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KATIE SILLO: Ray, please tell us about your background and your role at IMPACT Group.
RAY HALAGERA: For the past 25 years, I’ve been involved in learning and career development, specifically as it applies to improving individual careers and the resulting productivity. I started out in leadership development at Psychological Associates, moved to Strategic Management Group, and then worked at Career Systems International before joining IMPACT Group.
IMPACT Group was founded in 1988. It started out as a spousal relocation company, providing services to employees, spouses, and their families as they were relocated throughout the world. We helped spouses and families acclimate to their new environment and offered career services to help spouses find jobs in their new location. At the same time, IMPACT Group began providing outplacement services aimed at helping employees find meaningful employment with the help of dedicated career coaching support. In 2008, IMPACT Group acquired Spherion’s outplacement business and quickly became a full-blown outplacement and global mobility organization. From there, we branched out into internal career development, working with employees who are gainfully employed and helping them identify their ideal career paths and what they need to do to become as proficient as possible in their current career positions. Today, IMPACT Group is positioned as a global career development firm, with capabilities in supporting employees in every aspect of their career. Throughout our consistent growth, one thing has remained steadfast—our mission to make an IMPACT one relationship at a time. As president, I run the company with an emphasis on our primary source of growth in internal career development. I keep all three legs of the company’s stool—career development, outplacement, and global mobility—balanced, leveraging from each leg in the process.
How has your leadership and operational experience in talent management helped in your role as president of IMPACT Group?
After 25 years of working in talent management, I’ve learned what not to do. My operational experience has proven to be extremely valuable for this role. I’ve learned what makes sense in the market. I’m a big believer in team culture, and professional service firms such as IMPACT Group are very dependent on how well the team functions. It’s not about how well I do or how well someone else within the organization does. It’s about all of us. I consider myself a leader/coach at the company rather than its president. The title is irrelevant.
How has the labor landscape changed over the years and how has it transformed talent development?
My career started in the ‘70s, and as I look back, I did not work in learning and development until ’88. Throughout the ‘70s and for the majority of the ‘80s, I worked in line management as a vice president for Strategic Planning, for a Fortune 500 company, and as a management consultant with A.T. Kearney. Back then, if you think about the gurus in those days, from Lee Iacocca to Chainsaw Dunlap, it was very much command and control. Today, it’s definitely switched from command and control hierarchies to organizations that are self-directed and emphasize creativity and innovation. If you told somebody in the mid-80s that their company needed a talent development process, that would have been a difficult sell. Back then, the attitude was that employees knew what they needed to do, so why did companies need to invest in them? Today, talent development is about fostering careers and commitment.
Social media has also changed the role of talent development. Today, so much of talent development is self-directed, and an inter-developed, inter-delivered process is evolving as well. Leadership places like the Center for Creative Leadership, DDI, and other learning development companies are being supplemented by social media. People are learning from each other.
How can employers and HR departments support this transformation, especially with different generations in the workplace?
Employers and HR can support the transformation by helping their employees understand the diversity between the generations and how to interact productively. I’m a boomer. I have experiences that are significantly different from a millennial who, in turn, is different from an Xer. Some companies still employ people from the so-called silent generation of WWII. We have four generations in the workplace and it’s a matter of respecting their differences. HR can also help people collaborate and use social media. It’s funny how some companies have policies against employees using social media when they are at the office. You’ve got to be kidding me. I was talking to a colleague this morning about Yahoo’s sudden directive that employees can no longer telecommute. That is so surprising from a company like Yahoo, whose soul is on the Internet, which is all about distance collaboration. Now they’re saying they will no longer honor telecommuting and employees all have to show up at the office? That is the exact opposite of how employers and HR should support this changing labor landscape. One of the biggest issues right now when it comes to talent development is trust. Because of the virtual world we now live in, and the belief that people are going to do the right thing, none of this will work if you don’t have trust to begin with.
What are some myths about effectively attracting and retaining employees?
The biggest myth is that attracting and retaining employees is all about money. I don’t care how many times you bring it up, in their heart of hearts, people still say it’s all about compensation. It’s not about money, it’s about opportunities. But that argument is made in the workplace because it’s the politically correct thing to say. If you’re leaving my company because I’m a jerk or the company culture is toxic, the last thing you want to do is say so. You’re smart enough and shrewd enough to know not to say something that will vastly jeopardize your opportunity to get a reference in the future. So the politically correct thing to say is, ‘I would love to continue working here but somebody else made me an offer and I couldn’t refuse it.’ That becomes a corporate lie that’s easily implemented and detracts from the real reason why people leave. A classic line from the book “War for Talent” from McKinsey & Co. is that people join companies, but people leave bosses. Employees need to see a future. If they are not being developed and do not see a solid career path in place, they will eventually look for greener pastures.
Managers are the true gatekeepers of a company’s culture and can make or break an employee experience. How can organizations incorporate managers and capabilities into their engagement strategy to retain employees?
If you flip it around and say people join companies, but people leave bosses, the way to address how organizations can retain employees is make managers ‘sticky managers’ that people want to stick to and work with. That involves making managers leaders and coaches as opposed to just managers. That’s the best way for an organization to enhance its capabilities and have an effective engagement strategy. Southwest Airlines is the poster child of engagement. Look at what they do. It’s all about the people; it’s all about leadership and coaching.
How can organizations make global mobility and global talent management more strategic?
Companies treat both more like transactional processes rather than taking a holistic approach. Most companies think global mobility and global talent management are all about providing global assignments to strengthen employee skills and competencies within the organization. That’s pretty one-sided. An organization might say to me, ‘Since our main operation outside of the United States is in London, we’re going to send you to London so you’re more well-rounded. Over the next two years, you’re going to work as the manager of marketing for our European operations and become a better employee for us.’ The problem with that mindset it that it’s just transactional. The process is more holistic than that. If I have a family, my family needs to be put into the equation. If I’m single, I have friends and relatives in the United States that I will be leaving. It’s not just the job, it’s the whole lifestyle that will change for me.
In addition, some companies then forget about their employees who just spent two years working overseas to improve their career and capabilities. Because IMPACT Group deals with spousal relocation, we hear many horror stories of people who come back to a company that isn’t ready to take them back. Or worse, employees become disillusioned when they come back because they can’t transition into a similar position that they had oversees and have less responsibility here than they did there. Many companies don’t think through all of these issues regarding global mobility. They need to make it more strategic and develop a holistic approach to succession planning and career development.
How can corporations minimize costs while also enhancing the value that comes from global mobility?
To minimize costs, you have to recognize what those costs are in the first place. To do this, first look at what the losses are. If you can eliminate or reduce the probabilities of a bad placement, you can reduce costs. Think about the efficiency that’s lost while an employee is on an assignment outside of their home office or their usual location. Not only is efficiency lost, but so are any opportunities that could have been secured if the employee had stayed where they wanted to be. You also need to consider relocation expenses. PriceWaterhouse has conducted studies that show that it costs a minimum of a million dollars to relocate an employee making $150,000 a year for an average of 2.5 years, which is the normal relocation time. When you consider the loss of productivity, the cost of actually moving the employee and their family, the opportunities that are lost while they are there and the opportunities back home that are taken up by somebody else, if the assignment goes sour, that’s a huge cost to the organization. You can minimize those costs by conducting assessments and making sure people understand what they need to do to be successful as an ex-pat working outside of the United States. They may discover that they are not ready for such a big change. It would be better for everyone to understand that on the front end and not make an investment that’s doomed to fail as opposed to making the investment and discovering a year and a half later that you’ve lost it.
What do you consider HR’s biggest challenge?
One of HR’s biggest challenges is showing that what it does has a bottom-line impact.
If I cannot demonstrate that my efforts have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line, then most managers don’t want to hear about them. There are too many things competing for their resources that they have an opportunity to invest in. When it comes to career development, talent development, and global mobility, if I don’t make the business case and show the return on investment that can be gained by doing those initiatives, then I am missing the boat and doing the company a disservice.
Ray Halagera joined IMPACT Group, a global human resources firm, as President in early 2012. Ray brings to IMPACT Group more than 20 years of leadership and operational experience in the HR/talent management arena. He possesses strong sales and operational abilities, and is a truly dynamic, hands-on leader. Ray’s vast business development and operational background, coupled with his strong talent management experience, is directly in alignment with IMPACT Group’s focus. As President, he oversees sales, marketing, account management, service delivery and finance, as well as manages the day-to-day operations and business development functions. Prior to joining IMPACT Group, Ray was Founder and Principal of The Profit Ability Group, Inc., where he assisted organizations in maximizing revenue growth and profitability through consulting, staffing, coaching, and customized training support. Before starting The Profit Ability Group, Inc., he was President and Chief Operating Officer at Career Systems International, a talent management organization, where he was instrumental in growing the firm five-fold. Ray has completed all-but-dissertation work on a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago, and a Bachelor of Science with Honors in Industrial Management from Purdue University.
Katheryn Sillo is a part of the Content and Programming team at Argyle Executive Forum. In this role, Katheryn works on content development and speaker recruitment for events, specializing in the Human Resources space. Additionally, Katheryn oversees the content platform, Argyle Journal. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in journalism and minor in political science from Fairfield University, where she was captain of the Division I Rowing Team and on the executive cabinet for the Fairfield University Student Association.