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Case Study


Steelcase Designs Form-Fitting Talent Management

Global Office Furniture Company Modernizes Workforce Planning

by Natalie Miller, Contributing Writer | insiderPROFILES, Volume 6, Issue 4

October 7, 2015


To better manage its growing global workforce, office furniture company Steelcase Inc., upgraded to SAP ERP HCM 6.0 to take advantage of enhanced talent management functionality. The company is also implementing SAP SuccessFactors Performance & Goals to create a hybrid cloud model that will improve the manufacturer’s employee management processes and streamline workforce planning and data collection.


Steelcase Inc. was founded in 1912 and was awarded its first patent just two years later after developing a lightweight fireproof wastebasket. This was an innovative product for its day, and it quickly gained popularity. The company eventually began to manufacture and distribute products for the office environment. Today, innovation continues to be at the forefront of the business, which has become a global leader in the office furniture industry.

With 10,000 employees and dozens of showrooms around the world, Steelcase is a growing company that has evolved from one that creates products to one that creates solutions, explains Lucinda Pick, Global Workforce Strategy Consultant at Steelcase. From chairs that conform to the users who sit in them, to objects around the room specifically configured to the people in it and customizable to the purpose of the meeting, “everything has a life,” she says. “That is something that is in our product innovation, but also drives how we do business as a company.”

Over the last several years, Steelcase has taken steps to integrate the enterprise at a global level in line with its growing presence in nations around the world. As part of its deep culture of innovation, as well as a desire to attract and retain world-class employees, Steelcase looked closely at its overall technology landscape to assess whether it was allowing the company to achieve some lofty business goals, particularly in the area of human resources (HR).

Business Before Technology

A long-standing SAP customer, Steelcase evaluated its overall systems landscape in early 2014 to create a technological roadmap that would support its business strategy, which included optimizing master data to capitalize on a more robust talent management solution. Rather than go out and buy something off the shelf to meet this need, Steelcase decided an upgrade to SAP ERP 6.0 would allow it to take advantage of the new talent management functionality provided in enhancement package 6 for SAP ERP Human Capital Management (SAP ERP HCM).

Steelcase had outgrown older versions of SAP ERP HCM, and it resorted to workarounds to accomplish the talent management functions and goals it set in accordance with a dynamic workforce. “We had to redesign our job structure and job catalog to provide more detailed classifications of labor,” Pick adds. “Before, we had jobs defined at a very high level, but that wasn’t enough for us to do the level of workforce planning and development that we needed.”

By tackling master data standards, Steelcase was able to capitalize on several new areas of talent management functionality in SAP ERP HCM — such as the job catalog’s capabilities like the job family, task functionality, and the functional area — to create a variety of ways to combine work. In addition, the ability to organize data by career level, type, and talent group helps the HR team better create services, such as career planning for employees.

“Employees can match their current skill sets against any job in the company and know what competencies will be required and compare their current evaluations to what will be required in future roles they are interested in,” explains Pick.

Harmonizing Master Data

Because of its global operations, Steelcase needed an unprecedented level of standardization before it could fully take advantage of new talent management functionality. Something as simple as searching for a name is very different depending on the country or the region in terms of how the name is entered in the system. The challenge is trying to standardize what that looks like and how it’s used globally, as well as understanding the definitions of common ways to identify the workforce. “We can use terms like salary or hourly, but those terms don’t exist on a global scale. That’s how we pay people here, but that’s not how other countries define their workforce,” says Pick. “So when we’re trying to do reporting or analytics, we need to have a common understanding of data and we need that to be collected in a way that is uniform across the globe.”

Lucinda Pick

Lucinda Pick
Global Workforce Strategy Consultant,
Steelcase Inc.

The competition for talent out there is great, so being able to differentiate our employee value proposition and understand our market is critical.

Lucinda Pick, Global Workforce Strategy Consultant, Steelcase Inc.

Steelcase is also using the talent group functionality to manage talent more efficiently. The HR team can now assign the company’s high-potential talent to a specific talent group and create a learning and development curriculum for them.

“The biggest impact on our employee base is going to be the talent profile,” explains Pick. This talent profile will serve as a record for employees: a place to keep external job experience as well as their work within Steelcase; showcase their achievements from one job to the next; note aspirations and future career goals; and for managers, it is a place to look at assessments, qualification skill sets, and training demands.

“The talent profile creates that common repository that showcases the workforce’s skills that we haven’t had before,” says Pick. “We’ve had to dig at back-end data to provide custom reports and try to get HR that information, and this just brings it forward to the end user.”

This project is ongoing and is nearing its end. “In October, we will go live with a new portal and our first SAP SuccessFactors module for talent reviews, and by year end, we will deploy an optimized job architecture to support the new talent profile,” Pick continues.

And a lot of work is going on behind the scenes. “It’s about efficiency; it’s about creating more accurate and timely data from the before to the after,” she says.


Steelcase Inc.

Headquarters: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Industry: Furniture manufacturing

Employees: 10,000

Revenue: $3.1 billion (in 2015)

Company details:

• Founded in 1912

• Largest office furniture manufacturer in the world

• 800+ dealer locations

• Produces a comprehensive portfolio of architectural, furniture, and technology products and services

• First product was a steel, fireproof wastebasket

• Family of brands includes Steelcase, Coalesse, Designtex, Details, PolyVision, and Turnstone

• Named among Fortune Magazine’s most admired home equipment and furnishings companies

SAP solutions:

• SAP ERP 6.0

• SAP ERP HCM talent management functionality

• SAP SuccessFactors Performance & Goals

Exploring a Hybrid HR Model

Steelcase has also recently signed a contract with SuccessFactors, an SAP company, to implement SAP SuccessFactors Performance & Goals and take succession planning to the cloud. Slated to go live in November 2015, Steelcase intends to use this functionality to complete organizational talent reviews of its workforce and give ratings based on overall performance and leadership potential, which serves as the basis for identifying high-potential talent. More strategic than a typical annual review, these assessments can determine potential risk, bench strength, and readiness. When staffing positions, Steelcase can look at pivotal roles and career paths to match its high-potential talent and segment them for promotion.

For the future, Steelcase is evaluating all of the SAP SuccessFactors solutions. “It’s our opportunity to test out cloud solutions, get our feet wet, and find out where we can make improvements in the future,” says Pick. “We are definitely looking at a hybrid model because we want to take the results from the SAP SuccessFactors talent review and bring that back to the system so we can analyze our core demographic data and then use some of the on-premise capabilities for talent management.”

Currently, there are still certain pieces of Steelcase’s on-premise SAP environment that it has yet to unveil; therefore, the company is evaluating all possibilities, both on-premise and cloud, to see what makes the most sense. So far, Pick is pleased with the SAP SuccessFactors solution, including a clean data collection process and integration with its on-premise landscape. “On the back end, we want to bring it into our core system so that when we’re analyzing talent review data on performance and future leadership potential, we can see how many high potentials we have according to region, gender, or age group, and all that data resides in our core SAP system.”

Down the road, Steelcase plans to turn on even more of the on-premise talent management functionality in enhancement package 6 in terms of qualifications, assessments, and training. Another plan is to integrate talent profiles with learning management to remain in keeping with Steelcase’s goal of fostering a learning culture.

“We are partnering with our learning and development department to collaborate on a more robust competency model and integrate work done at the functional level by our HR business partners with their client groups,” says Pick. “For talent management to be effective, we all need to work together to match the employee with the right skills to a complete set of job requirements.”

Overall, Steelcase’s talent management landscape is similar to its form-fitting office furniture: It fits perfectly within its surrounding environment to create a more engaged and more productive workforce.

“The competition for talent out there is great, so being able to differentiate our employee value proposition and understand our market is critical,” Picks says. “The more we can automate our processes to move HR employees from tactical work to strategic work, and the more we can understand our workforce market, the better decisions we can make and in a more timely manner.”

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