In the international world of exhibitions and events, you don’t get much more ‘established’ than Montgomery, the leading independent company in the sector. Founded in 1895, (with the Angus family running the business for the last 50 years) Montgomery is still at the forefront of trade and consumer shows in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East – running over fifty trade and consumer events annually in multiple industries around the globe.
Like many companies having to manage the usual growth pains associated with success, the organisation’s newly appointed HR director, Zinnia Angus, was faced with a multitude of issues when she looked to bring the company’s HR processes and systems up to speed to cope with current and anticipated growth. Further adding to the complexity of managing a truly global workforce, the holding company has more than 15 wholly owned and joint venture companies all over the world – as well as owning the largest exhibition venue in Africa. And, of course, the exhibition and event industry has its own set of HR peculiarities with flexible and weekend working practices just the start.
“Trying to manage all of the HR processes from each of the operating companies was a daunting challenge at the outset,” Zinnia explained. “We had no central HR database or systems and everything was being managed rather haphazardly locally. We had personnel data all over the place, as well as a multitude of different working practices, entitlements and compliance requirements, all of which we were trying to manage manually.”
Value adding HR
To bring order and control to human resources management – and to turn it from a time-sapping chore to a value adding business tool – Zinnia researched how to centralise their HR data and automate elements of the HR function. A recommendation from a trusted contact led to a meeting with the specialist HR software supplier, Cezanne HR. Following a rigorous test and evaluation process, Montgomery opted to install Cezanne HR’s People Management and Absence Management modules.
“There were several key reasons behind our decision to run with Cezanne HR,” explained Zinnia. “Firstly, it could cope with the complexity of managing our global workforce. And, whilst it is extremely comprehensive, it’s also very intuitive and straight-forward to operate for both our HR team and our employees on the ground around the world; they all love the app-based interface. Furthermore, the fact that its Cloud-based and flexible was crucial for us. Everything is hosted remotely within the EEA, which is great for security and continuity, and we also like the freedom it gives us to select new modules when we need them, and configure the system to fit around local working practices. For example, to set up different rules for calculating holiday entitlements or approving absence requests in different countries.”
Of course, this also means that our investment is hugely cost effective as we only pay for what we use. The scope of features and level of flexibility we now enjoy is something that is usually only available in much more expensive HR systems.” says Zinnia.
Because there was no single database – or spreadsheet – in existence prior to the new system installation, the initial collation of personnel data from offices and companies around the world was a fairly painful, but necessary, manual process of data collation.
“That was a little trying,” admits Zinnia, “but was something we had to go through in order to get to where we are now. And, once we had that sorted, the actual system’s configuration, installation and initial training was an extremely smooth process. From start to finish it took us less than three months and the team at Cezanne HR were with us all the way; I couldn’t have been more delighted with the level of support they provided – and continue to provide. The Zendesk-based support system has been great post implementation and the support team is always very responsive.
“Rolling the system out to our people across the globe and their subsequent uptake has also been a breeze,” Zinnia continued. “For instance, one of our senior directors has recently relocated to Kenya and, what would have been a problem previously, is now seamless as he can continue to manage the HR activities related to his team remotely, wherever they are, using the new system. We also recently opened an office in Singapore. Adding the team into the system and getting them up to speed has been simplicity itself. And the fact that we have saved the company a fortune in airline and hotel costs for me having to be ‘on the ground’ in order to check we’ve got the appropriate HR data and processes in place has been a very welcome bonus.
Founded in 2013, Cezanne HR’s Cloud HR software, like the company’s customer base, is growing rapidly, with new features made available to clients almost every month. “It’s reassuring to know that the Cezanne HR system will be more than up to the job of keeping pace with our HR requirements as we continue to grow,” concluded Zinnia. “It means that we can focus on building our business knowing that our people management processes are more than capable of matching our commercial ambitions.”