Episode 247: Secrets Of HR Technology Implementation with Cheryl Gochis

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Episode 247: Secrets Of HR Technology Implementation with Cheryl Gochis

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Welcome to the Workology Podcast, a podcast for the disruptive workplace leader. Join host Jessica Miller-Merrell, founder of Workology.com, as she sits down and gets to the bottom of trends, tools, and case studies for the business leader, H.R., and recruiting professional who was tired of the status quo. Now, here’s Jessica with this episode of Workology.

Episode 247: Secrets Of HR Technology Implementation with Cheryl Gochis (@CherylGochis)


Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:00:25.26] Welcome to the Workology Podcast sponsored by Workology. Today’s podcast is part of a new series on Workology focused on the role and responsibilities of the Chief Human Resources Officer, also known as the CHRO. The CHRO is an executive or C-level role that deals with managing human resources, as well as with organizational development and implementing policies of change to improve the overall efficiency of the company. The CHRO podcast series is powered in partnership by HUB, and I’m excited to kick off this series with the folks at HUB and I’m looking forward to getting started. So let’s do just that. Today I’m joined by Cheryl Gochis. Cheryl was appointed Vice President of Human Resources and CRO at Baylor University in May of 2016, after having served as an Associate Vice President for HR since 2014. She manages and coordinates employment functions at Baylor that include employee relations, benefits, compensation, recruiting, employee learning, HR compliance, data management, and leadership consulting. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in Business and Organizational Communication and is also a certified HR professional and learning specialist. Cheryl, welcome to the Workology Podcast.

Cheryl Gochis: [00:01:48.09] Thank you, Jessica. Thank you for having me.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:01:50.76] Let’s start with your background. You’ve been in HR management for a while now. How did your experience and job titles evolve over time into CHRO role?

Cheryl Gochis: [00:02:01.56] Right. Well, I one of the most important things I think I did that helped with my HR career is, I studied HR when I was in college and I had a professor, Professor Joe Cox at Baylor University, who was my first human resources professor. And I really fell in love with the study. I fell in love with the, the field. And I also think he did a good job of saying this isn’t all about just loving people. It’s also about doing the hard stuff that leads to people being more effective. And so really knew that that’s what I wanted to do. And my first job in Human Resources, I was fortunate enough to work at USAA, a financial services organization in San Antonio, and I was so fortunate to go there because they had a very large HR organization and so I had the ability to work as a specialist in the learning arena. Then I actually was an instructor for what we called HR Bootcamp at the time, where it really gave in-depth learning on all aspects of the field for HR professionals there. Had some leadership experience there, developed a, helped develop to manage your candidate school to help prepare managers in the organization. And so that broad experience at a company that is excellent and had excellent HR professionals was really so important, I think, to my overall HR career.

Cheryl Gochis: [00:03:43.98] When we relocated to Waco, I worked at a smaller bank here in central Texas, extra co-banks, and had the opportunity to work in a much smaller HR function, but still got to use a lot of those skills just for a smaller population and for a population that hadn’t had some of the learning pieces that we had done. Some of the, the other pieces that we worked on. After being there seven years, my alma mater, of course, is Baylor, and I was, really, I met often with the Vice President of Human Resources at Baylor at that point. We were both working to change our organizations, to help further our HR organizations. And so he had approached me about joining the HR team at Baylor and I did. And shortly after I got there, he left. And so I after, after a few transitions, I ultimately became the CHRO at Baylor and have been there now six years. And so I think throughout that, you know, started, started in an organization that had lots of different aspects of HR to watch and to see and experience and then have, have also been, tried to be anyway agile enough to apply that experience in different environments.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:05:10.69] How does the CHRO role change how company leadership works with HR or vice versa? Do you, do you see a difference in being the CHRO versus like an HR Director at a company?

Cheryl Gochis: [00:05:22.54] Yeah, you know, in my experience, the, the CHRO role has always been one that has, has really been joined with, with company leadership. And I think that’s a byproduct of I’ve worked at organizations where the part of the mission of each organization I’ve worked at is the incredible resource that people are. And so have never really seen a sense of, well, leadership’s going to do something and we should, we should have asked HR about this. Or man, that would have been great if we would have done that. I mean, there’s always been, for lack of a better word, a seat at the table for, for HR. And so I think that’s something that I have tried to never take for granted, because when you are in that CHRO role to understand that you are not somebody who just occasionally speaks into leadership, but you’re part of an overall leadership team is really critical to job satisfaction, I think, for this CHRO and also better programs and better workplaces for, for all of the people that work at your organization.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:06:37.00] What skills and experience are absolute requirements for the CHRO role, you think?

Cheryl Gochis: [00:06:42.91] I think one of the first and most important things everyone in the CHRO role needs to have is to understand the business and to understand the organization that they’re the CHRO for. I think if there is a negative stereotype at times regarding HR, it’s that HR doesn’t really know the business. They know the soft side of things, but they don’t really know or understand the business. And so anyone in the HR organization, but especially the CHRO, needs to understand the business model, needs to understand the industry that that business or organization is a part of. It needs to understand that human capital piece and how it fits into the business. You can’t be and you don’t want to be relegated just to the well, that’s a people person. Anything you do and anything you think about needs to be intricately tied to the business. And so I think that first and foremost is something that’s really instrumental.

Cheryl Gochis: [00:07:50.56] I think also staying really in tune with laws and environment and what’s happening within the communities that you’re a part of is, is also really important. And so you never get to a point where you have learned it all because it’s constantly evolving. And so that willingness to change, the willingness to say this is why we did it last year and life has changed. And so we’re going to move and be adept. And I think for your teams, they need to see you being agile and being willing to change and be flexible. I think also, too, communication. And clearly, you have to communicate on behalf of your team. You need to communicate well on behalf of the leadership group. But you also have to be just a great listener. And I think sometimes we all know that, but we easily get roped into talking more often and the ability to listen and to sometimes hear what’s not said to, to listen and bring patterns and trends together and thoughts together based on that listening. Those are, those are critical pieces. And unfortunately, I think when we are in school, we study a lot about speaking and presenting and, and how to, to do all of those things. But we don’t spend as much time really learning how to listen and how to be effective at that.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:09:26.33] I never went to an effective listening class at college.

Cheryl Gochis: [00:09:29.36] No, no, I got my Master’s in Organizational Communication and I didn’t take a single listening class. And I reflect on that because that’s the thing that I needed the most. And I think most of us as leaders, leaders do need is that, that listening piece.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:09:47.42] I know that you just finished a large implementation of Oracle Cloud at the university. Can you talk about the change management process that you went through for such a big transition?

Cheryl Gochis: [00:09:58.28] Well, it was certainly a big transition. And to talk about the change management process really is to go back five, six years. When I joined the team at Baylor, one of the things that was very frustrating that I saw for our team as well as others throughout campus is we did not have a good HRIS. We didn’t have a good way to manage all the important data for our employees. The system we use was, there were lots of things that were, there were siloed part of it. It wasn’t comprehensive. We had to put many other systems attaching them to that system. I affectionately call those barnacles. They were as barnacled system. And it was so difficult just to get work done that I knew and several other leaders at the institution, as we began talking were like, we cannot serve our employees the way we want to serve them when it takes this many steps just to get to information and then that information not always be right.

Cheryl Gochis: [00:11:16.52] It was watching people that I knew wanted to serve, and they were so frustrated by the time they actually got the answer to the client or whatever it was that they couldn’t serve in the way that we wanted them to and the way I think they wanted to. And so as we approached the really the RFI RFP process and said we need to look for a different system, it was that type of comprehensive system. What we, what we did not want to do any longer was say, well, if we just patch this will be OK. So we went really on a two-year process of demos, very comprehensive teams throughout the university would sit in these demos. They would communicate what some of our struggles were at that point. And the vendors that came in to present did an excellent job of really trying to study our business, study our current state, and then present those solutions to us. So about two years we did select Oracle and then began a two-year implementation process.

Cheryl Gochis: [00:12:29.37] And I will tell you that we, when we started the implementation and really the planning and everything that went with that, I just could not imagine that we were going to take two years as we need this now and we need this to go even faster. And I, I laughed at that many times since then because there is no way we could have gone faster than we did because it was such a comprehensive approach that we were taking. And so after a two-year implementation process, we went live on June 1 and were in that, the honeymoon phase is over, right? So we’re in that phase now where we’re working to make sure the data is right. And oh, goodness, we didn’t know it worked this way. We didn’t realize X + Y = Z. So we’re in that phase where we’re trying to make sure everything’s exactly the way we want it. But even, even now, our, our lives are a lot better because we can access data. We have assurances that the data is right. And I think that we’re able to do things in a, in an entirely different way. So it’s been very exciting.

Break: [00:13:42.84] Let’s take a reset. This is Jessica Miller-Merrell, and you were listening to the Workology Podcast sponsored by Workology. And today we’re talking with Cheryl Gochis of Baylor University about the role of the CHRO. This podcast is part of our CHRO series on Workology and is powered by HUB.

Break: [00:14:02.61] This episode is sponsored by HUB International. Your full-service employee benefits broker. HUB International helps you power forward with a tailored employee benefit strategy that evolves and adapts to a new workforce challenges, personalized benefits, engage employees, and manage costs. Visit HUBInternational.com today.

Strategies to Drive Adoption for the New Technology


Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:14:27.21] Can you talk a little bit about specific strategies you have used to drive adoption for the new technology? I ask and we mentioned, you mentioned this in the prep call, the cast of the office was involved in your user adoption strategy. Talk to us about that.

Cheryl Gochis: [00:14:45.90] Yes. Well, the adoption strategy really, although it did take close to two years to implement our new system, as you know, the strategies for adoption, you begin almost the second you begin implementation just to ensure that everyone’s aware of what’s happening. We had different sessions on campus where we would invite people and have them come. And as soon as we could do demos, we’d have people come and participate. We, we had a website dedicated specifically to our new system, which we call Ignite, is the name, name of the system that, that we have kind of internally branded it as in. So, it’s a, using many, many different means to make sure your community is hearing about it, learning about it, and then is willing to contribute to help making a great system. So, as we were getting closer to implementation, something happened called the coronavirus. And we in March and beginning of April, like many other organizations, we sent people home and we had a shelter-in-place order. And so many of the things that we had planned were for campus, you know, to get people excited about things. And we even had one day we were going to bring food trucks and talk about the new system, well, have a shelter-in-place order and everything changes.

Cheryl Gochis: [00:16:20.94] But because this is related to the way we work, et cetera, and Baylor University is very lucky to have as one of our alums, the person who played Angela on The Office. And she’s a loyal Baylor alum and has helped us in so many ways, have been very public about being a big Baylor fan. So there was communication with her and several of her Office castmates, and they did these little promos right before the go-live date. And The Office theme song was used. And, and so Kevin and Oscar and I’m missing somebody. But anyway, they presented and, and talked about Ignite and how it wass going to be great for our office. And then on the very last one, which was on go-live day, Angela actually talks about the system and then calls the president of our university, president Linda Livingstone, and that was the kickoff for the go-live. So it was really, even though we were, none of us were on campus, we were all still sheltering in place, there were so much excitement built in that online community about that and had some fun with it. And we are very lucky to have Angela as one of our alums to help with that.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:17:42.20] I think this might be like the, the coolest technology, like implementation kickoff story in the history of HR. I mean, how fun is that?

Cheryl Gochis: [00:17:53.95] It was really fun and that, you know, we were able to do that with all of the things that came at us with the coronavirus. Just, just amazing. And so it really has been something that I think all of us that were a part of it will always be grateful that we had the opportunity to, to be a part of it. I will tell you, when I saw the office low promo that was sent with Angela and our president, I got teary watching it because I was like, this is I cannot believe I’m getting teary over an office spoof. But it was, it was just such a Hallmark moment.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:18:34.78] All right, folks, the bar has been raised.

Cheryl Gochis: [00:18:38.50] Yes.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:18:39.55] Slightly. For your next technology kickoff.

Cheryl Gochis: [00:18:43.43] That’s right.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:18:46.23] Let’s talk about technology selection. You mentioned that you guys went through lots of meetings, the RFP process, it was over two years.

Cheryl Gochis: [00:18:59.01] Yeah.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:18:59.40] As the CHRO, how does that look? Like who did you, who do you bring into the conversation to help you select the technology that you’re adding to your HR suite?

Cheryl Gochis: [00:19:14.44] Right.  So, internally, I was very fortunate I partnered with the Interim Vice President of IT and then one of the Vice Presidents of Finance. The three of us really needed to be lockstep on this because it significantly impacted all three of our areas with the financial aspect and, of course, IT and the human capital pieces. And so we really, again, locked arms and said, how are we going to approach this? We want a comprehensive solution, so we’re going to go into this together and we’re going to constantly remind the people that we’re leading, that we want a comprehensive solution. We did not want to go to market looking for siloed, why we want the best human capital pieces of it. And if finance works out, great. Now, we really wanted what was going to be the best product overall and that would serve our clients best. And so what I would say to any CHRO that’s going into it, make sure your internal partnerships are good. I was very fortunate. We worked a lot to have a good relationship where we were giving each other feedback and communicating.

Cheryl Gochis: [00:20:36.54] The second thing I’d say is make sure when you go into it and you have all of your people participate in demos, give them the safety to say what they need to say, to ask questions, and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. So one of the things that we had in Oracle and our consulting partner was Suren. One of the things that we really wanted was employee relations, a case management suite. In our environment and higher education, there are a lot of things that we need to be very, very careful about documenting and doing that well and what we wanted and we really didn’t have just as a stand-alone Oracle project, product. And so here on Oracle and our team really worked together to develop something just for us. And it is, in my years of HR, that’s usually the most difficult piece. Employee relations, case management. You know, most people kind of don’t do it as part of their overall system. They do it in, in standalones. But that only came because we asked for it and we said we really need this to be part of it. And I’m so glad, so glad that we did. Sometimes I think you can go into a process and you get so entertained by the other bells and whistles that you forget what you really wanted. And so internal partnerships, asking for what you want and making sure that the people that you are leading have an opportunity to have their voice heard, I think are the most important aspects of that.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:22:25.85] Awesome, I, I think this is important for any HR professional who is going through the RFP or they’re looking at purchasing technology, but also important for the vendors who are selling their technology to understand the thought process for somebody like you and a CHRO in an organization.

Cheryl Gochis: [00:22:49.43] That’s right. Yeah, that’s right. And, you know, in higher education to, we, we typically have longer tenures for, for people, for employees. And so, you know, sometimes you can start the sales process with an organization and the CHRO changes two times or the VP of IT is moved to a couple of different companies. In higher education, we, we typically have very stable leadership. We typically have longer tenure. And so it’s really important for those technology partners and people doing those demos to realize that some of the same people you sold it to are going to be the same people that use it. And they’ll remember what you promised. They will remember what you said it could do. And so they’re not going, typically, they don’t move on to another organization. They’re there and they’re going to use it. I think it really it’s a good thing because it really pushes that integrity piece. This person is asking for it and they’re actually going to be the one that uses it.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:23:54.86] What advice would you give HR leaders who might be struggling with change management and their organizations?

Cheryl Gochis: [00:24:02.03] I think the first thing for change management when, when you’re struggling with this as a leader, you have to individually look inward and ask yourself the tough questions of how am I doing with change. Many times our teams struggle with it because we struggle with it. And, you know, I remember when I was, when I had young children and I would feed them something that maybe I didn’t even really like and I would kind of in my face would look horrible, like, oh, you’re not going to like this. And sure enough, they didn’t like it. You know, they would because I was showing them, you don’t like this. This is not good. Well, many times we kind of have that, that reaction to change and we kind of look like change is great. You guys go ahead and do that.

Cheryl Gochis: [00:24:49.92] And understanding individually your fears, understanding individually what might be blocking that is really important, because then you can lead better because you really understand some of those dynamics.

Cheryl Gochis: [00:25:07.35] The HR team that we have at Baylor, one of our goals for the past four years has been to be role models of change because we don’t think we can work with leaders and say, hey, you know, we really need to look at this organizational development change or you need to consider this change in strategy when we’re not doing it ourselves. And so I think modeling that change for others, understanding that the change process is something that each of us handles differently and talking through that to is, is critical as well.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:25:44.80] Awesome. Great advice. And I think everyone can be better at being flexible, more agile and being able to adapt with change, but I like your suggestion that it’s an internal thing, too.

Cheryl Gochis: [00:25:59.80] Yeah, yeah, an internal job for sure.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:26:03.37] How do you see the CHRO role evolving into 2040? What is what does the CHRO look like in 20 years from now?

Cheryl Gochis: [00:26:13.72] Well, I, I feel like I probably represent a lot of CHROs y by saying I don’t know what it looks like in 2021. Really. At this point because 2020 has been so different than I think most of us would have predicted or projected. And I will say this, all of the training that we’ve done in the past, I’ve gone to numerous trainings on how to handle a pandemic and other things that training surge may well and yet you really can’t predict exactly how it’s going to play out. And so committing to, as we just mentioned, that continual learning, committing to effective change management and that you’re going to surround yourself with people that you give safety, and you give the ability to challenge you, that’s the way we, we stay relevant. And I, regardless of what happens in the future, making sure you have that as part of it is going to be critical.

Cheryl Gochis: [00:27:18.46] Now, artificial intelligence is definitely going to be something that we see more and more of use of data with, with privacy and other things there. I think every CHRO needs to think through that and think through what the strategy is on that. But I think all of us, too, just need to maybe buckle up because 2040, there are going to be many, many challenges. But if you’ve made it through 2020 so far, you’ve learned a lot along the way. And I think those lessons will serve all of us very, very well.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:27:56.14] I like your attitude. If we can get through 2020, 2040 is not too bad.

Cheryl Gochis: [00:28:02.83] You know, I really, I saw something the other day, and I’m based in Texas, as you are. But the, the, the storm Hanna, you know, was going to hit the coast. And, and so several people had posted on social media, like, of course it is. It’s 2020. It’s, I mean, this is obviously going to happen. And you do just kind of laugh because it has been quite, quite the year.

Cheryl Gochis: [00:28:27.43] But we’ve all learned a lot and I think we have probably, if we were honest with ourselves, if we would have looked back before all this happened and said, hey, how would you handle this? I know for me, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well our workforce has adapted, how well all individuals have adapted to this. And so it’s been great prep for 2040 and beyond.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:28:53.04] Well, Cheryl, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. Where can people go to connect with you and learn more about the work that you do?

Cheryl Gochis: [00:29:02.38] Sure. Well, I am at Baylor.edu, there, our HR organization, you just can put HR in the search bar and that will show you a little bit about our HR organization. Also, if you go to Baylor.edu, on our Ignite site, you can see some of those office promos, if you’d, if you’d like to see, see some of those on our, our website, they’re there. And we also, too, will always take the opportunity to say, if you have a student that’s considering college, we’d love for them to give Baylor University a look. And it’s a special place. And we have a lot of special employees that are eager to serve our, our students have joined us there.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:29:46.21] Thank you so much, Cheryl.

Cheryl Gochis: [00:29:47.83] Thank you.

Closing: [00:29:49.24] There have been so many changes in HR in the past decade, but we’ve never lost our focus on the people. HR teams are now being formed around an executive level role like the CHRO or Chief People Officer who are more connected to the strategy and operations of the overall business. This means that the leadership position has a large role in technology selection, adoption training and so on. I appreciate Cheryl taking the time to share her experiences with us today as part of this new series. It’s the CHRO series on the Workology Podcast and it’s powered by our friends at HUB. Thank you for joining the Workology Podcast sponsored by Workology. This podcast is for the disruptive workplace leader who’s tired of the status quo. My name is Jessica Miller-Merrell and until next time you can visit Workology.com to see all our previous podcast episodes.

Closing: [00:30:40.99] Are you studying for your HRCI or SHRM exams? Join our free H.R. Certification Study Group on Facebook, search for HR Certification Study Group, or go to HRCertificationStudyGroup.com. ACE your exams with the H.R. Certification Study Group.

Connect with Cheryl Gochis.


CHRO Job Description

Podcast Episode Transcript

Ep 155: Driving Organizational Change and Trust 

2020 CHRO Report 

Your Guide to the HR Organization and Team Structures 



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