Kimberly Carroll, Managing Principal at IA, an advisory group that helps companies manage inflection and notable changes in HR, talks about shared services (it might not be exactly what you think it is) and the centralization of TA processes. She goes into the pitfalls of centralizing hiring operations and the importance of involving hiring managers to build connections and accountability since the very beginning.
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Max: Alright, welcome back to the recruitment hackers podcast. I'm your host Max Armbruster and today on the show I have Kimberly Carroll, who is managing principal at IA, you're really welcome to the show.
Kimberly: Thank you. I'm happy to be here.
Max: My pleasure to have you. And what does the IA stand for. I know AI, but IA?
Kimberly: We were not Internal Audit. It used to be called Inflection Advisors and we shortened it to IA because nobody could spell or say it. So, Inflection Advisors.
Max: Inflection advisors. That's good. Well, Kimberly, let's get right to it. How did you end up? So Inflection Advisors is an advisory group that helps companies, I guess, manage inflection and notable change, not only in the HR, including the TA space. And you don't become a managing principal of an advisory group, right out of school right out of the gates. You need a career to prepare yourself to get into that space. So tell us a little bit about your background and how you ended up being in this very specialized field.
Kimberly: Absolutely.I have an economics degree which is not anything to do with HR, but when I started my career, I always wanted to help people. So I worked at Fidelity Investments for a little over 13 years, all in a variety of different roles. I implemented the HR payroll outsourcing business. I also worked in systems where I configured the platform itself. And then I also ran their shared services organization. And that was probably the most influential job I've ever had. Because you learn a lot about what to do and what not to do as part of running a shared services organization. I also managed a global outsourcing business. And then I met Mark, who was the founder of IA, and we had hired him to come over and do some work for us. And then once I figured out that consulting wasn't all bad. And that I really liked consulting and helping others. I moved to IA for about eight years, working with a ton of different clients from anything, from looking at their HR processes and making them better or selecting technology to help them implement their change or building vision. So we do a whole slew of different things at IA and just I love it. I love what I do, and so my career has been all around helping people.
Max: I mean I can see, for me as an entrepreneur I could see the joy of moving from managing and shared Services Center, which is all about process and repetition, get everything ironed out to being a consultant, moving from client to client and being in charge of your own schedule, which suits me very, very much. But it's not necessarily a transition for everybody.
Max: But I guess it's for that stage of your career also where you're more about, you know, sharing experience and maybe resolving conflict people do people bring you in when there's battles within?
Kimberly: Absolutely. We not only battle with them but battles with their technology partners and stuff like that, so we do help with guiding our clients through the changes that they need to make. We're not shy consultants and we don't have a playbook. So we have processes ourselves but we are ones that we will come in and we don't say yes yes you should do this or we tell them this is what you should do. And it's a little bit different from a consulting process and one of the things about IA that's a little, is that we actually want to work ourselves out of a job. We would like to teach and leave and go to the next client because our role is to help all, as many clients as we can. But if we get stuck at a client for a long time, that keeps us from helping other clients. So for us we do.
Max: That's the model of like Accenture or the Lloyd's to create enough role or enough work for everybody for the next 20 years.
Kimberly: Yeah, we're not, we don't want to do that that's not I mean that's not what we want to do. And it's not I mean it's that's just because when I got into consulting I had that fear of getting into consulting, because I didn't like consultants. So I mean I hate to say that, but it's just one of those things for me that I feel like if I can influence a couple people or a couple clients or a couple companies to think differently to really move forward to, to not just do it because that's the way that you've been told to do it, is to start thinking for themselves and get us out of there, then, that to me is the is the important part of what we do. My first client at IA They're a fascinating client. They clean slaughterhouses, I mean so that's what they do but they're quite large. 16-17,000 employees. They had a hard time with recruiting, they had because their turnover was 150%. They did not have technology.
Max: So they were not able to retain people in their slaughterhouse jobs?
Kimberly: They were not.
Max: Do you think that if you're willing to take the job by that point you're going to keep it because I kind of made the mental leap that I took and retain them. Amazing.
Kimberly: Now, are you really shocked? I'm not shocked. So, but what's fascinating is they were my first clients. They had no automation, no nothing. They had a lot of paper based processes, all of their applications were still paper based. So we finally got them automated on some systems and stuff like that to really get them so that they could make that turnover quite a bit. And to be able to get them to not have so much paper, but that client is still a client that they will only come back to us, they will. They've told us we will not go anywhere else. And it's not. I mean, and I'm not doing work with them all the time it's just a call for Mark says I'm the worst consultant because I give free consulting all the time because they will call me at the whim, and just ask questions and I will turn them down to say no, I'm not gonna answer your questions and so anyways I love that part of what we do is that we build relationships with our clients and their lifelong relationships and that's what we need to do, but that client was one of my special clients because of the work they do.
Max: It sounded a little bit like you were that story where you said they had high turnover. We replaced the paperwork with systems and how is that supposed to resolve turnover issues. How would you, how do you connect the dots here?
Kimberly: How do I connect those dots, is they are able to do better with the automation that they put in place, and in the States, you have to do e-verify, to be able to support it with that automation they've been able to then detect the people that are not able to work in the United States, so that turnover even though it's still high, so they had it like 150%, their metric was to drop it, and I don't remember and I apologize, but I think they dropped it to like 120% which is a pretty significant drop for them, but they were able to with automation, be able to get those employees or those candidates in the system faster. Interviewed through the work verification process, and on the floor and be able to, and the people that they were hiring better suited or legal to work in the States.
Max: Right, right, right. When you speed things up you have less of a dropout when you, when you wait longer candidates, the hires that you're left with at the end of the process, are the ones that are also a little bit less desirable.
Max: I suppose.
Kimberly: Yeah, absolutely.
Max: So, your Fidelity Investments. I know it's a long time ago now, but that was your last big corporate role play and that was running a Shared Services Center. One way to describe change management and change in HR is is a process of centralization and decentralization, and the two are always happening like sort of on balance and counterbalance the arguments for centralization and having a Shared Services Center are well known it's specialization, get really good at something and reduce costs that way. In, in a recruitment context or in an otherwise context, have you sometimes taken the other side of the argument, where you've argued for decentralization and let's do away with a shared service. Have you been in these situations?
Kimberly: Yeah, so I love putting it in the hands of the actual leader, so I am not as I'm not a lover of centralizing shares of putting a shared service together for recruiting. I'm not as much of a lover of that. I just have had a couple of clients that have gone down that path and mostly because to be honest with you if they don't trust their managers and I don't understand that I mean, you're hiring these people, trust your managers to do the job that they're supposed to be doing. A lot of them from a retail perspective, a lot of the time what I hear is, well we don't want to take them off the floor because that's money that you know they're trying to sell they're trying to do all of that and I'm like. But if you make it easy for them. Right, so you get them a device you give them something. The process shouldn't be that hard. So, I am not as I said I'm not a fan of centralization of the talent acquisition process. But I understand it, from where they're coming from because they want to be able to utilize resources that are not trying to sell their products, to be able to do it, then I'm not a fan. I think you should put it in the hands of the hiring leaders and train them and teach them and give them tools that actually help them through it.
Max: Yeah, I had this argument with my head of HR just yesterday where she was saying, let's get it done, because we have a graduate hiring program right now and so this is going to dominance, this is hiring these people, and then she was like we know we need the hiring managers involved, we need them to be to be talking to them otherwise, they're not going to feel the responsibility to take care of them properly. So just from, from that perspective, having the hiring manager involved in the decision, even if it's at the very end I think has obvious benefits for retention and onboarding.
Kimberly: Yeah. Have you ever taken on an employee that you'd never hired? That's me that's hard when you, when you have to now manage an employee that you did not get to interview, or you weren't part of that process. And now you're
Max: I had one of those who didn't even speak English. So that's even harder.
Kimberly: That would be really, that's really hard. So, yeah, I think that managers should be involved, they have to manage those people, you have to build a connection with your employees or your team members or whatever you call them, you have to build that connection and that's how you do it at the beginning and then you talk about onboarding. I have a hard time with onboarding. Yes.
Max: Everybody has. I mean we can centralize some things right like running the ads on Indeed, and getting as many candidates as possible but still do the interview on site on store,, and make it easy for them to minimize the time off before the course. What are some examples that come to mind for accesses done in the service services where people have tried to take it too far outside of the recruitment space actually. Do you have examples where you've had to deflate the show services?
Kimberly: Well, I think that one of the things that people think about shared services is that they're just the transaction they should just do whatever you know the COE says or the manager or whatever they should just take on the transaction no matter what. And that's a misnomer, like, that's not what Shared Services is all about. Shared service is about good repeatable processes and as soon as that process is no longer repeatable and that can just be done, it should be pushed back out to whoever owns that business process because shared services that own the business processes themselves. Typically the COE or whoever they, they, they dub as the owner of the business processes should develop processes that make sense, shared services so that's when I seen good Shared Services actually in good Shared Services leaders push them back out I have an example of a process that we had at Fidelity and HR wanted us to start terminating people manually in the system for them. When the manager should be actually terminating them. And it was because of a one field in there that for an executive it had to be pushed that you couldn't do it because there was a rule in there that you couldn't push their health and continuation date past six months. Well for an executive you can go however long they wanted to. So they wanted to push us to term all executives because they couldn't enter this one field. And I push back and push back hard on them, I said, No, we are not taking on that process because it's not repeatable and the manager should be able to do it, there can be a ticket open for us to update that field for you but we're not going to be taking on the whole entire termination process because you all think that the fields can't be entered. That's where shared services should be, they should be able to say no to their business partners, but then it should also go push back to their business partners when things are not when they're asking for requirements that don't make sense from a business process perspective.
Max: I think, psychology or groups, groups like to grow,growth is always something that is appealing to a team and is kind of, you know, washes away problems and things are growing then everything else is kind of sort itself out. And so far shared services organization, or for any organization I think the temptation for growth is always there as well, where. Well, the customer said so are the internal customers that suppose I'm just going to do it, and resisting that temptation must be. I mean I guess systematically it's impossible. So, It's hard to argue against it but yeah I guess you're doing. Well it's about it's about process ownership, and then, you know, reminding the operations of their responsibility to build something unique something that's there.
Kimberly: That's right. And they own it, they need to own it. And to add services can help support, but it's not the owner, and they should be able to have leverage to say that and a lot I will say that I've known a couple companies that have rolled out shared services, and it wasn't a dictated model, like you didn't have to. And you could just opt in, which I think is a huge mistake. You either do it or you don't, you don't halfway do it. And I've told that company that multiple times and it hasn't resonated quite yet with them but I will continue to push them on actually putting it in there because you got to think about shared services. It's almost like you're outsourcing to a third party, but you're internally doing it, which is great. But it's still a cost center, and it's not making money for you as a company, but it's supporting you making money. And that's what people have to remember. It's not, you should always do it.
Max: Is it possible to turn our shared services into a profit center? Have you seen these examples where it started out where we're servicing internal customers and while we're so good at this let's start selling stuff to the outside world.
Kimberly: I haven't seen it successfully done. But I've seen it, where companies like they do the Manage processes so like the Alliance, the PwC, they actually manage business processes and outsource so they, you know, maybe they started as a shared service but they go into the Manage business processes outside but not an internal. What's funny is, you always think that you can do that and you could build these processes to go out outside of your company, most of the time you can't. I don't think you can, because your processes are typically not that well refined, that you can do that. Yeah.
Max: Also people involved.
Kimberly: Yeah. Yeah.
Max: Do you in HR, there's a very strong local and regulatory component to dealing with payroll benefits, even hiring. So, how do large shared services handle that today, unable to have like one global shared service or is it done for our country. I mean, you know I mean if there is some tension there.
Kimberly: There can be. So typically what I see is that you regionalize, the shared services they all report under one, but to get closer to your local you would regionalize those, so Europe might have one the North America could have one and then EMEA those would be local, but we're also seeing a lot especially if the company has little volume or little employee a smaller population of the employees. That's where you'll see another technology come into play and that they actually do and a more tiered model where they actually outsource some of that servicing to another provider that has local resources that can help them with that. In the United States, you typically see a centralized service. But in other countries it just depends on the volume of employees that you have, like I have a client that has maybe like 10 people do you really need to put a shared service in for 10 people, or do you manage them via a tiered model.
Max: Okay, so you're gonna have your main business supported by a shared service and for the geographical branches. That's when you bring in the consultants or third parties.
Max: Yeah. And I do a lot of work in the offshore call centers space, and it seems like 2020 was as good a year as any, work continues to grow, and, you can say, American jobs keep going abroad.
Max: Does that sound about right or is there or because sometimes once in a while the industry talks about jobs coming back in and so I'm wondering if you experienced the 2020, same way I did when, basically, not much has changed their transmissions anyway.
Kimberly: Yeah, I think that trend will continue, especially as companies outsource, some of the business processes, outside of their company. I think that a lot of companies are starting to do that more and more. It was a trend that slowed down, and then the trend started coming back because I think that people are realizing or companies are realizing that there isn't a need to have that type of resource in house right so payroll right so take payroll. Payroll is one of the biggest ones that gets outsourced because it's such a pain in the butt process to manage internally. And so that's one that gets outsourced quite a bit, but I think it just depends on the company and what they're looking to do. We're seeing a lot of shared services coming in internally, and then some of the companies that even they they build the shared services they're like, you know what, we're now going to outsource it because now we built the shared service now we should be able to, we have now cleaner processes, we can now outsource it. If you can't outsource if you have to say a bad word, terrible processes. Was gonna come out of my mouth.
Max: You can manage what you cannot do ideally, with a few exceptions but generally, trying to manage somebody's process. It's gonna be horrible.
Kimberly: Well, you can automate processes via robotics now so I mean, you might as well start looking at that and if you can make processes easier then why have a person doing it when the system can do it just as well. So.
Max: Yeah and most of the business process outsourcing industries is all about selling that expertise there, they start with the robotization conversation, and then oh yeah and by the way we also have 100,000 accounts that can help you with everything that cannot be automated.
Max: Really change the pitch. Okay, cool. Well, the one question that I really like to ask for my guest is to talk about some of the traumatic experiences, regarding hiring mistakes. I want you to think back on your assignments at Fidelity, or another place where you hired somebody, and it blew up in your face, and it was, there was blood on the wall slaughterhouse style, and if you can relate for me and for listeners, what you learned out of that hiring mistake, why you made it, or what you got out of it.
Kimberly: Yeah. So, one of the challenges I have with my hiring is that I am very, I'm not as strict as reviewing a resume and I don't typically ask for it. I want to get to know people better. One of them actually it's not even with Fidelity it’s with IA. We hired somebody that used to work for me and another company.
Max: It's like fresh wood.
Kimberly: It kind of is. And the problem with doing that sometimes is you expect them to understand how to move into a role that maybe they're not prepared for and that was my biggest mistake is I, you know, did they did a great job at another firm, they were very good, but coming and doing this type of work. Not everybody can do it. And for me, what kind of sucked about this was I almost lost a friend right so, I really knew this person and you almost lost this person as a friend. And that is my mistake. I should have thought through and probably been a little more forthcoming not forthcoming about the work but more forthcoming about asking questions about how she would handle or they would handle the work, and give her examples and, and I didn't do that and I think that that's a mistake and we're a small company. So losing a person in the middle of, you know, a project or something like that that's a huge loss. And I think that was my mistake and I don't live with regret because I don't think you can, but I can learn from what I did. And so the next hire I do, it's not it's not always going to be somebody I know because it's going to be somebody based on the work that we need to do.
Max: Right. So I think, probably, anybody who's hired somebody they know has dealt with that.
Kimberly: Yes and I've hired others that I know that are great.
Max: If anybody's listening and wants to work for Kimberly and you know her.
Kimberly: Not over yet not giving up on it it's just gonna grill you a little harder I think.
Max: I think we're in for time to get to know your business. I'm talking about shared services. Thank you very much for joining us today.
Kimberly: Yeah, thank you so much, I appreciate it.
Max: That was Kimberly Carol reminding us that even if you decide to go with a shared services center for all the right reasons, you should remember that the operations own the process, especially for talent acquisition, but also for all businesses.
Hope that was insightful for you as it was for me. And please subscribe for more and share with friends.