Sir John Soane’s Museum

For nearly 180 years since his death, Sir John’s Museum has been welcoming visitors to its unique location in London’s Lincoln’s Inn Fields where it displays Soane’s collection of antiquities, furniture, sculptures, architectural models, paintings – including work by Hogarth, Turner and Canaletto – and over 30,000 architectural drawings.

It’s a vast, extraordinary collection, full of curiosities and surprises and looking after these treasures, and the more than 100,000 visitors a year it attracts, is a team of dedicated full time, part time and volunteer staff.

The museum and gallery sector has its own particular set of HR peculiarities – not least of which is the aforementioned complex mix of employee working practices – and managing this at the Soane Museum for the last year has been the organisation’s first dedicated HR professional; Christine White.

Significant modernisation

“Not only was I the first HR team member at the museum,” Christine explained, “but I also inherited the existing HR system which basically consisted of a filing cabinet and a clutch of Excel Spreadsheets. However, the museum had just gone through a significant modernisation programme which had included a major overview of its IT systems. Following this, I was given the go ahead to explore the HR software and systems options available to organisations of our size and industry sector.”

Following an intensive selection and evaluation process that included discussions with existing users and trials, the Soane Museum opted to install a solution from the specialist HR software supplier, Cezanne HR.

“Flexibility and cost effectiveness were top of our wish list as I had been at the wrong end of previous installations in past roles that had been clunky, expensive and, frankly, just not fit for purpose. The new era of Cloud-based, pay-as-you-go systems that can grow with you, however, have been a revelation for organisations of our size and relative complexity. And that is certainly something that we have enjoyed with Cezanne HR,” Christine explained.

Pay as you go

“The fact that we only have to pay for what we need on a monthly subscription basis and that the initial set-up itself was very straightforward, speedy and low cost were all key factors in our decision to plump for Cezanne HR.

They held our hand throughout the initial set-up and installation period and, from a personal perspective, alongside the great online help and support services they offer, the fact that they are so flexible with regard to the training and support programme we have agreed, means I can pop in to their offices on a regular basis for small, easily digestible training sessions.”

Being modular based means that clients can select just the specific HR functionality they need from Cezanne HR’s comprehensive offering when they require it. In the first instance, the Soane Museum installed the People Management and Absence Management modules.

“Aside from now having all of our personnel information in one, easily accessible place with the ability to slice and dice it to find anything we want or to produce great reports for our senior managers, the Absence Management module has been a true revelation for us,” said Christine. “Like many organisations in the museum and gallery sector, we employ a complex mix of full time, part time and volunteer staff on a wide variety of working time patterns. We were looking for a system that could accurately calculate and manage entitlements based on hours worked – including evenings and weekends – and our own rules around carry over, time off and so on. The system now manages all this for us with ease.”

Transparency, visibility and mobile functionality

“Furthermore,” Christine added, “from a sickness management perspective, the new system is helping us to identify short term absence patterns so that we can see any escalating issues in good time and trigger the necessary conversations in a totally transparent manner. This transparency, visibility and, crucially, mobile functionality also means that all of our employees and managers can view data, request time off, study team diaries, get reminders and access a host of other time saving HR-related features.”

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. Moving forward, Christine and the team at the Soane Museum are looking at installing further modules to aid the HR process at the organisation. “We’re considering both the Performance Management and Recruitment modules right now,” added Christine.

“Recruitment, for example, has been a rather piecemeal operation based on email inboxes and folders and we are really keen to establish a more proficient candidate tracking and management approach that builds and reinforces – rather than detracts – from our employer brand.”

“Overall, the whole selection, installation and subsequent use of the system has really been very straightforward and even the least computer literate amongst our team have found it a breeze to use,” Christine concluded. “It works, has a great, Soane Museum-branded interface and, to be frank, feels like it belongs to us.”