AlliedBarton: Winner of 2007 Department of the Year Award (12 or more department employees), 2008 Award for Excellence in Leadership Development and 2009 Award for Excellence in Talent Acquisition

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AlliedBarton: Winner of 2007 Department of the Year Award (12 or more department employees), 2008 Award for Excellence in Leadership Development and 2009 Award for Excellence in Talent Acquisition

HR Best Practices: Profiles of winners of Human Resources Department of the Year Awards

AlliedBarton Security Services, headquartered in Conshohocken, PA is the largest American-owned contract security company in the United States. They have been providing quality security services and highly trained personnel since 1957 to clients in a number of industry sectors, including commercial real estate, higher education, healthcare, residential communities, manufacturing and industrial, financial institutions, shopping centers and other commercial facilities.

Today, with over 50 years of experience in the contract security industry, AlliedBarton’s over 50,000 employees and 100 offices nationwide service a client base that includes more than 200 Fortune 500 companies across the country. Through their combined base of talent and personnel, AlliedBarton brings unmatched resources, expertise and knowledge to customers’ security programs. Selected as one of Training Magazine’s “Top 125” five years in a row for training excellence, AlliedBarton’s award-winning training programs focus on preparing employees to be professional and accountable in a variety of situations and primed for future career development.

Scott Rosen met with Jim Gillece in February to discuss how AlliedBarton won the 2007 Department of the Year Award (12 or more department employees), 2008 Award for Excellence in Leadership Development and, most recently, the 2009 Award for Excellence in Talent Acquisition under his supervision.

Gillece has deep roots in Philadelphia. He has a bachelor’s from LaSalle University, an MBA from St. Joe’s University in pharmaceutical marketing and completed post-graduate work at Yale University in leadership and team effectiveness. He started his career in Philadelphia as a pharmaceutical sales representative for Pfizer; and continued his career there for over 17 years. In July 2006, he joined the AlliedBarton team as Vice President of Learning & Development, a role he had for six months before moving into his current position as Chief People Officer, Senior Vice President, Human Capital Management.

Gillece joined AlliedBarton at a time right after a quick, large growth. They had outdated processes that did not match their new company. Within Gillece’s first year, they won the 2007 HR Department of the Year Award.

Gillece would not call himself a workaholic, just someone with an intense focus. “You have one shot to make a first impression and so we had very ambitious goals for the first year.” In that first year he was at the helm, they created the Leadership Boot Camp; introduced an online performance management; created a new talent plan in process; and began succession planning.

“Mark Spool and Ed Dunne were the two judges, and after our presentation they said well, we just want to clarify what was actually done over the last year and we said all of it.”

“One of the reasons for my role is to have a coordinated approach to human capital management. We had recruiting doing something in a silo, HR in a silo, training in a silo, to bring those three pillars together in a coordinated approach to execute on business priorities. It was a significant turnaround. I also viewed it as a startup. There is a wide open canvas to be able as a practitioner to…for example, performance management; there might have been 5% of the manager’s complaints with performance management process in the organization. They were done paper wise and when they got sent into corporate they were in some drawer somewhere. So to translate that to a webified performance management process that then correlated to a pay per performance system, then correlates to individual development plans that correlates to succession planning that correlates to leadership development, sort of weaving that whole process together has been an evolution for us.”

There was some skepticism to Gillece’s plan, as with any plan that you cannot foresee the immediate results, but his team saw the changes through.

“I think early on we really had to earn credibility within the organization and then I think our senior leadership, especially Bill Whitmore, our CEO, has a very sophisticated view on what he thought was needed. He also knew that our thought process and what we have done in the past, which got us to this level that probably wouldn’t get us to the next level in that it delays the focus on developing our people and developing people in this company needed to change our higher focus level.”

Early on, the HR team’s mission was to resolve a significant turnover at a manager level in the organization. They had about a 30% plus turnover–both attrition and realignments–in account managers. These were the people who communicated directly with clients, so they had a direct impact on the staff turning over at a client. This was an obvious issue and an opportunity to make change. AlliedBarton won the ASTD Best Practice for leadership development, the national best practice for an intervention that they did called Leadership Boot Camp.

“What we did was we brought the account managers’ supervisors in and we taught them employee engagement skills. It was a three and a half day intervention. Over the period of six months, we reduced their account manager turnover from thirty percent to eighteen percent. As important, our client retention increased and for every percentage point that goes up, that means millions of dollars to the organization.”

“I think one of the things we’re fortunate, at least from the executive level and our great CEO, all the lights were green. From an execution standpoint when you have senior leadership buy in, you have a business need from an HR leadership standpoint, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t just put your foot on the gas.”

Gillece and his team did not know if they won the Award or not when they attended the event that evening. “We tried to make it a fun night whether we were going to win or lose. We really had no indication, we really had no clue.” They booked a table at the event for their team.

Jim told Scott, “We got there and Mark goes ‘Hey do you guys mind if we sit with you?’ Then, we had a table that was right in a good, nice spot so we were kind of giggling. We had a little conspiracy theory going on like that’s odd that he would sit with us and if they announced that we were the loser, would he want to be sitting with us.”

“I think winning an award like this obviously sends a message but word like that extends beyond these four walls. It means that much to us in organizational announcements created out to the company.” He continues with a true story of the reach of the win. “There was a CEO of a company that we service that was in the room. So there’s some very interesting…that gets back to some of our clients in the room, they come across some of our employees and did you know at the most recent one, a woman came up to me and said that her husband is a security officer for our company and I loved your speech. There’s many different ways that you hear it touches people. I get surprised at how many times that happens. I got invited to speak at the Philly SHRM meeting.”

In 2008, AlliedBarton won the Award for Excellence in Leadership Development. Gillece, as well as most of the executives at AlliedBarton, had read Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood’s book, The Leadership Code. From the book, Gillece and his team were able to develop best practices on how to identify leadership behaviors at all levels through strategic thinking. Strategic thinking looks very different at the C-suite than it does at the manager level. You need to clearly define what the expectations and how it translates to the customers.

“Over the last few years we’ve done, I think, a very good job at translating expectations at each level in the organization from executive to senior leader to manager to manager to the individual contributor, defining these are the core common and critical leadership behaviors and this is what it looks like at your level and what it’s been able to do is if you’re a manager and you’re saying why am I not getting promoted, it’s very clear to say that you’re not necessarily acting or behaving or exhibiting this above you and potentially you’re saying well, you actually are acting and thinking like this below you.”

In 2009, they won the Award for Excellence in Talent Acquisition.

“We had some work to do to be considered, I think, at the level that I wanted that group to be at. Working with the leadership of that particular group, one validation of the work beyond the most important, are clients within the company through our corporate surveys here. My expectation is that we’ll see those numbers dance but also it would be really interesting to get some external recognition as being a world-class recruiting organization. In addition to this award, we won the OnRec, on-line recruiting award which is a national award, in 2009. That’s for recent innovations using Twitter, Jigsaw, Facebook, Linkedin. I put a premium on this group about leveraging technology from a recruiting perspective. It was really exciting to win a technology award around that and then also certainly the validation from [the HR Department of the Year Awards].”

“I don’t know if they’re magical but we really started to utilize predictability analysis so as we continue to get significantly more individuals applying for positions, we really spent the time to identify what are the skills, behaviors and attributes that we want to have, more focused on behaviors that we’d want those individuals to have.”

For example, people ask security guards a battery of questions, most of which have nothing to do with safety and security. People want to know where the restrooms are or where to get the best slice of pizza in the area surrounding the building.

“Those questions are more commonly asked of our security officers than, ‘Hey if we get hit by a plane, what exit do I go to?’ So we like to say that we major in customer service and minor insecurity. Understanding for each position in this company from a recruiting perspective, what are those pieces that make up the attraction of that individual?

“When we secure a hospital or hospital system, that’s a different skill set than maybe protecting the Comcast Center. What would I mean by that? You would want to look for a security officer that has great empathy skills, that was patient, that would be able to communicate while your son with the broken arm from the basketball game is waiting two hours while there was an accident on Route 70 and sorry, Mr. Rosen, that’s why you have to wait a little bit extra and say it in a very empathetic way because patient satisfaction is something that’s driving compensation to the hospital. So we’re part of their office now and we’re part of their patient satisfaction and we want to make sure that those individuals have the premium skills.”

Understanding the true needs of a client, outside the main function, is extremely important in keeping that client and being known as a company if its field who understands its customers and its employees.

“If you’re going to be competitive and you’re going to be in a competitive market, you want to be compared to the best. Philadelphia has some world class companies based in Philadelphia. I think in many of these things that we do, they’re somewhat aspirational that we want to have confirmation from a third party source to say, hey, what you’re doing is interesting and then also the expertise that you have as far as judges to be able to say, hey, if we didn’t win say I think you got some work to do in this particular area of your business or of your shop. So it is a conscientious strategy because having these awards begin to differentiate us from our competitors which the security market is an extremely competitive market.”

“For this particular award, at least when I came here, I know that it had a great reputation that it wasn’t just a check the box, that there was a significant process involved in it.” As part of the Awards’ lifecycle, winners of the Department of the Year Award are invited to be judges the following year(s) after their win. Jim has been judging for two years, so he has seen both sides of the judging process.

“The types of questions that a judge asks, sometimes it will catch you, because you haven’t asked that question of yourself or your group. I find that to be very valuable. Just the process alone, for me, can be enlightening because they’re asking you questions that you haven’t necessarily thought about and I find it to be really healthy.”

Actual application answer
Please tell us why your team is exceptional and should win the Award for Excellence in Talent Acquisition.

Our Team continually strives for success every day. We constantly hold our hands up high when business challenges arise. Our Team enjoys the opportunity to prove ourselves as a valued business partner through our dedication to teamwork, innovation, delivered results and leveraging resources. It is clear that in 2009 our Talent and Acquisition team played an integral role in helping AlliedBarton achieve business results. Our processes and innovations have received national recognition through awards and accolades in such industry publications as HR Executive Magazine’s “Best HR Ideas for 2009” for our work with the Talent Lifecycle Value.

Our Talent team exemplifies the word teamwork. Most of our team works remotely and in remote places from the Corporate office. While this physical distance would be a challenge to most teams, our Talent group has capitalized on their situation. The Team holds regular meetings via phone and web based working sessions. They have capitalized on their physical locations by utilizing the resources they have available to them in their respective regions. This has helped the group source from a more diverse setting based on local relationships and market knowledge. Having members in different areas of the country has helped us to provide valuable insight to hiring managers who may be looking in unfamiliar areas. We are able to custom tailor searches based on local economic conditions and labor markets.

Our business partners have also been excited to see the new innovations that we have brought the sourcing function. Over the past several years we have been able to expose our Leaders to new developing technologies and processes that help provide them with results. Innovations to sourcing and selection have helped us solidify our place as a business partner who understands their needs and requirements when sourcing employees. We work with the hiring manager to develop the appropriate sourcing strategy using social networking sites, internet job boards and other new and exciting erecruiting tactics.

When we identify and take ownership of a challenge our Team has delivered results. The most recent instance as noted above with the new Business Development Manager (BDM) sourcing and selection process has delivered profound results and our Leaders have taken notice. Preliminary analysis has shown that our influence on the process has contributed directly to business results. By working with our Leaders to develop and execute the right hiring strategy we have been able to bring top talent to our organization. These new hires have proven to be valuable assets in their short tenure by demonstrating a marked increase in activities relating to proposals and bookings leading to a positive contribution to the bottom line.

Resources are a constant challenge for our Team. Proportionally, the Corporate Talent team is quite small considering the needs of those we service. We have become adept at leveraging our resources in order to meet the business needs. In many cases we train employees in other disciplines in order to increase our reach. For instance, we train and employ local District office staff in the interview process in order to accommodate interview panel structure.

As noted above we have proven to be a successful business partner that can bring results to the Organization. We continue to develop and refine our skills in order to extract the most out of our people. Challenges such as those noted above have been not only met but exceeded by our group of hard working teammates. Each member has a personal sense of responsibility toward contributing to the success of the business. It’s for these reasons stated above that we feel the Talent team is deserving of this year’s HR Department of the Year.

© 2010, The Rosen Group Newsletter. Reprinted with permission by The Rosen Group, specializing in Human Resources Solutions and HR Staffing.