A #SHRM19 Interview with Sage


This is a 2019 SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition (#SHRM19 interview is with Paul Burrin, queue work trends expert, People Geek and Vice President at Sage Business Cloud People, a global cloud HR and people platform that helps organizations around the world to acquire, retain, manage and engage their workforce.  

Who is Sage!? Tell us everything, just as you would someone approaching your booth and asking you this question at #SHRM19 in Las Vegas.

At Sage, we transform the way people think and work, enabling their organizations to thrive. We have a long heritage of helping over three million organizations all over the world manage their businesses with integrated accounting, financial management, and payments solutions.

Sage is also now also leading the shift from older HCM to new ‘HR to People’ solutions through the acquisition of Fairsail – now Sage People – in 2017. This is why we’re at SHRM this year.

Sage People (then Fairsail) was established 10 years ago when our founder, Colin Cooper, set out to build the world’s best cloud HR and people system, enabling companies to engage their workforce and build great experiences for their people.

Today, we’re now trusted by over 300,000 users in more than 145 countries; we’re the number one HR app on the Salesforce App Cloud, and are extremely proud of our 97 percent customer renewal rate.

In a nutshell, we’re a global cloud HR and people system that transforms the way companies acquire, engage, manage and develop their employees. Implemented quickly and simple to use, our award-winning system increases workforce visibility, HR productivity and provides better experiences across the entire workforce.

[Find out more about Sage People in our blog about our first ten years].

What are the biggest challenges companies face when using HCM software? How do they overcome those challenges?

Investing in your people through HR technology is one of the most important decisions an organization can make. Get the best from your people, and your organisation flourishes.

In fact, a staggering 89 percent of HR teams are determined to be viewed as adding strategic value to their business. By championing advances in HR technology, forward-thinking HR and People leaders can shape the future of their company and demonstrate the value of the organization’s most important asset for growth: their people.

There are, however, some simple do and don’ts that we’d recommend when it comes to new HR technology, however:

  • DO build out functionality gradually. Trying to do too much too soon adds unnecessary risk to a project and often impacts adoption. A phased deployment will allow you to get early value, whilst ensuring a smooth user journey for employees and your team.

  • DO prime the organization. Make sure that you have a communications plan ready early. One of the main success criteria for any HR software pilot is adoption. Upfront communication is very powerful and not to be underestimated.

  • DO know your stakeholders. Even as you begin to think about new HR technology, identify the teams for, firstly, the selection process; secondly, the implementation phase; and thirdly, business as usual. Different people will have different roles. Identify them early to avoid complications and confusion later down the line.

  • DO know your data. Before even speaking with providers ahead of starting a pilot, start to look at your data. Be clear about what you currently have, what gaps there are, whether it is clean, and what you want it to do for you.

  • DON’T rush an implementation or pilot. Make sure the team have the time to make it successful. This is a significant investment and your internal project team must be able to dedicate adequate time for requirements setting and testing. 

  • DON’T start a pilot without clear roles and responsibilities. Play to everyone’s strengths, and make sure everyone is clear what’s expected and what’s not.

  • DON’T let your imagination be constrained. Let your technology be its best self; be open to changing some of your processes to take advantage of what the new technology has to offer.

Why is human capital management important?

Wow, where do we start? The world of work today is shifting and changing at a phenomenal pace. The make-up of a company’s workforce and how, when, and where it works has fundamentally changed – and today’s workforce is more diverse, mobile and technologically-enabled than ever.

For the first time, the workforce is comprised of five different generations, all working side-by-side, and all coming with varying expectations and standards. The contingent workforce is growing and becoming more diverse to include agencies, freelancers, gig workers and job bidders, presenting challenges to the way leaders manage their teams and track performance.

This is magnified by a culture of employee mobility, especially among millennials – meaning the retention of high-performing talent is more vital than ever. Furthermore, low unemployment and the war for talent have given people choice, and organizations must therefore work harder to attract the best talent.

With these rapidly shifting dynamics, businesses find themselves at a crossroad. Employers need to embrace new technology to get ahead in this new world of work and put people at the heart of their strategy.

Yet, the reality is that most HCM solutions are struggling to keep up with the rapid pace at which technology and digital ways of working are evolving, becoming outdated and no longer fit for purpose. Leaders therefore must think carefully about the changes they want to make and look to a solution that will not only solve their immediate problems but withstand the test of time.

What do you wish more HR professionals and recruiters knew about HCM software?

Be crystal clear from the start the problem you are helping the organization solve – and start with that. Organizations can sometimes focus on the technology they are using, rather than the problem they are solving and the value they are creating as a result.

Asses ROI in the context of these organizational needs. The highest value will come from systems which automate HR tasks, freeing up your team’s time to concentrate on the more important things, like building great workforce experiences for your people.

Does effective HCM play a role in employee retention?

Absolutely. In today’s workplace, it’s even harder than ever to be productive; over a third of employees admitted they’re productive for less than 30 hours a week in a recent study we conducted with over 3,500 workers. That’s a whole day each week that they’re in work, but not working. Overall, this low productivity is costing the U.S. a staggering $450 – $550 billion a year.

The answer, our research found, lies in workforce experiences. 92 percent of employees said this is important to them. That’s huge.

This is where technology can open huge opportunities. From flexible working, to great onboarding experiences; recognition, wellbeing, performance and talent management; internal communications; employer branding… the possibilities are endless.

None of this is possible without the right HR technology.

Even more importantly, cloud HR tech enables organizations to know their people as well as they know their customers, through people analytics and people science.

With people science, organizations can use data to develop stronger and predictive insights about their people and motivations. These insights can then be used to make more informed evidence-based decisions. The data can then be used for predictive purposes, so that managers can start to understand and make decisions based on people’s behavior and motivations.

Again, none of this is possible without the right HR technology.

[Find out more about what our research found about what drives employees and keeps top talent in our blog].

For anyone who won’t be able to make it to the Sage booth in Las Vegas, what do you want them to know?

Just to reiterate: that a staggering 89 percent of HR teams are determined to be viewed as adding strategic value to their business. By championing advances in HR technology, forward-thinking HR and People leaders can shape the future of their company and demonstrate to the board the huge benefits of investing in people.

If HR and People leaders aren’t at the event (we’ll be at booth #2424), and want to find out more about building great workforce experiences for their people, then they can:


Visit the Sage booth #2424 at #SHRM19!


The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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