Record-low unemployment numbers are making it more challenging than ever to hire and retain talent, especially individuals with highly technical and specialized skill sets. Few companies know this better than Corning, one of the world’s leading innovators in materials science, which has chosen to actively manage these challenges through a global implementation of SAP SuccessFactors.

What is unique about Corning’s HR strategy is that it decided to adopt all SAP SuccessFactors modules at once, across all locations and departments worldwide. We had a chance to sit down with Corning’s Tim Gregory, Director of HR Innovation and Workforce Technology, at the 2018 SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference to learn how Corning approached this implementation and what recommendations he has for others looking into SAP SuccessFactors.

HR Technology That Travels Across the Globe

When adopting SAP SuccessFactors, one of the first things Corning knew it had to do was extend it across geographic locations. “Since about 2003 or so, Corning began the development of an organizational structure that we call One HR,” said Gregory. “Where a lot of companies may have an HR organization that resides within a business unit in Asia and a different one that resides in the U.S., we started building one organizational structure, so all HR work rolls up to a single [Chief Human Resources Officer]. That was really important organizational work that was going on before we started to move to the cloud.”

But even though the company may be working within one HR system, managing employees across different departments and business units brings its own considerations. “One of the things that make it unique when you’re working globally is that you’re working with multiple languages,” explained Gregory. “On the shop floor, English is not only the second language, [often] it’s not a language [spoken] at all. If you want to reach the broadest employee population when you’re working globally, you’ve got to embrace multiple languages.”

Real-World Employee Data for Complex Integrations

When adopting the entire SAP SuccessFactors suite, Corning began with the Employee Central module as the hub and then added the rest from there. This allowed the company to build and perfect one data model it could expand to the rest of the modules and business units. It also allowed Corning to manage integrations one at a time. Smooth integrations, Gregory mentioned several times, are key to a successful launch.

“For anybody listening for wisdom from our project, [the insight] is to get real-world data into your system as fast as possible and manage the hell out of your integrations. In terms of estimating the complexity, there’s an easier integration tool that SAP SuccessFactors has, but it’s intended for simple extracts and conversions. None of ours qualified for that.” This aligns with what SAP suggests, as it builds its models and products to fit 80 percent of potential business cases, not for the complex scenarios like what Corning faced.

A Successful HR Implementation—It Takes a Village

Not surprisingly, to adopt a full suite of talent management software, a company also has to do a good job of managing the talent it needs to deploy the software. Gregory highlighted how important it was to have the right people in place to connect the dots and clear out the cobwebs. At its height, the project was 250 people strong, with a blend of staff employees and contingent labor. To keep the team motivated to see the project through, Corning recognized excellence through opportunities like the chance to earn spot bonuses, among others.

“Talent is absolutely critical,” said Gregory. “For a lot of projects that suffer, it’s not because you don’t have the best talent. The challenge when you’re doing a transformation like this is that you have to keep the train running, but at the same time you’re becoming something new. That’s the most dangerous time for any organization is when you’re two things at once.”

What SAP SuccessFactors Does for Corning

Gregory mentioned two distinct benefits from SAP SuccessFactors for employees and prospective hires. The first is an optimized mobile offering, which gives its HR team members a frictionless experience with a mobile user interface that makes it easy to source talent and performance metrics. The second is an increased focus on the candidate experience, which is very timely given SAP SuccessFactors’ recent announcement of its candidate relationship management capabilities.

“The candidate experience, a lot of times, is poor,” Gregory suggested. “And I think what we were experiencing prior to SuccessFactors probably was not the best candidate experience. Everything from submitting your resume and then having to retype it could be very arduous. If you’re the best talent, you can just close the browser and go somewhere else, right?

“So, it’s really important to manage the candidate experience, in a similar way that you see in consumer technology. SuccessFactors has enabled us to provide a better candidate experience. We’re using the onboarding tool, so once people move past the candidate stage and we start onboarding them, that’s where the employee experience begins.”

Tips for HR Technology Implementations

Corning was ambitious to implement the entire SAP SuccessFactors product at once globally. While we wouldn’t expect all companies to be structured or able to take this approach, Corning’s story includes some helpful hints about how to make any implementation simpler, such as starting with real-world data models. Companies taking on any level of HR technology implementation can apply tips such as managing integrations efficiently and effectively motivating your team.

Competition for the best talent shows no sign of slowing. So, whatever you can do to make a job candidate’s experience more positive or to make the onboarding process a smooth one for new employees is becoming absolutely essential to have the workforce you need to help your company grow.

Interested in more stories like this one? Join us for the ASUG Experience for HR and Payroll on October 9 - 11, 2018. Or meet us in September in Las Vegas for the SuccessConnect conference.