Interview with Vice President of HCM & Financial Solutions, Alight Solutions – Colin Brennan

1. Tell us about your role at Alight Solutions?
As the leader of Alight’s Human Capital Management (HCM) and Financial Management Solutions practice, I am responsible for all aspects of our Cloud practice including strategy, sales, delivery and practice development. Alight’s HCM and Financial Management team serves over 471 Workday Customers, 163 Cornerstone OnDemand clients, and a growing group of Oracle Cloud HCM and SAP SuccessFactors clients.

2. Can you tell us about your journey into the industry?
Since 1995, I have had the pleasure of being a part of the Alight team in a handful of roles, including client management, technology and product strategy across the Benefits and HR Outsourcing businesses. I started my journey in the industry doing common business-oriented language (COBOL) coding on 401(k) and pension plans, I then moved to PeopleSoft in 2000 and helped grow a large deployment business. In 2008, I established a cloud team focused on Workday and shortly after that, Alight’s predecessor organization acquired Omnipoint, Workday’s leading partner. We then acquired Kloud, a leading European Workday provider, and we’ve continued our journey to grow from there. Today, I proudly lead a team of colleagues in a single, global business with operations in more than 19 countries with deployment experience across 156 countries and six continents.

3. How do you think technology is changing the HR sector?
For too long HR has struggled to find its place at the decision-making table, but access to new technology such as AI and analytics along with better and faster data have made it easier for HR leaders to find their seat. Data collected from cloud solutions enable HR to act as a strategic value creator for the organization. Time previously spent on aggregating information is now spent analyzing trends that can help provide clearer insights on the vitality of the employee population. Insights that are supported by these analyses help HR create a more robust hiring and talent management strategy and provide a clearer line of sight into benefits costs. The ability to tap into this data allows organizations to maximize their talent and benefits dollars.

In addition, with the near constant pace of technology advancement and enhancement, consumers are more eager than ever to have their technology experience at work mirror that of their personal lives. This has created added pressure for HR to offer integrated digital experiences that make their work life simpler and more personal. This includes everything from how they do their work such as using AI to complete financial reporting and auditing tasks, to how people get their benefits information, manage talent and receive their paycheck all via an integrated, mobile enabled solution. The other major change is the pace at which business moves and changes. Today, small companies can emerge and become big overnight, like Groupon and Uber. Furthermore, the speed at which companies merge and acquire has rapidly increased along with the rapid globalization of organizations. HR must be able to react quickly to support shifting business directions and cloud platforms are helping make this easy while “future proofing” against changing trends and legislation.

4. How is a data-driven, customer-centered approach empowering HR professionals?
There is a direct correlation between the success of an organization and how employees perceive their workplace experience.

Healthy, happy and engaged workers are typically the most productive.

The HR function of an organization plays a leading role in developing and nurturing the employee experience. Today, with access to rich data from new technology such as cloud-based solutions, AI and analytics, HR can drive the organizational change needed to create a successful employee experience by coupling an employee-centered approach with data from the cloud. Time previously spent on HR processes can now be freed up to drive strategic initiatives such as developing a more robust talent management strategy or analyzing how dollars are spent throughout the organization to manage costs. With this access, HR professionals can be more meaningful partners and decision makers within any organization.

5. How do you define your HCM application management service?
We define our HCM application management service (AMS) through the support we provide to our clients once they are live on their technology. It may include small updates and enhancements, but it can also drive major scope additions like recruiting or compensation. However, AMS is more than keeping the lights on, it is about insuring customers derive real value from their platforms and unlock the full potential of change. Alight is a leading HCM provider that has a mission to transform our clients’ cloud journey by delivering innovative and flexible solutions to elevate companies’ capabilities. Our suite of cloud-based solutions includes HCM and financials deployment, advisory, AMS as well as payroll administration to help serve clients at all stages of their cloud journey. Alight is able to pair our solutions along with the platforms of our partners including Cornerstone, Oracle, SAP and Workday to help clients successfully complete their move to the cloud on their preferred platform.

6. How do employee benefits and payroll play an important role in achieving employee satisfaction?
With technology constantly evolving, today’s workers have the expectation for immediacy when it comes to both their personal and work life Their benefits experience is no different. It is assumed that an employer provides a seamlessly integrated benefits experience that meets the varying needs of the entire employee population. The same is true of payroll. Everyone wants to get paid, on time and without errors. That is table stakes and fundamental to achieving employee satisfaction.

Satisfaction can only be reached if employers can address the changing demographics of their employee population and the growing desire for newer, faster ways to be paid. With the use of quick pay apps, the digitization of the wallet and the gig economy on the rise, more employees than ever before are expressing the desire to be paid as they earn their money. Increasingly, solutions are coming to the market to help companies stay ahead of these challenges. For example, Alight’s partnership with DailyPay allows workers to track their hours and get paid against those hours already worked rather than waiting for the next pay cycle. These opportunities are important for maintaining employee satisfaction, not to mention the overall financial wellbeing of workers by preventing them from having to avoid things such as pay day loans.

Being proactive also drives employee satisfaction. Employees want HR systems to anticipate their needs, make things easy and provide relevant insights. For example, hourly employees would love to get a text every payday with their earnings so they don’t have to take time to look and see what they earned. Better yet, it would be great to get an email detailing any changes to explain why a paycheck is different than other weeks. More and more this is the expectation employees demand. With AI, machine learning and new distribution channels Alight can help meet these rising expectations.

7. What counsel do you provide clients to prepare for an AI-centric world?
As newer technology such as AI and analytics become more pervasive in the market, having a thoughtful strategy for technology and data management will position an organization for a successful future. AI has made it easier for organizations to provide essential services to their employees at an increasingly fast pace. While it is an exciting prospect for companies to shift their technology towards cloud-based and AI solutions, it isn’t as easy as flipping a switch. Companies should do their due diligence before they embark on any changes.

First, they should define their strategic objective for their technology initiative. As they determine the objective, companies should carefully consider the needs of their workers and how the initiative will help grow their organization. Next, it is essential that there is buy in from leadership and the business. HR leaders should be thoughtful about working with stakeholders from the c-suite all the way to the broader business to receive input on any changes to current technology. This will ensure that once the new technology changes are implemented, everyone will be aligned on the initiative. Finally, leaders should consider how their technology initiative will achieve its desired objective amongst the employee population to ensure that it will meet their needs as well.

8. What are the major developments you are planning?
The number one concern of an employee is when and how they will be paid. With more people digitizing their wallets through the use of mobile pay and banking apps, it is time for employers to find payroll solutions that can fit seamlessly into that experience. Additionally, those solutions must explore the idea of continuous pay. With the advent of apps such as Uber, Lyft, Task Rabbit, etc., there are more people making their career out of short-term “gigs.” The growing population of workers who identify as independent contractors expect to be paid for the work they do, as it is completed, rather than on a typical pay period cycle. These growing trends only add to the need for employers to have faster and more efficient methods of conducting payroll. At Alight, we are implementing payroll solutions that use AI and analytics to control and limit errors in payroll—freeing up time and resources to focus on other HR priorities.

While the payroll function of most organizations is becoming more digital, there is also a growing trend toward organizations shifting their financial management systems to the cloud. A decade ago, HR leaders became the first within their organization to begin pondering the idea of shifting legacy HR systems to the cloud and now it is predicted by 2020, over 50% of all companies will rely on a cloud-based system for their HR delivery. With that number on the rise, there are a growing number of financial leaders that are beginning to see how the cloud can benefit their team as well. Alight is continuing to invest and expand on our industry leading HCM and financial management capabilities so that we can continue to deliver our technology, expertise and services to clients of all sizes, across the globe.

9. Can you tell us about your team and how they support you?
We have a strong team of leaders with deep industry experience; in fact, we still have at least one of the former owners of all three of our major HCM acquisitions running parts of the business. We have focused our team into key areas around advisory, deployment, AMS and cloud services. These leaders manage their teams around the world to provide consistent and unified service to our large global customers, while adapting our offers as needed for various countries and geographies. One of the things I am most proud of is the tenure within our teams. On average our colleagues have five years of experience which is exceptional given the high rate of college hiring we do. It is not uncommon to have the average tenure in a meeting be more than seven years, yet many came from different companies and bring unique perspectives. They do an amazing job running their businesses and running the day-to-day which allows me to focus on our longer term strategy, acquisitions and key partnerships along with product development.

10. What book are you currently reading?
I just finished re-reading “Good to Great” by James Collins. It was a great reminder that you need to be nimble and disrupt yourself or someone will do it to you. I’ve also been reading a lot of books on the future of work trying to better understand the intersection of customer expectations, technology and how they will change our HR landscape. I am especially curious about how blockchain may impact payroll and distribution in the next 10 years.

11. We understand you have a really positive work culture. Would you be able to provide any photos or materials that help showcase your workplace culture (i.e. office events, trips, etc)

Colin Brennan VP of HCM & Financial Solutions, Alight Solutions

Colin Brennan is the executive vice president of Human Capital Management & Financial Solutions at Alight Solutions. He is responsible for building the HCM & Financial Solutions practice, developing and retaining Alight’s colleagues and delivering to clients. Additionally, he is responsible for Alight’s broader cloud strategy and partnerships. Prior to his current role, Colin served as the Senior Vice President of Product Strategy and Solutions for Aon Hewitt’s HR BPO Solutions practice. His 24-year tenure at the organization has led him to roles in client management, technology, and product strategy across the Benefits and HR Outsourcing businesses


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