China Gorman, former president of Lee Hecht Harrison and DBM and newest member of RiseSmart's Strategic Advisory Council, was recently interviewed by Peter Clayton at TotalPicture Radio. Here's an abridged transcript:

Peter: If you're a fan of this podcast, you probably know China Gorman. When China and I first met she was the chief operating office of SHRM. China started her career as an HR newbie at the publisher of The Christian Science Monitor, and then spent 20 years in the HR consulting world specializing in career transition, executive coaching, and leadership development. China recently joined the RiseSmart Strategic Advisory Council.

China, thanks for taking time to speak with us here on TotalPicture Radio.

China: I'm glad to be back, Peter. Thanks for having me.

Peter: You recently joined the RiseSmart Strategic Advisory Council. I had Sanjay Sathe, CEO of RiseSmart, on TotalPicture Radio recently and we were talking about companies being more concerned about their employer branding this year, and the increased need for outplacement services vis-à-vis a lot of M and A activity and acquisitions. What exactly will you be doing in this new role at RiseSmart?

China: In tech startups it's useful to have, besides your board which is usually made up of your investors, it's helpful to have a board or a council of industry experts to help you with strategy and share knowledge. I spent 25 years of my career as an executive leader in the outplacement business at DBM and led Lee Hecht Harrison globally for many years, so I'm really wide and deep in the outplacement business.

I have a perspective now of what works, what doesn't work, and what employers are looking for when they go to market to look for outplacement support in this really different world from the 70s and 80s, when outplacement was kind of getting a toehold as a management tool.

Peter: Well let's talk about Drake Beam Morin and Lee Hecht. Lee Hecht Harrison is owned by Adecco, which recently acquired DBM.

China: Truly, it's about eight years late. There was a period of time in 2003 when, of the three global players Lee Hecht Harrison, DBM and Right, two of those three were for sale and the market was ripe for consolidation -- and should have consolidated. They should have gone from three to two, and through a whole series of misadventures and, frankly, corporate egos, that didn't happen. So this was a deal that is not surprising to anybody who watches that industry, and I'm sure all parties concerned are saying, "Well, you know it's really about time."

It takes one of the competitors out of the market, so that's probably good for the remaining two, but what's interesting to me is that Adecco didn't go after an organization like RiseSmart -- which I believe will be the global winner shortly. This is one of the reasons that I agreed to sign on with Sanjay.

I know Sanjay has used the metaphor that the merger is like putting the horse and the buggy together. I agree. It's more like bringing two horses and two buggies together, still relying on a buggy whip, and we are so beyond buggy whips in this business.

DBM and Lee Hecht Harrison are both traditional businesses, fraught with real estate cost, fraught with other kinds of legacy costs, whereas RiseSmart is a technology-based business, not a bricks-and-mortar business with technology sort of bolted on.

RiseSmart is a technology business with the people part seamlessly integrated in, and so it's really how outplacement should have been done for many years. Even when I was a leader of one of those businesses, I fought to integrate technology, but it's hard when you're a bricks-and-mortar business to abandon that, when your whole business is predicated on people and geography as opposed to global service and connectivity.

That's why I am so excited to be part of RiseSmart, because I really think Sanjay has cracked the code of what employers are really looking for.

Peter: How have the needs of outplacement clients changed over time?

China: In the early days of the outplacement business, it was a moral play. Let's give the people who are being laid-off counseling, let's give them a place to go so that they can pretend that they're still going to work every day. We won't give them a fish, but we'll teach them how to fish so that they know how to look for a job. It was really a local business, location by location. If a plant was downsizing out in East Wahoo someplace, we created a career center onsite so that there was a place for them. It was very "place" oriented.

What employers want now is not so much the assuaging of guilt and making people feel better; they want to help them find a job fast. And how you get jobs today is different, how you connect to opportunities today is different than how you connected before. It's not just about resumes and knowing how to interview; it's about leveraging the social web, leveraging job boards, really letting technology do the work for you in terms of connecting to jobs.

Instead of focusing on, "Let's teach people how to write their résumés so that they can have this as a life skill," RiseSmart has experts who will actually write the resume for the client. None of the other firms do that. That's a key differentiator along with the semantic search engine that brings jobs right to the person's mailbox on a weekly and sometimes on a daily basis. It's a technology-based process, augmented by consultants who are with the clients step by step.

What we're seeing in terms of effectiveness is that RiseSmart is beating the national averages of job placement by 54 percent. BLS says in Q2 of this year, the average duration of unemployment was 265 days – that's 8½ months. RiseSmart clients' average duration of unemployment is only 117 days or just under four months, 54 percent faster.

That's four months less unemployment insurance that the organizations are paying, and in some cases it's less severance. Some organizations tie severance to the length of your job search. The cost savings alone are pretty attractive, I think, from an employer perspective.

Peter: To your point China, how many employees today really want to go to some office somewhere and have access to a fax machine?

China: None of them. And if they don't have a computer and connectivity at home, the library is probably closer.

Peter: Right.

24 August 2011

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