The Recruitment Hackers Podcast

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Darcy Lalonde, a 20 year veteran in HR and Human Capital talks about his entrepreneurial ride as he established and sold BPO companies in Asia over the last 20 years. The key to his recruitment success is simple: good vibes, fair pay, a competitive company personality, and a core executive team that drives it all home.

Show Notes

Welcome to the recruitment hackers podcast. A show about innovations, technology and leaders in the recruitment industry brought to you by Talkpush, the leading recruitment automation platform.

Max: Hello everybody. This is Max for another episode of the Recruitment Hacks from Max and today on our show, we have a personal friend of mine who I've known for over a decade, Mr. Darcy Lalonde. Darcy, welcome to the party. 

Darcy: Thanks max. Good  to chat. 

Max: Good to chat and I'm sure people will appreciate that from one entrepreneur to another entrepreneur, we have a lot of different hats to wear, but today I'm going to ask you to wear the hats of you as your Recruiter in Chief for most of your companies, even though your responsibilities have been much broader and wider than that. And we're talking about more than 20 years of experience in HR related roles, human capital, human capital technology and HR tech, and oftentimes in a leadership role at either the foundation, the start of a new company, or when that company was scaling, going from a few hundred to a few thousand people.

And so we'll try to find out how you build those engines to understand, for somebody who also wants to scale up, you know, maybe find some tricks and ideas on how to attract more and better talent. So, there's a lot to cover in that 20 year history, but perhaps tell us a little bit about what you are to now… and yeah, let's go back a little bit in time. Tell us about how you, how you  started in HR and HR tech. 

Darcy: Well, it’s interesting coming from a former ice hockey player, who became an accountant, got into IT and somehow got into human capital management, which I guess is a lesson learned for many of us, is that as a small child growing up, I had dreams of playing ice hockey. I never had dreams of being an executive in Human Capital. But it's funny how the different roads and I think one of the things that sport taught me was the importance of team, the importance of people, and one of the interesting things is that I've always found it to, you know, to often be the captain of the team and things like this as a kid.

But, what really makes things, I think rewarding is the people around you. And, I think that was one of the things as I got into my career, that the people and the teams and the folks that work with you are so important. I've been I must say, over the last 20, 30 years started up a number of companies of which, you know, I'm very proud to say from a lot of the people that have actually joined those companies after another but have been the times of our lives.

You know, I think that's part of creating the culture of your business and your ecosystem. Is that you know, you do have fun. You have a passion, you work hard, you play hard. You create loyalty. and you know, just one of the things that I very much enjoyed was the people aspect.

And you know, I came through as an accountant and ended up in IT. And I guess it was interesting that I used to be very critical of human capital and HR professionals as being relatively non-effective. Not at the board. 

Max: I'm thinking about your introduction. This is very nice. And telling us about your story where you're talking about the competitive edge and your background in sports. And I guess the perception from the outside world is you know, HR and Talent Acquisition, Human Capital, all of that's not really for the competitive. Yeah. You know it's more of a support function where it's more about you know, making sure that everybody's taken care of as opposed to going out to win, is that what you're referring to when you were saying,  I didn't think I'd end up in that space? 

Darcy: Yeah. I guess, you know, one of my challenges that I've given many HR professionals over the last 20 years since you know, is really getting in the HR space in 2001, when I joined Arinso, you know, I'm a supply chain guy. I'm a finance guy.  you know, we have supply chains and value chains and activity based costing and all these things that drive and show, you know, qualified and quantified benefits. HR people, they go for coffee. They chat with people, you know, and I'm being a little bit facetious here obviously, but I do believe that…

Max: That’s the perception for sure.

Darcy: It is the perception. And I don't think it needs to be, I think in today's world more than any time, the HR professionals have the opportunity to step up and really drive business and drive business benefits. Drive, you know, people, because you know, again— and I've been around a long time and, you know, people are our most important asset. That's been on everybody's webpage for about 10, 20 years now.

But, do you really have an executive at your boardroom table who is strategically driving the benefits that your people can bring to your business? And can you as an accountant quantify that? Can you actually show the benefits? And at the end of the day, the financial impacts on the bottom line, top line and ultimately sharing.
And I will say that's one of the things that I'm very, very big on is sharing the rewards of the company back to the employee. So that there's a direct correlation that says I make profit. I share it with you. I don't make them up. I can share it with you. 

Max: This challenge you say, more important now than ever. I think that some of that is because we're looking for people who are competitive in a world where maybe there's a generational shift where people often criticize millennials as being… Asking too much and giving too little. At the risk of sounding very old, what do you think about this  generational shift, do you think that it's true? Do you think that it becomes harder to find people who are willing to, you know, go to battle with you in this environment?

Darcy:  Yeah. I guess I’m the edge of the baby boomers.

Max: I thought you were gen X. 

Darcy: No, no, I just caught the end , but you know, it was interesting because I came into the business world when we were moving from mainframes to files, server computing, and I remember when I first came in as the young buck, they all found me very abrasive, very pushy,  very millennial.  I would say, you know, these crazy people that are going to work with, you know, local area networks and email and Microsoft products. You know I think at times it is a little bit oversold, the whole millennial concept and again, coming back max to recruiting and you really need a personal touch now to grab people, I mean, the attention span and  the ability to be very smart and have access to Google. My kids are smarter than me. Right. And they're 12 years old because they out-Google me. That's I think one of the things that you have to now be able to digitally connect to your people. And is that some of your first time points are reaching out digitally, but then you're trying to bring them in and get that, a little bit, that you are special, you are somebody that I'm actually targeting and focusing with. 

And I still believe people have the same inherent, you know, behaviors and needs 

Max: It’s overblown. Basically. We think people make too much of a big deal of the generational gap. I tend to agree, but I also think that somehow, one of the reasons why you've been successful for 20 plus years is because you have found a way to attract a more competitive, more hungry group of professionals. You know, people who are just like in a hockey team they want to win. So, is that something that is built into the culture post on-boarding, or is that something that you figured out a way to do at the recruitment stage. 

Darcy: Yeah. Well, I, you know, I think the first meeting is that first touch, that first moment is a very important moment. And I guess I've hired people that ended up being some of my most successful executives over the phone. Didn't see them. All I heard was a voice and this was, you know, we didn't have zoom back 10, 15 years ago. You know, and I would have somebody fly in from Sydney flying to Manila show up for their first day.

And it was really about, you know, having that feeling and just having somebody passionate and you know, talk about things. Like, look, I need somebody who just wants to get on a plane, do whatever it takes, but I'll tell you, when this thing takes off, then we're all going to have a heck of a rocket ship ride.

And frankly, that was, in Asia, which was my second company Arinso. Starting up SAP, HR,  in Southeast Asia in the year 1999 sounded like the craziest thing in the world to me. SAP, very expensive, you know, Southeast Asia, particularly not investing in certainly human capital solutions, they were more focused on at that point, supply chain, finance, procurement things like that.

And, you know, just going in and, having, my partner at the time, Josh ended up doing very well in life with our exit of Arinso.  I guess it was 12 years later. But coming in to Asia

Max: So from, from zero to a 50 million revenue plus business, something like that.

Darcy: Yeah. I mean, it was funny because I was a Canadian living  in Asia and between Singapore and Manila. And I say, this fondly, this crazy Belgian guy Josh Slice, kept phoning me up and saying, look, we need somebody to start up this, you know, Asia. And he called it the far East. We need this far East group to be started.

Max: For people who don't work in Asia, there is no such thing as the far East. It's not a real region, right?

Darcy: No, I was still looking for the far East.

Max: Yeah. We're talking about like 12 countries that speak 12 different languages with 12 different regulations and laws and so on. Starting North gate Arinso in Hong Kong and then into the Philippines, you had to hire across the far East as they call it in different countries. Recruitment was very different in different parts of Asia? Did you have to adapt your process or was it more, you know, company culture trumps everything and we'll worry about localizing later?

Darcy: Yeah I think back then it was really sponsored by SAP coming into the region, so I had very good connections with the SAP community and there's a guy by the name of Les Hayman. Who's the head of SAP APJ. And Les is no longer with us, but it was just a fantastic man. And again, a great leader and an inspirational leader. And I guess my point is that I do believe that kind of leadership is something that, you create.

I guess this was back when I had really long hair and I was even a bit more eccentric than I was even today. I went to Asia and got introduced to a few people and hired people. Frankly, those people still work for my companies today, a lot of them.

So, but I think in those days you could really, word of mouth, it was a bit less of a mature market, so the competition was less. And I would say SAP HCM professionals in Asia, pretty well, every single person I almost see with, with 10 years of experience have worked for one of my companies. So it's something I’m very proud of, but also very proud of  that management group that I've created that, some of my best friends in the region.  But I think it really was word of mouth and less digital. And this was 20 years ago. Now on the recruiting front, we were doing things like Taleo and you know, some of the big,  enterprise stuff with Arinso. So that was really the infancy of it was the late 90s was really that whole targeted recruiting stuff was just coming in. 

Max: It sounds like a lot of that is relationship based and, word of mouth and that perhaps even though you are a technologist and you did sell these technology platforms that in your case, you know, what really drove recruitment marketing and talent attraction, was more around executive hiring and more around finding people who are passionate  and the human factor. Would you say that still holds true today that people, you know, we have vendors like Talkpush and others that make a big deal of the candidate experience, but the human elements is still King. 

Darcy: Yeah. I mean certainly think you have to frame a storyboard that, you know, brings an edginess to it. Again, the millennials are looking for that maybe more than they were in my generation. You know, my kids will say, dad, you met Richard Branson. Yeah, I did meet Richard Branson. I mean, stuff like this, people want to work for some of these types of people and

Max: Right, you could put a picture of Richard Branson on your website and get a few more candidates perhaps.

Darcy: Yeah. Well, I have pictures beside Bill McDermott and Jen Morgan and all these kinds of people, I think Les Hayman over the days, Hasso Plattner... I've been very blessed to…

Max: I kind of know those names, but I don't think that millennials will care so much.
I mean, it might help you attract a couple of executives. But, thinking about your time at Shore Solutions, where you went from 200 to 2000 call center agents in a period of two years. Those names would not have meant anything to those guys.Tell us about that strategy, how you did the ramp up there and the cool factor that you were able to build in order, to multiply the size of your business by 10 and in a short period of time.

Darcy: Yeah. And I guess that's an example too, of having moved from professional services with SAP and consulting and, exiting that business. And then really I lived in Manila. So, if you're in Manila and you need something to do, you know what makes sense to do? Well, you do a call center. so that was you know, one of my objectives. 

And again, I think in terms of focus and target, obviously the call center industry is another completely different industry. I think it was very, really interesting for myself from a Human Capital Management Executive who had all the answers to all the best practices and processes. And now to take that from a more enterprise view into a contact center or BPO.  Which is all your recruiting particularly highly competitive market. Everybody's stealing from everybody and very much again, how do you create that vibe that creates the loyalty? You know, and, to be honest, I guess my people formula is what I like to call more of a waterfall, which is,  getting those top managers in  your leadership team, they have to be also the ones that create that vibe down to the next level and the next level and the next level.
And, you know, we were, I think lucky enough, in the short that, you know, had a kind of, and I think I've framed him. He's this big Australian guy, John L. Smith, and kind of a rugby, big guy. So you got him and me and the hockey…

Max: They sounds scary. Yeah, it sounds like they would scare the candidates away, not attract  them.

Darcy: Well, you'd be surprised. There's this we're gonna, hang with these guys.  And I shouldn't say guys, cause I, you know, Shore was another one of the companies where I created I think one of my strongest management teams and I think you've met many of them, you know, the Tanya's and Lenny's and, and Jerry. We had  just a phenomenal group of people and not only were we hugely successful, but we had a ton of fun. We did stuff that, you know,  and again, Shore was also, you know, I think one of the best blends, cause it was two years, 200 to 2000. 

Max: So the fact that he had a ton of fun,  for our audience, mainly Talent Acquisition people. Were you able to put that into words or images in a way that it would attract people, how do you convey the message? You put pictures of your parties on the wall?

Darcy: Yeah.  I mean, I think we did have  you know Tanya, who was my marketing lady at the time, did a great job of creating these sound bytes and clips. But it's also again, when they have those interviews and they have those touch points that you've got the right lead in, that, you know, you grab them quickly. Reputation then quickly takes over. And the reality is I don't like to overpay people, but I certainly like to pay people what they're worth. So it's another concept where, you know, I want people to have good lives, so I don't want to have the lowest salaries in the business. I want to have  people that can build and grow  and certainly the Philippines. Again, that's one of the most rewarding aspects. I think of being an executive there is, now with my 20 years of being there, I can count thousands of people that have changed their lives. And some of them from the poorest situations,  They work hard, they got passion. It's not always about which college they're from.  I liked the underdog. I liked the people that never got a chance. Yeah, and again, I think maybe from a sporting side, but what you want to do is maximize people's strengths, minimize their weaknesses, build on… You know, a team can’t have all superstars.

you need to respect the plotting accounts payable clerk, you know, it's okay to be a plotting accounts.. 

Max: Give everybody some love, pay them well, hope that the word of mouth and the positive sort of company culture resonates. And that generates some positive word of mouth, some referrals, and it sounds pretty simple when you say like that.

Darcy: Yeah, it does. 

Max: There's no secret sauce. I feel the same way that it's better to pay a little bit over market rates and reduce attrition. And, then focus on everything else. And well, you don't have to promise the moon to anybody, you just build a good environment and hope that positive word of mouth carries you. Because really, if you get 20 or 30% of your hires through referrals, employer referral, that means you're doing a good job, right? 

Darcy: Yeah. Absolutely. And, again, the call center, you know, human capital market is  you know, again, I think where you do need to some degree focus on the nicheness of the marketplace. So you can't have one style fits all. When I'm recruiting an executive, it's going to be different than a volume recruitment. But, I guess the story should still be the same, right? The vibe of the company, because that's, you know, again, I think the challenge of trying to get it and you know, back 20 years ago I was much more involved with the operational side.

So I was at the parties. I was at the coffee. I was at the lunches. I was in the middle of it… as I guess I've taken on more entrepreneurial and chairman roles and less operational, I need my team to be able to take that passion and, it can’t be that you know, we're all disappointed because Darcy didn't come to the meeting. You can build that out in, and that could perhaps be a, you know, there's a certain size of business that I frankly don't enjoy as much as you know, I, I love them when we've got 10 people. A hundred people, a thousand people, when you get to 10,000, somebody else should buy my business and take it. And they should really get rid of me because I'm unmanageable. It's time to move to the next level. And, and, you know, I don't think I guess I don't take offense to that whole concept. I'm a bit proud of it. I guess that's my rebel side that says, you know, I'm good to a certain point. And then I can let some of these big, more corporate enterprise folks who are much smarter than me, take it over and take it to the next level. 

Max: Well, there’s so many different definitions to intelligence. I don't know if they're smarter than you, but maybe  they're a little bit more political. Talking about the ideal number for a team. I've been doing some research on, you know, what would be happy. And I think that 2000 is already way beyond where I could foresee myself in the sense that I can not remember 2000 people's names. There was research done on the cognitive limits on the number of people that one can remember and be friends with in the community it's called Dunbar's number and numbers like around 150 to 200. I could see myself, you know, working with that, but it's different for everybody, for sure.

But I think, some great advice there Darcy about enabling each of your leaders to become the engine for recruitment, rather than try to put it into a formula. Every team needs to have an inspiring leader that wants to create a fun environment in each o their teams and it’s something that everybody can take away  from our conversation.
What's in store for you in the future? I'm going to continue to, by the way for the listeners, Darcy was kind enough to give us a chance because he loves the outsiders so much that he decided to be my first customer at Talkpush some six years ago. And will  continue to advise Talkpush in its next phase of growth.

What are you working on next? What are you working on now? 

Darcy: Well, I guess as you know, Max, I, was sure we had a small SAP group, which when I sold that to an Australian company and then we took the SAP piece, that share piece into something called Synchrony, which was again a company that about a year ago I sold to Rising, which is a big U.S partner. So, you know, put in a good year. I had a nice transition. I’m very proud to see that, you know, we became number one in Asia for SAP success factor partners. Within 12 months, we were named the number one partner in the region, which I couldn't be more proud of. And now they will become and they are probably the biggest global partner in the world. And that's what I set out to do. And I’m happy that you know, Rising will take it to the next level. So I guess I'm settling in the whole Corona thing, I guess COVID stuff is... Certainly created a challenge for all of us, which is just another challenge on the road. It's a tough one and when we go back max to the millennial discussions and things that, you know, I think we could argue, this generation was fairly entitled with very little resistance to their success. I think now ...

Max: Think this will teach them a few lessons?

Darcy: Well, I think I didn't have World War II. I didn't have a lot of the tough stuff that you know, our generations before us had. And boy, now we've got our World War III, literally, that we’re going to have to deal with,  I'm looking forward to as we go through ….

Max: So Darcy, thank you for sharing these cool insights and to wrap up our conversation, would you have any practical tips for employers today on how to stand out in a crowded group? You were competing for talent in some of the most crowded markets for talent across the BPO sector in particular in the Philippines and in Asia.
How did you manage to stand out? And what tips do you have for talent acquisition professionals to build a different brand that doesn't look and sound like everyone else?

Darcy: Well, I think number one from my perspective is to have a passion, love what you do, have the passion, the drive.  I think, you know, again in today's world, you have to digitize that. So again, it's to create the edge, you know. I build businesses, I start businesses. One of the things that I have learned over the last 10 years, particularly , and that was a great example was Shore was that you have to digitize that cool factor. And you know, as an entrepreneur, I think that is really the, absolute key is to lead by example, have the passion have the drive, bring in people that share that, then be able to digitize that because that is really how you can scale yourself and move yourself.
And get the attention that, you know, in the old days might've been,  you could do that in events and whatnot. You know, frankly now you do this digitally. But , you know, one of the things, is a warning that I have is don't digital spam. Because I see companies right now. Gosh if, If I see another one of their LinkedIns they’re  spamming everywhere.

Max: LinkedIn is the worst. It is the absolute worst when it comes to spam. I mean, I don't know how they manage to do that, but it is mayhem out there. Absolutely. So, digitalization, we didn't spend too much time on, but obviously that's been a core theme running through your career is first build a great management team that's going to communicate the employer value proposition and then digitize it so that you're not overly dependent on individuals, I guess, to get the message out.

Dacy: Yup. Yup.  I think in today's world again you know, I've always been able to manage multiple countries without being in them. At one time I managed 15 countries with the Arinso Middle East, Asia, Canada, delivery centers, and you know, I used to call it management by email. Because I, you know, again, that was the digital side 10 to 20 years ago. If you've got the right on the ground, what I always found was that at least with an email, the same message came at the same time to the same people.

I'm not a big believer on conference calls and having calls for the sake of calls, because I've often found that my management team went away and they all took a different message out of it. Somehow. Probably tailored a little bit to their own benefit to a certain degree.

Max: Yeah, you pick and choose. When it's black and white, there’s less room for confusion. Saves a lot of time with calls. I've been trying to do more written asynchronous communication, which is another fancy way of saying email and spending less time on calls myself. That's a very powerful. Yeah. Alright, well, we're about done on time. 

Thank you Darcy for spending this time with me and with our listeners and looking forward to seeing what's next in store for you for the next entrepreneurial adventure.
And thanks for all your advice throughout the years. 

Darcy: Okay, thanks max. And looking forward to seeing Talkpugh get to that next level. Keep up the good work buddy.

That was Darcy Lalonde, friend of Talkpush, serial entrepreneur, who told us about how important it is to build a core executive team that's going to help to drive recruitment and share the fun of your company culture. 

Thank you, Darcy. Hope you enjoyed the interview. If you want to hear more about recruitment and how it drives business, please listen to some of our other episodes.

If you liked it, leave us a review and subscribe to this channel. Hope to see you soon.

What is The Recruitment Hackers Podcast?

The Recruitment Hackers Podcast talks to leaders who have turned recruiting into a long-term competitive edge for their business. In those discussions, we explore ways to improve the candidate experience, we imagine the future of recruitment, and we discuss which digital strategies are performing well. This podcast is essential listening for talent acquisition professionals who want to win the war for talent through digitization, automation and tons of empathy for candidates.