Employee-First Messaging, Culture and Safety - Susan Hanold VP, HR Strategic Advisory Services at ADP

ADP does a lot more than payroll. Dr. Susan Hanold, VP, HR Strategic Advisory Services at ADP shares lots of great tips, notably, how do we adjust our messaging in 2020 and next year around the employee culture? And how does it take care of safety and employees first?

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Max: Hello, and welcome back to the recruitment hackers podcast. Today. We are honored to have on the show, Mrs. Susan Hanold PhD, who is also the VP and the ADP Strategic Advisory Services Group. Susan, welcome to the show. 

Susan: Thanks Max. Great to be here. 

Max:  Susan  was named top women in HR technology by Recruiting Daily, and works with ADP's clients to build out their recruiting strategies. So tell us a little bit about ADP and then we'll go into our usual round of questions about how this industry is changing. Susan, I will let you talk about ADP, you will probably do better than I can. We were talking before the show that ADP does a lot more than payroll, and through acquisitions has moved into the RPO world. And into the technology world. Can you give us a quick summary of your universe? 

Susan: Sure. So interesting to me about eight years ago, when I was first hired at ADP. I came in as a talent strategy expert. So it was like you, I thought, Oh payroll! It's only payroll, but it's not. It's a full HCM human capital management company. And it's been in business over 70 years. And you know, over the last eight years, our talent ecosystem has grown. You know, eight years ago we started our RPO business. We have talent management, talent activation, you know, you have to put different words on all the different types of talent products. So activation is kind of a new area. That's an engagement, and performance area,  talent management, and you've got talent acquisition.

Max: You’ve got my attention with this talent activation. We'll come back to it later. 

Susan: Yeah. So, you know, to me what's exciting is that, it's a global organization, it's got 140 countries and, you know, of course we're known for payroll and that's very core to us and we have 58,000 employees. And for me, you know, like you Max, as we were talking before, my day job was traveling a lot, I lived on an airplane and what was most important to me was satisfying our clients and helping them build out their talent strategy. And so I was basically traveling around trying to be in person, getting to know them and their businesses. And so that has switched a bit here now. 

Max: Well, we have so many hours in the day now. I understand that you're investing some of this time that you got back from all that traveling around the world, into helping  your community and working with the University of Texas in Arlington.

Susan: Yeah. So I felt one of the ways to give back is to share those experiences and what I'm learning right now in my day job and the real life experiences. And I just feel like they are really enjoying that. They love hearing, you know, balancing the book work if you will, with the real life application.

Max: Yeah i could make a nice segway on the world of recruitment. Hearing more about the stories and about the book, hearing more about the candidate than about the resume, which is something I believe we must move away from in recruitment. Move away from the resume. Tell us. How, how did you end up in talent acquisition professor? 

Susan: Well, it just happened naturally. I mean, I didn't say, Oh I'm going to go into talent acquisition. I am just a sponge for learning. And at ADP, I was given the opportunity to really keep learning and building and learning more about what they offered from a talent product perspective, and ourselves, and our services. And I started off in talent management and then it just naturally evolved to talent acquisition. And with the model that we follow which is attracting, engaging, and retaining. 

So many times I'll have clients that'll say, well let's talk about our turnover. And everything comes back to let's look at the whole ecosystem. So let's start from the beginning and come all the way through the talent life cycle. And so I just started expanding my conversation and learning more. I'm so very thrilled to be talking about it today, 

Max:  I've been asked by a number of companies to look at retention and you know, for me, it's the ultimate success metric for the company. Are you a people-centered company? It should be measured by whether you can retain your people or not. And the unfortunate thing is you cannot really give that number, the retention number, you cannot let any one department own it. Because it really starts even at sourcing.  If you source a wide enough audience, a big enough talent pool, then  you'll be able to be a lot more picky and find people who have a better culture fit, which should certainly increase retention, logically. So, I think these arguments are a little hard for me  to carry on the sell side. To say that recruitment helps retention and sourcing helps retention. But I do believe that fundamentally and in principle.

Susan: Well, it's interesting, how did you know of the email I was just looking at before our conversation, because I had just got a request from a client that wants to have a turnover workshop. And that seems to come up quite frequently. And you know, in my role, my goal is to help our clients. So I'm external focused and help them with a lot of advice and insights. So I'm not really necessarily executing on a product, but it's looking at the whole people process and technology and in my role in product agnostic. So when the clients are coming and asking for help, like hey I've got a pain point of turnover. It's like exactly what you said. It's really having to dig in and look at the bigger picture. And where is it going to, where's it really coming from? 

And I'd say about two or three years ago, our team got together and we were hearing a pattern of turnover retention coming up and we're like, well we just need to start at the basics. What is it? What data do you need? And then we actually put a diagnostic together and it sounds really fancy when you say, well, I put a diagnostic together, but I honestly started going to key stakeholders. And businesses and saying, what data are you gathering? What are you measuring? And start pulling this together. And I hate to use the word HCM, but it truly is. It was a full human capital management list of questions. And I said, hey, here's a great list of questions. That you as a recruiter, or you as an HR leader can take to your CEO and say, if you say no to any of these questions, then you don't have a comprehensive turnover retention strategy.

And so I just kind of knew exactly what it said. I started adding more and more questions to it. And it's wider. It was outside of recruiting, it went to performance, it went to communications, it went to marketing, and they all have an impact. So, anyway, I ended up with a good tool out of it.

Max:  Yeah, the diagnostic, you can repurpose it? 

Susan: I sure can. 

Max: I mean, with a PhD  you can turn any worksheet into a methodology. Right? There is a way to commercialize that for sure. And I want to go back to that word you used earlier, talent activation, is that a new fancy word for onboarding?

Susan: Not really. Talent activation is really activating talent. So it's really engaging the talent, checking in, keeping their productivity up. It's really a connection to right now. To the resiliency that we're seeing with the pandemic. So as a leader, how are you able to react to adverse situations? So how you act, you activate yourself.

And it's also how managers are working with team members, other individuals or subordinates. To really engage them and keep them aligned to their goals! So that's a whole nother piece of it, which it does. You know, there's acquisition, activation and management. You’ve got to love how we put all these words to things, these new names.
Max: I'll stay with onboarding. I've got enough words in my vocabulary, but thanks for that. Let's go back in time a little bit. And, well actually, on the top of retention, and the fact that it's in your inbox right now makes me wonder. Are companies preparing for 2021 thinking? Well, we kept our staff in 2020 because everybody was holding onto their seats and holding on for their life. And we'll have a wave of, you know, we have to be ready for a wave of turnover insurance. In the coming months you know, do you feel that, going on in the market that there's a little bit of anticipation and fear in that direction? Or is that just in my head? 

Susan: No, I don't think it's in your head. I think it's a very real situation. I mean, I think that you have the companies that you've, you know, that are not sure when to bring staff back, so they don't want to have to furlough or lay off again. So you've had some of those companies that have had to go through those situations. And then I was just working with, you know, one of our newest RPO clients that can't hire fast enough! Because they just can't find it. 

They're actually, you know, doing some of the COVID testing, but in sense their sourcing is extremely high, yet being able to keep and retain, you know, back to your turnover and where your retention is, and I even mentioned onboarding.  So how do you get all of that lined up so quickly? You scale up so quickly and do not want to lose somebody and still need to keep that whole candidate experience high. 

Because somewhere it's going to fall through the cracks, so I think that piece is... But there, I definitely think that there is  a sense of some folks that are very worried, right? So you have people that are wanting to keep their job, but yet I'm seeing some people, you know, go ahead and say maybe business isn't where, I want it to be. And I'm okay to jump. I'm going to be a job hopper right now, but I still think there's some unpredictability to headcount needs, where some businesses are fluctuating and that can cause a little bit of a roller coaster.

And, you know, I even saw it with our own organization where some departments were busy. So people, you know, employees took a temporary job-hop over to another department to leverage their skills. So it definitely is a little bit uncertain, but that cloud. That fearfulness. I still think that's still there.

Max: Yeah. That's going to stay with us even post election. I think there's still a lot of uncertainty in the market. But, I mean the recovery in Q3 has been very strong in North America anyway. And I guess that ADP should have a strong 2021, on the RPO business and technology, of course. So, you've got your finger on the pulse of the economy.  Can you give us, our listeners, some insights on how the wind is blowing? 

Susan: Well, you know, we do a lot of labor economy, market calls and so forth. Of course we're known for the unemployment report, but we also have something called the, workplace vitality report, which you know, is a quarterly, real time data or site, If you want to call it that,  where you can quarterly know what's happening with compensation. What's happening with unemployment? Is it a job hopper market? What's the hourly rate? What's happening part-time or full-time? And so by that, I'm definitely up to date on what's happening with the market, the trends, you know, really month to month, I look at this and how I can slice the data in different ways.

But I think that's only one piece. I think the other piece that I look at to kind of know what's going on in the market is, what am I hearing from our clients? And, what kind of work are they asking for? And one of the biggest things that I am seeing is just keep it simple. Like since a lot of people are trying to make it easier for the candidate, for their employees and not trying to disrupt or come up with a lot of new stuff right now, new projects.

But in doing this. They're trying to look at cost containment, process optimization, and really trying to say, how can I make my recruiting team as efficient as I can? And still have that high impact candidate experience and get that quality candidate. And so a lot of times I honestly have been spending a lot of time, right now, in workshops going through processes, looking at the current state, looking at the future state and saying, what are some best practices and recommendations to make things better?

Max: And you know, I mean balance of what do you keep in house and what do you outsource in town's acquisition. I think that there's always going to be pressure on both sides, on both ends of the spectrum. And you'll have some mild fluctuations that are driven by the economy.

So in 2021, probably it'll be a little bit more outsourced than usual, simply because people are a little fearful of hiring in house. But there's never going to be a state of balance or a winner takes all kind of situation. There will  always be that tension, right? Between the two. 

Susan: Well a lot about it, I think, is how open-minded you are and how educated you are to know just what your options are? You know, If I was the CPO five years ago for the people of our chief HR office, I may create my HR team very differently than I would today. And knowing, you know, what are those outsourcing options? And many times it's like, just give us a chance, let us run a business case for you. Let me give you a couple of menu options and then figure out where in your culture it's going to work best.
Sometimes you just need to get somebody who's got the open mind to say, I'm willing to change my structure or change the... Or it doesn't even have to be all or nothing. It can be a hybrid approach. One of the clients I'm working with now, they have a recruiting staff and they have some outsourced. To me, it's just, you know, don't stress yourself out, right? Like you can go at this at baby steps too, right?

Max: Yeah. Yeah. And, in this model and, you know, thinking about this customer that you just mentioned, you're referring to us. Is there a division of tasks or what's an ideal division of tasks for a mid-sized customer view?

I'm curious because I see RPO is coming in for executive level hiring volume, hiring for digital sourcing. And I suppose  the area which remains in-house then is most precious for the companies to retain. Is the onboarding experience where the closer you become to being an employee, the more, that experience needs to be in-house and managed internally, I suppose. And that would mean like the front of the funnel is perhaps easier to outsource, but maybe that's just a wrong thing to do.  It's not the business I'm in anyway. 

Susan: Well, and if you just look at the market right now with unemployment, you know, of course recruiting teams are getting more sophisticated, right? But employees we're finding or having reluctance to change jobs. And so some may be leading for 25 cents an hour or not so sure anymore that their jobs are gonna exist. 

So, you know, now when they're comparing their employment to maybe some security, that is causing a little bit of a challenge right now. So I feel like knowing your compensation... I get a lot of questions from folks that, you know, from accounts that are saying, I don't have really good compensation, pay structure. I don't have benchmarking data. Help me figure this out. And a lot of times we'll just say, well, either two things are happening. One, they're truly off on wages but they need to do the analysis piece. Or secondly, it's an easy thing to say, well, it's wages, right? It's compensation. And I really need to look at our benefits, or I need to really look and dig a root cause analysis. 

And so, you know, I find a lot of times where I'm helping them find, how do I get good real time data? That's, you know, is not survey data, right? From somebody else to know what your compensation should be. And then also helping them to dig deeper just to ask them so thoughtful questions. Because many times they're not even doing exit interviews. They're just hearing it by hearsay cause they can't keep up or they don't have a consistent process to get that feedback. So that's just another way of saying this. Another thing I'm hearing a little bit about. 

Max: And, when it comes to this compensation data, I suppose the ADP is in a very unique place, right? Where you have more data than anybody else. 

Susan: Right!

Max: I mean, this data is private. I'm sure.  But if you don't put the name of their customer to it, you can analyze it, right? 

Susan: Right. So we have two things that have been coming out. We have compensation, benchmarking and then also pay equity. And you know, what we're able to do is take the 30 million employees and 90,000 organizations and take that pay data and aggregate it, make it anonymized and be able to have it filtered so we can get that data to be able to say, here's what the what your benchmarks are based on your industry, your size, and, you know, be able to run that. That's been very helpful. And the second piece that's trending now for me is, you know, we had pay equity. We created that several years ago, but now because of what's happened within the market is that the whole diversity equity inclusion topic. And now all of a sudden that's been a whole other elevated topic.

Max:  And this year, I mean, it's gotten even more intention than usual. And where North America leaves, the rest of the world follows, for a lot of things related to systems. I've read and I could be wrong, but I've read that more than half of the world's enterprise software is purchased out of North America.

And that includes most probably, recruiting software. And, and so, doctor I've heard a lot of companies complain about having to build systems, which are very US centric, which asks all of this data, needed to be asked to be in compliance with the US equal opportunity law. And that it's creating sort of artificial barriers for candidates outside of the US where some of these questions are not required. Have you come across these kinds of queries yourself? What is your recommendation for companies who want to be on one hand compliance in North America?

Susan:  You have asked a very difficult question and I could write a book and then get the answers to you. And maybe I'll be a millionaire, but, I definitely think that. Being able to have technology that is simple to use that can be used across a lot of boundaries definitely key. And I also believe that you have to play to all the different compliance rules, you know, one of the things I know that we've been looking at is just, this is very new, you know, it's a very hot in discussion right now. It is, you know, diversity dashboards.

And what information do you, and can you even share, right? And then how do you include unconscious bias, into this, you know, inclusion sentiment and what do you do with self identification? You know, all this is out of my expertise, but it's definitely playing into it. 

And the other piece is where do you have the human connection too? Where do you have the human in this whole candidate experience? And when do you start to leverage your artificial intelligence, your texting? You know, all that experience with your ATS platform. There's a lot happening there for sure!


Max:  And these tools do help diversity because they expand the pool of people who can get in touch with you and, you know, just make it easier to be able to apply. And I think that ultimately serves the purpose of, expanding the town pool and creating opportunity for people you wouldn't normally consider, or that the hiring manager wouldn't consider.

But well, my 2 cents is that there are more demands coming out of North America than any other market when it comes to capturing this kind of data and protecting against you know, let's say, setting up rules to protect the employer against liability, and it creates inefficiencies, outside of North America.

And so it may be. You know, with the internet global markets being large enough now for any company, including ADP, maybe time to consider having, and implementations and different systems. One for global, one for North America to optimize the candidate experience. 

Susan:  You're helping me with the product roadmap here. But you know, I do a lot of speaking and research around the remote workforce and the work from anywhere, the WFA. And since you mentioned kind of across borders, I think that is also the bigger question. And you talked about increasing your candidate pool and your talent pipeline. Well, you know, that whole diversity piece is definitely a part of it.

But also right now, I can't tell you the amount of conversations I've had with organizations. You're trying to do business cases right now to say, help me know from an ROI perspective if I have a certain part of my population that stays remote, or I phase them in longer, and I know you've probably heard this you're smart and I can see you now saying, I've heard this before! But just truly the trend of what it could do to getting your top talent. 

Because, I mean, I just saw a posting the other day and it said New York or something, and I'm like, well, do you have to be there in New York, but why do you put New York? If you don't really have to be in New York? Why is the job description saying New York? So either. You know, clearly communicate that you're shifting or the jobs descriptions just can't keep up with it. 

Max: It's almost like the Y2K bug, you know, where they're like, we can't update the machine. But most ATS’s and job boards and CRM’s. They don't know how to list a job as remote. I mean, I should know. We just built that in ourselves just this year, when we've been hiring remote workers for years. But it just doesn't compute. 

Susan: But I really hope, in a positive light that this truly would allow people who are interested in positions seriously, and for whatever reason don't want to move. Or they feel like now that, you know, you've tested the times, you're like, hey I've done this! Do I have the networks within the organization? Do I really need to be physically present in that city? And I hope that you at least have a conversation, right? A strategic conversation that somebody wouldn't eliminate me, but please still consider me. I hope that continues to broaden and happen and evolve.

Max: Talking about the work from home and compensation to our areas of expertise for you Susan, I don't know if you saw the news, but  Reddit this week announced that they're going to eliminate cost of living payment compensation. And basically what this means is it doesn't matter if you live in, you know, San Francisco or in Idaho, you're going to get paid the same. You know, we're going to pay you based on performance only, because everybody's working from home anyway. Are you seeing other employers follow that model where we'll pay you the same regardless, and we're going to stop, you know, pegging salaries, on cost of living?

Susan: I personally have not seen a big trend in that yet, but I definitely, I tell you Max, you must know my calendar. I've been trying to talk to our compensation director because I'm, you know, trying to get a little bit of a handle on... we had essential employees, you know, paying hazard pay and all these different types of pay differences that we've been going through.

And I think compensation's going to get challenged. So I am all for rethinking our processes. Don't just assume everything's going to be the same, you know I love how people say, when we go back or, you know, whatever this new normal is, the new error that you reset and you rethink, you just don't go back. You actually can do things different. And I'm a proponent of that for sure.

Max: I'd like to ask you some practical tips on how employers and recruiters can stand out in today's markets. We talked about the fact that people are holding still a little bit of this time but clearly the employment market has reheated and companies are hiring again.

And so there's going to be more offers, coming on and a lot of choices. What do you think are the defining traits of a winning talent acquisition strategy as we're entering the end of 2020 coming into next year?  What are your recommendations for our audience?

Susan: Well, you know, standing out and in a competitive market is always important and I always believe how people are treated during this time, they're going to remember. And if my manager cared for me, if our company did the right thing, they're going to remember. And I think that ties back to culture. And culture I can see is going to continue to be very important from a recruiting talent acquisition position.

So I would really think about the bigger impact you can have with your recruiting strategy when it comes to culture. The second thing I would think about is, you know, there is a shift in evolving skill sets. So think about how you were investing in the development of your people. So normally we don't see those two necessarily two connected.

But I think when it goes from organic growth, do I invest in you and provide you the training or source the talent? But a shift, definitely an evolving skill set, you know, ADP did some research and a few weeks ago they shared that one in five positions. The way they are today will not exist. So one in five, it's like 22%. So if jobs are shifting that often that they're not even gonna exist, keeping up with the skillsets is definitely going to be a challenge in how important development is. And the last one I'll leave you with is that the focus on branding, you know, around safety and employees first.

So that is going to still be very critical in the upcoming months, to focus on building out that brand and the value proposition. That the recruiters all have the same message and just, what are you doing? Is it through videos? However, you're going to communicate that.

I've seen a lot of good companies that have been doing a great job of saying, you know, this is what the environment looks like we're going to share it with you through video ahead of time. We're going to give you vignettes, whatever it is, but we're going to give you a snapshot of what it is for you. And that's how you're going to keep me either as a customer or even as an employee. So those would be the few tips I would have. What do you think Max? 

Max: Well, I think I've got some work to do. I certainly haven't communicated enough on safety and health, internally. I'm a bit of a Maverick myself and I have not been very precautious. I hope I didn't offend too many people. I certainly think that's, you know, personal health and safety is mostly a personal responsibility. But obviously the world is changing faster than I am. And I think your rights, employers would be well advised to follow your tips on that one.

And of course to continue to invest in the employees, invest in your culture, all strong themes. So, well thank you very much, Dr. Hanold for spending a little bit of time with us. 

Susan: I have enjoyed it!

Max:  Thank you! How do people get in touch with you? 

Susan:  Sure, they can connect with me on LinkedIn, Susan Hanold, or through Twitter app, Susan Hanold. And happy to be a resource to anybody if they've got any follow up questions, Max. 

Max: Fantastic. Well, I hope we reconnect, sometime next year under a new world! And, well, have fun today. I think today is election day. So I'll be watching the results at the American club here in Hong Kong, a few hours from now.

Susan:  It's going to be a long night!

Max: Entertaining for sure!

Susan: Yes. Well, thank you so much, Max. 

Max: All right. Bye-bye.

That was Dr. Susan Hanold, from ADP and their strategic advisory group. Lots to unpack in this interview. Lots of great tips, notably, how do we adjust our messaging in 2020 and next year around the employee culture? And how does it take care of safety and employees first? I hope you enjoyed it. And that you'll come back for more. Subscribe to the recruitment hackers podcast, and please share.

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