Cheese maker grating farmhouse cheddar with machine

Great Lakes Cheese Accomplishes Smooth HR Transformation with Change Management Plan

Great Lakes Cheese may not be a household brand, but the company supplies over 25% of all packaged cheese consumed in the United States. That’s a lot of cheese no matter how you slice it!

The company’s origins date back some sixty years when Swiss immigrant, Hans Epprecht, started his store-to-door cheese delivery business. The company gradually expanded their packaging and manufacturing capabilities with additional facilities. In 2015, the company set out an ambitious growth plan that would increase the workforce by more than 50%.

Today, 4,000 employee-owners at eight facilities continue the tradition of providing high-quality cheeses and exceptional customer service to retailers and foodservice operators across the country.

Recovery from Growing Pains

With rapid growth came the need to reevaluate the company’s HR processes. Great Lakes Cheese could no longer support the employee experience using folders and filing cabinets. To become more efficient and scale to match the company’s expansion, a major digital transformation was in order.

Great Lakes Cheese chose SAP SuccessFactors Human Experience Management Suite to serve as its one-stop shop for all HR functions – from recruiting and onboarding to payroll and training. But as Brian Shellhorn, HR information systems manager at Great Lakes Cheese, would tell you, planning, implementation, and overseeing stakeholder engagement didn’t come easy.

Shellhorn and SAP partner Capgemini played pivotal roles in the change management process as the company made the transition to SAP SuccessFactors HXM Suite. Not only did he need full leadership buy-in, but also for stakeholders and end-users to be on board – all comfortable with the new solution and confident in how it would help them in their jobs.

Post-Implementation Adoption

When they first went live with the suite, Shellhorn and his team visited each Great Lakes Cheese location to improve the employee experience by connecting with and helping employees log on for the first time. From there, they facilitated adoption by guiding employees step-by-step through the new system, including how to check crucial information such as paychecks and benefits.

With the adoption of SAP SuccessFactors HXM Suite, Great Lakes Cheese has been able to realize a number of great benefits. One key result has been the drastic reduction in paper used in HR processes.

Shellhorn confirmed approximately 80% of paper was removed. Naturally this was a win from both cost and sustainability perspectives. But it was also a relief for employees who would frequently encounter frustrations over not being able to find or retrieve the correct documents if they weren’t physically sitting in the office. Considering the impact the recent global pandemic has had on how we work, this digital transformation has proven to be a major victory – allowing employees to have access to all of the information they need regardless of where they are located.

“Everything is consolidated into one place, which was a huge goal of ours,” said Shellhorn.

New Employee-Friendly HR Processes

The improved efficiency from new, streamlined HR processes has been empowering for employees, who appreciate more self-service options. Shellhorn personally enjoys watching them learn and “seeing the light bulbs come on with people” when they realize that they have a one-stop shop that allows them to easily tap into all of their HR needs. “They have the access and the power to do what they need to do without relying on three other people or an e-mail or a meeting. What used to be a meeting is now just a couple of clicks,” says Shellhorn.

In their early efforts to support employee adoption, Great Lakes Cheese installed kiosks in break rooms, connecting people to the suite in an attempt to make it even more accessible.

To Shellhorn’s surprise, however, they found that employees were more likely to check HR information like their paychecks and benefits on their phones. It was quickly discovered that as much as 70% to 75% of their traffic came through mobile devices.

So, they had to start thinking from a mobile perspective – a shift that “really has changed the way that we do business internally,” according to Shellhorn. While the preference for mobile may not have been expected, Shellhorn and his team weren’t about to ignore the numbers. After all, a vital component of change management is taking employees’ opinions and behaviors into consideration.

Indeed, Shellhorn emphasized that the success of the change management plan stems from giving employees a voice and including them in the process.

“If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in my past is that people are willing to put up with a lot more in their change when they understand why this decision was made,” says Shellhorn.

Listen to the second episode of The Download with SAP podcast hosted by Babatunde Ojo and featuring Brian Shellhorn here.


Jim Vienneau is North America regional head for Customer Success Services HXM at SAP.