In this edition of The RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks with Rod Adams about how PwC’s new program is breaking down barriers to entry into their workforce.
Rod is the US and Mexico talent acquisition and onboarding leader at PwC and an expert in designing and implementing human resource processes and strategies across the candidate-employee lifecycle. Give the show a listen and let us know your thoughts!
Show Length: 26 minutes
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Rod is a strategy-driven HR leader with over 25 years of experience and expertise in designing and implementing human resource processes and strategies across the candidate/employee lifecycle. Currently, he serves as PwC’s Talent Acquisition and Onboarding Leader across Mexico and the US.Follow Follow
This is Recruiting Daily’s Recruiting Live podcast where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing and talent acquisition. Each week we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three-year-old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to the Recruiting Daily podcast. Today we have Rod on from PwC where we’re going to talk about how PwC’s new program is breaking down barriers to entry in their workforce and so there are a lot of things to unpack there. And so, first of all, we’ll start with introductions. Rod, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and PwC for those that don’t know PwC.
I would be happy to and I appreciate you having me on. Excited to be on today. So Rod Adams, as you said. I am our US and Mexico talent acquisition leader for PwC, responsible for all of our hiring to support our US and Mexico firms, so that includes intern up through our executive hiring, what we call catalyst hiring. And also we have acceleration centers around the globe that support our business here that we hire into as well.
So ultimately it’s 20,000 plus hires a year that we are bringing in, and I should have said it, I’m also responsible for the onboarding of those hires. So quite an exciting time right now in our firm. We are a professional services firm for those that are not familiar. Provide services to our clients across a array of different things. I think in some corners, we’re largely known for the work we do in the audit and tax space, but we have our third business of consulting is just as big as our audit and tax practices, as well, and we do consulting on just about everything-
Yeah, every industry.
… in the tech space, management consulting, every industry. Yeah, and so that’s the short version of-
The short version.
… what we do. Yeah.
Well, it’s interesting because when you talk about PwC, it’s like, “How do I get this down to 30 seconds?”
Yeah. It’s hard. It’s really hard.
No, no, it’s a good problem to have because it’s multidimensional and this is something that you deal with with your entire TA team. It’s like, “Okay, we have to source talent. We got to recruit, we got to hire,” and then you’ve continued that into onboarding which I think is actually really, really smart. You got to explain this to candidates that know you so some of those folks that are really super experienced. They already know what PwC is. You don’t have to really break it down, but for some of that junior talent or college talent or entry level talent, they don’t necessarily know what any of those things are. They might know maybe a sliver if they came out of a business degree with specialization in tax or something like that. Yeah, all right. Fair enough. They might know that part, but they might not know the rest of it.
Yeah. And we’ve been expanding as a firm and growing as a firm, evolving like most strong organizations are and we’ve got a products business. As an example of how we’ve expanded, we’ve got a products business now where we are actually building and selling different types of products to-
Oh, that’s cool.
… our clients. So we are also hiring talent at the experience level that isn’t used to considering a professional services firm as an opportunity they may go to. Data scientists or someone like that, so it is-
Well, that’s an interesting challenge.
You’re right. Yeah. It is an interesting challenge. You’re exactly right, that we-
Wall Street went through this challenge a couple of years ago where they all woke up and basically said, “Oh, we’re tech firms. We have to hire software engineers.” And it was really interesting because the folks, if you talk to Silicon valley, they were like, “We’re competing with Wall Street and Wall Street has money. It’s hard to compete…”
It’s hard to compete there.
Yeah, it’s hard to compete because they just throw money at the problem. I love the fact that… Because y’all on your consulting side, I know one of the lines of business is to help implement different technologies all across the enterprise technologies. To have a products division of your own, that’s fantastic because you can spin things out, you can grow things, but you got to recruit. It’s different talent.
Yep. Exactly. It is different talent. So we’ve definitely been introducing ourselves to a different talent market, which has been fun.
That stretches you. It’ll stretch your TA team, too, which is, I mean again, a part of that 20,000 hires or plus, it’s good for them to be stretched because when you’re hiring a junior level consultants or maybe people right out of business school that want to be consultants, okay, there’s a well worn path to that process. However, hiring a UI or UX developer for your products division for PwC, it’s like, “Okay, they might not have thought that, but that might be a fantastic job,” and so just kind of conveying that and making that talent community and getting them aware of all the cool things that you do and things like that.
So let’s jump into your program. So tell us a little bit about the new program and kind of how you’re breaking down barriers.
Yeah. So we’re very focused, and have been for quite some time, on diversity and how are we diversifying our workforce, making sure we’re getting the best talent in the firm. I think any serious talent acquisition organization is probably thinking about that. We’ve been very focused on action in this space. My personal point of view as I lead this organization, we need to do it from a business perspective because we need to win the war for talent. We’re going to be able to execute on our strategy. Recently rolled out a new strategy called The New Equation, how we’re servicing our clients. We need to have the best talent and that includes talent from all walks of life, having a diverse talent set.
Plus it’s a responsibility as our organization aligns to our purpose, because I firmly believe access shouldn’t be a privilege and I think access to jobs, to a lot of different things, sometimes feels like a privilege in this country and that shouldn’t be the case. So how do we break down those barriers and open up the doors? We’ve been really focused on that. So I can definitely share a couple of things that we’re doing. We can dig into it and any questions that you have.
Let’s start off with candidates’ expectations. What have you seen, because you’ve done this for a while? So what have you seen in the change in what candidates want to see out of you and your team, or questions that they might ask that are different than maybe what they would’ve asked two or three years ago?
Yeah. I mean the candidate expectation, the pandemic has changed things significantly, right?
So the expectation around flexibility… There’s a couple of things that come to mind when you ask the question. Flexibility, for sure, comes to mind and that means something different for everyone, which I think is part of the challenge we have as organizations when you hear these conversations around people want to work from home and be virtual or remote, or they do want come to the office. It’s not a one size fits all. We’re 55,000 people. There’s not a one size fits all for that. And so having an approach that provides some flexibility, I think is important. The way we’ve been looking at it, we’ve kind of been thinking about the way our people work into four buckets. Virtual, so basically completely working from home. Flex, flexible, but there’s two different degrees of flexibility. One that’s with location so, yeah, you only need to be in the office two to three… or at a client two to four days a week, but we either need you in Chicago or we actually don’t care where you live, right-
… because you’re just going to be on a plane and traveling. And so we’ve got two buckets of flexibility, and then we’ve got a very small population that will still need to be physically in the office. But having that flexibility of different ways of working, I think is clearly hugely important for people in a way that has evolved tremendously over the last two years. It’s an area we have focused on but we’ve had to definitely evolve our focus in that space.
Yeah. I think y’all were ahead. I mean, you kind of had a head start. I think consulting firms and tax and audit firms kind of already had a head start on some of this because a lot of their spaces, years ago, kind of went to a hoteling atmosphere where like I remember actually visiting a PwC office, I think it was in Chicago. I can’t remember. And literally it was places where you could just come in for the day, drop your stuff, do your bit, meet with a client and then leave. Y’all were kind of already ahead of this, but I love the way that y’all have broken down.
When you’re talking with candidates, it’s like you can then say you’ve got paths. It’s like, “Listen. The work’s got to get done. Check, covered. How the work gets done, well, let’s talk through a little bit about what works for you.” I like even that idea of when you have the two options on flex, it’s what works for you that week.
Yeah, exactly. And our investments around and our focus on flexibility prior to pandemic, as well as tech enabling how we work really set us up nicely because it is… We definitely had some still old school views on how work needed to get done, that people needed to be together in a conference room to be able to do X, Y, and Z. Well, that has totally evolved because we did X, Y, and Z and we were not together, and so how we hold onto some of that, not to say that in-person time isn’t still valued for certain things, but you could have more flexibility, we’ve learned, than what we even had a year and a half ago before [crosstalk 00:11:30]
And your clients, what’s funny is as y’all are learning this, your clients are learning as well. So your clients are learning, “You know what? We don’t need to meet in the boardroom and do this bit. It can be a Zoom call. We can collaborate. We can do other things.” And, yeah, there is some ceremony that’s always going to be a part of business that you’re not going to do over a Zoom call or something like that, but I like that the clients have changed.
Candidates are asking different questions, which is great. Y’all were well positioned already as it relates to flexibility. What other candidate expectations are you seeing? Maybe around diversity.
Yeah. Well played. That was exactly where I was going to go. I kind of tie two things together. I think the candidates are looking for firms that care, and when I say care, I mean, one, how do they treat their people when things are challenging, and they get to kind of really poke at that, given the challenges we’ve had over the last 18 months. And then how do they get involved, have a point of view, have a leadership role when it comes to societal challenges? And diversity is clearly square in that space and I think that’s very important and top of mind in what we’re hearing from our talent. So, we we do a number of things.
Our senior partner’s been very active in driving an organization called CEO Action for Diversity, which is all around making actionable pledges around what organizations are doing to drive diversity within their four walls. They’ve extended beyond that to say, “Okay, what are organizations doing to be a part of driving change in public policy, as well,” which is great. An example of something we’re doing which we’re excited about both for ourselves and the potential it has for the talent that we’re touch, we’ve had a program called Access your Potential for a few years that has been focused on elementary and high school students in providing different skills learnings to help them achieve their potential, whether it’s financial literacy or digital quote unquote upskilling at that level.
Our new iteration of that is a $125 million commitment with the focus on supporting 25,000 Black and LatinX college students prepare for their careers. The high performing, high demand careers to help them prepare for that. And at a high level what that means is it’s mentorship so we’ve got an element of that where we’re providing mentorship opportunities. It’s upskilling in critical places, not just in the tech and digital space but definitely a focus there, but upskilling to supplement what they’re getting on their campuses. And then also careers, so given access to job opportunities through our program as well, with PwC and beyond PwC. So really excited about the launch of that. Made the announcement a few months ago. We’re going to start to really engage students in the next 30 to 45 days in those three areas.
Well, I love it from the older program where you go further into childhood education, middle school, things like that, so you go kind of vertical and you go down and really kind of help kind of build a pipeline, if you will. And with the new program it’s you’re meeting them where they are right now. They need help. No one in college actually… Well, a few people in college know exactly what they want to do and the path and all that stuff, so having access to mentors and having access to, again, internships and experiences that can kind of… On one level it shows you what you like, and on some level it shows you what you don’t like. An internship can be both.
And it’s clear in the data, right?
That individuals from those demographics like Black and LatinX don’t have the same access to people that are-
A hundred percent.
… already in those environments to tell them those things that they need to know and understand about how to get into those environments, how to be successful in those environments. So that, again, it comes back to that word access. That’s what we’re looking to be able to do through this effort.
You know what’s interesting is when candidates ask about care, I think one of the questions that come up is, “How’d you handle COVID?” And then companies explain, “There’s a story there. Here’s how we navigated uncertain, uncharted territories,” et cetera. I also think that when they’re asking questions about care they’re looking for actions, they’re looking for intentionality, especially when it relates to diversity and inclusion. They’re like, “Words are great. Values on a website, fantastic. Careers [crosstalk 00:17:10] whatever.” What are you doing? What I love about this program is $125 million, that’s a lot of money. That’s actually doing something. You’re putting money into the hands and actually helping people through things that, again, uncharted territories for those college students.
You hit the nail right on the head. That’s what we’ve been focused on, the actions. What are we actually doing when you think about the last 18 months in care? So we’re launching this program and a commitment of $125 million, 25,000 jobs, we are during that timeframe, we committed to our people that we were not going to do layoffs and we didn’t do layoffs and now we’re hiring like crazy, so couldn’t be happier that we didn’t do layoffs.
But we didn’t do layoffs. We have relationships with 35, I think it is now, HBCUs around the country, the historical Black colleges, and during that timeframe we gave them each $10,000 grants to try to help them tech enable their curriculum and how they were going to be able to offer their learning to their students, knowing that they were coming into challenging times. And those schools tend to not have access to the same resources-
… as some of the bigger schools so we did that. So just to rattle off a few, but yes, it is about what actions are we taking. We grew our internship program during that timeframe. We actually have a internship program, it’s called START, not to get into the long details but usually most of our interns intern with us in the last summer of their college journey because that’s when they’ve had the right amount of schooling to engage with our clients. But we developed a program, I don’t know, ten, 15 years ago for Black and LatinX students that’s a little earlier than that to give them an introduction to the firm.
They don’t serve clients during that internship but they get introduced to the firm. They do some work with not-for-profits in helping them solve some of their problems. But we upsized that program from 700 to a thousand during the pandemic.
Which is great on a number of levels because, A, it’s also helping you just like your internship, traditional internship, it’s helping you build a pipeline. When you do an internship you’re trying to figure out as a candidate, do I like this place? Do I like the work? Do I like the team, et cetera, and they’re doing the same thing. So our internships are just wonderful, check, cover. What I love about START is you’re introducing them earlier to just go, “You know what? Let’s introduce you to the internship experience and, yeah, you’re going to learn about PwC. You’re going to learn about our clients. You’re going to learn about what we do, and you’re going to learn a bunch of things that, you know what, aren’t taught in school.
And so this is just going to be a good experience for you, what you do next, but I think it’s smart on another level because you’re going even deeper into that talent earlier and you’re building those relationships that maybe two, three years later when they do graduate or matriculate, you’ve already built a relationship with them so I think that’s smart.
Let me ask you a question about, not just the optics, but something I’ve been reading about in hiring and dealing with all the strata of diversity, is that folks want to see people like them somewhere in the process.
So if you’re non-binary or whatever, again, pick any of the spokes of diversity, that you want to kind of see that somewhere in the process, just somewhere in the process, you want to see people like you. Have you or your team, obviously your team’s dealing with a lot of this, have you heard more about that?
Yeah. I mean, that’s a common point of view and I personally think that is something that individuals have wanted for years. I think that they’re demanding it, so to speak, more than they used to, and when I say demanding it, I mean, demanding it from a perspective of they’re just not considering organizations where they don’t see that, right?
That’s right, that’s right.
And so the way I look at it is all of our interview teams, we focus on diversity, right?
Most people anywhere interview with anywhere from three to five people. Some of our more senior jobs it gets higher than that, and so we are very focused on, “I don’t care what your background is, is that you should see a diverse group of people when you interview.” Because I don’t think it’s just our diverse talent that we’re looking to hire that’s looking to see diversity in the firm, I think it’s-
That’s a good point.
… the majority of our quote unquote non-diverse talent… I don’t [inaudible 00:22:23] that word, but I think everyone wants to see that diversity so we try to built that into every interview team.
It’s also a tell if they don’t want to see diversity in your [crosstalk 00:22:33] you don’t want to hire them.
Right, right. It’s not the right place. It’s not the right place for you.
It would be interesting just programmatically to ask people, ask candidates, “Who do you want to be interviewed by?”
Yeah, yeah, and-
Like, “Pick your own roadmap. Pick your own journey. Who do you want to be interviewed by? You’re Gen Z and you want nothing but Gen Z folks to take you through the process? Great, fantastic.”
It’s funny that you say that because we have experimented with that on some of our more senior roles because they’re usually pretty well-
Oh, yeah. They’re [inaudible 00:23:07]
They’re pretty well vetted but also they study it pretty well, right?
So we’ve experimented with, “Okay. I imagine you’ve done your research. Is there someone in this firm you want to meet? You’re being hired into our cyber practice. Is there someone you want to meet as part of your interview process?” So we’ve been doing a little bit of that, or we definitely try to do across to the board, “Is there something that you want to learn about?”, right?
“So, “Is there something that is important to you or that you’ve heard about the organization, whether it’s our D&I initiatives or it’s our products and tech team?” And then it can help us also inform who we put in front of them when they’re being interviewed.
It tailors the experience to them and what they need. I love the, “What do you want to learn? Who do you want to meet? How’s the experience?” It just makes a better experience for them which makes it better for hiring.
Which I think is our ultimate challenge as talent acquisition organizations right now is how in this environment right now where most organizations are just hiring like crazy, volume is through the roof and you’re trying to move fast, still give a personal experience to the talent, because I do think that’s what wins. I do think the more you can personalize it-
Highly personal at velocity.
And handled, by the way, quality, so let’s make it harder. It’s like a Rubik’s cube.
Which is so simple. It’s so simple to do. It’s not a problem.
“So we want quality, we want highly personalized experiences, and, oh, by the way, we need that fast.” “Oh, okay.”
Yeah, exactly, and so it’s easy and so if you can just get those moments where that candidate’s like, “Oh, that was clearly about me. That was clearly a personal…”
That’s how I think you do it because, again, with all those three things you’re trying to accomplish, you can’t make the entire experience personal, but you can get those moments.
And those matter, for sure.
… from sourcing all the way to onboarding, I think reversing things that we’ve done in other areas of the business is asking the candidates and even employees, “How are we doing?” In every interaction… It’s like we just did our first phone interview or phone screen. At the end of the bid, “Okay. All right. Now it’s your turn. How did we do? How’d this go? What could I have improved in the phone interview?” et cetera. Those are little things but, hey, you’d be surprised about how many people don’t ask for feedback.
So, Rod, this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for carving out time. I can’t even imagine how busy you are but thank you for carving out time for us and the Recruiting Daily podcast.
I appreciate you having me on. It was nice to have the conversation with you. Hopefully I get to do it again someday.
Awesome. Awesome. And thanks for everyone listening to the Recruiting Daily podcast. Until next time.
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William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.