With a focus on infrastructure and branding, Leigh McCluskeyÂ developed Advisor Groupâs best-in-class talent acquisition function.
By Marta Chmielowicz
Imagine joining a billion-dollar organization left without aÂ talent acquisition department after being sold off from itsÂ parent companyâwith only five months to get one established.Â That was the predicament that Leigh McCluskey found herself inÂ on her first day as vice president of talent acquisition at AdvisorÂ Group.
âLiterally, we had nothingâno system, processes, recruiters,Â vendors under contract, and only three members on the HRÂ team,â she says. âThe executive leadership team was not yetÂ fully hired, and we had no brand recognition. All technologyÂ support was through a transition services agreement withÂ the former owner, so we werenât the priority and we had toÂ negotiate and procure vendors for any and all service providersÂ needed to support TA.â
That was in September 2016 and now, only three yearsÂ later, Advisor Group is recognized for its best-in-class talentÂ acquisition function, with McCluskey winning HRO Todayâs 2019Â Talent Acquisition Leader of the Year Award for Enterprise.
How did McCluskey transform the newly independent AdvisorÂ Groupâs talent acquisition department so significantly with soÂ few resources and no existing processes in place?
She says the key was creating a multi-year strategy alongside aÂ detailed quarterly project plan. This way, the organization couldÂ better sequence a plan of attack that maximized impact andÂ minimized timelines and costsâall while keeping an eye on day-to-day challenges. Using this system, McClusky set four mainÂ priorities for the first two years:
- Procuring vendors
- Strategic process management
- System optimization
- Talent branding
Phase One: Infrastructure
The largest obstacle that McCluskey had to tackle in herÂ first year was the lack of HR systems. âMost of the first yearÂ was spent contracting with providers for services, includingÂ relocation, background checks, outsourcing, employmentÂ verification, executive search, and sourcing; process evolution;Â and Workday,â she says.
McCluskey says that implementing a Workday-based recruitmentÂ platform was key to Advisor Groupâs talent acquisition strategy.Â The platform allowed the company to automate its messaging,Â notifications, and checklists in order to deliver an efficient andÂ consistent recruitment experience for both hiring managers andÂ applicants. To improve the process even more, customized toolsÂ including resource decision guides, behavioral and values-basedÂ interview guides, intake worksheets, and interviewing scriptsÂ were delivered to over 70 percent of managers.
These processes and technologies were adopted with simplicityÂ and optimization in mindâeasy enough to encourage managerÂ self-service and recruiter-friendly to allow for speed and a high-qualityÂ candidate experience.
âWe designed the candidate application to be the absoluteÂ minimal compliant number of clicks and required fieldsÂ possible,â McCluskey explains. âWe wanted the candidateÂ to be able to click a few times and attach a resume from aÂ mobile device to apply. Weâve also leveraged automated tasks,Â notifications, and reporting to optimize Workday throughout allÂ of our employment processes.â
McCluskey was a team player throughout the transformationÂ and worked alongside her recruiters every step of the way toÂ ensure that reporting, offer letter creation, the backgroundÂ check process, and candidate communication all ran smoothly.
âAlthough my style has always been one of player-coach, I hadÂ not actually done every part of every process in a long time,âÂ she says. âThis experience definitely supported our processÂ design to minimize administrative burden and non-value addingÂ steps.â
For example, McCluskeyâs hands-on approach led to a uniqueÂ partnership between TA and HR business leaders. Rather thanÂ taking on the entire hiring cycle, recruiters hand the batonÂ to the HR business partners after selection, allowing HR andÂ payroll to manage the offer process before turning it back to TAÂ for onboarding. This has resulted in improved cycle times andÂ offer acceptance rates.
The integrated recruitment process also helped build TAâsÂ credibility with the leadership team, paving the way for all thatÂ followed.
Phase Two: Branding
With the necessary talent infrastructure in place, McCluskeyâsÂ priorities shifted to creating a brand strategy and candidateÂ experience that would put the company on the map. Previously,Â Advisor Group had no name recognition, but McCluskeyâsÂ efforts increased reach and brand awareness, filling the talentÂ pipeline with quality prospects.
âWe launched multiple branding initiatives and platformsÂ in year two and focused more holistically on candidate andÂ hiring leader experience,â explains McCluskey. âWe also spentÂ a lot of time on recruitmentâthe ins and outs of cycle times,Â communications, hiring leader training, and sourcing talent.Â Many of the prioritization decisions were made based uponÂ what could deliver the best talent to the business in the shortestÂ timeframe and highest value contribution review.â
To create an authentic view into the organization, McCluskeyÂ drove a branding campaign that focused on the employee story.Â The main tenets of the âBe a part of the team behind ourÂ successâ campaign included launching an external career site,Â revamping the organizationâs Glassdoor and LinkedIn pages,Â and focusing on employee referrals inside the company.
To this end, Advisor Group released 23 videos of employeesÂ describing their career journeys and current roles, first internallyÂ in a drip campaign to stimulate employee referrals and thenÂ externally across social media platforms. The strategy aimedÂ to constantly reinforce the company values while engagingÂ employees and encouraging them to share, like, and followÂ branded content.
âAll hiring and onboarding-related content for candidates andÂ managers reflected the new campaign and company values,Â and the employee story was front and center on the critical fewÂ platforms,â she says. âInternal branding and external platformsÂ with employee messages and reviews were prioritized over paidÂ advertising for the launch of the brand.â
And the strategy has been highly successful:
- Over 90 percent of external positions were filled through in-houseÂ recruiters.
- The organizationâs LinkedIn following and engagement grewÂ by over 50 percent.
- External applications for job openings doubled year-over-year.
- Advisor Groupâs Glassdoor ratings jumped from 2.6 to 4.4 inÂ just one year.