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Brooks Brothers Talks Success of HR Transition to Cloud

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Brooks Brothers Talks Success of HR Transition to Cloud

September 12, 2016
By Casey Houser
Contributing Writer

Brooks Brothers has worked in the clothing business since the early 1800s. It has the experience necessary to run a brick-and-mortar storefront. Yet its present dispersion of employees only sees 10 percent of them working in offices; the rest work in warehouses and in the field as remote salespersons.

The thousands of employees that work for the company and, most pertinent, the varying locations in which they work, have begun to demand something different from its human resources (HR) department. Justin Watras, the director of talent, management, and organizational effectiveness at Brooks Brothers, has recognized the need for a “bigger, bolder” HR that can be flexible and work with on-site and remote employees easily. In an interview with Diginomica, he expressed the need for software that can help his HR teams make all employees gain a sense of fulfillment in their roles.

“On my team, we talk a lot about fulfillment,” Watras began. “To me, that’s the litmus test for engagement. I’m in the job I’m in right now because I still feel fulfilled every day. Even members of my team who are doing pretty rote tasks, for the right person, there’s a lot of fulfillment to be found in supporting people and supporting their families. Especially in the HR space, when you can connect your work to the higher purpose, that can feel pretty good.”

Watras indicated that the HR software he uses, SAP’s (News - Alert) SuccessFactors, allows him to pick up the phone to instantly reward employees for a job well done. Watras said he has used the HR system to find the individual employees connected to sales or extraordinary experiences. A call from a high-level company official can let employees know that they are appreciated for going beyond the everyday.

In turn, he said, this has made more extraordinary experiences the norm: “That’s not a dream, that’s happening. The key is how you make that the everyday, not the exception – because the reality is those are still exceptional moments.”

The usability of the entire HR system, Watras said, has stemmed from its standing as cloud-based software that, as one might expect, gives Watras and others access to company information from anywhere. He said managers access the software, on average, 3.5 times every week to gain information from company directories and organizational charts. That action makes possible the types of encounters managers can have with individual top performers. It brings a face to the action.

Moreover, this has allowed the Brooks Brothers HR department to go paperless. Watras said managers have always complained about the need to fill out paperwork when names changed or when direct deposit was initiated for a new hire. More from Watras:

“We said to managers, ‘You’ll never touch that again, because that’s employee self-service. That’s not your responsibility, and in fact, we don’t even permission you to do those things, because that’s also private data.’”

From that quote alone, it is easy to see how the SAP software has personalized company data and has secured personal data. It has made Brooks Brothers much more efficient and at the same time has increased its security at an individual level. Watras finally noted that he was glad the original plan – to use on-premise HR software – didn’t end up as reality. The bolder version of company HR has been realized over the past several years by embracing the cloud. Brooks Brothers may even be a model of success that other large companies could emulate in their own transitions away from on-premise applications.

Edited by Alicia Young

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