Founded in 2010, Linear Clinical Research is a world class-leading clinical trials facility operating at the QEII Medical Centre in Perth, Western Australia. Linear’s mission is simple: to improve health and access to innovative medical therapies through pioneering clinical trials.
Clinical trials are conducted here for both pharmaceutical companies and research physicians seeking to test new therapies before going to market. Research fields such as oncology, coeliac disease, Alzheimer’s, and more recently, COVID-19, are just a few diseases that Linear’s trials seek to address.
David Koutsoukis, Chief of People Operations at Linear Clinical Research, proudly explains: “We’re not only helping improve the health outcomes of people, we’re also helping create history.”
With a 238-strong headcount spread across four sites – two in Perth, one in Adelaide and another in China, Linear’s HR team services a geographically dispersed workforce operating across two key business units: the Cancer Trials Unit and the Early Phase Unit.
Having previously outsourced human resources (HR) to external consultants, People Operations – as the team refers to HR – is a relatively new function for the organisation. As of 2020, the HR responsibility is shared by Koutsoukis and Toby Goor, Senior Human Resources Coordinator.
The culture at Linear is referred to as ‘The Hive’ on account of its workforce of ‘busy bees’ buzzing around various units – an analogy that is clearly reflected in Linear’s employer branding and values. Koutsoukis notes: “One of our strategic objectives is to ‘strengthen the hive’ – so it’s really important that our HR processes enable us to do just that.”
A historical absence of in-house HR brought about unstructured, inconsistent, and often inefficient HR processes at Linear Clinical Research. Many people operations were managed manually, resulting in high volumes of paperwork.
Recruitment, in particular, was an area lacking a consistent approach. “When it came to our recruitment processes, an individual could apply for two roles at Linear and have two very different experiences,” Goor says. “This had quite an impact on the candidate experience.”
Meanwhile, onboarding was a heavily paper-based process. “Being in clinical research, it’s very compliance-based and regulated, so we had lots of physical pieces of paper that were having to be sent to candidates, returned, filed, scanned and signed,” Goor explains.
Managing people processes became yet more complex due to a scattered workforce and an increasing shift towards hybrid work, particularly when it came to compliance training – a critical priority in a tightly regulated industry.
“With the advent of COVID-19 and the reality of working across many different sites, we had a hybrid workforce where some people worked from home and some people on-site. We had an employee in China and others in Adelaide. The challenge was how to check that staff were completing the relevant training, without having a physical training file that sits in the cabinet at our Nedlands site [Perth],” Koutsoukis explains.
“One of the biggest problems we faced was having so many different systems in different places. We had spreadsheets, documents, one platform for ‘this’ function and another platform for ‘that’. We just didn’t have one single source of truth. There was lots of duplication and reinventing of the wheel,” he adds.
With so many systems in different places, it was clear Linear’s documentation of people operations needed to be streamlined.
Linear Clinical Research needed a HR technology solution that would streamline processes, boost the candidate and employee experience, and enhance visibility of HR operations, all while being compliant with the highest level of security.
Koutsoukis suggests that the quality of the user experience was a key consideration when selecting a human resources information system (HRIS): “One thing we were really looking for in our HRIS was a great user experience. With many Millennials coming through in the workforce, they want to be able to engage with the platform. We wanted a system that was easy to use, fast and intuitive – while also being customisable.”
ELMO’s strong data security credentials^ were a key drawcard for Linear. “Because of the industry we work in, security is very important. Our quality and data governance people are very rigorous in their approach – so any HRIS had to meet high quality standards and data governance requirements,” Koutsoukis says. “We looked at several HRIS systems based on our needs and in the end, we selected ELMO – it’s the best!”
Linear Clinical Research then went on to implement the following ELMO modules: HR Core, Recruitment, Onboarding, Learning Management, Performance Management, Rewards & Recognition and Survey.
Both Koutsoukis and Goor were impressed by their implementation experience with ELMO. Koutsoukis explains: “My experience from the get-go was that there was an obvious logical, sequential and well-thought out process for the onboarding. We were drip-fed information rather than being overloaded and it was obvious it had been structured in the best possible way.”
Goor adds: “Our implementation experience has been wonderful. Everything’s been very conversational. Everything has had a super-fast response, which has been really appreciated. If we needed some extra help here or there, we knew that our consultant was just an email away.”
^ ELMO Software is ISO 27001:2013 certified. This certification is an important way to demonstrate our commitment to security at all levels of the business and that security is a core ongoing and evolving aspect of our business operations and services.
Implementing ELMO’s technology – in particular the HR Core module – provided Linear’s HR team with a centralised place for all HR processes while enabling greater automation of many time-consuming people processes.
Onboarding, in particular, has benefited significantly from automation: “Now with ELMO, we’ve been able to go digital with onboarding. At the click of a button, a candidate receives all the information they need, and they send it back to us the same way, which has been great for the candidate experience,” Goor says.
Training challenges have been helped by ELMO’s Learning Management module, particularly when it came to managing and tracking the training activity of the geographically dispersed workforce via what Goor describes as a “single source of access”.
Linear has also benefited from many of ELMO’s pre-built customisable courses. “The courses are extremely handy and stop us from having to reinvent the wheel. We just add little bits of pieces of our own to customise them, and they then become ours,” says Koutsoukis.
Finally, ELMO has played an important role in enabling Koutsoukis’ team to make more informed HR decisions and to achieve one of Linear’s strategic priorities: to “strengthen the hive”.
In addition to process-related benefits brought by ELMO, Koutsoukis describes ELMO’s role in elevating HR’s stature at Linear Clinical Research: “ELMO makes HR look good. It creates a portal where it’s easy for everyone to see what HR is doing and helps us articulate our people-related successes. We can easily provide facts and figures around how much we’re saving, for example.”
Koutsoukis concludes: “From a company and a HR perspective, ELMO has been excellent.”