As an AFL team that has won the support of over 1.5 million fans across Australia, the Sydney Swans require little introduction. Founded in 1874 as the South Melbourne Football Club, the club had a long history in the Victorian league before adopting its new name and moving to the harbour city in 1982. This year marks 40 years of the Swans being based at the SCG, and later this year, the club will also play in the AFLW series for the first time.
The football club is made up of around 80 staff and 45 players, and as a tight-knit organisation, its people are at the heart of what they do. The wellbeing and continual development of players and staff is a particularly important element of HR’s role, with four full time staff members across People & Culture, and Player Wellbeing & Development. The HR team also includes a Club Psychologist, and the recent addition of an Indigenous Strategy & Engagement Manager.
Speaking to ELMO Software, the Swans’ Head of People & Culture, Scott Dalby, says the organisation is driven by a purpose that goes beyond scoring goals.
“Our prevailing ethos is around ensuring that we’re better today than we were yesterday,” he says. “That sense of incremental improvement applies not only through the People & Culture initiatives, but ultimately in what we’re attempting to achieve in our operations across the board, on and off field.”
This commitment to progress includes embracing the rapid digitalisation that has taken place over the past two years. Leigh Taylor, the Swans’ Executive General Manager – Finance, says technology is a central factor in how the club has risen to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Swans, like all organisations, are looking at ways to shape the workplace of tomorrow constantly,” he says. “We’re looking at flexible solutions and technology to be able to do that.”
Prior to the implementation of ELMO Software, the Swans relied on manual HR processes. There was a lack of synchronicity between the various systems in place, resulting in a frustrating user experience for HR.
For new recruits, their initial onboarding experience was bogged down with administrative tasks and paperwork. The processes created a similar headache for the payroll team, who were on the receiving end of separate forms and reams of data to input into the system.
As Dalby explains, the prospect of one convergent and streamlined solution to house all their HR and payroll needs was a game-changer.
“One key reason driving us to implement ELMO was trying to create a one-stop shop with all of those various aspects of the employee experience,” he says. “Being able to jump in, to be proactive in staff management, and not have to jump around from system to system.”
From a payroll perspective, Taylor agreed that before implementing ELMO, the disjointed nature of their manual processes was adding to his team’s workload.
“Using ELMO has taken away a lot of the inefficiencies in the past where staff would need to come up to the payroll or the finance team to help them with solutions,” he says. “The cloud-based solution lets them do it online 24/7 themselves which makes things a lot more efficient.”
It was clear the Swans’ manual HR processes were weighing them down and the almost overnight shift to working remotely only highlighted the need for a streamlined, cloud-based solution. That’s why when the opportunity to partner with ELMO arose, it was a natural fit.
The Swans implemented ELMO’s HR Core, Onboarding, Learning Management, Course Library, and Performance Management modules.
For Taylor, it was his first experience of an integrated HR & payroll implementation, and he praised the high level of support provided by ELMO. From plotting out a tailored implementation journey to a thorough handover to the customer care team, ELMO’s team of dedicated specialists proved to be flexible and responsive when it mattered most.
“We were really happy with the implementation team and the response times. Our implementation consultant who was dedicated to us was quick, adapted to our needs, and also responded on the same day with any queries we had,” Taylor says.
“The customer care team has been good, prompt, and quick when we do have queries. Hopefully we don’t need them too much more in the future but they’re there if we do.”
For the Swans, onboarding every recruit into the ethos and feel of the club is crucial. For some players, it’s their first taste of playing at a professional level and that pressure, combined with the expectations of a new team, can be daunting. Dalby says that’s why onboarding, and learning and development, are two key focuses for the HR team.
“From the player wellbeing and development perspective, a really important aspect is making those players, who are often from interstate, feel comfortable in our environment as they become professional athletes for the first time,” he says. “It’s also about ensuring they are developing their skillset outside of football so when their playing days end, they’re able to pursue other careers and interests.”
This belief in continual learning and development helps to nurture staff and players to perform at their very best. But to deliver engaging L&D, the Swans required more than a ready-made package.
“The learning module that we’ve got with ELMO has allowed us to completely brand and tailor the learning product,” Dalby explains. “So rather than having to rely on picking something off the shelf, we’re able to give it a real Swans feel and also tailor the content itself to make sure it’s as relevant as it possibly can be and therefore more engaging for employees.”
Beyond L&D, implementing ELMO has resulted in a more streamlined onboarding process, for both employees and users in the backend. Employees have far greater autonomy to edit their personal information and requesting leave is now a straight-forward, user-friendly process. On the payroll end, the safe and secure ELMO system has resulted in key internal control improvements, something Taylor says has kept their audit and risk committee “very happy”.
Reflecting on their experience with ELMO, Swans’ CEO Tom Dalby says it’s been a successful venture between the two brands and there’s plenty more to come.
“One of the really exciting things about partnering with ELMO is that it’s a vibrant company that is clearly growing,” he says.
“We transitioned to those platforms through HR and payroll this year to great effect, and we’re looking forward to working with ELMO on whatever the future looks like. I’m sure it’ll be exciting, and we’ll continue to be great advocates for the product.”