Multi-process HRSourcing

CEOs Who Understand What Really Matters

These two HRO CEOs offer winning visions and selfless dedication to their colleagues and customers

by Jay Whitehead

It was before 5:00 a.m., Tuesday, June 21, in Zurich, Switzerland, when Jerome Caille, CEO of $23 billion Adecco Group heard that SwissAir cancelled his dawn flight to Brussels.

In five hours, the 37-year-old global staffing, recruiting, and consulting firm chief executive was due to speak and attend an all-day gathering of 100 VIPs 60 of Adeccos largest customers and 40 country managers and global marketing executives. This meeting would help Caille understand the biggest trend in his field in 20 years: HRO. For Caille, being absent was not an option.

No other scheduled flights would get Caille to Brussels in time. All the trains would arrive too late. Driving would take too long. So Caille did what CEOs of big companies can do. He hired a jet.

Sure, private planes are pricey. But Caille understood that, for leaders, one thing matters more than money: his time and attention. After all, Caille had built his 14-year career at Adecco by being 100 percent present.

In the past few years, Caille has built Adecco from an unknown staffing company in Spain to the undisputed leader in the region. He did the same in Italy, growing from zero to 500 offices in the course of three years.

Caille knows what makes a difference. His biggest customers the people who pay himmean more than a few thousand Euros for the one-hour airplane trip. His teamthe people who acquire the clientsmeans more than the airfare. Understanding new market forcesespecially a first-hand look at this new HRO phenomenonmeans more than a slightly larger expense report.

Caille arrived at the Sofitel Hotel Brussels Airport at 10:05 a.m., just as his guests took their seats. Almost nobody knew about Cailles airplane adventure. All that mattered was that he was therelearning alongside customers and colleagues, acknowledging their good judgment at having picked Adecco as a vendor or as a place to spend their careers. And he knew the story in each attendees head: The CEO thinks I am so important that he wants to spend all day with me. Why has Adecco outperformed competitors such as Manpower this year? My guess: Caille is why.

In todays Sarbanes-Oxley-cursed, liability-mad business world, it is really tough to find a good board of directors. After all, directors now get stuck when CEOs throw $2,000,000 birthday parties or purchase $6,000 shower curtains with shareholder money.

Yet somehow, Peter Hart, CEO of employee recognition leader Rideau, Inc., has assembled a board that blue-chip CEOs would kill for. Harts board includes former Chairman of Cartier Ralph Destino, Chief Executive of Canada Post (the Canadian post office) Gord Feeney, former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson, and former Prudential honcho Jeffrey Laikind, alongside executive management.

How is this possible for a tiny ($30 million Canadian) private HRO company headquartered in a one-story warehouse building in the industrial outskirts of Montreal? Is it the margins? (In the recognition business, they can be more than 50 percent, although they are often much lower.) Is it the volumes? (Accounts can be as large as $8 million each, although the big accounts are few and far between.) Is it the glamour? (No, the glory is on the client side they get to give out the employee awards.)

The truth is much more magical. Peter Harts secret is extreme-recognition. He knows that regular staff and executives alike produce their best results when their work is recognized often and powerfully. Peter respects his board intenselyhe copies them on every important e-mail, asks their advice weekly, and recognizes them when they help land businesswhich they do, often. Remarkably, he does the same with his 350 employees. He knows their names and speaks their languageboth French and English.

As a publisher, my talent lies in chronicling the present and predicting the future. My crystal ball says four things. Peter Harts extreme-recognition will: 1) keep his superstar board inspired enough to bring in a great deal of money, 2) attract more superstar talent, 3) lead his company to tripledigit, annual growth over the next three to five years, and 4) become a Harvard Business School case study that will make extreme-recognition a household phrase. About that case studyIll even volunteer to write it.

Tags: Multi-process HR, Sourcing

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