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The podcast featuring finance leaders driving change within their organizations.

Nov 25, 2020


"Talent has become really important, and you have to remain constantly focused on it—today, I spend around 20% of my time on it." - Ross Tennenbaum, CFO, Avalara

CFOTL: What are your priorities for the coming year?

Tennenbaum: One is building out our finance and accounting talent to take us to a billion dollars’ worth of revenue and beyond. We’re at close to half a billion of revenue, and we’re looking to go well beyond that. You really need the talent that has experienced a larger scale, knows how to achieve it, and can take you there. So, talent has become really important, and you have to remain constantly focused on it—today, I spend around 20% of my time on it.

CFOTL: What does the phrase “workforce culture” mean to you?

Tennenbaum: Beginning in my investment banking days, I’ve studied many companies and management teams. I’ve seen teams that were really high-functioning, really strong, great cultures. I’ve also seen management teams and executive teams that were not cohesive. There was a lot of distrust and backstabbing. Each of these scenarios could generate great numbers and be performing well, but I would only want to invest my money in the one that has that trust and has a cohesive team—and where this is really being driven forward in a cultural way. I don’t think that Wall Street really has a view of this. There is really no metric internally—and certainly not externally—that gives this view on culture. But I think that investors are increasingly trying to get this view into talent and culture.

Drew Vollero, CFO, Allied Universal

When Drew Vollero arrived in the CFO office of security and facilities company Allied Universal in 2018, he understood that the primary constraint to Allied’s future growth remained human capital. Like so many other meaty challenges, Vollero had helped to remedy during his finance career– Allied’s new CFO understood finance must play an active role when it came to optimizing the company’s “employee funnel”.  Then Covid 19 arrived - overnight elevating Allied’s hiring hurdle to Vollero’s top of mind status.   

We recently asked Vollero to explain how the company’s hiring priorities may have been altered due to the pandemic.

Vollero: I would say that we hire 3,000 people a week. We see a million resumes a year here at Allied Universal. There's 150 million or so people employed in this country. So, you're talking about a meaningful number of resumes that this company sees. Our ability to hire the right people is really important. How do you do this at scale is really our challenge. Our strategy team has adopted a couple of new tools that helped us do that through the field. We now have an artificial intelligence vehicle that we're testing that will help us identify what are the key metrics when it comes to hiring and what are the key personality traits or key answers that applicants can give us that (signal) they will fit well with our culture, as well as indicate that they might be successful employees.

We're also using an automated workflow to really help us get through some of our staffing bottlenecks. Our challenge here today is we may get a resume, but we may not be able to call you for six to eight weeks. Managing that workflow better is very important to us and something that we spend a lot of time studying the employment funnel. How do we find 150,000 of the best employees?

We hire based on customer needs. Customers continue to need services and some have used less during the pandemic like the retail channel, or some of the local office buildings, but a lot of customers have asked for more hours. State governments have wanted more hours. Hospitals have wanted more hours.

As we manage through the pandemic we've really focused on three important pieces.  First, and foremost, we focus on our employees. We've instructed all of our employees to follow the CDC and WHO guidelines, social distancing, very important. … We've supplied over 650,000 cloth masks to employees during that time. We've also been very active with virtual events, hiring people, so lot of kind of drive-through hiring events to practice social distancing, and meet the demand for security services and we still have a significant number of open posts and we've been trying to fill those.

 The customers, we've got 30,000 customers. And these 30,000 customers have 13,000 different ways that they've attacked this situation. Different customers have done it different ways and we’ve tried to be responsive to their every step.  From a financial perspective, obviously during the pandemic, we've been focused on really the liquidity of the company. On the financial side, there's a couple of things that we've been trying to do to make sure that the company can continue to do well and to frame the magnitude, our payroll here is a $100 million a week, and we have to make sure that we have the ability to continue to pay the people who are working hard through this.