Recently at HR Tech Fest in Melbourne, we hosted a series of podcasts live, and caught up with a client of ours, Melissa Rodway, HR Manager at Port Stephen's Council. They have recently won a stack of awards for their implementation of their HRS programme and have been around the conference circuit talking and it.

Port Stephen’s Council is very proud of it says Melissa. It's a fabulous story, and we have been able to receive a few accolades in our industry which has been great. Who would have thought we would have won a technology award! We certainly didn't think we'd be in that space five years ago.

What were 2 or 3 things that have made it a success for you? How did you end up where you are now, what's made the difference?

The first thing would be implementing Australian business excellence framework as the way that we do business. The organisation really helped us to understand our people and our processes and the way that we do business. The second thing is around the preparation and taking our time to really understand what we needed. When we started out, what we actually thought we wanted wasn't actually what we needed in the end. That preparation was really the key. Thirdly it was having the right people in our team to be able to fulfil that project and get the business to where it is today, it was really important to have key players as part of that process.

It was all about preparation, getting our business process sorted in order to allow for a successful implementation and documenting all of those processes and identifying those accompanying guides. This took us 12 months. It wasn't something we just did overnight, it was something that we had to implement as part of our day to day operations and find the time to do it.

Future Knowledge was involved in the implementation of part of Cornerstone OnDemand and we had a great experience working with the Port Stephen’s Council team on this project.

Daniel (Future Knowledge Consultant) shares that the team was really good to work with because they were very receptive to changing ideas, very innovative. So if you came up with bit of a radical approach to a problem that they had, they weren't too concerned to go down that path. They were willing to try it out and give things a go, and I think that's part of their success that they just really worked well with us as a team.

Melissa talks about how we also had teams spread across Sydney and Melbourne. Varying locations are not always the easiest to work around however we were able to make the remote working model work really well. Everybody was dedicated and committed to that process, and we had buy in and commitment up front from the senior leadership team and also the people that were involved in that project to say that if we're going to make this work, then we need to make sure that we're available every week to speak to our partners in Future Knowledge to make sure that we're able to troubleshoot any issues and talk about any of those radical changes that we're able to implement.

Now 18 months down the track, the honeymoon period is over and the implementation buzz has happened. We're starting to repeat things and also refine them too. We’ve got a much better handle on the system and the way that it's being implemented and used in the organisation, I know I'll be able to sit back and go, "Oh okay, that works really great, but how about if we try this, or something different moving forward to make life a little bit easier for our managers." We're certainly going through that second cycle and being able to make improvements moving forward.

Melissa, have you seen any benefits down the track that maybe you weren't expecting?

I wasn’t sure if everyone would have buy in, I've got such a diverse workforce. We've got lots of professional positions at the council but then we've got lots of operational positions as well that don't typically have access to computers on a day to day basis. So ownership from them has been a nice surprise, about coming in and spending the time, about using the system and trying to make their day to day lives a little bit easier. We hoped for the best, but they are actually using it and really enjoying it, so it's great.

That's excellent to see there was a good result for the users, but how about HR's? Is there a perception of HR change, do people look at you guys like you're the innovators now almost like you're the apple of your place?

It would be nice to think that everybody thinks of us like that, probably not. But we've probably got a lot of respect from the senior leadership team and our executives around those business improvements that we've been able to make. We've delivered on our promises and are being able to prove to them the results we said we would be able to achieve up front. That has certainly been a really positive impact on the organisation.

And what’s outstanding is that you’ve already achieved your internal investment payback period. Most organisations would be looking at a 3 to 5 year payback period, this makes you a market leader in our opinion.

Yes, we have done it in 18 months. It was such a cumbersome, manual, ad hoc, hodge podge approach to how we did our business before that it's changed our whole world, it's been fabulous.

In terms of user adoption, how do you measure whether people are using your product or not? How do you know whether it's been adopted?

Part of our performance management process is that all users have to have what we call an individual work and development plan. We don't use the performance review type terminology. So every individual in the organisation has to have an individual work and development plan in place which is like their work plan for a 12 month period. And then we measure their success and how well they're tracking every 6 months and 12 months. So every user has to come in contact with the system at some point through that process. It also has the learning and development needs that feed into that process as well. So everybody has to take ownership around their learning and also that review process.

And we know that managers form such a critical part of the conversation around development and performance. How are your frontline leaders finding using this tool to help with that conversation?

We’ve moved to a higher level of accountability models, so I think that it's helping them to keep them honest. It adds that layer of transparency. If we know that somebody's not performing but their reviews are coming back to say that they’re outstanding then we can start to have some of those conversations with what's happened to that authentic conversation. So I think that it definitely adds a layer of transparency, which means that they're having to have those authentic conversations with their staff. And because it just isn't about their behaviours or their performances, it's actually about what they're achieving in their work plans. I think that also aids in them being able to have those real discussions with the staff.

You've implemented four modules of Cornerstone OnDemand. Performance, learning, succession, connect. So you've been about with a unified talent management suite, are you thinking of looking at other parts of it?

Yes, we've already commenced those discussions that will obviously be reliant on funding for the organisation but we'd love to be able to implement the recruitment at the on-boarding modules as the next step for us in our organisation so that we've got that whole suite of programmes that's totally reliant on Cornerstone.

And that decision to go ‘suite over best’ you could have ended up in a position where you went out and bought a learning tool, and a succession tool, and a recruitment tool. You could have ended up with 5 or 7 or whatever, and at this point in time you've ended up with 1 vendor. Was that a hard decision to come to?

Well actually, we've got well, emulation to that talent space we've got one, but we do have a separate vendor for the recruitment. But I think it was more around the business need. So as long as we're achieving what we set out to do, and given that Cornerstone has been able to provide us with a whole suite in relation to that talent management that links and is relevant and produces results, that was really key for us.

It’s a strong value proposition isn't it?

Most definitely. And that partnering and relationship was imperative as part of that whole process.

Thank you Melissa for sharing this great story of success around HRS at Port Stephen's Council.

Listen to other great conversations on our podcast here.