Speaking with Gina Max, Senior Manager, Talent Management, at USG Corporation.

We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Gina Max, Senior Manager, Talent Management, at USG Corporation. USG, more than 100 years old, is North America’s leading producer and distributor of gypsum wallboard, joint compound and a vast array of related products for the construction and remodeling industries. USG has nearly 9,000 employees with a presence in more than 30 countries and has won numerous awards for its people practices. TalentRISE was instrumental in conducting a comprehensive assessment of the talent acquisition function at USG shortly after it was centralized and Gina assumed her new role as the leader of that group.

TalentRISE: Tell us about your background. Also please describe your role and what you do.

Gina: I’ve been with USG for 17 years and have had the opportunity to serve as an HR generalist, business partner, as well as serve as a project manager on significant organizational design initiatives.  Three years ago, I moved into the corporate office to specialize in talent management, focusing on performance management and career development.  About a year and a half ago, we moved to a true shared services model for delivery of HR services.  Six months after that change, I assumed my current role in recruiting while also maintaining other responsibilities in talent management.

Following our shift to a shared services model, we centralized recruiting processes for positions within the United States and Canada.  Prior, we created the recruiting processes and recommended practices, but did not actually handle most recruiting.  This was a very significant change in our 110-year history.  We were now responsible for recruiting for most of USG’s 9,000 positions.

Roughly a year ago, I assumed the leadership of the function and formed a team of eight recruiters and two recruiting coordinators.  Today, we average about 100 hires per month for placement in about 40 plants, 140 branches and multiple sales offices in the US and Canada.

I’ve actually viewed my job as a project manager as we’ve essentially built recruitment from the ground up putting the structure and framework in place.  Change management has been a huge focus.    We didn’t initially have much in-depth expertise in house.  We had to learn how to do this in our own style, informed by how we implement LEAN practices and  Six Sigma processes.

It’s been a quite a change from the past where each manufacturing plant had a local HR person just down the hall where the manager could drop in and say, “I have an opening.  Go find this person!” – and it would happen.  Today, a phone call to my team initiates the search and we’re helping people understand that we don’t have to be there, on-site, to find the best candidate in their location.  And, by the way, we can do it more efficiently than in the past.

The change management process has been challenging.  Since we didn’t have a centralized ATS until March of last year, the organization didn’t track time to fill or openings in the past. We’re therefore challenged in comparing current processes to historical ones and hampered by our lack of data.  Success today is measured against the opinions of people in the field who remember how we recruited historically.  Hiring managers talk about how, in the past, their HR manager could find and fill a role in a week.  I know that was not entirely the case from my own experience as an HR manager.  Thankfully, we have recruiting data and metrics today, so we can speak from a more data-based perspective.

TalentRISE: What are the most critical talent acquisition issues you have faced? How is your organization responding to those issues?

Gina: One of the biggest issues is communications.  While our recruiters can be doing a phenomenal job locating passive candidates, if we don’t talk regularly about the actions we’re taking, there is a perception that we’re not doing enough.  Another issue is that we do a lot of hiring for non-exempt roles, such as someone who drives a truck or works in a manufacturing facility.  Oftentimes, these candidates aren’t using technology and have difficulty getting past the application page on our website. So, we’re setting up application kiosks at locations so they can come in and get the application done there.

We also hire a lot of engineers out of colleges and universities and have changed our approach to that group to make it both high-touch and fast.  As our people attend campus recruitment events, my team is right there behind the scenes to make sure we are turning candidates over very fast.  Today, we have one dedicated resource to campus recruiting.

TalentRISE: Describe the work that TalentRISE did for you…what were the outcomes?

Gina: TalentRISE provided us with an overall assessment of where we were a year ago and where we needed to be.  They looked at structure, process and technology and made recommendations in each area while also providing us, in many cases, with options on how to proceed. While in an ideal world, we could have done everything all at once; TalentRISE recognized that in some cases, it would take an interim step to get there.

We’ve  implemented many of the recommendations. Structurally, we are about 80 to 85% of the way to where we should be.  From a process perspective, we have completed 90% of what was recommended. On the technology front, we’re about 75% of the way there.

Looking back, the assessment was one of the best decisions we made throughout this reorganization.  We knew that there was much to do – TalentRISE showed us what we needed to do AND provided a road map for getting it done. Looking back now, the assessment was a pivotal point.  TalentRISE completed it last April and we built the recommended actions over time to where, by last October, we had a full team of ten recruiters.

TalentRISE: Looking into the future, how do you intend to keep fine-tuning the recruitment/retention process at USG?

Gina: We have quite a few plans in place.  I’ll review three buckets of opportunity. First, we need to focus on data and analytics.  We are now comparing results against newly created SLAs and are able to show our business leaders a monthly scorecard.

The second initiative in the works is staking a bigger claim on diverse candidates and candidates with military backgrounds.  We have a long-standing practice of valuing diversity here at USG.  For instance, recruiters have a requirement that every candidate pool has some diverse candidates.  We are making great progress, we just want to take it to the next step and move the needle further.

Finally, we want to expand our use of technology.  We’ve been working with a partner to create short video segments that explain our jobs so that a candidate can watch a quick one minute video rather than read text.  We are also working on making our recruitment process more mobile-enabled so candidates can apply via smartphone. And, we are looking at video interviewing tools.

TalentRISE: What other lessons learned can you share with our readers?

Gina: Well, one is to focus on the right things.  You can’t boil the ocean. So be careful not to get caught up in what the “nice” to-dos are when there are “must” to-dos to accomplish. Prioritize.

And communicate. I can’t say enough about communication.  We’re getting better and better at it but still can’t communicate enough with hiring managers.  When they say “enough already” we will stop!

Also, be innovative. We took a huge step in moving from a decentralized to centralized structure.  We’ve had to remain open to all kinds of possibilities.  For instance, we’re now tweeting jobs.  That wasn’t even something we knew how to do a year ago. So, it’s possible for an organization to make great strides in a short period of time. Especially if you can bring in people who really know this area. I’m so happy to have the partnership with TalentRISE. We are on the right path.

Gayle Norton

About the Author

Gayle has spent over 20 years honing her expertise in guiding talent acquisition transformations and optimizing talent operations.

Tags: best practices, centralized recruiting, cost saving, recruiting model design