NCR’s Mary Kynkor has her own theory of evolution: In the pursuit of workplace talent, it never stops.
By Katie Kuehner-Hebert
There’s one word that best describes Mary Kynkor as she’s worked to transform the talent management practices at each of the companies that have employed her: re-engineering.
Indeed, Kynkor believes it’s imperative that virtually all companies seriously revisit the methods they use to train and develop employees in an increasingly technology-driven—and competitive—marketplace.
“Companies have to make sure that their people are always evolving to keep up with changes in technology and processes, changes that are moving at a pace none of us have seen in our lifetimes,” says Kynkor, now vice president of talent management in the New York office of NCR Corp.
For NCR, re-engineering employee training and development to keep pace with technology changes has been critical. Once known as National Cash Register Co., the Duluth, GA-based equipment manufacturer and service provider has vastly expanded its product offerings to include bank automated teller machines, self-service registers at grocery stores, and self-service check-in kiosks at airports and medical offices.
Kynkor actually began practicing talent management long before entering the human resources field.
After graduating in 1981 from Marietta College in Ohio with a degree in business management and accounting, Kynkor became a claims representative for Progressive Insurance in Cleveland. In time, she was promoted to a regional claims manager, and was able to participate in Progressive’s “Breaking New Ground” campaign—or, as Kynkor explains it, the insurer’s “transformation
” of its culture and processes to improve customer service and quality management.
Part of that transformation entailed automating much of the company’s claims process, including the advent of an “immediate response” claims service, which, during Kynkor’s tenure, cut the initial claims response from 48 hours to 24 hours. (It has since been cut to just several hours).
While Kynkor was still on the business side and not in human relations, Progressive’s drive to improve its internal operations led to enhanced development of its employees, and Kynkor began to manage the training of claims representatives.
“That was really the key in terms of my career and moving from a business perspective into organizational development and training,” Kynkor says. “ ‘Breaking New Ground’ was responsible for the retraining of leaders on how to better manage and train teams . . . in order to get better customer service and total quality.”
In 1993, Kynkor went to work as head of field claims representatives for one of Progressive’s competitors, Leaders National, then a subsidiary of American Financial Group. In that role, she was also instrumental in helping to re-engineer the firm’s field, call center, and back office technology processes to improve customer service, much in the same way as she had done at Progressive. The endeavor worked out so well that she was charged with also re-engineering the processes related to Leader National’s sales organization, which led to her promotion to assistant vice president.
Kynkor formally entered the HR field in 1999, when she took the position of director of organizational development and learning at Diebold Inc. The work led to her desire to obtain a more formal education in the field, and in 2002 Kynkor took a hiatus and entered the master’s program in organizational development at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland. While in school, she also performed consulting work on employee engagement and development strategies for Spherion, a human capital consultant company.
After receiving a masters of science in 2003, Kynkor was hired the next year as head of recruitment for Timken Co., a manufacturer of bearings and other equipment components in Canton, Ohio.
“They really didn’t have a recruitment strategy, so in a lot of respects, it was also organizational development, because we really had to build a global recruitment organization from the ground up,” Kynkor says.
In 2006, Kynkor followed her mentor at the time, Leigh Anne Baker, and left for Reynolds and Reynolds Co., a Dayton-based company that develops software for automobile dealers. Kynkor took the position of head of organizational development. (Baker is now chief human resources officer for Hertz Corp.)
“Reynolds did some fascinating things in a very short period of time,” Kynkor recalls. “The company re-engineered its performance management processes to be better aligned with what the CEO was trying to accomplish in terms of the performance goals and competencies.”
The endeavor entailed implementing a completely new performance management system, which included adopting new technologies, she says. Later that year Reynolds sold itself to Universal Computer Systems Inc., and Kynkor left for Western Southern Financial Group in Cincinnati, as assistant vice president of human resources. But she soon advanced in her career by taking the director of talent management position at NCR in 2008.
“At the time I was really brought on to address recruitment, as NCR recognized that recruiting talent was as important as developing talent,” Kynkor says.
Last June, NCR contracted with recruitment outsourcer The Right Thing (TRT) in Findlay, Ohio. The firm’s first duty was to help recruit professionals—sales, service support, information technology officers—to staff NCR’s new headquarters in Duluth, after moving from Dayton. Now TRT is charged with recruiting “customer engineers” who service the firm’s equipment at customer sites.
“The advantage of outsourcing is that it provides us with the scale and efficiency that we need, and The Right Thing has great capabilities in recruitment support and technology,” Kynkor says.
Kynkor wasn’t sure the quick integration between the outsourcer’s team and NCR’s hiring managers would work out so well, but she says she was pleasantly surprised that it took only six weeks to get the recruitment processes up and running, with no interruptions in business continuity.
“Another challenge was ensuring that TRT was bringing people into the organization who were aligned with our culture and had the level of competency that we were trying to build within the company,” Kynkor says. “So we put together a very robust change management plan, training our own managers in how working with TRT’s recruiters fit into the larger picture of HQ transition. We had regular meetings to make sure the partnership between the hiring efforts and TRT’s recruiters were really a team effort, and we monitored their work every week to make sure everyone was in lockstep.”
NCR only outsources with TRT for the recruitment of its customer engineers, as the widespread force represents the bulk of its employee base. (NCR only outsources this function within its markets in the Americas, and uses internal global recruitment teams to find engineers for its markets overseas. The company conducts business in more than 100 countries).
However, NCR continues to recruit in-house for the rest of its positions. While Kynkor would not disclose, for competitive reasons, which types of positions were currently in demand, she says that social networking is becoming an increasingly important tool in finding the right candidates for much of its positions. “It’s being able to connect with people and dialogue with them even before you know you have a recruitment need,” she says.
The company is currently exploring whether to outsource some of its talent development practices, particularly with providers who have the capability of delivering alternative learning methods such as “mobile learning” with the use of PDAs, i-Pads, and i-Phones.
“We’re trying to create a very agile organization—if an engineer needs to learn something new about repairing a modular ATM and he’s onsite, he can simply call it up on a PDA, versus thumbing though binders trying to find solutions,” Kynkor says. “That also provides a better level of customer service.”
Employees, themselves, are actually demanding more learning opportunities from their employers, she says. “They want to grow and develop, and they want to understand how they can make a difference within their organization,” Kynkor says. “For young people in particular, they grew up thinking that information should be at their fingertips, but for all generations, there is an inherent desire to continue to learn and grow.”