University of Toronto

With Change Management, a Complete HR Transformation Adoption at University of Toronto

How hard can it be to apply for a job? We’ve all gone through this ourselves a time or three, right? But for those submitting job applications to the prestigious University of Toronto, the process proved to be so difficult that a specialized customer service team had to be created to help potential job candidates use the university’s recruitment platform to get their applications in.

Clearly, something wasn’t right. Not only was change needed to create a more efficient system but change management as well in order to build buy-in by all senior stakeholders up front and then guide the university through the entirety of the changes post-implementation.

What Prompted the Need for Change?

Founded in 1827, the University of Toronto (U of T) is a public research university that ranks among the world’s top universities. It is, literally, a small nation of modern, world-class academics – ranging from social scientists doing outreach in homeless encampments to technicians researching drone deployment on Mars. Not an institution to rest on its laurels, U of T is in constant recruitment mode for the right prospects who can similarly think outside of the box.

Unfortunately, according to Hayley Fuller, director of Strategic Communications and Change for the Division of People, Strategy, Equity, and Culture at U of T, the university’s recruiters, hiring managers, and other users of its recruitment process exclaimed how the university’s legacy human resource system was slow, inefficient, and prevented them from doing their job. Worse yet, this was having an adverse impact on the university’s job applicants.

In short, everyone hated it.

It is then no wonder that such a massive entity, comprised of more than 20,000 employees, would need a robust HR system. As such, U of T launched a multiple-year project to modernize its core HR, research, and finance systems using SAP SuccessFactors solutions as its new HR platform.

Adoption Can Be a Challenging Thing

Of course, just because U of T was able to implement a transformational new solution to help its recruitment platform run better did not mean that its problems had been overcome.

Questions abounded, such as how to get the team to use it, how to get end users on board, and would training on the new system be available.

That’s why having a change management plan can help make solution adoption truly successful and help internal stakeholders and users realize the benefits of the new solution.

Managing Change by Putting an Adoption Plan in Place

Fuller admitted the project team was initially met with skepticism. But, she and the team were committed to showing stakeholders just how a new system would be better in tangible terms.

  1. They first attended senior leadership meetings and presented statistics comparing the high traffic to their careers site versus the drastic applicant drop-off rates.
  2. They then established a project leadership group (PLG). This involved leaders from not only IT and HR but also a variety of people from across the university who were influential and “champions for change.” At one point, they were holding PLG meetings every week to identify issues, keep others informed, and highlight the progress they were making.
  3. Their change management plan entailed functional user groups as well, where they would conduct journey mapping with recruiters, faculty, and applicants. By doing so, they were able to discover what did and didn’t work for each group with the preexisting HR platform.

Fuller’s change management team didn’t stop there. They also assembled a super user network, comprised of people from each divisional HR office at U of T. Fuller’s team met with the super users for two hours each month for eight months leading up to the SAP SuccessFactors solutions launch. These sessions provided room for the super users to bring forward issues, concerns, and even their own ideas and aspects they were excited about.

In Fuller’s view, this network was the “single most effective thing” her team did to socialize the project.

But to be 100% transparent, none of this came to be easily. According to Fuller, “It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of energy. But it’s worth it for sure.”

“Adoption Has Gone through the Roof”

According to Fuller, it’s not just employees who were pleased with U of T’s HR transformation. They received positive feedback from applicants on how easy it is to use the career site. For both recruiters and prospective candidates, the automated interview scheduling feature has been a favorite.

“It’s been so popular at U of T that additional employee groups that never wanted to be on our previous platform want to start posting their jobs on this platform,” said Fuller. “So once people could really see what this did and how slick it is, adoption has gone through the roof.”

Change Is Good, Change Management Is Even Better

U of T has clearly come a long way as the project with SAP SuccessFactors solutions demonstrates the value of the work that Fuller’s team does and why it is so critical to engage end users from the very beginning of the process.

“I think our overall digital workforce strategy is really proving the need and place for formal change management,” said Fuller. Lucky for all at U of T – including prospective job candidates – Fuller has been proven right and in no uncertain terms.

It’s been said that “change is good.” But U of T can say with confidence that complementing change with adoption and a solid change management plan makes change – no matter how difficult – more acceptable and digestible.

Listen to the first episode of The Download podcast series hosted by Babatune Ojo and featuring Hayley Fuller.


Kevin Spencer is vice president of Public Services for SAP Canada.
Top image: Diana Tyszko © University of Toronto. All Rights Reserved.