Five years ago, Chiquita Brands International was coping with aging human resources technologies in the midst of an economic downturn and a major acquisition. Among other things, the firm couldn’t manage staffing efficiently and had specific issues accounting for contingent employees.
“We didn’t have the basic information we required to manage the business,” explains Kevin Ledford, senior vice president of IT and CIO.
The Charlotte, N. C., firm, which sells fruit products and bagged salads (under the Fresh Express label) at grocery stores and restaurants such as McDonald’s and Subway, employs about 21,000 workers worldwide. “We lacked a single HR system, so it often took days or weeks to get an answer to a basic question,” Ledford says.
As a result, Chiquita Brands opted to migrate from a custom ERP system to a cloud-based solution. “We looked at solutions from a number of major providers and felt that the cloud was the way to go,” he notes.
The Workday application the company deployed addresses a number of needs, including the ability to make faster and better decisions about staffing and organizational structure, and to improve talent tracking, particularly at the executive level, Ledford says. Along the way, Chiquita has introduced additional functionality, including integrated project management, payroll, and travel and entertainment reporting.
“One of the problems we had in the past—and it’s a problem for many companies—is that we would put a software product or system in place and it would begin dying from day one,” Ledford says. “We wouldn’t upgrade as often as we should, and we would eventually recognize that we were behind the curve and lacking the tools we needed. The cloud provided a way to stay current and expand capabilities over time without requiring a lot of internal time and resources.”
The fact that many HR capabilities worked within a single cloud solution was a huge selling point, he adds.
Chiquita Brands has extended the Workday functionality to mobile devices, including iPads. Employees download the Workday app and they’re ready to go. This allows managers to handle work on a real-time basis, such as signing approvals while on a business trip or at a hotel. It also helps executives stay on top of situations and act more strategically.
“Recently, our CEO flew to Asia and wanted to know more about people and operations there before arriving,” Ledford explains. “He was able to view information about 20 key executives through the talent management system, including core competencies and projects they were working on.”
This initiative has also improved security. “When we started out, there was a perceived risk by putting all of our human resources data in the cloud—particularly because the cloud was then in its infancy,” he recalls. But Workday’s ability to secure data is actually better than the company’s internal capabilities. “We have replaced spreadsheets and bits of data floating around with a central, secure system that has strict rules and controls,” he adds.
The initiative has also allowed Ledford to reduce IT staffing for HRIS support by 50 percent. “This approach has helped us become a fundamentally better company,” he reports.