How HR & Sales Partnered to Add $75 Million to the Bottom Line



In this video, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Claudine Trudeau (Director of Talent Acquisition) and Rosemary Lemke (Lead Sales Recruiter) show how HR and Sales worked together to hire sales reps that added $75 million to the bottom line.

Watch this on-demand webinar now to learn:

  • How HMH is streamlining the candidate review process, increasing recruiter and manager productivity, and improving quality-of-hire using digital technology
  • The ways in which the company is avoiding adverse revenue impact from sales territory vacancies through digital transformation
  • Methods of assessing sales candidates to avoid bad hires, and how HMH used these to reduce turnover by 60%

Webinar Transcript:

Claudine Trudeau: Hi, good afternoon, everyone. My name is Claudine. Thank you very much for attending our session, I appreciate you coming. So what we’d like to talk about is how we increased our sales by hiring top performers and using the HireVue product. I’ll just introduce myself real quick. Firstly, my name is Claudine Trudeau. I’m the director of talent acquisition at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and I’m in the Chicago area. Even though we’re based in Boston, I live in Chicago.

Audience member: Go Hawks.

Claudine: Go Hawks. Yes. [laughs] And I have a team of 20. I have about 10 recruiters, some coordinators, and a couple of sourcers on my team. We’re expecting to fill roughly about, a little over 1000 people this year. And majority of those hires are in our sales organization. And, Rosemary?

Rosemary Lemke: I am Rosemary Gambino Lemke and, like many of you out there, I’ve worn many hats in my career journey. And my journey has taken some surprising and wonderful turns over the years. I’m a wife, a mother, a stepmother, a grandmother. And I’ve worked as an educator, a professional actress, vocalist, sales representative, HR generalist, and recruiter.

I received my bachelor’s degree from Kaplan University in Columbus, Ohio, in speech and theater, communications, secondary education. And then much to my family’s chagrin, I moved out west to pursue my dreams. I spent 20 years in California, finding my dreams. Two in Colorado, continuing those dreams. And then almost 19 years, except for a side trip to Atlanta, almost 19 years at Houghton Miffin Harcourt continuing those dreams. Yes. In a dream job. Working for a dream boss. And a dream team. And helping candidates, every day, land a career with a dream company.

Claudine: So for those of you that aren’t familiar with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt… which we call HMH for short, because it is a mouthful… our mission is changing people’s lives by fostering passionate, curious learners. We date back to the 1800s. We have just over $1.4 billion in sales. We did have 3400 employees until Friday. We acquired part of Scholastic, their educational technology and services division.

So with that, we increased our employee count to 4200. We’re based in Boston. We went public in the Fall of 2013, so we are listed on NASDAQ. And our main focus is Pre-K through 12 curriculum. Consumer and trade, which is our fiction and non-fiction books. And we serve more than 50 million students in more than 150 countries, and you’ll see our impressive list of awards that our authors and our organization have earned.

You might recognize some of these brands that we have up here on the screen, especially Curious George, Lord of The Rings. Those are some of our trade books. We just acquired Betty Crocker Cookbook series and CliffsNotes last year. And then we have our K-12 curriculum in math, science, social studies, English language, arts, and reading.

So those are some of our brands, if you’re familiar. We used to have the dolphin as our logo, so you may be more familiar with that. And we just moved to the triangle cone and circle over the last couple of years.

So we’re gonna start off by taking a bit of a poll, so we can get an idea of where you all fit in, in your current situation. Why don’t we go ahead and start the poll? I’m gonna give you a few minutes. A few seconds, actually.

So where are you in your process, at your current organization? Have you just started? Are you in the midst of building out your sales team? Are you partnering very closely and in a mature situation? Or have you not started yet? Okay? Everybody done?

It looks like 50% of you all are partnering very closely with sales, so you are in the mature stage. Thirty-five percent have just started. And 19% are doing the initial consultation. And 10% have not partnered yet with their sales team. So that’s good to know. Oh, it just changed. But it’s still the same in terms of ranking. Very good.

Just to give you a little bit of background. You know, why we decided to go with digital interviewing. And these are some of the reasons why I decided to make that move. The first one was because it aligns very closely with our company’s mission, which is going digital.

We are a publishing company that is most known for our print books, but in order to survive, we do need to become digital, just like the music industry. So it aligns very closely with our digital initiative.

I wanted to give hiring managers a more personal, firsthand, broader experience, instead of CliffsNotes from the recruiter’s phone screen. I also wanted to be innovative. Of course. Who doesn’t want to do that? And I had heard really good stories about video interviews from other events that I had been to. I also wanted recruiting to become more digital. And it had to be easy to use, so we had to find something that our managers would adopt.

We wanted to save money on travel. We were traveling quite a bit of candidates in for interviews, because our positions, especially in sales, are all over the country. So we were flying in a lot of people for interviews, so we wanted to save on that. And also, lastly, provide a fair and consistent process for all candidates.

We started back in the fall of 2012 with just a pilot program, very small group within our sales organization. With the next six months, it became successful and we decided to broaden it out. We signed up for another year and moved it out to the rest of Sales. And then after that, we signed up again for another three years, actually.

And 85% of our organization is now using HireVue. We just signed up with CodeEval, just over the last couple of months, as well, so we’ll see how that turns out. So the majority of HireVue is used in sales, supply chain and services, which is where the majority of all of our openings are.

Rosemary: When creating a business case for digital interviewing, HireVue made it easy. HireVue’s solutions fit all our needs like a glove. Streamline the candidate review process. Increase the recruiter and manager’s productivity. And improve the quality of hire. According to Dori Meinert, in her article in HR magazine, you may have read it, 94% of business leaders feel that innovation is the key to success.

According to a survey of 500 leaders conducted by Center of Creative Leadership last year, only 14% of business leaders are confident in their organization’s ability to drive innovation.

Well, HMH is an innovation leader and we really saw the power in HireVue. We will be quoting our EVP of Sales, Lee Ramsayer, throughout this presentation. And he really was going to be here today but he was unable to do it, so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Lee because Robby and I were able to come instead.

Lee wanted to expand our sales force, including doubling our inside sales team, and he saw the need to really overhaul our strategies in how we were going to accomplish this goal. We needed to funnel candidates quickly, efficiently and actually assess their aptitudes against our successful sales reps. We needed the business buy-in.

And we got it, by expressing the need for that higher caliber talent. Articulating the return on investment by using HireVue, Profiles International assessments, and DDI behavioral interviewing. We demonstrated the ease of use, the features and the benefits to the managers, the recruiters and the candidates. We started with our pilot in inside sales. And the excellent, excellent customer service that we got from HireVue, led by Allison Hartle, really sealed the deal. We knocked it out of the park.

Hm, there’s another slide that’s supposed to be here. And this slide is really what I feel, as a recruiter, was the pivotal piece to our success in this implementation. We don’t merely send candidates an email with a link in it. All of the recruiters take the time to reach out by phone to the candidates. Does it take a lot of time to do this? Yeah.

But the return on investment is immense. It’s kind of like what Mark said before about attention. Everybody wants some attention. Well, we have the technology in place, but we want to reach out to the candidates and give them that attention. Put them at ease. Explain the process.

And it gives us an opportunity to thank them in advance for actually completing the digital interview. So it goes like this. “Hi, I’m Rosemary Lemke. I’m a recruiter with HMH. I just sent you an email with a link in it. It’s an invitation to complete a digital interview for us. All the instructions are in the email but I’d just like to give you a little nutshell version of the process.

So it’s like a one-way video. You need a web cam, an iPhone, or an iPad. There are seven or eight questions. Each question comes up separately. You have the opportunity to practice for 30 seconds and then, when you’re ready, you just record your answer.

We really want you to relax and enjoy this interview. We want you to share your passion for education, for sales, for presenting, technology. Anything and everything that you feel is pertinent to the role as you answer the questions. I’ll automatically be notified when you’ve completed this interview. It’s called an on-demand interview, so you can do it when it’s convenient for you, but I’d like for you to do it in the next three days, if possible. I’ll automatically be notified. I’ll review the interview and share it with the hiring manager and be back in touch with the next step.”

I just feel that this really sets the stage for the candidates, puts them at ease. Even the most techy candidates out there love it when I call. So it was really a pivotal piece in our process.

HireVue helps us avoid adverse impact in revenue. At HMH, nearly one-third of the workforce are in sales roles, with over 50% being quota carrying. Now Lee Ramsayer would say there’s a definite loss in revenue when we have a vacancy in a sales territory. HMH business leaders really embrace that digital transformation to tackle the high cost of sales vacancies. With HMH, we also… I don’t know if this slide’s gonna match… avoid wrong hiring decisions. Thank you. If a potential customer chooses a competitor over HMH, it isn’t just an initial impact. Because this potential customer typically will not re-evaluate his solutions again for five whole years, so that really leaves a residual impact on revenue potential.

My favorite slide. HireVue is the absolute perfect tool and gave us a huge advantage when assessing sales candidates. We were able to watch for, at point of use, those essential candidates a sales candidate needs to be successful. Passion. Creativity. Great presentation skills. Interpersonal skills. Sharp communication.

With HireVue, Lee Ramsayer also saw the value in being able to assess selling techniques. Does the sales candidate know how to ask for the sale? Or say no when it’s on the line? It’s not enough to just know what they did. Sales candidates need to demonstrate what they did and how they did it.

Yes, we enabled our sales leadership team to build on their teams. We started small. We got internal advocates to spread the word. We leveraged, absolutely leveraged our HR business partners to help with the business buy-in. We provided training. Clear instruction. Conducted dry runs for first-time users and those using HireVue live. We involved the leadership by having them repeatedly promote HireVue. We prepped candidates for success. Set expectations. And we explained the process.

Claudine: So what were our results? Our head of sales recognized that digital was a matter of survival and transforming was very important and critical. So we turned it into a competitive advantage for us. And we could say we practice what we preach. On the left, you’ll see one of our applications. And then on the right, HireVue. So we do practice what we preach, and all of our candidates recognize that.

We also had a major return on investment. What sales person doesn’t like to see an increase in the bottom line? We increased our sales from $30 million with a team of 30, to $100 million with a team of 70, in one year. And that’s by doubling our sales force. And they went from meeting about a million dollars in quota previously, to an average of 1.5 with these new hires that we had.

Rosemary: HireVue helped us reduce turnover by 60%. We can now identify an ideal candidate profile earlier in the process, and it really makes our hiring decisions better. In 2013, our turnover was 27%. In 2014, it was 10%. And we are definitely seeking a single digit this year.

Claudine: We filled vacancies faster. So my recruiting team, instead of spending a lot of time on phone screens that would take five to seven days, were now taking only three days to send out and review a HireVue on demand. And send that over to the hiring manager, thus increasing the time to hire.

Rosemary: With HireVue, it helped us cut our candidate travel by 50%. Because we can identify those ideal candidates earlier in the process, we can have confidence in those candidates that we are flying in for those final interviews. So instead of flying in three to five, maybe it’s only one to two. And that is a huge savings cost, time cost, and saves managers time.

Claudine: Who doesn’t love spending time outside of work hours? Having that flexibility to review the videos, and to send that over to hiring managers, so they can review it while they’re on the road traveling. The flexibility was a key part in our decision-making as well, and the fact that it was available 24 by seven.

Rosemary: Candidates’ time is just as important. Fifty percent of the interviews can be conducted outside those normal business hours. Candidates know we are passionate about their experience, and they’ve embraced that digital interview process. We track candidates’ feedback with a net promoter score and, currently, our score is 60 and it’s climbing all the time.

HMH receives excellent candidate feedback. The majority of the candidates have never done a digital interview before, but most are very engaged and they treat it like a new adventure in the digital world. Most like the 30-second prep time to practice their answers, and most felt the process was respectful of their time, convenient, and effective.

Claudine: HireVue even recognizes success that we had with our sales organization, and they asked to do a success story on us. So it will be public on their website very shortly. But they did have an interview with our head of sales, and he just raved about what a great difference HireVue had made, becoming digital in our process, and how the results really shone through. So we’re very excited to announce that we’ll have a success story on the HireVue site.

Rosemary: At HMH, we know that people are our strength. And we employ talented, diverse, adaptable individuals, whose own passion for transforming the teaching and learning environment empowers them to meet the dynamic needs of students, educators, parents, and lifelong learners, globally.

The HMH “best in class” sales team is passionate. They’re passionate about their mission, their products, their customers, their peers, and their company. Now we know it’s important to have a stellar sales team, in order to reach and exceed our HMH revenue goals. But more importantly, we are changing children’s lives by fostering passionate, curious learners. Thank you.

Claudine: Thank you.