Talent Tales – Clayton Gammill of EY

Talent Tales – Clayton Gammill of EY

Category : 2013

We recently spoke with Clayton Gammill, a Principal in the Dallas offices of EY, to capture his insights on ways that senior HR leaders can best impact the financial bottom-line at their organizations.

Q: Can you describe for us your role at EY?
Sure. We take a more integrated approach to HR solutions than is industry norm.  As a principal in the Tax practice, I have the benefit of looking at HR opportunities for improvement in a multi-dimensional fashion. So in looking at cost optimization, for example, we are able to look holistically at everything from global payroll and global mobility to benefits actuarial services, along with sophisticated workforce need assessment and modeling. This enables us to help the senior HR officer identify which opportunities can have the most material impact on their organization’s revenue plan. At the end of the day, many potential HR initiatives come with primarily intangible benefits, so we add value by helping quantify hard-dollar impacts up front. From there, many projects sell themselves through a compelling financial case while still bringing significant intangible or strategic benefit.

Q: What do you see as a common barrier to the success of value-creation efforts generated from within the HR organization ?
Often HR struggles to execute on transactional responsibilities, due to technologies that haven’t historically supported the business, as well as non-standardized processes. I think HR organizations have gotten a lot accomplished with good old-fashioned sweat equity.  As a result, leaders can struggle to make the business case for change, reducing the senior HR officer’s leverage to get a mission-critical project proper internal resourcing, and putting the overall change effort at risk.

Q: Your emphasis on value-creation prompts us to ask: What is the current state of business process outsourcing (BPO), what trends are you seeing?
If you look to the macro trends, there has been a move away from comprehensive BPO over the last few years. In large part for the reason I just cited – the more comprehensive projects will tend to span multiple business lines within a client site, and so it is seldom clear how the HR officer can keep  it moving along at a satisfactory pace with that much risk of divided attention. In place of comprehensive BPO activity, what the market has shifted to is a more targeted approach to shared services: peeling off discrete pieces of the overall pie, representing more focused cost containment or value creation. For example, there is a compelling business case for uniform global payroll solutions, and that is immediate impact that can be run through to vendor selection by EY.

Another clear trend is in the cloud computing solutions that have rapidly gained acceptance in the marketplace. This is a significant technological development in that historically, HR systems have been plagued with obsolescence challenges.

This stems from HR systems often being the last internal priority for upgrades, and also due to the complexity introduced by in-house customization. Cloud solutions remove those two barriers in that upgrades are pushed out automatically.  Additionally, customization is intentionally limited, forcing the discipline of a standard solution set, which drives down overall costs of ownership, maintenance, and knowledge worker staffing.  As cloud solutions saturate the market and gain in acceptance, we may again see an uptick in outsourcing.  Certain outsourcing companies are currently building their entire platform on specific cloud providers which will enable them to ultimately leverage and scale in a way that was previously unattainable.

Q: Speaking of current trends, do you agree that Workforce Planning (WFP) represents a massive opportunity for HR to impact the bottom-line and shape the future?
Rapidly changing workforce dynamics, both domestically and worldwide absolutely represent the most compelling opportunity facing HR executives today. Everyone is looking for the workforce planning silver bullet. The catch is that HR has not made a compelling case for driving WFP in the past.  Through my discussions with business leaders, they attribute that to HR not knowing business needs well enough to truly understand and accurately forecast upcoming needs. Instead HR professionals are often still focused on blocking and tackling, forced to focus on process and data manipulation due to the inefficient and outdated internal systems we just discussed. HR can’t possibly own workforce planning fully, there are just too many interdependencies ; yet this is a key way HR can add transformational value to the businesses they support and ultimately reshape the future at their organization. By p utting in place systems to assess future workforce needs, factoring in attrition rates, hiring cycle times, and onboarding, HR will be positioned to be proactive instead of reactive, establishing a pipeline of talent to drive future growth.

Q: How is EY approaching this area?
WFP presents a number of challenges based on size and scope alone. At EY, we
take a methodical and structured approach to the dialog with clients from the onset. We start by mapping WFP competencies to the organizational revenue plan, in order to quantify potential revenue creation and cost containment. Assigning a valuation to each of the variables in our model up front is a key step in the process.

Next, we build a checklist, using a a multi-phased process born of best practice experience . Then we put together a plan and proposal for automating against that model.

For me personally, adding significant, quantifiable value to the client makes for the most rewarding work. So partnering on WFP is a passion of mine .  Since we have the discipline, tools, experience and know the right questions to ask we can more effectively support our clients in deploying successful workforce planning solutions . The difficulty is that most HR executives know what needs to happen, they just have too many competing priorities.  What the client gets by engaging us is that we can put our sole focus on the program, greatly increasing speed to market. When a client attempts to do this kind of sophisticated modeling for themselves, they do not always have the dedicated team to execute and because it is one of multiple projects running, the effort can drag out for years and lose momentum. When we engage to support our clients, it is a concerted effort. We’ve done it before, so we know what to look at first and are able to move quickly.

Q: What closing encouragements do you have for our readers?
There are few spaces as intellectually stimulating as human capital right now. When you consider the global complexity as well as the rapidly changing domestic workforce. Experienced HR executives who keep their education current are absolutely positioned to shape the future. The key is to be disciplined about automating and/or engaging outside resources on commodity functions, to reduce time spent on blocking and tackling, and increase time focused on creating strategic impact.