How many hours have slipped away, lost in idle chit chat at the start of a meeting while waiting for the stragglers to appear or a document to be printed?
This is no longer an issue at UniSuper where the move to a more digital way of working has delivered efficiency and productivity gains, reduced reliance on hard copy materials and a signpost to a new hybrid way of working, blending in-office and remote working.
UniSuper is the superannuation fund dedicated to people working in Australia’s higher education and research sector. With more than 450,000 members, $80 billion in net funds under management and over 800 employees, it’s one of the nation’s largest super funds.
It is also transforming the way it operates – partly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also in recognition of the benefits that a more digital way of working brings to both employees and members.
UniSuper’s Technology Transformation Strategy hinged around Office 365, with the rollout starting in 2019. With a significant Microsoft footprint already, and understanding of the security protection across the Microsoft stack, the Office 365 based transformation made sense to the organisation as it promised integration between platforms, continued security and a seamless user experience.
Ahead of the pandemic, UniSuper had already deployed Office 365 with the support of Olikka – taking less than six months to roll it out. It meant that when people had to start working from home because of social distancing requirements, the organisation was able to transition swiftly, using Microsoft Teams to support communication and collaboration in just two weeks.
Julie Watkins, chief people officer and executive sponsor of the Teams initiative, says that besides allowing people to continue to work remotely, Teams has supported collaboration at a level not possible previously, and also fostered a more connected culture across the organisation.
For UniSuper clients, this has meant no interruption to the calibre of service that they receive. At a time when the university sector is facing an uncertain future, that has been greatly appreciated.
According to Watkins; “We had members who would likely to be going through change, possible organisation restructures or losing roles at their place of employment, which from a superannuation financial advice is a really important time for us to be involved.”
It was critical that UniSuper employees could focus on the needs of members and maintain the organisation’s strong NPS scores, rather than be distracted by the new way of working.
Office 365, Teams and Olikka’s Collaboration Roadmap, was up to the task, keeping personnel connected and productive.
Watkins also points to an upside of remote working in that UniSuper has been able to leverage its national team more effectively to support members around the country. It has meant, for example, that when universities have contacted UniSuper to discuss the impact of operational changes, UniSuper has been able to instantly connect to the right people to provide advice regardless of where they are located, streamlining member interactions significantly.
The organisation has also been able to take its contact centre remote while maintaining customer service by providing employees access to cloud-based systems in their own homes.
“We were very open with members that this is the first time we’ve had our contact centre working remotely. Being transparent built some trust and perhaps forgiveness – it could be a bit clunky in that first month. I actually think we’ve improved trust with our members and customers, because of that transparent approach,” says Watkins.
Streamlined and secured
The move to Office 365 and Teams has also streamlined the onboarding of new employees says Watkins and promoted a more national approach. This means that everyone, regardless of location has been able to access learning and development opportunities and employee briefings, promoting inclusiveness and engagement
The move to cloud computing has also improved the security posture of UniSuper according to Watkins. Rather than having to manage on premises systems, the organisation leverages Microsoft cloud which prioritises security.
UniSuper worked on the transformation with Microsoft partner Olikka, which was selected for its experience and cultural alignment to UniSuper. Both UniSuper and Olikka worked together on a Collaboration Roadmap for driving and empowering staff through self-serve education while championing power Office 365 users, ensuring a successful outcome.
Olikka managing director Michael Pascoe says; “Our approach is to put ourselves in the shoes of clients; to really understand the challenges they face, the experience of their team, the culture of the organisation. “
“UniSuper was clear in terms of what it wanted to achieve, and we were able to streamline and simplify the “how” in terms of achieving that. The Microsoft platforms that have now been deployed across the organisation have sparked a new way of working, fresh opportunities for communication and collaboration and a recognition that change – while daunting at first glance – can deliver enormous benefits for both employees and customers. It’s been our privilege to work with UniSuper on its transformation.”
UniSuper acknowledges both the change management and technical support provided by Olikka which were critical to the success of the transformation. Olikka was able to help UniSuper upskill its own change management team and also handle the technical issues associated with customisation of particular applications.
Clare Butler, head of organisation development at UniSuper, notes that the transition to Office 365 and Teams took place for all employees and executives at the same time – establishing a level playing field with executives trained in the system alongside everyone else.
According to Butler; “It’s actually allowed people to connect and bond better because everyone’s human. We had all the technology we needed however we had user issues around learning and how to use those systems.”
“Working remotely, working flexibly has allowed us to get to know each other better, which, during COVID-19 has been invaluable.”
Watkins believes that as the pandemic abates UniSuper will embrace a more hybrid approach to work, but she stresses that; “We see the value in having teams being together face-to-face. We will not become an organisation where we say ‘we’re letting go of all of our offices, just work remotely’.”
Instead, she envisages a healthy mix of face to face and remote working, particularly now that the COVID experience has debunked any myths about people not working as productively when not within face to face supervision. “Actually we have seen productivity increase during this period of COVID working,” she says. “Our CEO has also noted that meetings are starting on time and being run more efficiently.”
UniSuper has also witnessed a dramatic decline in demand for printed materials – which has both a cost and environmental benefit.
Olikka managing director Michael Pascoe says; “Our approach is to put ourselves in the shoes of clients; to really understand the challenges they face, the experience of their team, the culture of the organisation."
Reined in risk
Superannuation is a highly regulated sector with a need to ensure employees are properly trained. It’s another area where Teams is being leveraged to ensure people have access to learning and development programs to ensure both compliance and personal growth. The streamlining impact of Teams has been borne out over the last five months when UniSuper has successfully onboarded 160 new staff despite pandemic-related restrictions says Watkins.
The cloud transformation has reined in operational risk for UniSuper by ensuring everyone has access to systems to do their job and support clients when and where they need them and can participate in essential learning and development. It has also reduced cyber risk thanks to the enhanced security posture of the Microsoft cloud.
Watkins notes; “Being a regulated organisation, that has been a fantastic outcome.”