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Navigating global HR transformation: Insight from Avis Budget Group
Samantha McLaren

By: Samantha McLaren on November 21st, 2019

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Navigating global HR transformation: Insight from Avis Budget Group

Digital Transformation  |  HR Operational Efficiency

Est. Read Time: 3 min.

Sometimes, HR transformation isn’t just beneficial—it’s essential. But how do you overhaul HR at a global company without plunging the workforce into chaos? That was the topic of conversation between PeopleDoc and Sherry Knaszak, VP of HR Transformation at Avis Budget Group, in the enlightening SHRM webinar, From Paper to People: HR Transformation at Avis Budget Group. 

 

Before undergoing the transformation, HR at Avis Budget Group was struggling with disparate systems and a lack of communication and visibility, which was hurting employee satisfaction. Today, HR teams are finally talking to one another, the business has more data to drive better decision-making, and employees have access to the resources they need. And that was only possible thanks to careful planning and consideration. 

 

Here’s how Avis Budget Group prepared for a successful HR transformation—and how other businesses can follow their lead. 

 

Recognizing the need for an HR transformation

Avis Budget Group is the parent company of one of the world’s largest rental car providers. With 34,000 employees spread across 26 different countries, a unified approach to HR was vital. Unfortunately, the company was operating 96 different systems around the world—none of which were integrated through a central portal, or with each other. 

 

“For the president of our international region to find out how many people he had in his organization at any given time, Sherry recalls, “[that] was quite literally a three-week exercise.”

 

To make matters worse, every location was a different size and at a different stage of maturity, and their HR teams performed at varying degrees of effectiveness. Some used more advanced systems, while others still relied on manual processes. There was also a lack of proper processes to control costs, unstandardized business structures and HR-to-employee ratios, and antiquated performance, incentive, and reward systems—something that continually came up in employee surveys. 

 

Clearly, it was time for a change—and soon. 

 

Defining the goals of the transformation 

For Avis Budget Group, a complete HR transformation would not only boost efficiency, allowing HR to spend more time focusing on the strategic aspects of their work, but would also enable the business to acquire more robust analytics. And by taking redundant admin work off local managers’ plates, the transformation would help boost employee experience, satisfaction, and retention, too. 

 

Sherry and her team decided that the central goal for the transformation would be to globalize the commonalities of HR to allow for simpler, smarter, and faster execution—in a cost-effective way. They outlined four pillars that would comprise their transformative work: 

 

  1. Controlling costs—encompassing everything from vendor management to benefits pooling and outsourcing
  2. Infrastructure pieces—implementing a global HR system
  3. Optimizing structure—adopting a lean operating structure, including the shared service center model
  4. Modernizing processes—including performance enhancement, global job leveling (a process that determines the relative value of each job in the organization), and a bonus revamp

 

These changes were exciting. But first, Sherry and her team had to get the company on board. 

 

Making a case for HR transformation to secure executive buy-in

HR transformation quote by Sherry Knaszak at Avis Budget Group

One of the hardest parts of getting executive buy-in for any HR initiative is making a case for return on investment (ROI). Luckily, Sherry had an idea. 

 

“What really made the difference for us was that we didn’t go at it from the angle of, ‘We need a new system,’'' she explains. “We went at it from a business case that looked at the entire function and really laid out if we do this, this is how much it’s going to cost and this is how much it’s going to save.” 

 

For some companies, a phased approach to transformation can work best. But due to the scale of both the company and the transformation, it didn’t make sense for Avis Budget Group to try and fix each issue individually. Once everyone was on board, Sherry’s team started from square one, leaving the old way of doing things at the door. 

 

“The direction from our CHRO was essentially that nothing is sacred,” Sherry says. She took this direction ran with it. 

 

Implementing a shared services model

From the very beginning, Sherry knew she wanted to implement a shared services model.  

 

“If we hadn't implemented a shared services model at the same time as we underwent our HR transformation, we would have essentially had to do it all twice,” she says. “The shared service center provided the best opportunity to become leaner, to take out extra work, and to have somewhere for new workflows to go. It was the best environment for change.” 

 

Reducing redundant work and centralizing HR operations are integral to any successful transformation. This implementation allowed Avis Budget Group to develop a leaner operating model, helping prove Sherry’s case for ROI. 

 

Download the eBook Drive Results in Your HR Shared Service Center

 

Easing the transition to self-service and getting employees on board

The new technology that Avis Budget Group introduced through the shared services center, PeopleDoc's HR Service Delivery platform, increased accessibility for employees, but there was certainly an acclimation period. Ensuring that all employees understand and feel equipped to use the services available to them remains an area of opportunity for the company. Being clear in communicating each service and providing detailed internal instructions were important steps to get everyone on board—and expedite the transition process. 

 

About 70% of Avis Budget Group’s employee population are deskless workers. These workers don’t sit in an office from nine to five, and their schedules don’t align with HR’s normal hours of operation. Communicating with these workers throughout the HR transformation—and making sure they became aware of all of the new HR functions accessible—was especially important. 

 

With the shared services model, deskless workers gained the ability to access information on their own through a knowledge portal providing tier-0 support. 

 

“One of the things we’ve really tried to push for the tier 0 is that it’s a 24/7 service,” says Sherry. “So you can always get answers to your questions, even if you’re working the midnight shift and there isn’t somebody there to answer them for you.” 

 

Since the majority of these employees don’t have their own laptops, they can access the portal just as easily from their mobile phone or tablet. This technology played a key part in facilitating wide-scale transformation across the predominantly deskless workforce.

 

Related Article: What HR Case Management Means and Why You Need It

 

Taking stock of progress and looking forward

With the transformation well underway, Sherry is pleased with how things are going. 

 

“The biggest change has been how we interact with each other,” she says. “One of the things we wanted to change most was the silos that were affecting our HR teams.” 

 

The transformation has dramatically improved connectivity between HR teams, enabling them—and the company—to make better, more informed decisions. Constant communication is central to the continued success and development of the transformation.

 

“The more that you can begin to tie things together, the better shot you have of making it all stick,” Sherry says. “Now that we have a global HR system, we use that as our source of truth. Now that HR touches all the other systems in the business, we can make sure all the pieces fit. This has really helped move us over the edge and get it embedded in the way that we operate.”

 

The key to a successful transformation is putting the business first

For teams considering an HR overhaul, Sherry has some advice. 

 

“Put the business first,” she says. “This is not to make HR’s life easier—it’s to make life easier for our employees and our managers. The additional benefit is to make our lives easier and give us extra tools, and that’s a win.” 

 

Making sure that the proper governance is in place and that all key stakeholders remain on board and in the loop is also integral to success.

 

“Everybody understood the gravity of what we were doing, and were on board,” Sherry says. 


To operate a shared services model, Avis Budget Group needed the right technology—so they turned to PeopleDoc's HR Service Delivery platform. To experience the power of these tools for yourself, take a virtual product tour today.

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Button to download eBook on 5 steps to HR transformation

About Samantha McLaren

Scottish-born Samantha McLaren is a copywriter and editor with a specialty for the recruiting and HR space. She has written dozens of articles on topics ranging from employee retention and engagement to employer branding, company culture, and management strategies.