Hire From Anywhere with Pearson

Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, recently launched Hire From Anywhere, a shift in their approach to talent acquisition that greatly broadens the talent pool to find the right person for the role. On this special bonus episode of our Subject to Talent podcast, we welcome Pearson’s Lisa Egan, Vice President of Indirect Procurement, and Gene Carlson, Vice President of HR and Talent Acquisition, to discuss their commitment to finding the very best talent regardless of location and the unique partnership between Procurement and HR/Talent Acquisition. 

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Bruce Morton: Welcome to Subject to Talent, brought to you by Allegis Global Solutions. Similar to you, we're always trying to learn more. On this podcast, we speak to workforce and talent experts from around the world, and we market trends and technology ever-evolving dynamic industry.

Hi, I'm Bruce Morton, the host of Allegis Global Solutions, Subject to Talent podcast. Today I'll be handing over the microphone to my friend and colleague Anthony Baker. Anthony is a program executive for Allegis Global Solutions based in the UK. And on today's bonus episode, he'll be joined by Lisa Egan and Gene Carlson of Pearson, the world's leading learning company, to discuss the latest employee initiative hire from anywhere. This is an extension of their contingent labor program that will enable Pearson to find the best possible talent available by broadening the talent pool; to find the right candidate for the goal without the restrictions of set locations. So let's listen in.

Anthony Baker: Hello, I'm Anthony Baker. I'm excited to be today's guest host on the podcast and to be joined by Lisa Egan and Gene Carlson of Pearson. Lisa is Vice President head of indirect procurement, and Gene is Vice President of talent acquisition and human resources. Welcome to you both. So we always ask our guests the first same question. So, Lisa, we can start with you. How did you get into the workforce industry, and what was your journey to where you are today at Pearson?

Lisa Egan: I've always been in indirect procurement, and before I joined Pearson, I've had a number of roles I've touched on HR procurement. So when I was at Anheuser-Busch, I was involved in the staffing requirements for Europe business and then also worked in collaboration with the CW team when I was at RELEX, who obviously partnered with yourselves and who you know very well. So I've always had that connection to it. When I joined Pearson in January 2017, we had a very mixed setup for contingent labor. And so one of the first tasks that I was given was around how do we have a solution that is fit for purpose and actually understand who we had working in our business. And that's where we started. And obviously, four years later, we have a very successful program with yourselves and been able to launch some really interesting projects.

Anthony: Great. Thank you very much. And Gene, same question.

Gene Carlson: Yeah, my journey to this point, I've pretty much always worked in human resources in my career, and I cut my teeth if you will, with a company called Best Buy, many people are familiar with Best Buy, a retailer obviously. And so it was a great place to get my introduction into staffing and recruiting and just survival from in terms of managing attrition, attracting the right candidates, talent development, and everything that goes along with that. So, I did that for probably 15 years, and really I think, I hope, learned the value and importance of building a bench of talent, and just continually replacing that bench and figuring out ways to go out and find the right talent wherever it might be. That was primarily US-based with Pearson for the last I don't know; 8+ years I've had global responsibilities.

Gene: So I've been introduced to the global nature of staffing and how to manage that different perspective effectively. So it's been a great mixture; I've also worked in financial services, manufacturing, and a couple other industries. So all of that has brought me to today, where I'm working in HR but also lead the talent acquisition team for Pearson. So I think it's a really good marriage of HR background and talent acquisition. So that's what brought me here today.

Anthony: Great. Thank you. And what, so while we're on Pearson, Gene, then perhaps for those that don't know, could you briefly introduce Pearson as an organization?

Gene: Yeah, definitely. I'll try to not do two things. I'll try to not read everything that's on our website because folks can read that because there is a lot of good information there, by the way. And I'll also try to not talk for very long about it because there's so much information out there. I think a lot of folks know that Pearson's an education company, global education company, and upwards of 200 countries around the globe. And what folks may not know or as be as familiar with is our transformation. So a lot of people who know Pearson know us as possibly a textbook education company, a textbook company. And certainly, there's been a lot of history in that space where we've been very successful providing our learners with call it, non-digital learning solutions. And now we've really been transforming, working hard to transforming into a digital company, the last X number of years.

And we're making great strides in those efforts to continue to be the world's leading learning company and in a more digital space use of technology, AI, various learning platforms to really deliver learning experiences to our consumer and to our learners in the way that they want, and they need it. And to keep up with the changing demands of our customer, especially with COVID and folks working remote more and more obviously, and virtual learning is becoming more and more important. And we're at the forefront of that at Pearson. So I feel like we're really well-positioned to be considered a educational technology company versus the textbook company, which is decades old now that perception, I hope cause we're squarely in the educational technology space right now so.

Anthony: That's great detail. Thank you very much. Lisa, I know that you were very involved in setting up the MSP program that you have in place now. Could you explain to our listeners what the ProSource program is?

Lisa: Absolutely. So we branded a contingent worker program ProSource. We had a number of different solutions in place, and we had some hybrid solutions, and we had wonderful things. So we wanted to make sure that we had everything under one consistent banner, and that's where the ProSource name came from. So it incorporates the MSP, the VMS. We have a central website on our internet that's for the program, and we're currently operating in the US and UK. And we continue to explore opportunities for further expansion.

The VMS was in place from 2015, 2016, but it was very much standalone in one market it wasn't widely utilized. And so when, as I said, when I joined in 2017, it was around, how do we really turbocharge our initiative? How do we bring things up to date? How do we understand who we have? How do we understand the patterns of hiring what we require? I really have that consistency from a business perspective, one common process where we have hiring managers in the UK with workers in the US and vice versa how can we simplify things? And thus, ProSource was born. We went live in November 2017 and too much fanfare. And we continue to evolve that program.

Anthony: Great, thank you. And four years in, within your role now, what's your day-to-day involvement with the program?

Lisa: So my role is very much as a sponsor of the program. I obviously understand the program from the ground up. So it's very much one of pride whenever I talk around the program and making sure that we're doing everything we can to not only promote the program to new starters but to understand where we do have those issues and nuances that we're understanding that and building out specialized governances internally. So where we have areas of the business that work in different ways. That we align, understand that, and then build something suitable that meets their needs. And my team partner very closely. So my team partners with you on a day-to-day basis, but it's always fantastic. It's one of those ones where I get to join a supplier meeting, knowing that there's going to be interesting items discussed, opportunities to look at, and that chance learn and identify and meet new suppliers from an array of different backgrounds.

Anthony: Right? And Gene, from an HR and talent acquisition perspective, what's your involvement in the program on a day-to-day basis?

Gene: My involvement is evolving, and the partnership with Lisa and team is also evolving and continuing to get more robust every day, I would say. So I double hat at Pearson, as I said, so my HR role, and then my talent acquisition (TA) role, the talent acquisition role is probably most applicable to this conversation. I assume those responsibilities six-plus months ago. And I did not know a lot about the ProSource solution process, all of that at that point in time. In full transparency, I didn't. And so folks like both of you have made me smarter and come to appreciate just the value of the program and the tools and the capabilities.

So we have an internal talent acquisition team that recruits for you could call it permanent staff if you will. And in partnership with Lisa ProSource's folks, et cetera, we really get a holistic talent solution, if you will, or talent acquisition solution, where that's part of what I've become smarter on and come to appreciate and learn is the value of that holistic solution. Whether it be contract workers, permanent workers, whatever it is, we have all bases covered from the internal perspective and from the ProSource perspective. So I've become involved relatively recently, but now it's a big part of our overall access to talent solution. So it's really we can get into the partnership more in a little bit, I think, but the partnership has really been outstanding. So from a TA perspective, adds huge value.

Anthony: And I thank you. I know that we certainly appreciate the partnership, and partnership is something I want to touch on in a little bit specifically, between you and Lisa and HR and procurement and how that helps with what we roll out at Pearson. But just before we do, I know that today specifically, we're here to talk about the Hire From Anywhere initiative that you've both been instrumental in spearheading. Lisa, perhaps if we start with you, could you tell me a bit more about what that initiative is and why you felt it was so important to roll out?

Lisa: Absolutely. So it won't be a surprise to anyone that thanks to COVID, the way that we work as an organization changed. And I'm sure every single person listening had some form of change due to COVID. And for us, when we were having our annual strategic review, and we were talking around the impacts and how we can do things differently, and that access to talent conversation is something that we always have. And it was then, sort of that the idea piece and the ideation around what is stopping us from doing this. And being at Pearson and being where we're all very much a case of, well, let's jump to the most exciting part. We started talking around, and I blame a certain Mr. Morton completely he had sort of access to talent in Brazil and mobile developers in Israel.

And we sort of jumped to these amazing pockets of talent, and how can you access them? And it really came from that conversation. It's hugely important to us to find the right people and the best people that we can. And the nice thing is with COVID and Pearson, in particular, being sort of able to work from various locations, we're not going to be hamstrung by saying, "Well, I want the best available talent, but they have to be able to commute to my office." There are pockets of the business where actually you need to be in an office and completely understand that. And it's not saying that everything is 100% remote. But we wanted to make sure that we had something in place that gave us that flexibility to say, "Where it's appropriate, we do want to see the best talent." So we had to then dial back from the whole world, figuring out how we could do this in a reasonable way and make something that was a plan.

And so thanks to the team at AGS and a massive shout-out to Cat who went away and I think probably terrorized the AGS lawyers by sort of saying, we want to do this everywhere. We started off with a pilot and said, okay, well in the UK, we'll do you know if you're hiring and normally, you'd hire for London. We're going to say; actually we want to be open for a Hire From Anywhere candidate, and that's anywhere in the UK and the same in the US. So we had that conversation with a yeah that works for us. We obviously, then had to brief the suppliers and get the suppliers on board because this is a very different way of working, and that's been successful so far. I think 40% of our roles since we went live in the UK have gone through a Hire From Anywhere process.

And 20% of the US roles have gone through Hire From Anywhere. And this is going to be an education process around getting people on board. We're not forcing people to do it. It's about that winning hearts and minds. And we're starting to get some really lovely success stories so we've had. We recruited .NET developers, QA analysts, product writers. So there are all these different pockets that are coming. And we had a great example of, we hired a candidate who was based in Bolton in the North of England, and it was a role that would have traditionally been based in London. So it's around that, finding the right people find the best people. And hopefully, there'll be opening up that DEI sort of finding us those new areas of talent, those new folks, and then enabling us to add new and innovative suppliers into a program as well.

Anthony: All right thank you. And Gene, is there anything you'd add on to that?

Gene: I'm struggling on what to add to that. That was a great summary. No, I mean, to me, it's all about access to talent. And I live in Minnesota, and for those of you familiar with Minnesota, we have a lot of lakes. People do a lot of fishing in Minnesota. I don't, but a lot of people do. And so it's all about what ponds or lakes are we fishing in for our talent, right? And we're used to we are collectively, me included we're used to fishing in our own backyard if you will, and that's, you keep going back to the same pond, and you keep getting the same fish, or you don't get any fish because you run out, right, eventually. And so we're encountering that around the globe, the struggle to find more talent.

And so, with this solution, it just, I mean, literally opens up the world of possibilities for talent. So that, I mean, Lisa's right, it is about winning the hearts and minds. So the solution is amazing. So putting the solution in front of hiring managers and saying, “Hey, we have an amazing solution.” They certainly don't jump on board just because we say it like any great thing that we think we create. We have to prove it to them. And like Lisa said, we're starting to do that. We're starting to prove to them that it works. And instead of having a pool of, I don't know, a hundred technologists to choose from, and all the competition that surrounds that, you might have 10 times that, or 100 times that whatever the exponential number is.

And so the kind of change management aspect of it, the what I would call the head heart and hands part of it, is what we're working on a lot internally. And like I said, it's progressing, and it's working. So I think we'll continue to show our hiring managers that it works. And by working, it's not them complying to a corporate mandate because we have lots of those. This is something that's working that benefits them and their teams. And it's kind of a selfish thing for the hiring managers. And so selfish being you'll have access to more talent, and your teams will be stronger. And everything that goes along with that. So I guess that's the only thing I would add, Anthony, is that, and kind of how we're working internally to get people on board and we're getting there.

Anthony: Yeah. I think we had the internal communication, the internal, I guess, sell of this will snowball, which again, we'll be getting more and more successes, more people be willing to open up their talent pool as they see that their colleagues and peers get results out of this.

Lisa: And it's really important that folks realize this isn't a cost-saving exercise, this isn't about trying to find the cheapest resources available. This is about trying to find the right talent. And it's about expanding our… it's about fishing in different lakes to steal from Gene. We really do want to make sure that we're able to find those folks that are going to add value to Pearson, and hopefully Pearson will add value to them in their lives as well.

Gene: Yeah. Sorry, Anthony. We're both continuing to add in thoughts. But I mean, in an odd way, the last year and a half plus of COVID times has helped in the selling process to use your words to the hiring managers in that a lot of hiring managers have a fear or an assumption that people must go to the office to work right. We all know that and it's been proven to most of them over the past year and a half plus because people have been forced to work remotely. They can be effective by not living in the same city, going into the same building. They can be effective from a thousand miles away. And so that's helped, I think in our launch of this program, the fact that folks have had to live through it, there are people working remotely and being just as productive oh, by the way. And so that's been really helpful. So it's been proven that it can work as far as productivity, because like I said, I think that's one of the main fears to overcome.

Anthony: And I think for me as well; it's the longevity of that. So COVID forced everyone to be working remotely. And then, if we move into the new world of work, as everyone refers to it, it's what does that look like long-term? And I know that a lot of organizations are grappling with the idea of how they recruit in the future, and how remote their workforce is and wherever that's the direction that they want to go down; really great stuff, thank you. We mentioned partnership earlier. You two obviously work very closely together. Lisa in procurement, Gene HR, talent acquisition. How impulsive do you think your partnership is and has been to be able to implement this quickly and effectively?

Lisa: I think it's hugely important. I think; if procurement we're trying to do is standalone, it would be viewed as a cost-saving exercise. And that, as I said, this really isn't about that. We are very fortunate at Pearson. I think I'm very fortunate in the fact that we have such a great relationship between procurement and HR. It's very much a collaboration and a partnership rather than us chasing after them sort of for savings bureaucracy and all the other painful points that procurement is normally viewed for. It's very much, yeah, how can we help? How can we add value? How can we solve these common problems? And it's something that I'm very, very proud of. And I enjoy hugely.

Gene: Yeah. Sorry Anthony. I don't want to say just ditto to what Lisa said again, but agreed wholeheartedly. And I think it's unique. I mean, I've only worked at a handful of companies, but I have some knowledge of the world, and I think it's a unique partnership. Because I was telling Lisa the other day, even from an HR person's perspective of being attached to a business unit, I think of procurement oftentimes. And my first thought incorrectly is cost savings. Like Lisa said, and someone putting a process on me or on my team or on my business that I must follow because it's a corporate thing. And that couldn't be further from the truth in this scenario because it's really about to me, it's about business requirements. And so the partnership is great. Everything Lisa said, agreed.

But part of the reason for that is that the foundation is it's about business requirements of finding talent. And so, it's not just adherence to a process for process sake, which sometimes procurement can get that rap unfairly that have a process must follow because in this case it's have a process, we follow it because there's a benefit of bringing greater talent into our organization. So that's, I guess part of the unique nature of it is it's found in what the business needs from talent perspective. So like Lisa, I appreciate it. And I do think it's unique.

Anthony: Yeah. And I would certainly say from an AGS perspective, our programs typically are owned either by procurement or by HR. And whenever we have initiatives, it helps immensely if we can get both parties kind of at the start moving in the same direction. And I think this is a perfect example of what's happened here with the hire from anywhere initiative.

Lisa: Yeah, we were really fortunate that it was very straightforward. Gene, and I think it was yeah, this is a great idea. We should be doing this; it's been a very straightforward conversation with our leadership to say we're fully behind this; do you have any reason we should be concerned? And then it's case now, go make this happen, and off we ran.

Gene: Yeah. It's a pretty, I don't know if I won't say easy Lisa, but I mean, it makes the selling process, if you will, to leadership pretty easy. Hey, we're going to do this thing that's going to dramatically improve our access to talent. It's really it's kind of tough to say no to that. No, I hate that idea. Nobody's going to say that as long as we prove it out. Right. Which we're doing, so it's nice to have an easier sales pitch if you will.

Anthony: So we talked about the timing and why now was the right time. So Gene, were there any other considerations, complexities difficulties that you faced as we rolled the initiative out?

Gene: Yeah, I mean certainly, there's a bunch of them as with any rollout. One of them is the buy-in piece. I mean, Lisa and I talk about this fairly regularly that we still have leaders in our organization that still to this day, believe that because there's a building in a city, in a state in the US that's where the couple of examples I'm thinking of are located where folks must come into that building in order to be effective in their jobs and be productive. And so that getting the buy-in and the belief, I guess, from those leaders, that it doesn't have to be that way. That is not a consideration to implement and continue with the program, but now that it is implemented, it's continuing to drive that change management, the hearts and minds, as Lisa said earlier of those leaders.

And it's just like anything it just has to be proven out to them. Most leaders get on board pretty quickly or have gotten onboard pretty quickly. So the ones I'm referring to are outliers, but they're still there. So that is a challenge or a complexity that I think we'll probably always deal with to some degree like with any change, right. So it's not a barrier, but it's something to consider. The other thing I would throw in there is I don't know if it's a complexity, but a consideration, at least I mentioned earlier, as the diversity equity and inclusion aspect of hiring in general.

And then as we talk about this type of program or initiative to make sure that we're not just like we've been talking about for a while now. That we're not just bringing in more and different talent period. That we're broadening the swath of talent to all different types of talent, not just numbers, not just numbers of people, which is great, right. And more fish in the pond, different ponds, different lakes great. But we want to open it up to maybe folks that we don't feel that we've opened up our hiring doors to as much in the past folks with disabilities and making things more accessible for them to apply to our jobs, et cetera. That's one example, but there's a bunch of them. So the D&I component has been a big consideration throughout the, I think, the forming of the program, the implementation, and it will be with the ongoing management of it. So it's really important to us at Pearson and important to folks AGS as well. So it's high on our list of considerations.

Anthony: Great. Thank you, Lisa is anything you want to add on to?

Lisa: Yeah so, and I completely echo everything Gene said, but it's also from my procurement hat. It's about making sure we have the supplier alignment as well. So it's great for us to cook these ideas up, but we need to make sure that they actually can be operationalized and done so in a fair way. So it's making sure that we had, our suppliers were engaged, aligned, or able to help on that journey, and if not, that's okay. But then, thinking about who we needed to add into the program. And also, what innovative and different suppliers are out there that we can add into the program; that we wouldn't have necessarily looked at before; because they weren't operating in the markets that we were operating in. And I know we've got a couple of conversations lined up. I'm really excited about with some different suppliers. So I think that's just going to just add more value to the program and hopefully value to those organizations as well.

Anthony: Yeah, absolutely. I think the supply chain element to it is something that in our team spent a huge amount of time on with the suppliers, making sure they were good and ready to go to support this initiative. And I also know that the suppliers are very appreciative of the initiative as well. They are enjoying not being tied to certain locations and going out and really broadening where they can hire talent from too. Lisa, if you could summarize it, I suppose, how successful do you think it's been so far?

Lisa: So it's only been a very short period of time. It's been just over a month, but actually, I think it's been given that timeframe, I think, has been hugely successful. We've already got hires in, which is great. We've got audience that are open to the idea without having a big, forced push. As I said, we have 40% of our competitive roles in the UK have gone down that route, adopting that. So it's going to be more and more successful as we go on, and we're going to be rolling out the next phase shortly. And so I'm really, really pleased with where we are. I've seen that there's so much more to come, and I can't wait to see the data coming in that will satisfy the procurement nerd in me immensely.

Anthony: And what is the next phase?

Lisa: So the next phase for us is, as I mentioned, we're just doing UK to UK, and US to US, next phase is actually crossing borders. So if I'm hiring and I'd normally hire in London, I'm now open up to not only the whole of the UK, but the whole of the US and vice versa, which I think is just going to be incredible in terms of what is coming in. And I'm really grateful for our team on the ground. So Chris, Cassandra, and the guys, because I know this means more work for them in terms of reviewing the number of CVs and resumes that come in and really filtering to make sure that we've got the best going over to our hiring managers. But I mean, what an exciting opportunity to have.

Anthony: Yeah, absolutely. I think it's going to be a really exciting and interesting next few months to expand this out.

Lisa: Absolutely and then after that, it's the world.

Anthony: So we're getting close to wrapping up. And as I said earlier, I know that a lot of organizations are grappling with this idea at the moment. And Pearson has been brave and has jumped into this and worked out solution that works for you. Lisa, would you give, is there any advice that you'd give other organizations that are considering something like this?

Lisa: Yeah, absolutely. So for me, it's the, and Gene mentioned earlier, why wouldn't you? So rather than sort of saying, oh, no, no, no. We've got to have them in the office, why? what is stopping you really from actually just trialing it? What is stopping you from opening up that world? I suppose we probably should be selfish and say, no, don't do it. Leave it for us, and we'll take everyone. We'll take it the cream of the crop, and you can have what's left. That's probably not very fair, is it, Gene?

Gene: I don't know. I kind of liked that idea but-

Lisa: So, yeah, be brave.

Anthony: Great. Thank you. Well, look, we are wrapping up. So I wanted to say thank you very much for both of you to take the time to talk to us today. I think has been incredibly insightful. I know that our listeners are going to appreciate you taking time to share what Pearson is doing around a topic that is on everyone's minds at the moment. And just before we do finish, and Gene, maybe you were to take this one is if our listeners wanted to learn more about Pearson, where can they go to find out more?

Gene: That's a great question. I mean, I said it earlier in the chat, but at our website probably is the greatest place to start. I don't want to direct them to any specific individual because someone will be mad at me; I have no doubt but start with the website. And there's all kinds of information, but there's also contacts that folks can either call or email and whatnot for more information. Our community relations department, marketing, there's a lot of resources on the website. So that's where I'll direct folks to. If they have more questions, want to learn more about Pearson, want to apply for a job, they can do that on our website. Oh, by the way.

Anthony: Okay. Well, thank you very much.

Gene: Thank you.

Lisa: Thank you for having us.

Bruce: To learn more about AGS, please check us out at AllegislgobalSolutions.com. You can also send questions for me or our guests. Just tweet us here @AllegisGlobal with, #Subject to Talent, or email us at subjecttotalent@allegisglobalsolutions.com. And if you enjoyed our podcast today, please subscribe, rate us, and leave a review. Until next time, cheers.