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Unified payroll system gives Bombardier a global overview

Bombardier Transportation worked with ADP to ensure their global workforce could access vital payroll information during the pandemic.

Bombardier is a global leader in the transportation industry, building airplanes and trains. With more than 30,000 employees in 45 countries, there was a need to have clearer, easier global reporting in one payroll system.

ADP started working with Bombardier in 2008 and currently serves about 95% of the company’s employees. It makes online payroll tools available to white-collar workers and blue-collar workers alike with ADP GlobalView Payroll.

Before the platform was implemented, Bombardier’s payroll team was having to run reports in each country separately to compare data. “As we have employees in so many countries, we really needed tools that could give us an overview across the company,” says Patricia Ellis, director of Bombardier’s payroll operations in Europe. 

Now, Ellis and her team can compare data and track costs across countries from one portal through the insight dashboard. “Because we have this as a global contract, we can see data at local, regional and global levels. This helps us look at things like overtime costs across different countries,” she says.

Company vitals

Company: Bombardier Transportation 

Industry: Transportation

Established: 1974

Owner: Alstom’s acquisition of Bombardier Transportation was completed in 2021. Alstom is listed on Paris Stock Exchange and included on the Euronext 100 index. Ticker: ALO

2020 Sales: $5.6 billion

Employees: 36,000

Locations: Operates in 63 countries

Headquarters: Berlin, Germany

One of the major ways payroll has changed at Bombardier is that payslips are now electronic. Anke Gentele, head of Global HR Data Governance and Integration, says this helps empower employees who aren’t in the office.

“But it wasn’t as simple as just plugging something in; we had to deal with security issues, enabling access to an employee portal with sensitive information from people’s home networks,” she says.

To ensure employees’ personal data remains secure, Bombardier’s IT security teams worked with payroll and ADP to set up multi-factor authentication (MFA) tools.

“ADP offered our data security officer direct contact with ADP teams to help work out the security challenges. We’re now in the process of rolling this out in several countries,” Gentele says. “It really feels like we’re all learning in this process.”

The process has garnered positive feedback from Bombardier’s employees.

“The first country was Australia, and we had really good employee feedback,” Gentele says. “We even had local unions request that we stop printing physical payslips, particularly from younger employee groups. This kind of digital service is just what they expect a modern company to provide.” 

For most people in the company, payroll is something that just happens, and the expectation is that it will continue to happen, even during something as big as Covid-19. 

When the pandemic hit in 2020, ADP stepped in to help Bombardier’s payroll adapt quickly to meet both office and factory employees’ needs.

“When Covid-19 happened, we had to have everything in the system to deal with the changes in legislation in all our different countries,” Ellis says. “We worked in partnership with ADP to look at the legislation, interpret and implement it.”

“We had employees adapting to working from home and lots of changes to payroll,” Gentele says. “Because of our existing work with ADP, we had the technical systems in place to cope with this amount of change. Despite everyone, including ADP, having to adapt to the ‘new normal,’ there was no drop in payroll accuracy. Our employees didn’t see anything different. For most people in the company, payroll is something that just happens, and the expectation is that it will continue to happen, even during something as big as Covid-19.”

Ellis says Bombardier’s biggest challenge was in France, where calculating furlough rates is more complex. 

“We had to choose how to do the calculation, and because ADP was solving this problem for a lot of clients in France, we could use their experience to make it work for Bombardier,” she says.

Gentele says the payroll work with ADP has allowed teams from different parts of the world to collaborate in new ways. 

“We’ve all learned from each other through this journey. For example, payroll teams from Australia have worked with teams from the Americas, and they’ve learned how to deal with certain issues. We’ve also established a super-user community where we have regular meetings, a forum on which we share global changes that should be known, and we also learn from country-specific topics,” she says. “As a company we have a reliable base and a reliable partner (in ADP), and this gives us the consistency and transparency that we require.” 

Gentele hopes this is the first step towards more unified HR systems for Bombardier. In the near future, she says, “I hope we can have a system where employees can access more services from one place, with a smoother experience.”

Adejoke Adeboyejo

Adejoke Adeboyejo is a freelance writer and journalist based in Lagos, Nigeria. Having worked in human resources for more than 12 years, she now writes about the workplace, women’s issues and the environment.