Avon swaps Oracle PeopleSoft for Workday cloud HR, speeds staff hiring process

Cosmetics giant Avon has shaved two days off of key human resources (HR) processes like hire and termination time by implementing the cloud-based Workday solution in place of a mix of PeopleSoft and legacy systems.

Speaking to Computerworld UK at the Workday Elevate conference in London today, commercial business and global HR portal lead at Avon Helen Gowler said: "We had to either decide to invest in the system we currently had, and upgrade and rollout [or change to Workday]. What was critical to that was our global core processes, and actually they were quite clunky."

“So we moved to Workday because it aligned with our strategic pillars, because it was an intuitive user interface, cloud based, it had version control."

By shifting to a new "process driven" system like Workday, Avon saw key HR activities like hire time reduced from six days to four, and terminations from seven to five, globally. That's defined as the time it takes from initiation of the process, to the moment that data updates in the system.

Avon employs nearly 30,000 people across 60 countries and was an early adopter of the HR system, initially deploying Workday across 44 countries in April 2014 followed by the last 16 in September. Avon has now deployed the Workday human capital management (HCM) module worldwide; as well as advanced compensation, talent and performance.


Pre-deployment, the American direct-sales company was working with the sort of mix of HR systems that many large organisations will be familiar with. This included an overarching system of record through a three-versions-old instance of Oracle’s PeopleSoft system in half of the 60 regions and home-grown legacy systems in the other half.

These legacy systems were running twice-monthly CSV data dumps, so the possibility of bringing the system into a real-time reporting cycle was pretty compelling to Avon.

Read next: Travelex replaces 26 legacy HR systems with global Workday deployment

Then in 2013 Avon looked to change its strategic focus around organisational effectiveness, simplification and growth, and a change of HR system was part of that process.

The company is currently in process of moving its headquarters to the UK and cutting 2,500 jobs, as part of a three year turnaround plan, according to the BBC.

Read next: Four Seasons chooses Workday HCM cloud over ‘costly’ on-premise ERP systems to manage global workforce

The move to Workday was driven by HR and supported by the IT team at Avon. “We work with IT on a constant basis with interface management or change requests, so actually it is imperative that they have the skill level within Workday to support those elements,” says Gowler.

Financially she says that there was a compelling business case made for switching to Workday, and that came with significant cost savings, but wouldn’t be pressed on specific figures.


The next step for Avon is to leverage the analytics capabilities of the Workday system. But first the company had to go through a thorough data refresh by establishing a ‘global data governance framework’ last year.

“One of the core things we needed if we wanted to go onto dashboards and insights, which was one of the core reasons we went onto the system in the first place, is we needed people to trust the data,” Gowler says.

“We have over one hundred downstream interfaces and business systems, from supply chain to finance, which are fed by Workday, so we needed to make sure that people all of a sudden were seeing data that they maybe weren’t used to seeing before and knowing that data was right.

“Previously we didn’t have a common definition to the data fields. So as much as you may think a compensation field within PeopleSoft in North America meant ‘x’, in Spain it meant ‘y’, because they were using a different system locally. So now we’re comparing apples with apples.”

Now with the data in place Avon can start to give line-of-business users access to dashboards and insight into their talent and workforce. “That’s really given us a valuable tool to pay back the users of the systems," says Gowler.

The next step for Gowler is to go bigger, with predictive analytics and big data.

Change management

Gowler says that the biggest challenge with the Workday implementation was change management when converging around a new, global system.

“We didn’t have the luxury of a change management team supporting the project team,” says Gowler. “What we did was use the workforce [component] in HR and we picked up small groups of countries in clusters and identified someone over and above their day job to be our ‘core change lead’ for that cluster and engaged them in the training rollout as well.”

These core change leaders were all trained here in the UK before running local language training courses for the new system in each of their assigned clusters.

Read next: Rolls-Royce moves global HR into the cloud with Workday

The move to Workday has also created an essentially new role in the HR department as they increasingly work with data and process management. “The role of HR was changing so we then had to change the skill level and make sure there was an evolution in aligning our system with HR.”

“All of a sudden they were accountable for that data and that data was highly visible. So what do we do here to support them? Our role in operations was to support them with tools in Workday to give them insight and support and training materials but also to nudge them along in that accountability journey.”

Avon developed scorecards which measured the quality of data in the system around a set of key defined data fields. “We needed to ensure that the data fields were being measured and monitored for integrity. So that was a whole new world for HR at the time and for managers who had to go into the systems and do approvals as there was no more paperwork.”

Despite seeing some nice improvements to core processes after implementing Workday two years ago, Avon is only starting to really see the benefits the cloud system can bring now that it has its data in order. Time will tell if the changes will prove more than cosmetic to the business as a whole.


Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon