Four key principles guide talent acquisition at Fresenius Medical Care North America.
By Marta Chmielowicz
When Greg Pardo joined Fresenius Medical Care North America as its vice president of talent acquisition, the TA function was unfocused and overworked. Although the department was rolling out three to five major programs and hiring 17,000 associates a year, there was little focus on impact or alignment with broader business goals.
And the lack of vision was affecting the organization’s hiring outcomes:
- Ninety-day retention was extremely low.
- Involuntary turnover was high compared to the competition.
- Cost of turnover was conservatively $20,000 per hire.
- TA was perceived to be more focused on speed than fit and quality.
- Recruitment marketing tactics were not strategic.
- The organization lacked a true employer value proposition.
One thing was clear: Fresenius’ talent acquisition function was in need of transformation. “We knew that if we could improve the selection process, be more quality-focused, and apply new strategies, tactics, as well as rigor and discipline with how we executed, we could give the organization the best possible chance to retain the talent we were hiring into the company,” Pardo says.
The new vice president approached the problem by leading a listening tour of the organization. Rather than relying only on executive leadership, Pardo spoke with talent acquisition professionals at all levels, high-volume hiring managers, HR business partners, and key business leaders to understand their talent pressure points and the overall perception of the TA function.
The listening tour revealed a need to institute greater rigor and discipline in the hiring process by developing a consistent framework that could be applied to each of the company’s 23,000 annual hires, as well as adopting tools and techniques to enable the selection of best-fit candidates.
He supplemented this feedback with data, leveraging metrics like time to fill, number of hires, hiring manager satisfaction, candidate satisfaction, and industry benchmarks to identify opportunities and develop a business case for change.
The result? Pardo developed an entirely new talent acquisition model based on four basic principles:
- “Be Strategic”
- “Be Inclusive”
- “Be Innovative”
- “Be Agile”
These four principles form the core of the organization’s “Strategic Talent Acquisition Realignment and Transformation” initiative or START—a three-year journey to align talent acquisition with broader company goals and increase its impact. Adopting these values allowed the Fresenius recruitment team to focus their attention on what really mattered: delivering the right talent to the right place at the right time.
The four principles then informed the delivery model for how the talent acquisition team would get work done. “I developed these principles by thinking about the transformation needed to go from ‘supertanker’ to ‘speed yacht’—what values and behaviors would we need to adopt in order to change—and then crystalized those four broad principles into six specific delivery model buckets,” Pardo says.
Based on the organization’s guiding principles, the team committed to a delivery model that pledged a talent acquisition function that was:
- aligned to business strategy (“Be Strategic”);
- candidate-centric (“Be Strategic”);
- holistically deployed (“Be All Inclusive”);
- technology-enabled (“Be Innovative”);
- scalable (“Be Agile”); and
- efficient (“Be Agile”).
Rather than spreading themselves thin to support the entire organization, Pardo’s plan gave the TA team a comprehensive framework to tackle specific problems with data-driven, strategic, technology-enabled solutions.
But the road to transformation is not always easy, and Pardo encountered significant pushback. “Obviously not everyone adapts to change at the same speed,” he says. “We had a lot of very seasoned, experienced healthcare recruiters who felt that they knew how to do their jobs, and they wanted a lot of freedom and autonomy in terms of how they were going through the recruiting process. Our opportunity was to get them to embrace a more standardized, uniform, rigorous, and disciplined way of recruiting.”
Pardo had to convince these resistant leaders that the new approach would produce better outcomes, but this was difficult to demonstrate with data in the early stages of the program. He was forced to stand strong against the headwinds, trusting the premise that improvements in hire quality and fit would lead to better retention.
Once Pardo was able to secure leadership buy-in and align the goals of talent acquisition with the expectations of company leaders, he used the new guiding principles and delivery model to map projects, driving initiatives such as:
- creating a new employer value proposition;
- revamping recruitment marketing efforts with a new career site and social media strategy;
- developing a technology-enabled, branded employee referral program, which increased referrals from 11 percent to 32 percent in three years;
- rolling out an MSP program for contingent workers;
- adopting predictive analytics behavioral assessment tools for high-volume positions; and
- adopting new CRM software and AI-enabled technology.
Also on the agenda? To improve quality of hire and reduce turnover, Pardo implemented data-based, behavioral interviewing for high-volume, patient-facing, and customer-facing positions. Adherence to behavioral assessments was made mandatory and best practices were outlined in a recruiter “playbook” that served as a guideline of the hiring process. A custom-built recruiter training curriculum and the development of quality-focused recruiter key performance indicators further supported these efforts.
These programs impacted a team of over 200 recruiters, driving significant improvements throughout the recruitment process. But Pardo’s impact extends beyond these outcomes: His organization’s talent acquisition function is now more methodical, purpose-driven, and impactful than ever before, earning him HRO Today’s 2019 Talent Acquisition Leader of the Year Award for Innovation.