meet gail.
a champion of employee services.

 

Gail Axon is part of Mondelēz International Business Services (MBS). It’s a global business service organization that’s simplifying and standardizing how we work around the world. She leads our brand new center for employee services in Europe, which is based in Bournville, UK, the home of Cadbury.

Gail talks about what employee service centers are, why we need them and her role in getting our new center off the ground.

What's an employee service center?

We’re a global business and different locations have grown with their own ways of working. An employee service center is an HR hub that puts everything together and gives you one way of doing all the HR processes and transactions we deliver across the whole company. We do it all from one place with one team, and that team can drive controls and compliance so we do everything in the best way possible.

The need for an employee service center

We found that we were duplicating HR processes and programs in different countries across Europe. For example, you’d have someone in Greece, someone in Italy and another person in the UK delivering learning programs. All with the same materials and all with the same goals in mind. Instead of communicating with each other though, they would each come up with their own plan. What’s more, they would then find out that somebody else had already done it – and done it well – so there was no need for them to have prepared all that work in the first place.

Each country also had its own individual strengths. You’d look at the UK, for instance, and they’d be brilliant at learning and development. Or you’d go to Greece and see that they were fantastic at workforce administration.

So we wanted to standardize all of our HR processes and provide the highest level of service across the region. Instead of having 20 people in 20 countries doing 20 different things, we wanted to develop a unified approach. A similar way of working no matter where we were. One that would drive excellence uniformly across countries and continents. 

When it started to take shape

Our European business first looked at developing a service center structure in 2008, but ultimately decided it wasn’t the right time. In 2014 we began to look again. We started gaining support throughout the business and convincing as many countries as possible to join in.

So we’ve had this idea for a while, but it never felt like the right moment until now. And the reason it feels like the right moment is because of technology. We’ve always had incredibly talented people, but we now have the technology to match. Technology that allows us to do an awful lot more than we could do by ourselves.

We’ve taken a big step forward with electronic filing systems, task management systems, telephony systems and more. Not just in Europe, but globally. They’ll soon cover every area of the company and every region of the business will benefit.

It’s quite an historic moment for the company and I feel proud and privileged to be part of it.

Identifying the best HR processes

Shaping various HR processes into a single, unified format is a labor of love. A lot of people with a lot of expertise have gone through every process, looking at what works and what doesn’t, and how we can simplify everything. Having the right technology is a huge help, as it allows us to be more efficient and less prone to errors.

Of course, even when we implement something we’re happy with, the work doesn’t stop. We then spend a lot of time refining the process as the company changes and new ideas emerge. Our industry is continuously evolving, so we can never afford to stand still.

A more human approach to human resources

We’re really proud of the fact that all of our team members are Mondelēz International employees. We’ve kept everything in-house and not outsourced in any way. We know that going to third party suppliers works for some businesses, but we felt HR was too personal for that. After all, we’re dealing with human beings. With colleagues and work mates, not numbers. So we wanted to create a shared service that reflected this. One that felt human and that would deliver what people wanted. One that our people could go to for any HR-related issue, rather than only some HR issues.

My background

Believe it or not, I only came into HR in 2014. I originally trained as a lawyer and spent 20 years in military service. And even when I first joined Mondelēz International in 2010, it was as Deputy Director of Global Security, which didn’t have anything to do with HR. So everything I know about human resources I’ve learned in the past two years.

The company has had a lot of faith in me. They’ve given me the opportunity to work in a new environment and get my hands dirty on a project that’s transforming our business as we speak. They’ve also trusted my ability to learn new things. I may not have known much about HR when I started, but after having been surrounded by experienced HR professionals for the past two years, I’ve picked up an incredible amount.

The year ahead

Everything I’ve done so far has been about launching our European employee service center. I’ve been pulling processes apart, meeting people throughout the business and looking at how different countries operate.

When we launched on 3 May 2016, it was the culmination of months and months of hard work. Of a lot of blood, sweat and tears from people around the business. But it doesn’t stop there. We’ve only gone live with the first wave of countries. We have another wave going live in the summer and a third wave going live in the autumn. In fact, over the next 12 months, we pretty much have a major project to deliver every two months. So there’s still a lot of work to do just to get everything up and running. 

2017 and beyond

If you had told me six years ago when I walked through the door as Deputy Director of Global Security that I would now be in charge of a service center with nearly 200 employees delivering HR services, I would have laughed. But that’s the thing. You can’t imagine all the things you can do at Mondelēz International until you’re actually here. Opportunities you didn’t even know existed can suddenly appear and change the course of your career.

That doesn’t mean you’ll always get what you want. But if you put your heart into your work and are committed to the company, all sorts of doors will open up for you. I always tell people not to rely too much on what they’re good at. Instead, be willing to try new things and push yourself. Because with a bit of passion and perseverance, it’s amazing how far you can go. 

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