New Systems Help Plan International Manage Its Human Resources

Founded in 1937, Plan International is one of the oldest and largest children’s development organizations in the world, promoting rights and opportunities for children in need. With global headquarters in Surrey, UK, the organization has operations in more than 70 countries (including 51 developing nations in Africa, Asia, and the Americas) and has worked with 81.5 million children in more than 86,676 communities in 2014. Plan International has grown steadily over the years and has more than 1200 paid staff members and more than 9000 volunteers. Plan International is not affiliated with any religious or political group or government. It obtains about half of its funding from donations from corporations, governments, and trusts and the rest from individuals willing to sponsor a child. Plan International works with children, families, communities, and local governments to bring about positive change for children in health, education, water and sanitation, protection, economic security, and coping with catastrophes such as wars, floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. For example, Plan has sent workers to help children affected by the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa. In addition to coordinating emergency response efforts, Plan runs public health information campaigns and trains health and aid workers. Plan’s objective is to reach as many disadvantaged children as possible, and this requires a highly coordinated approach. When an emergency strikes, Plan must locate and deploy the most appropriate resources wherever they are required. To accomplish this, a disaster relief team at Plan’s head office must sift through data on all its 10,000 aid workers in 70 countries to see which people have the appropriate skills and experience in medical aid, child protection, education, and shelter management to provide the necessary services. Typically, the people chosen to respond to a specific emergency will have a variety of skills, including front-line workers with knowledge of the language and the local area. Plan now has the ability see data about all its workers’ skills the moment an emergency occurs, so it can respond immediately with the right team of people. Plan can now instantly assemble pertinent information about its workers because of its new human resources systems, which allow Plan to track not only the skills people bring when they are hired but also any additional training or experience they have acquired for disaster response emergencies while working for Plan. The human resources systems also help Plan manage the grants and donations it receives. When a donation first comes in, it is sent to Plan’s London headquarters and allocated from there. If, for example, Plan receives a US $40 million grant to use in Sierra Leone, it will need different people to manage that grant. Plan needed to be able to scan the organization globally to find the right people. Before the new human resources systems were implemented, Plan was working with very outdated, decentralized systems that were partly manual. The organization had to keep track of employees by using a patchwork of 30 human resources systems, spreadsheets, and paper documents. It could take weeks to locate people with the right language skills, disaster experience, and medical training. When a massive earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, Plan had to send email to everyone, asking whether staff knew any people who could speak French, had the appropriate disaster management skills, and were available to help. In 2012, Plan began looking for a human resources (HR) system that could handle its growing global workforce, support common processes across all regions, and deliver information on a secure mobile platform in regions where technology infrastructure was not well developed. The organization selected a cloud-based HR system from SAP’s Success Factors as well as onpremises software from SAP, which satisfied these requirements and were integrated with one another. Implementation of the new system began in May 2013. It took only 16 weeks to implement a working system at Plan’s international headquarters, and all of Plan’s international regions were brought onto the system by 2014. The cloud-based Success Factors system runs in remote computer centers that Success Factors manages and is accessible to users through the Internet. The system provides a centralized employee profile with a comprehensive view of employee skill sets, expertise, experience, and career interests. Through an intuitive interface, employees can update their own information, creating an easily searchable directory that every employee can access. Plan uses Success Factors Recruiting, Performance and Goals, Succession and Development, Compensation, and Learning software modules. Plan also implemented Success Factors Workforce Planning and on premise SAP Personnel Administration and Organization Management software. Workforce planning entails systematic identification and analysis of what an organization will need in terms of the size, type, experience, knowledge, skills, and quality of its workforce to achieve its business objectives. SAP’s Personnel Administration software manages employee recordkeeping and organizational data concerning the recruitment, selection, retention, development, and assessment of personnel. SAP’s Organization Management software enables organizations to depict and analyze their organizational and reporting structures. The new human resources systems provide a bird’s-eye view of the entire Plan workforce, showing immediately how many people work for Plan, where they are, what skills they possess, their job responsibilities, and their career paths. Plan’s central human resources staff spends much less time chasing information. For example, assembling and analyzing data from employee performance reviews, including performance-based salary calculations, used to take up to six months. Now all it takes is the press of a button. Employees can access their human resources records online and update information such as address, family details, and emergency contacts. By enabling employees to perform these tasks themselves, Plan saves valuable human resources staff time, which can be directed toward more value-adding work. Plan can also show its donors exactly how their contributions were spent and the results. By using Success Factors and SAP human resources software, Plan staff can identify and dispatch relief workers to disaster areas within hours. When Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November 2013, Plan specialists were on the scene within 72 hours. Being able to deploy staff to emergencies so rapidly has saved more lives. What’s more, Plan’s improved response time has helped it secure new sources of funding by giving it more credibility with governments, corporations, and other sources of grants and donations.


1. Describe the problem faced by Plan International. What people, organization, and technology factors contributed to this problem?

2. Describe the system solution to this problem. Describe the types of systems used for the solution.

3. Why is human resources so important at Plan International?

4. How did these systems improve operational efficiency?

5. How did these systems improve decision making. Give examples of two decisions improved by Plan’s new systems.


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