people have no way of knowing for sure how many days they have left and no ground to stand on if their manager has a different understanding of how much has been taken.”

The Cezanne HR online help desk has been a regular port of call for Chantal, who is effusive in her praise of the way they have guided her through implementation.  “I have come across many help desks, both from a personal and business perspective, and can say without any exaggeration that they are the best I have encountered,” she says.  “They are knowledgeable, friendly and quick to respond and I am extremely impressed with them.”

Chantal adds that she has particularly appreciated the ability to track past queries and responses on the support system.  “I don’t use the Cezanne HR system every day and sometimes I do forget how to do things, particularly if they are actions that don’t crop up regularly, so it’s been really helpful to look back at the records of past questions and to have the answers and screen shots still available,” she says. “The Cezanne HR team have also been very receptive to suggestions I have made for additional features I would find useful and will always look at the ideas and see if they can be implemented.”

“Using the system has certainly given us new insights as a company – and I have also personally found it very beneficial and rewarding to work with.”