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HR Leader, Terry Schuler

Podcast with HR strategies specialist, Terry Schuler

Terry Schuler, EVP, CHRO, East West BankTerry Schuler

"There are few functions in human resources that have more radically changed in the last 10 or 15 years than the talent acquisition one. "

Welcome to a Talent Acquisition Channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio. This is Peter Clayton reporting. I’m excited to be talking today with Terry Schuler, executive vice president and chief officer human resources at East West Bank, one of the largest independent commercial banks headquartered in California with over 130 locations worldwide, including the US markets of California, New York, Georgia, Massachusetts, Texas, and Washington.

Prior to joining East West Bank in 2010, Terry had a long and successful career at Avery Dennison Corporation for almost 30 years and was lastly senior vice president of HR and chief human resources officer until retiring from Avery in 2007. Terry is well known worldwide for his HR leadership on a global stage.

Terry Schuler, TotalPicture Radio Transcript

Welcome to a special Talent Acquisition Channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio from Riviera Advisors 10th anniversary celebration in beautiful Long Beach, California. Riviera Advisors is a premier global human resources consulting firm that helps organizations worldwide improve their internal recruiting and staffing capabilities. Visit rivieraadvisors.com/podcasts to access all of our interviews with HR and talent acquisition leaders recorded at the 10th anniversary celebration as well as many thought leaders in HR and recruiting, recorded at IACPR, SHRM, ERE and other high profile conferences and events.

Peter: Terry, thank you for joining us today on TotalPicture Radio. On your LinkedIn profile, you list your specialties as leadership assessment, coaching and development, executive team effectiveness, talent management systems, change management, restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, and HR strategies; and these are all areas of real interest to us here on TotalPicture Radio.

We met a couple of weeks ago at the Riviera Advisors 10th anniversary. If you would, can you reflect on the changes you’ve seen in talent acquisition over the past decade. How has talent acquisition and the function of talent acquisition evolved?

Terry: I think probably there are few functions in human resources that have more radically changed in the last 10 or 15 years than the talent acquisition one. Back before I would say, sometime in the middle ‘90s, we had a way of acquiring talent that hadn’t changed probably in years. We ran ads in newspapers, we used search firms, went to colleges, maybe got some referrals from employees, and that was about it. Lots and lots and lots of companies were highly dependent on literally thousands and thousands of small and large search firms to fill their professional and managerial jobs. It was difficult to apply. The companies, it was manual. It was difficult to find out information about openings in companies; it wasn’t easy to do. And then with the advent of the internet, everything changed. And so the whole way we go about talking about our companies, establishing our brand, making people aware of our opportunities, finding the right people for jobs is now so completely connected with the internet and our websites and our career boards and job sites and company pages. That’s really the core of how we do recruiting today.

Peter: How does the HR function differ working in financial services versus a large Fortune 100 manufacturing company like Avery Dennison?

Terry: Not a lot at the end of the day. We still employ and hire people, and the jobs are a little bit different – or a lot different I suppose. But the thing that you want to do in human resources in terms of hiring great people, creating an environment and having leaders that get them deeply engaged in the company and their work, building their skills, motivating them through reward systems and development and coaching and communications to do a great job, providing the best benefits we can at an affordable price, that’s all the same.

Peter: How about recruiting, Terry, are the challenges the same in financial services as they are for a company like Avery Dennison?

Terry: Yeah, pretty much. Avery is global and that adds lots of complexity, but the basic challenges are the same at the end of the day – how do we make our company one that people want to join; how do we best position ourselves; how do we find the best candidates and how do we assess them so that we hire people that are going to be successful over time, that our failure rate of new hires is low and that the percent of those that have promotional potential is high; and how do we bring them on board so that they can learn about the company quickly or culturally, rapidly become productive as fast as possible. Again, it’s all the same basic needs and requirements.

Peter: Terry, in your career you’ve worked as a consultant, as well as a chief human resources officer; I think you have a great perspective on working with and hiring outside consultants like Riviera Advisors to assist in talent acquisition strategies. From your perspective, what should HR leaders look for when evaluating consulting firms such as Riviera Advisors?

Terry: For me, I have a huge bias towards using consulting firms where their principals are people who have done the work, who have actually been in the field, worked for a company and know how to execute on the strategies and the programs and the tools that they are advocating we use.

One of the limitations of lifelong consultants is they’ve never had to deal with what I like to call ‘life after the deck.’ So they give the presentation, they walk away…

Peter: What a great expression. Hello, McKinsey!

Terry: Yeah, and assume that everything is going to be fine. Now, that’s not completely fair; there are a lot of lifelong consultants who are just truly, truly outstanding and I don’t mean to demean them in any way. There are many who have found ways to understand the reality of how hard it is to execute the things that are on a presentation deck.

Having said that, I personally have a bias for people who have had to walk in my shoes – or shoes like mine at least – and had to execute things, get the organization and leaders to use them, find ways to make them work, understand the importance of making things simple and practical, understand that managers are besieged by every functional department asking to do dozens of things.

I really have a huge bias for people who have lived that life and so when they’re talking to us about what they think we should do, they deal with that perspective.

Peter: That’s a really interesting point you’re bringing up, Terry. Because, obviously, when you know that that consultant you’re speaking with has been in your shoes and has had the challenges that you face, obviously you’re looking at them with a different lens.

Terry: Yup, and it’s also a little self-serving because when I was a consultant, that’s what I told everybody.

Peter: From your experience, what are some of the advantages in bringing in a consulting firm to help with talent acquisition and how do you justify the cost?

Terry: The cost is not the issue by any means in my view. Yeah, the biggest value of a consultant is that they can take you from a very low level of performance where you don’t really understand things very well, you don’t have much history or expertise in-house, and the time it would take to figure it all out yourself would be just ridiculous. It makes no sense whatsoever to try to do that. You certainly wouldn’t go out and try to make a car yourself. You’ve got to buy one from a car company. If you try to make a car yourself, think of how long it would take you to figure out how to do that even if you’re a mechanical genius, and the car that you would come up with would be pretty rudimentary, it would be my guess.

The same is true in HR or any other kind of consulting; great consultants bring lots and lots and lots of expertise and experience from working with many, many companies over a period of time. From being incredibly focused on this one specific thing, go to bed at night thinking about it, wake up in the morning thinking about it, and so they’re able to kick start and really speed up your time to dramatically improving your performance whether it be in talent acquisition or benefits administration, it doesn’t matter. The value, particularly in talent acquisition, that it brings in terms of reducing your cost per hire, increasing your speed of hire, and most importantly, increasing your quality hire is so huge that the consulting cost is literally a rounding error.

Peter: That’s really interesting. Looking at the big picture, Terry, what are some of the trends you’re seeing in talent acquisition and HR in 2011? What’s on your plate and what are you seeing are the challenges this year?

Terry: For East West Bank right now, talent acquisition is one of the most important things we do. The bank is transforming itself in many ways. We’re moving much more heavily into different areas of business than we have in the past. In order to do that, we need to bring in talent to the organization to help us build our business. Over time we want to do that less and build our own, but at this moment, that’s just not possible. So for me right now, as the head of human resources at East West Bank, talent acquisition is my first, second and third priority. I spend a huge amount of time on it. I think one of the real challenges in talent acquisition today is that people were really traumatized by the financial meltdown and by the Great Recession, and their willingness to change jobs has diminished. People are more cautious. They’re more careful. They ask tough questions. They’re less likely to move for a little bit more money or a slightly bigger job. And the best people have even more options today that they ever had on some level in a funny way. So, I think talent acquisition right now is very, very hard.

Peter: Sort of in that same perspective, Terry, and speaking about the financial meltdown, I mean so many people are upside down on their mortgages. So even if they were interested in an opportunity you might present them, if they’re living in Las Vegas they can’t move. Right?

Terry: I haven’t confronted a lot of that, just the nature of our company is we don’t have a huge need to relocate a lot of people and there’s enough resource locally for most of the jobs. That’s not been a big problem for us, but I’m certain it is a big problem.

Peter: We discussed in this interview that you think is important for people to know about the human resource and recruiting role today in organizations?

Terry: I think the human resource’s role today is in some ways more important than it’s ever been. The Great Recession and the financial meltdown really changed how people think about their lives and their careers and their companies. The companies that find ways to engage their employees, get them excited about the future, have a clear value proposition and strategies to achieve it, create a positive and dynamic working environment I think will be even in a stronger position than they were in the past. Obviously, that was always incredibly important.

I think given where we’ve come from, it’s even more important today. And then part it’s going to be easier because sadly lots of companies took advantage of that situation by deciding they really didn’t need to pay attention to their employees, that their employees were captives because they were terrified and just thankful to have a job every day. And sadly, lots of companies I think thought, well, why do we need to care about our employees right now. Not all, by any means. Those companies as the economy improves are going to be in big trouble because people have long memories, and even if they try to recover at that point by suddenly becoming more generous and more engaged with their employees, people remember how they were treated during those times.

So I think those companies are going to find themselves losing many, many, many, many of their best employees. The companies that didn’t do that or companies that more quickly after being traumatized realized they need to get back focus on their employees, I think will be the ones where the best people will be going to. No real change, it’s always been that way, but I think what we came through just exaggerated it.

Peter: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. And all you have to do is look at employee satisfaction scores.

Terry: Oh, yeah, it must be just awful.

Peter: Oh man, especially in financial services.

Terry: It’s got to be just brutal.

Peter: They fell off the cliff.

Terry: Yeah, that’s just brutal.

Peter: And as we know, the best are the easiest ones and the first ones to leave, right?

Terry: Yeah, absolutely.

Peter: Your best employees are the ones that have those opportunities that have people like you out there trying to recruit them and they’re the first ones to say, well, you know, I haven’t been treated very well here so I think maybe a new opportunity is in order.

Terry: Yup.

Peter: The other thing I find really fascinating about this is that you look at the transparency that exists today and how, especially young people are really interested in corporate social responsibility and really understanding what a company is all about and with things like Twitter and Facebook, it’s really easy to know what a company is all about.

Terry: You’re absolutely right. I’m glad you brought that up. There’s no way to hide anymore. And if you’re not doing the right things as a company, both ethically and from a business perspective, everybody that wants to know will know, and so… and in the end it’s great. It’s really great because it really helps everybody understand what the world’s about and what opportunities are and what a company is about. It makes companies face the reality sooner, come to grips with the infallibles faster, those that don’t want to go away faster which is probably good, and those that do those things will benefit more which is also good. And I think there are certainly abuses and problems associated – rumor-mongering and false stories – and that’s obviously a problem. And it goes faster, and negative impressions go away a lot slower than positive impressions are built. So that’s clearly a downside as the rumor mill always has been just, in the world of internet, the rumor mill goes fast far.

Peter: Right. Terry, thank you very much for taking time to speak with us on TotalPicture Radio where I really enjoyed meeting you out in Long Beach.

Terry: Yup, it was a pleasure. And thanks for talking to me.

Peter: Terry Schuler is the executive vice president of human resources at East West Bank.

This is Peter Clayton reporting. Thank you for tuning in to TotalPicture Radio, the voice of career and leadership acceleration.

About TotalPicture Radio

We’re always interested in hearing from our listeners. Please share your thoughts and opinions on our podcast today. Visit the Talent Acquisition Channel at TotalPicture Radio. That’s totalpicture.com to add your voice to this discussion. And be sure to visit rivieraadvisors.com/podcasts for a complete library of thought-provoking, in-depth interviews on HR and recruiting, including the complete transcripts from these discussions from Riviera Advisors 10th anniversary celebration.

About Riviera Advisors

To learn more about Riviera Advisors real world experience in leading and managing corporate internal recruiting and staffing functions, please call toll free 800-635-9063 or visit rivieraadvisors.com. Riviera Advisors is a member of the ASHER Talent Alliance, a global alliance of talent acquisition providers working together to benefit the unique and individual needs of their clients. To learn more about ASHER, visit ashertalent.com.

Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.


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