Bringing Respect to the Frontline with GardaWorld

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Ty Abernethy:

Hello everyone, thanks for joining us. My name is Ty Abernethy, I’m the Co-Founder and CEO of Grayscale. Grayscale is a texting and automation platform designed for high volume hiring. We work with brands like GardaWorld to help them create a really high touch, human experience that scales.

We’re sitting down with Scott Foster, Director of TA at GardaWorld, to talk about how they’re leveraging data and automation to drive high volume hiring. Scott, tell the world a little about yourself.


Scott Foster:

Hey everybody, I’m Scott Foster. Actually, I just became the Vice President of Talent Acquisition for all of GardaWorld in the United States.


Ty Abernethy:

The slide is already outdated!


Scott Foster:

I know, I’m a mover and a shaker.


Ty Abernethy:

Yeah, we appreciate it. I know we’ve had a few conversations recently, Scott, just explaining the journey that you all have been on, and the level of growth you’ve seen, it’s a bit bananas.


Scott Foster:

We’re in the middle of our single largest transition in company history, which is about 3,000 – 4,000 people in under 60 days.

The volume with which we have to hire, just to keep up with an explosion of growth, we’re going a little bonkers every day.


Ty Abernethy:

Never a dull moment over there at GardaWorld. Y’all are certainly in the middle of a pretty amazing story.

Why don’t we drill in for a minute, I wanna give the audience the perspective on the highest volume areas that you’re recruiting for. What type of roles make up the most of those vacancies?


Scott Foster:

Yeah, over 99% of all of our roles are your security officer or security guard, and you’re talking between $15 and $18 an hour.

We like to offer a different perspective for the hourly worker than food services and retail. That’s a lot of my competition on any given day, just the hourly space.

I’ve got some pretty unique perspectives on the hourly worker. I’d like to think of myself as an advocate for the hourly worker, which today makes up a little over 38 million Americans.


Ty Abernethy:

When we were chatting before we hit record, you had mentioned how oftentimes that dignity and respect is lost in what is oftentimes an extremely transactional process.

How do you think about maintaining that dignity and respect for the hourly worker, knowing that you have so many of these roles to fill?

What are you doing to combat that?


Scott Foster:

I think first and foremost, our DNA is focused on the unique individual. The hourly worker oftentimes is still treated like a commodity, not just when they’re a candidate, but in a lot of cases when they’re the employee.

I believe wholeheartedly that our DNA is focused on the unique individual of worth, rather than the hourly worker being treated like a number. There’s a lot of recruitment processes out there that don’t take the time to add a red carpet, white glove process to the hourly worker.

I do firmly believe that the organization that adds that level of dignity and respect in their recruiting process is the one that’s gonna win.

That’s what we do here, the experience where a candidate does not feel like a number. And we have stumbled, but we have stumbled forward.

In the last couple years, we’ve allowed candidates that don’t get hired to review us. We want to know what their experience was like.

If we’re gonna add that level of dignity and respect, one of the best ways to do that is sitting across the table eye to eye.
But how do I utilize technology to make sure that my recruiters have time with everyone that we end up talking to?

I hired 22,452 people last year, I had over 400,000 applicants last year alone.

How do I create bandwidth, so that we’re listening to the candidate, we’re finding out what did they not have in their last role that they’re looking for now? Taking the time to be able to explain what a career path looks like in security. Cause there’s not just security professionals coming to us, but a large number of people that don’t want to work in their current profession and are looking for something new.
People are looking for new skills. They want to know, ‘What do the next three to five years look like?’

We need to take the time to do that. Rather than taking three or five minutes just asking ‘What shift do you wanna work?’ and ‘What hourly rate?’ We wanna know about the individual. And that takes a person, but that also takes technology to create that time to make that connection.

That’s the most important thing for us, how does this team replicate doing this 50,000 times? We have to do that consistently to add that personal touch every single time.

So, that’s what we look at.


Ty Abernethy:

Let’s drill into that a little bit, cause I think you’re touching on some really interesting topics. I imagine you probably have a philosophical opinion on some of this, and I wanna tease it out a little bit.

You mentioned the importance of the team, you mentioned the importance of technology and automation.

For you, how do you reconcile those two things – what’s the right level of human to automation? Talk to me about your philosophy around the right blend of those things.


Scott Foster:

I’ll be honest, right now we try things, and we see what sticks.

Data also drives a lot of that decision making. You gotta let data tell you what you need to do, and I need my recruiters to tell me what they need, good, more, better, different.

Probably no shock to anyone, five years ago the primary communication method to anyone was via email, and then it was maybe a phone call.

And what we know today is that by utilizing texting or SMS, we’re better able to meet candidates where they’re at. We know that with the amount of individuals completing applications in a mobile environment, that people want to be communicated in two-way fashion via their mobile device. They get to messages quicker. They see that a text message is coming from Scott Foster about their recent application.

We utilize that type of technology to not only notify someone once they’ve applied for a position, but also reminders.

Also, we use it to cheer on our candidates. Imagine you’re a candidate, and you get a text message from a recruiter on the day that you’re going for your in-person interview, or you’re going to go actually meet the hiring manager, and you get a text message that doesn’t say anything else other than ‘ Good luck today!’

It’s the ability to do that, that is incredibly helpful for us. We utilize a very large enterprise ATS, and when an individual moves to the next step, how do I automate that communication to that candidate, so that a recruiter isn’t having to go to a separate system, or go to Outlook, and then go here and here. So that’s something about committing to the recruiters, one-stop shopping within our current ATS, or within a certain space.

We’re still on that journey to be honest, but we’re a heck of a lot better than where we were.

Massive hiring events and boomerang programs, what a great way to just take individuals that stopped in the process. And utilizing mass communication via text and saying, ‘Hey, look, we’ve got an open hiring event tomorrow.’ or ‘We’re doing a resume writing workshop, come on in and talk to us.’

It’s a great way to meet people where they’re at. And so that’s some of the ways that we’ve utilized that form of technology.

I take a look at my dashboards, where every day I can see where am I struggling for candidate volume? What do I need to do good, more, better, different?

That type of technology and data information that I have at my fingertips every day makes me a better leader.

We have to have a long-range plan. I gotta look now, cause what I need today is gonna change in two to three days, especially in the hourly space.

How do I utilize those tools, and have those tools in my toolkit for my recruiters every single day, so that they can best meet the needs of the business, and best meet the needs for our candidates.


Ty Abernethy:

It sounds like you’re approaching technology as a wrapper around your team to really help them be more effective at creating a great candidate experience throughout the process.


Scott Foster:

It’s an enhancement, not a replacement. Getting back to personal philosophy, again, the hourly worker oftentimes is treated like a commodity. How many times are we shaking the hands or giving an elbow bump to the hourly worker? How many times are we getting a chance to sit down?

There’s an old school terminology called the realistic job preview. How does a candidate know what it means to work third shift at a truck gate, at a very large distribution facility? How do I give them that?

When I first started my career, we used to invite candidates to go to the site. We still do that now, but how do I automate that for recruiters? How do I make sure that there’s maybe a video clip of what it looks like to be at that specific job – what does it mean to be a security officer every day?

What does it mean to be successful in the position that they have applied to? Not just where I want them to go to, but where does the candidate want to go to?

What is the hourly expectation, salary expectation that they’re looking for? What shift are they looking for? Some individuals may be applying for a third shift, but we actually believe that based on their ability to engage with people, maybe they’re much better working in a concierge-type security position in a residential or a commercial high-rise.

That conversation is something that has to happen in some in-person way. We utilize technology to create that time for us to do that. And what does that impact?

That impacts your hiring ratios, your time-to-fill, that impacts your regrettable loss of individuals in the first 90 days that sign, and then they resign.

What about overall attrition? The security space is known for high turnover. Historically, we are significantly lower than industry average. I believe that’s about the time that we spend with our candidates as we’re transitioning them from candidate to employee. So that journey of the guard is incredibly important for us.


Ty Abernethy:

Fascinating – you touched on a lot of things. I was gonna ask you about video. Sounds like video is something that helps make this a little bit more scalable.

Your team is leveraging SMS throughout the process, that’s the primary way you’re engaging. You’re automating touch points throughout the process to create a consistent candidate journey, then leaving a video to scale up the transparency for the candidate, and really make the whole thing hum.

You started touching on data there toward the end, I wanna drill in on data with you, cause I know this doesn’t work unless you’re able to start tracking the results.

There’s almost like a direct correlation where the larger the organization, the harder it is to really nail down your data and have meaningful insights.

What kind of role does data play in fine-tuning the process? What are you tracking, how are you tracking it? What are what are you thinking about tracking?

Just get us in that world for a second.


Scott Foster:

Fortunately enough for me, I had some wonderful coaches throughout my career that taught me that data is one of those things that takes the emotion out of decision. Data don’t lie.

Now, it’s gotta be relatively good data. There’s no such thing as perfect, but it’s gotta be in the right ballpark to be able to make the decisions.

I’m a work backwards kinda guy. What’s our growth trajectory? What’s our growth targets for each of our markets?

We do this individually by branch, because every one of our branches has their own uniqueness. The strategy that I need in Oklahoma City and Tulsa is drastically different than what I need in Houston and Dallas. It’s drastically different than what I need in Washington, DC and in Maryland.

I let strategy wait till after I know what it is that I need. If I know what my growth trajectory is, I know what my current turnover rate is for that market, without improvement, what am I going to need to be able to get that done?

If a certain branch needs, let’s say a hundred people, and our average application to hire ratio is 12:1, I know I need 1200 applications. If I need 1,200 applications, then what are my sourcing techniques that I’m gonna need to generate 1,200?

From that perspective, that allows me to figure out cost per application, so that’s one way that I look at that type of data.

The other information that I look at is conversion rate. Just because I get an applicant, doesn’t mean that they’re gonna make it all the way through. So what is my candidate loss through the process?

I can then plan for the entire year based on that information. I know exactly how many candidates I’m gonna need to be able to schedule, then my recruiters know how many phone screens they’re going to need to do. And if I know how many phone screens I’m gonna need, how many candidates do we need to review?

And then back into the number of applications that I need.

When it comes down to onboarding, again, what is my conversion rate of individuals that we say yes to that also says yes to us, that make it all the way through our onboarding process.

We have a lot of licensure requirements that differ by state. My Canadian counterparts, they have a single unified license for all of Canada. In the United States, every state could be different as far as their licensing requirements.

Today, with the number of individuals that are entering into the security industry, the conversion rate can be lower in this space.

How do we look at the number of individuals that make it to onboarding? How many individuals that make it all the way through onboarding and then get their license make it to post?

It allows us to be more predictive, and predictive workforce analytics is the world that I live in every day.

Then it’s all about hard wiring. We can forecast, but also can pivot when we have a rapid growth framework.

When a manager says, ‘We just took on a brand new client’ and I know historically I need to make 100 hires this year, but we took on a new client, I actually need to do 200. I can then go back to ’em and say, ‘Look, this is what it’s gonna cost us to be able to get it. This is what your average cost per hire is gonna look like. Do we have the approved budget to be able to make this happen?’

What do I need to beef up in my organic space? What do we need to do to help impact the conversion rate? One of the pieces that Grayscale has helped us out with is utilizing text message to help individuals as they’re going through the onboarding process.

Congratulating someone when they’ve gotten through the first part of onboarding, ‘These are the steps that you still need to complete. If you complete this by the end of the afternoon, you’re 90% there, and you’re one day closer to being able to start earning.’ and those kinds of things.

Those are the things that we do to impact those conversion rates. That’s why data is so important, cause every branch has their bottlenecks. Every branch has their own nuances. I have smaller branches that maybe only have two or three people.

How do we think differently and work differently for them? And that data helps us pull back that information for us.


Ty Abernethy:

I’m curious, what are you trying to move the needle on the most? Which metrics are most important for you now? And then what are you doing to influence those?


Scott Foster:

I’ll give you my true north. My true north is improving speed to post. Speed to post for us is different than most individual’s concept of time to fill. Usually the clock stops when someone accepts the offer.

For us, we measure speed to post or, and as one of my HR counterparts called it speed to paycheck.

We look at speed to post from the moment someone applies, to the time that they’re actually standing a post for one of our clients, protecting people, assets and property.

Two years ago, we were at about 22 days on average. When we put a focus on speed to post, we went from 22 days down to 17, just this last year. Our goal this year is to get that down to 14. And how do we do that? Communicating to candidates ahead of time.

If we’re scheduling you for an interview, we wanna capitalize on the time that you’re there. Act as if you’re gonna get a same day offer.

If we say yes, we’re gonna wanna sit down with you for an extra 30 to 45 minutes, launch your background check and get you through onboarding. We wanna get your uniform sizing while you’re here.

Again, adding dignity and respect to that hourly individual and not make them come back, go here, go there, go do this and go do that.

We wanna be that one-stop shop when we’ve got that captive audience while they’re physically here. So that’s true North number one.

True North number two is reducing the amount of individuals that we lose in the first 90 days. Regrettable loss for us has been relatively flat over the course of the last three to four years.

In the hourly space, especially in the security industry, we lose roughly 40% in the first 90 days. How do we change that and get it down to 30%? I believe that it is all about the time and red carpet we roll out to every candidate.

If they say, ‘That’s not for me. I don’t wanna walk five miles a day’ because it’s a walking patrol shift, let’s talk about what we do have that meets your needs. So regrettable loss reduction is absolutely true north number two.

True north number three for me is reduction of overall attrition. Better engagement with frontline supervisors, making sure that we are following up with candidates in the first 90 days, making a phone call to individuals on their very first day, doing a site visit at the end of their first week.

Follow up on 30-day calls, 60-day and 90-day talent touchpoint to make sure that everyone has what they need to be successful, and they feel like they’re a part of the team.

Over 50% of our officers have been with us for longer than a year, over 33,000 – 34,000 years of experience in the security space, that are a part of GardaWorld Security Services in the United States.

For a candidate and for a new employee, what is the path to being a site supervisor? What’s the path to being an account manager or a project manager? What’s my earning potential look like? What does it mean to be a director, or a general manager?

That’s what we’re focusing on, and those are my three areas of true North this year.


Ty Abernethy:

To the last piece, are you seeing part of TA’s role needs to be about, not just filling this role, but also painting a picture of what’s possible at GardaWorld?

Here are career paths, here’s where your career could evolve. Oftentimes the hourly worker is a cog that’s meant to fill a hole, right? Getting outta that mindset, ‘No, this is a career. This is the vocation, and you can start here. These are the skills you can develop, and this is where you can end up.’

Scott Foster: If I can find a way to reduce the amount of times that I have to go outside the organization to look for a key leadership role, and I’m able to build that from within, the buy-in to the organization, our mission, our values, our culture is already there.

Every one of our security officers gets this little tri-fold card and it’s got our mission and our values right at the forefront. If people know what to expect, this can then become a destination employer for anyone in the security industry, and that’s a true goal for me, so people don’t feel that they have to go outside the organization to find something good, more, better, different.


Ty Abernethy:

Scott, what you’re doing, what you’ve built at GardaWorld is extremely impressive. I love how you’re maintaining that human element. You’re putting your team first, your team’s putting the candidate first.

You’re taking out the transactional element of hourly hiring, and really putting the human at the forefront.

Scott, as always, thank you so much. It’s been an education, and everyone enjoy the rest of your day.


Scott Foster:

Have a good day, everybody!