In school, Barth Yorke played well with others, and today Fifth Third Bank’s workforce is the beneficiary.
By Katie Kuehner-Hebert
Having been both a provider and a buyer of human resource outsourcing services, Barth Yorke has an unusual perspective on how both parties can overcome the differing assumptions in initial meetings that often lead to misunderstandings.
“Providers want a cookie-cutter approach so they can do it the quickest and cheapest way, and buyers want the Rolls Royce of customization,” says Yorke, now senior manager of HR systems and vendor management at Fifth Third Bank in Cincinnati.
The trick is for the buyer to take the time to thoroughly convey to the provider their company’s operations and culture, he says. For Fifth Third’s predominantly professional workforce that was already compatible with technology software for a variety of business processes, Yorke needed an HR self-service outsourcing solution for employees and managers that wasn’t “quick or cheap,” but had some customization that best met the bank’s needs. Convergys HR Services (now NorthgateArinso) could deliver.
“We came to a solution that was in everyone’s best interest—a 100 percent ad option rate versus exception processes,” Yorke says. That way, the vendor didn’t have to incorporate some of Fifth Third’s older systems and processes, or develop any “work around” manual processes.
Yorke’s career in the industry started around the same time that outsourcing began as a viable alternative for HR departments. After graduating in 2001 from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in humanities (he majored in Portuguese and minored in economics), Yorke took a business analyst position at Avaya. In this role, he helped the New Jersey-based telecommunications provider restructure its HR platform with SAP after Avaya spun off from Lucent Technologies.
“At that time, SAP had a significant number of customers—they just did not have a lot who fully utilized the ‘organization’ and ‘position’ management functionality,” Yorke says.
The “organization” functionality of SAP enables a company to construct and maintain a precise model of the company structure, which can better drive workflow and facilitate HR cost planning, compensation management, employee development, and recruitment.
The “position” functionality allows HR managers to develop comprehensive job descriptions for each position within the company and create connections between the different positions according to the company’s organizational structure.
Yorke was hired to work in Avaya’s offices in Brazil, and his Portuguese studies were a plus. Studying humanities has also helped him throughout his HR career, he says, albeit more indirectly.
“In my freshman year of college, I was intending to get a typical business degree because it seemed like a pretty safe approach,” he says. “But after my first year, I decided that I didn’t want to be standard or typical, so I broadened out to humanities.”
It was a natural fit for Yorke, as he has always viewed himself “very much a people person.”
“Ever since kindergarten, I had comments that I played well with others,” he quips. “I like interacting with other people, building relationships, understanding the importance of relationships, being able to expand my experiences by taking in mind other people’s opinions. So humanities is all about understanding people.”
Avaya’s integration of SAP’s technologies positioned the company to begin outsourcing some of its HR operations, and it choose to work with Convergys. Yorke oversaw the endeavor in Avaya’s Jacksonville, Fla. offices. His in-depth involvement in the engagement led Convergys in 2003 to offer him a job to oversee its next endeavor with Fifth Third.
After a three-year stint on the provider side with Convergys, Yorke went back to the buy side in April 2007 in the role of E-HR manager at Fifth Third. In August 2009, he was promoted to his current position. He now oversees vendor management of outsourced systems providers and also supervises additional HR operations, including recruitment and learning.
After Fifth Third’s initial HR outsourcing initiative with Convergys, Yorke has led several others. This includes the incorporation of SuccessFactors as Fifth Third’s performance and succession outsource provider; the vetting of Saba as the bank’s learning outsource provider; and most recently, an engagement with Kronos as the Fifth Third’s time and attendance outsource provider.
Yorke says he loves the constant challenge of improving HR operations to make them much more efficient—and effective—for both Fifth Third’s employees and managers. He also loves the opportunity to work with so many different people across the bank’s organizational structure.
“Being in operations, we provide support not only to all of the various HR departments, whether its recruiting, benefits or learning, but we’re also focused on the roles of management and employees—what are the tools and functions we can provide to them, so they find value in HR operations,” Yorke says. “It’s a great opportunity to interact with a variety of customers and not just be siloed.”
Yorke is very active in both the HR and outsourcing communities. He belongs to Human Resources IQ, an online community for finding HR information, discussing ideas about HR, and sharing HR best practices on topics such as training and learning, talent management, employee engagement, benefits and compensation, employment law, HR metrics and other human resources—related content such as business strategies.
Yorke also belongs to another online group, Talent Management Professionals, and is a member of the Ohio Valley Chaper of IHRIM, a global clearinghouse for the human resource information management (HRIM) industry.
In the outsourcing community, Yorke serves on the board of trustees for the north american chapter of Human Resource Outsourcing Association (HROA). Along with Cay Gliebe of NorthgateArinso, he is co-chair of the chapter’s HRO Buyers Group.
Participating companies of that group also include ConAgra Foods, E. W. Scripps, GE Healthcare, Florida Department of Management Services, Boston Scientific, Marriott International, American Airlines, AllState, Diageo, Bank of America, Best Buy, Kraft, Honeywell, Aviva, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Whirlpool Corporation, and Prudential.
The HRO Buyers Group was officially welcomed into the HROA during the September BeEmpowered event held in Atlanta. As part of the event, Yorke’s group launched the formation of a new Global HROA Buyers Special Interest Group (SIG), and discussed opportunities for global coordination and liaison with local buyers group activities across all areas of HROA, including the RPO Buyers Group and the HROA Europe Buyers Group, as well as other HROA SIGs, chapters, and committees.
Outsourcing has changed dramatically in the past 10 years, Yorke says.
“It was almost an experiment 10 years ago, where everyone was watching to see if it was successful or not, trying to find the right combination to make it successful,” Yorke says. “Today, it’s definitely a growing discipline, and not experimentation anymore—it’s a proven success.”
“Outsourcing is looked upon as a profession, and I would not be surprised if outsourcing became an educational field of study at major universities within the upcoming years,” he says.
As its most basic, outsourcing is the buyer’s ability to identify business strategies and the risks that are associated with those, and figure out how to mitigate those risks by leveraging an outsourcing partner who can deliver those to companies with expertise, he says. That way, a buyer can focus on core strategies.
“Within HR, payroll and accounting, we are able to leverage outsource providers, so we can move into things like talent management,” Yorke says. “Outsourcing is evolving from an experiment into a mature market, where there are true professionals who understand how outsourcing works, how to make it successful so that it can have an impact on business case and strategy.”