by David Baum, February 2014
P eter Bjork grew up building things. He started his work life learning all sorts of trades at his father’s construction company in the northern part of Sweden. So in college, it was natural for him to pursue a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering—but he broke new ground when he added a master’s degree in finance to his curriculum vitae.
Written on a traditional résumé, Bjork’s current title (vice president of information systems strategies) doesn’t reveal the diversity of his experience—that he’s adept with hammer and nails as well as rows and columns. But a big part of his current job is to work with his counterparts in human resources (HR) designing, building, and deploying the systems needed to get a complete view of the skills and potential of Skanska’s 22,000-strong white-collar workforce. And Bjork believes that complete view is essential to Skanska’s success.
“Our business is really all about people,” says Bjork, who has worked with Skanska for 16 years. “You can have equipment and financial resources, but to truly succeed in a business like ours you need to have the right people in the right places. That’s what this system is helping us accomplish.”
In a global HR environment that suffers from a paradox of high unemployment and a scarcity of skilled labor, managers need to have a complete understanding of workforce capabilities to develop management skills, recruit for open positions, ensure that staff is getting the training they need, and reduce attrition. Skanska’s human capital management (HCM) systems, based on Oracle Talent Management Cloud, play a critical role delivering that understanding.
“Skanska’s philosophy of having great people, encouraging their development, and giving them the chance to move across business units has nurtured a culture of collaboration, but managing a diverse workforce spread across the globe is a monumental challenge,” says Annika Lindholm, global human resources system owner in the HR department at Skanska’s headquarters just outside of Stockholm, Sweden. “We depend heavily on Oracle’s cloud technology to support our HCM function.”
For Skanska’s more than 60,000 employees and contractors, managing huge construction projects is an everyday job. Beyond erecting signature buildings, management’s goal is to build a corporate culture where valuable talent can be sought out and developed, bringing in the right mix of people to support and grow the business. “Of all the companies in our space, Skanska is probably one of the strongest ones, with a laser focus on people and people development,” notes Tom Crane, chief HR and communications officer for Skanska in the United States. “Our business looks like equipment and material, but all we really have at the end of the day are people and their intellectual capital. Without them, second only to clients, of course, you really can’t achieve great things in the high-profile environment in which we work.”
During the 1990s, Skanska entered an expansive growth phase. A string of successful acquisitions paved the way for the company’s transformation into a global enterprise. “Today the company’s focus is on profitable growth,” continues Crane. “But you can’t really achieve growth unless you are doing a very good job of developing your people and having the right people in the right places and driving a culture of growth.”
In the United States alone, Skanska has more than 8,000 employees in four distinct business units: Skanska USA Building, also known as the Construction Manager, builds everything at ground level and above—hospitals, educational facilities, stadiums, airport terminals, and other massive projects. Skanska USA Civil does everything at ground level and below, such as light rail, water treatment facilities, power plants or power industry facilities, highways, and bridges. Skanska Infrastructure Development develops public-private partnerships—projects in which Skanska adds equity and also arranges for outside financing. Skanska Commercial Development acts like a commercial real estate developer, acquiring land and building offices on spec or build-to-suit for its clients.
Getting the various units to operate collaboratatively helps Skanska deliver high value to clients and shareholders. “When we have this collaboration among units, it allows us to enrich each of the business units and, at the same time, develop our future leaders to be more facile in operating across business units—more accepting of a ‘one Skanska’ approach,” explains Crane.
But HR needs processes and tools to support managers who face such business dynamics. Oracle Talent Management Cloud is helping Skanska implement world-class recruiting strategies and generate the insights needed to drive quality hiring practices, internal mobility, and a proactive approach to building talent pipelines. With their new cloud system in place, Skanska HR leaders can manage everything from recruiting, compensation, and goal and performance management to employee learning and talent review—all as part of a single, cohesive software-as-a-service (SaaS) environment.
Skanska has successfully implemented two modules from Oracle Talent Management Cloud—the recruiting and performance management modules—and is in the process of implementing the learn module. Internally, they call the systems Skanska Recruit, Skanska Talent, and Skanska Learn.
The timing is apropos. With high rates of unemployment in recent years, there have been many job candidates on the market. However, talent scarcity continues to frustrate recruiters. Oracle Taleo Recruiting Cloud Service, one of the applications in the Oracle Talent Management cloud portfolio, enables Skanska managers to create more-intelligent recruiting strategies, pulling high-performer profile statistics to create new candidate profiles and using multitiered screening and assessments to ensure that only the best-suited candidate applications make it to the recruiter’s desk. Tools such as applicant tracking, interview management, and requisition management help recruiters and hiring managers streamline the hiring process.
Oracle’s cloud-based software system automates and streamlines many other HR processes for Skanska’s multinational organization and delivers insight into the success of recruiting and talent-management efforts. “The Oracle system is definitely helping us to construct global HR processes,” adds Bjork. “It is really important that we have a business model that is decentralized, so we can effectively serve our local markets, and interact with our global ERP [enterprise resource planning] systems as well. We would not be able to do this without a really good, well-integrated HCM system that could support these efforts.”
A key piece of this effort is something Skanska has developed internally called the Skanska Leadership Profile. Core competencies, on which all employees are measured, are used in performance reviews to determine weak areas but also to discover talent, such as those who will be promoted or need succession plans. This global profiling system brings consistency to the way HR professionals evaluate and review talent across the company, with a consistent set of ratings and a consistent definition of competencies.
|Skanska was ranked the ninth-largest contractor in the world and the seventh-largest contractor in the United States.|
|In 2007, Skanska was recognized as the top “Green Builder” in the United States (Source: 2007 Green Contractors Survey, Engineering News-Record).|
|Skanska was ranked the greenest company in the United Kingdom, despite belonging to an industry with a generally high environmental impact.|
|An official vision stated by Skanska’s management: zero loss-making projects, work site accidents, environmental incidents, ethical breaches, and defects|
All salaried employees in Skanska are tied to a talent management process that gives opportunity for midyear and year-end reviews. Using the performance management module, managers can align individual goals with corporate goals; provide clear visibility into how each employee contributes to the success of the organization; and drive a strategic, end-to-end talent management strategy with a single, integrated system for all talent-related activities. This is critical to a company that is highly focused on ensuring that every employee has a development plan linked to his or her succession potential.
“Our approach all along has been to deploy software applications that are seamless to end users,” says Crane. “The beauty of a cloud-based system is that much of the functionality takes place behind the scenes so we can focus on making sure users can access the data when they need it. This model greatly improves their efficiency.”
The employee profile not only sets a competency baseline for new employees but is also integrated with Skanska’s other back-office Oracle systems to ensure consistency in the way information is used to support other business functions. “Since we have about a dozen different HR systems that are providing us with information, we built a master database that collects all the information,” explains Lindholm. “That data is sent not only to Oracle Talent Management Cloud, but also to other systems that are dependent on this information.”
Skanska is poised to launch a new Oracle module to link employee learning plans to the review process and recruitment assessments. According to Crane, connecting these processes allows Skanska managers to see employees’ progress and produce an updated learning program. For example, as employees take classes, supervisors can consult the Oracle Talent Management Cloud portal to monitor progress and align it to each individual’s training and development plan. “That’s a pretty compelling solution for an organization that wants to manage its talent on a real-time basis and see how the training is working,” Crane says.
Rolling out Oracle Talent Management Cloud was a joint effort among HR, IT, and a global group that oversaw the worldwide implementation. Skanska deployed the solution quickly across all markets at once. In the United States, for example, more than 35 offices quickly got up to speed on the new system via webinars for employees and face-to-face training for the HR group.
“With any migration, there are moments when you hold your breath, but in this case, we had very few problems getting the system up and running,” says Crane.
Lindholm adds, “There has been very little resistance to the system as users recognize its potential. Customizations are easy, and a lasting partnership has developed between Skanska and Oracle when help is needed. They listen to us.”
Bjork elaborates on the implementation process from an IT perspective. “Deploying a SaaS system removes a lot of the complexity,” he says. “You can downsize the IT part and focus on the business part, which increases the probability of a successful implementation. If you want to scale the system, you make a quick phone call. That’s all it took recently when we added 4,000 users. We didn’t have to think about resizing the servers or hiring more IT people. Oracle does that for us, and they have provided very good support.”
As a result, Skanska has been able to implement a single, cost-effective talent management solution across the organization to support its strategy to recruit and develop a world-class staff. Stakeholders are confident that they are providing the most efficient recruitment system possible for competent personnel at all levels within the company—from skilled workers at construction sites to top management at headquarters. And Skanska can retain skilled employees and ensure that they receive the development opportunities they need to grow and advance.
David Baum is a freelance writer who specializes in the intersection of science, technology, and culture.
During his tenure at Skanska, Peter Bjork, who serves as vice president of information systems strategies at Skanska, has seen the company evolve from the largest engineering and construction firm in Sweden to a globally recognized powerhouse. Some of the world’s most significant structures are Skanska projects—from the Gherkin, an iconic, ecologically friendly skyscraper gracing the London skyline, to the renovation of the United Nations building in New York City. Under his unwavering leadership, IT has become an important differentiator.
In constructing the Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey, for example, engineers used building information modeling (BIM) software to develop a 3-D model of the whole building and scheduled resources around it. Skanska used BIM to track more than 3,200 precast concrete panels, which were custom-made for a specific location within the stadium and were not interchangeable. Each concrete panel, which weighed around 20 tons, was fitted with an RFID tag to allow it to be tracked. BIM allowed Skanska to monitor supply chain performance in real time, including the current production status, quality control, delivery, site preparation, and installation. The large, complex project also drew people together from throughout the enterprise, creating an enormous sense of belonging that continues to fuel the company’s unique corporate culture.