Feser Graf Group
“We want a specialist who understands our HR processes.“
This family company, steeped in tradition, is one of the largest automotive dealer chains in Germany, with almost 1,800 qualified staffers at 37 locations. In 2014, it achieved a turnover of 1.03 billion euros. Feser-Graf-Group showrooms can be found from Nuremberg to Fürth, Erlangen, Forchheim, Höchstadt, Schwabach, Roth, Ansbach, Lauf, and all the way to Magdeburg. As a full-service automotive dealer, the corporate group sells around 50,000 vehicles per year and offers an inventory of vehicles in stock that includes well over 4,000 different models. Its product portfolio includes group brands Audi, Lamborghini, Porsche (Service), Seat, Skoda, Suzuki, Volkswagen, and Volkswagen commercial vehicles.
How Germany’s fifth-largest car dealer manages its HR processes
All of our employees got acquainted with the digital files in a very brief time. After just two weeks, people could hardly do without them.”
Christian Puckschaml, Feser, Graf & Co. Automobil Holding
Modern engines are becoming more and more powerful, delivering ever more horsepower from less and less displacement. The price? More complexity under the hood. Where the distributor cap and carburetor used to work their magic, today you’ll find a fully- electronic ignition system managing the engine. Just one example of how a “plus” in one area can create more work in another. This was essentially the case as well in the Feser-Graf-Group’s HR department.
The company needed to manage rapid corporate growth – and selected EASY HR 3.0 to do the job.
Feser-Graf knows a thing or two about engines – as they have for quite some time. The history of the Group dates back to 1929, when the Feser family opened a motorcycle workshop in Bernburg. The Graf family founded a workshop just twenty years later in Fürth. At the turn of the 21st century, the two companies combined to form the Feser-Graf-Group.
Since then, the Group has been experiencing growth at a speed that could put some of the sports cars in their showrooms – standing beside Audi A3s, VW Golfs, or Skoda Yetis – to shame. Hardly a year goes by without the Group adding at least one new car dealership. Today, 37 showrooms belong to the Feser-Graf-Group. These generate a revenue of around 1.05 billion euros per year, selling about 50,000 vehicles in the process. That makes the Feser-Graf-Group the fifth largest automotive dealer in all of Germany, and number two among showroom groups in the Volkswagen group. Obviously, this kind of growth is also reflected in the company’s workforce. It’s doubled in size since the millennium – from around 600 workers to 1,800, with no end in sight to the increase.
High “RPMs” in the HR Department
Christian Puckschaml has participated in the Group’s development since 1999. That’s when he started his training as an automotive salesperson. Today, he’s HR manager at the Feser-Graf-Group, which encompasses all of the brand’s branches. Two shareholders and two managers do their work from the headquarters, while nine operational managers take responsibility for leading individual showrooms in the various regions.
Due to the Group’s growth on the one hand, and its large number of locations on the other, one thing became clear to Puckschaml early on: the Group needed a digital solution for its personnel files. “We in HR often had a hard time tracking the progression of records because some personnel files were still being managed in the locations themselves. We want to change that.” Apart from this, the Group was also interested in simply ensuring its capacity to work effectively over the long term. Information from the personnel department is highly prized in the Group. Secretaries order current telephone lists. The IT department wants to know when workers enter or leave the company so they can activate or deactivate accounts. and the management wants to send out personal congratulations for company anniversaries, major birthdays, successful exams, or retirement celebrations, just as you’d expect in a family company. “With 1,850 employees and dynamic growth, even just this kind of reporting creates so much work that it’s hard to get to your actual tasks like personnel management and personnel development,” Puckschaml states.
Digital Files: More Acceptance for Centralization
At the same time, some showrooms had hesitations about giving up their files. There were some who feared they would lose freedom and flexibility. “Only a digital personnel file system could create the trust we needed. It needed to be stored centrally in the HR department, but be highly transparent and, above all, offer direct access for location managers,” the 33 year-old explained. That’s why Puckschaml set off two years ago to search for just the right system. He had been aware of the challenges for quite some time: it couldn’t be a pure DMS, but rather needed to use automated functions to support the work of the HR department. The strong expansion the Group was experiencing also eliminated rigid solutions. What he needed was a system that adapted to the company in a flexible way. And finally, the solution needed to be simple to operate. Puckschaml says: “In a car dealership, management mostly recruits from its own ranks. Managers are usually sales or service experts, but not IT specialists. We wanted to set the initial hurdles as low as possible to make sure the project would be a success.”
Good Reasons to Choose EASY
Puckschaml and his team compared three solutions: EASY HR and two other options. “I wanted a specialist from the HR field – someone who was on the same level as me, who knows what we’re dealing with, understands my HR processes, and knows how to support us. User-friendliness was one of the key arguments in favour of EASY.”
The chemistry worked as well: “We were on the same wavelength as our EASY partner on site right from the beginning. I was able to follow the things he was presenting 100 percent. The possibility to create custom-tailored workflows in a simple way was what finally won us over.” Puckschaml was able to get a picture very early on of, for example, how on and off-boarding processes could be automated to make them more efficient.
Involving Employee Representatives
The Group had hardly decided in favour of EASY HR before Feser-Graf brought the Group Works Council on board as well. It was another area where the company needed to provide explanations and coordinate with leaders. “EASY once again provided highly professional support when it was time to give information to our social partner. They were available at a meeting of the Group Works Council for employee representatives’ questions and concerns.” They were able to quickly rebut any fears, laying the groundwork for a Group Works Council agreement.
This cleared the path for implementation. In a kick-off workshop, staffers from the HR department worked with EASY to analyse the organizational structure of the Group and the necessary roles and authorizations for the digital personnel files. “This process went relatively quickly, since we had already dealt with similar questions in connection to our time logging system,” Puckschaml said. “We had around 90 percent of all roles defined by the kick-off. We are adjusting the other ten percent as operations continue, for instance whenever we determine that person A or person B still needs an authorization. It doesn’t take long at all in EASY HR.”
Smooth Communication with Payroll Accounting
Before implementation, the company coordinated its leading system with the existing payroll accounting system. Once per night, data is transmitted to EASY HR via CSV import, where the personnel files can be updated accordingly. “The data import works very well,” explains the HR manager, “EASY HR is very reliable in assimilating the data.”
Implementation measures followed: training for employees, as well as a very unique kind of crash course. Before EASY HR could go live, the Group first needed to scan in around 1,700 inventoried records and upload them into EASY HR. Puckschaml decided against hiring an external company. Instead, colleagues in the HR department were to digitalize the old files. As difficult as this decision sounded, in retrospect it turned out to be highly valuable for the success of the project. “We needed about three months to scan in the files in addition to our daily business. That is extremely quick, which by itself is a testament to the efficiency of the solution. But there was another, even bigger advantage: all of our employees got acquainted with the digital files in a very brief time. After just two weeks, people could hardly do without them.” The reason why is obvious: anyone who’s scanned in a dozen files could already pick out the different document categories, indexes, and keywords with their eyes closed.
Success Obvious Early On
All in all, the solution is enjoying a very high level of acceptance. Feser-Graf was able to significantly reduce early concerns voiced by some individual showrooms, once location managers realized how much easier EASY HR made their work. Internal processes also function noticeably quicker. This was especially apparent on September 1st, 2015. That was the date on which the Feser-Graf-Group welcomed a record number of 105 interns into the fold. “Each one of these interns received a welcome e-mail 15 days before starting with a checklist and a personnel questionnaire. That would have taken forever if we had done it manually,” said Puckschaml. EASY also automatically sends out notifications of departure to the IT department, and independently generates anniversary, birthday, and other reminders for the management.
“It’s important to us to approach our employees with the highest possible level of professionalism, respect, and appreciation,” explains managing director Till Heinrich. “EASY HR helps us to keep our people in mind, even with a steadily growing work force.”
“With EASY HR, we’re able to create an optimum interface between the HR and IT departments. Combined with absolute system reliability and excellent support from EASY, this all adds up to a very good overall picture,” adds Oliver Glashauser, IT manager of the Feser-Graf-Group in conclusion.