An Interview with Scott Williams on the Future of HR by chuckros


									Exploring the Future of HR with Scott Williams

Scott Williams, founder of The Stonehaven Group (TSG-HR), believes in putting his money where his
mouth is. This dynamic speaker and former Human Resources VP for Coca-Cola doesn’t expect his clients
to take risks when they contract with his HR advisement firm. Unlike PEOs and typical third party
consulting agencies, the experts at Stonehaven back their advice with a 5 million dollar insurance policy.

“We have our own legal team in-house” Scott confirms. “If a client is ever sued because of an error or
omission on our part, we stand by that client to closure. Outsourcing firms just gives you an 800 number
to call if a problem arises. They will refer you to an attorney and expect you to pay out of pocket to
protect yourself from a lawsuit.”

Williams isn’t shy about discussing the other aspects of his company that competitors just can’t match.
“The Stonehaven Group isn’t an HR consulting firm. A consultant is someone who comes in, hands you a
short term solution, sends a big invoice, then he’s gone.”

“We are advisors,” explains Williams. “That means we collaborate with our clients to discover the root
problems affecting their organization. Our work is completed in milestones so we are accountable each
step of the way. Then, we assist our clients going forward and continue to provide advice and support.
Because of our low overhead, TSG-HR provides these services for about 70% less than the HR consulting
giants like PWC and Hewitt.”

Trends in HR: Outsourcing

With 15 years of HR experience and the knowledge gained through running The Stonehaven Group
fulltime since 2001, Scott has his finger on the pulse of today’s employers. He shared insights about a
number of changes and prevailing trends in HR outsourcing.

“PEOs are losing favor” he believes. “They are only effective up to about 12 associates. Past that point,
these prepackaged solutions become less effective and more costly.”

On the other hand, Williams sees a bright future for outsourcing C-level HR functions. “We can support
clients for less than the cost of having an HR expert in-house. In the new economy, organizations are
looking for ways to cut expenses. We are seeing outsourcing in the Financial and IT fields. HR is going
the same way.”

Current Challenges

When queried about the top 3 challenges facing larger companies (those with 300+ employees), Scott
spoke about the way policies morph as they trickle down from a company’s headquarters to local
branches. “A corporate directive is created with a specific goal in mind. Local sites modify the policy to
meet their needs and it ends up being something completely different than what was intended. This
creates a huge amount of exposure. We go in to each location and ensure that the policies are identical
across the board.”
TSG-HR advisors are also well known for their ability to “tear apart” a benefits plan and get rid of the
fluff. “It’s amazing how many of our clients are paying half a million to several million dollars for
unnecessary coverage. For example, we worked with one client who had 1,200 employees covered by
three different Short Term Disability carriers because no one did due diligence during an acquisition.”

Cultural/corporate diplomacy is the third area where many companies are struggling. Williams says this
can be a particularly tense situation when the nations involved have had a rocky history. “We help
organizations that are going abroad or coming to the U.S. experience a smooth transition.”

Startup Stumbling Blocks

In response to a question about HR challenges facing startups, Scott was able to offer his unique
perspective as an angel investor. “Startups are generally highly unstable. The goal is to start the
company and then turn around and sell it for $3-4 million. These small companies have difficulty finding
the right HR people. However, having a solid HR foundation can bring a better price since it assures
buyers there are no skeletons in the closet.”

Williams also revealed a very disturbing trend in litigation: lawyers are targeting startup companies. He
points to attorneys using unscrupulous methods to drum up business. “These lawyers pay someone to
go in for an interview and try to trick the recruiter into saying the wrong thing. Or, they find out about
an employee whose home is about to be foreclosed on and convince them that their financial problems
will go away if they sue their employer. 85% of these cases don’t go to trial. The employers have no
protection, so they settle.”

Advanced Technology

Scott says he is definitely seeing larger companies moving toward more cost effective solutions in their
technology. This includes migrating legacy HR applications, including those running on mainframes, to
.NET server platforms, and new HR technologies such as new employee onboarding. “The savings are
enormous,” he noted.

The Stonehaven Group makes a point of advising clients on best practices and HR technology,
particularly when it comes to onboarding, because this is the critical point in time when the legal
relationship between employer and employee is defined. When asked if employee onboarding systems
are something his clients are aware of already, he responded, “So far, we are finding that clients know
about the pain of onboarding. They don’t always realize there is an actual solution.”

Ease of use and cost savings are two of the most attractive features Scott’s clients discover when they
are introduced to the Universal Onboarding system created by Emerald Software Group (a strategic
partner of TSG-HR). “We offer access to this solution as part of our annual support agreement. HR
departments that have been spending $30 per hour to onboard 1 employee would much rather spend
$30 to onboard 100 employees.” And Williams is convinced that 100-to-1 cost efficiencies are not only
possible, but also quite common.
Increased compliance is the other big advantage Williams sees for clients who choose automated
onboarding. “The IRS, ICE, DOL - all these agencies have to justify their existence to avoid budget cuts.
They are being told, ‘You did 3 audits last month; do 6 this month’. They are really going into some gray
areas when it comes to fining employers.”

Scott believes legacy application upgrades and new employee onboarding initiatives are something HR
executives should definitely pursue as part of their strategic planning. “HR has always been seen as a
cost center. The way to gain a place at the table with operations executives is by demonstrating
concrete ways to protect profits by limiting liability and risk.”

In closing, Williams had this message for potential clients: “This is not your father’s business world.
Government agencies are out to find infringements. Attorneys are seeking new ways to prey on
businesses. We are the solution that makes those problems go away.”

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