DRI Interviews James Lundquist, Vice President of Consulting Services at PRADCO
April 27, 2021
Direct Recruiters recently had the opportunity to connect with James Lundquist, VP of Consulting Services at PRADCO for a series of Thought Leader Interview questions. He shared insights surrounding hiring and retention in addition to information about PRADCO and the unique services they offer.
For the past 65 years, PRADCO has helped develop stronger organizations. They are the talent assessment, development, and management company that focuses on learning clients’ needs so they can partner with them to make informed decisions that drive their organizational goals and grow their businesses. Direct Recruiters partners with PRADCO as a part of our retained search model in order to provide behavioral assessments to clients searching for key leaders in their organizations.
VP of Consulting Services
Please tell us about yourself and your company, PRADCO.
PRADCO is a consulting firm that provides talent management solutions designed to support our clients throughout the employee lifecycle, from hiring, promoting, coaching, developing, and retaining employees. We have a broad suite of products and services to meet a variety of needs for hiring and development rather than a one-size-fits-all solution. We partner with our clients to understand what their needs are, and then provide customized solutions that will help them develop a stronger organization.
I am Vice President of Consulting Services at PRADCO and work closely with our team to provide the services described above. August will be 10 years that I have been on the PRADCO team, and I have had numerous opportunities to work in all parts of our business. Working at PRADCO has given me the chance to develop as a leader and collaborate with many great people, both internally and externally. I feel fortunate every day that PRADCO took a chance on me when they brought me in and have continued to give me an opportunity to do more.
Briefly describe the process clients and candidates would go through with PRADCO’s assessments.
The process depends on the level of assessment chosen by the client. PRADCO’s Quick View assessments are simple; they are 15–30-minute online assessments that are easy to administer and produce an automated report with behavioral scores, follow-up questions, and developmental suggestions. Beyond that, our higher-level assessments involve candidates completing a more thorough battery of testing online. In some instances, we interview candidates and ask not only behavior-based questions, but take time to provide feedback on portions of the assessment as well. This level of service includes close collaboration with clients to understand the needs of the role, and the output is a customized report prepared by one of our trained consultants that speaks directly to the strengths and weaknesses most pertinent to the position. View PRADCO's assessments here.
What are the biggest benefits to conducting assessments for new hires vs. hiring without assessments? Does PRADCO have success metrics and studies to highlight the difference?
There are several benefits to conducting assessments. For one, the more data you have, the better hiring decision your organization can make. In addition to that, the quality of data you obtain through assessments is often better than what comes out of standard interviews. Part of that comes from the fact that PRADCO operates as an objective partner that is simply focused on helping you find the right talent that will fit your organization. When you are part of the organization doing the hiring, there can be numerous competing priorities that can prevent you from remaining as objective as possible, which often results in poor hiring decisions. In addition, our assessments can be used as part of the onboarding process to help new hires get up to speed more quickly, thus providing value throughout the selection process.
We routinely do studies and have a variety of metrics on retention and performance. Often, we will conduct a value analysis after our assessments have been in place to determine what is working and what may need to be adjusted. We typically find that when our clients hire according to the established benchmarks, they are likely to see stronger performance from employees and improved retention. We recently had a client that was struggling to retain new hires at the hourly level. After using our assessments for a year, retention improved by 23%, which saved our client nearly $75,000. In another example, we have a client who used assessments before hiring candidates to go into a year-long training program. We looked at who made it through the training program after our assessments, and out of 200 people that we recommended, 90% graduated. This was a huge success for our client and has numerous implications for the future of how they hire and train employees. Finally, we routinely survey our clients to better understand how they view the assessments and their accuracy in terms of predicting behavior. In our most recent poll, 94% of clients indicated that PRADCO’s assessments are highly accurate, along with 93% that reported they are very likely to refer PRADCO’s services to someone else.
How did/has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted PRADCO? Has your organization had to pivot or take specific or unique initiatives throughout the pandemic?
Like all organizations, we had to make some adjustments. We were well-suited to go remote which we did swiftly. What has been interesting has been conducting assessments while remote. Now that just about everyone is familiar with videoconferencing platforms, it has been much easier for candidates to use this technology in the interview process. This has been a significant improvement compared to what we did in the past, which often was simply a phone interview. Beyond that, we developed new webinar offerings focused on how to lead remote teams and how to handle the volatility and uncertainty of the pandemic. Those were well received but, otherwise, we didn’t have to pivot significantly besides working remotely. As an organization, one of the unexpected benefits has been the level of collaboration we have seen on our team. Whereas in the past we waited and relied on face-to-face meetings, now it is much easier to quickly set up a Microsoft Teams meeting and get everyone together. This has been particularly helpful when it comes to collaboration between our Cleveland and Columbus offices. It no longer feels like two separate offices, but rather like “one PRADCO”, and we definitely want to maintain this once the pandemic is over.
Describe PRADCO’s service offerings surrounding employee development.
Our service offerings in this space have grown quite a bit in the last several years. Our coaching services utilize a data-driven model to understand strengths and weaknesses and then help participants create a behaviorally based action plan that will yield sustainable behavior change. Often, we are coaching executives to be more well-rounded and effective in their roles. Additionally, we do a lot of work with high-potential leaders to prepare them for future responsibility within their organization. Recently we’ve developed a much broader suite of learning and development services that are part of our Organizational Development offerings. Our Striving for Excellence: Women in Leadership program has been going since 2010 and continues to be one of our most popular offerings. Another very popular program is our Manager Development program which is designed to help new managers learn the skills needed to be successful and get the most out of their team. Soon we will be launching our Emerging Leaders program which will be a great way for organizations to invest in those individuals that may not be in formal leadership positions but will still benefit from additional development.
Do you have any great client success stories you would like to share?
While we have many great client success stories, some of the best come from individuals I have coached directly. One example that stands out is a GM within a mid-sized manufacturing client that was struggling to turn his business around and deliver the results needed. The outlook was bleak and there was not a lot of confidence from his executive team that things would improve. Starting with our Quick View™ 360 assessment, we helped the leader identify developmental opportunities around driving results, coaching, and accountability. Using PRADCO’s guidance, the leader was able to quickly implement more structure within his business which made it much easier to hold people accountable to expectations. By coaching him through difficult performance conversations, he was also able to get the right team in place. After working with him for a year, the business dramatically improved. Not only did his division beat its forecast, but it has also been able to sustain profitable growth over the following year. Just as important, this leader is now more comfortable in his role and gaining much more satisfaction from his work than he was in the past.
What is the best way to retain top-performing employees in your opinion?
The best way to retain top talent is to invest in your people and let them know you value what they bring to the organization. There are a lot of leaders that don’t focus much on their employees and view the relationship as more transactional. People are unique and have different needs, and trying to lead them all the same way typically won’t work. Many leaders still say to me “I treat everyone the same”. While the intent of that is to be fair, it’s important for leaders to understand that trying to interact with everyone the same way is not going to work. Instead, spend time with your people and understand what is important to them. Knowing this is the key to unlocking key motivators that will allow you to optimize performance and create a strong working environment where people will want to stay.
What interesting new products or innovations is PRADCO working on?
The two things that come to mind that PRADCO is focusing on are our Engagement Survey and DE & I survey. We have had the engagement survey offering for a while but enhanced it over the last year based on what it measures and what the deliverable looks like. There are a lot of tools out there that can diagnose issues with engagement, but our Engagement Survey goes beyond that by making recommendations for how to improve areas that are low. We now have more flexibility to ask customized questions and to run a year- over-year comparison so that our clients can see the progress that is being made.
Our new DE & I survey is also something I’m excited about. We developed this product to help clients understand how their employees view the organization’s efforts as it relates to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. After watching social justice issues come to a boiling point in 2020, PRADCO wanted to be part of the solution. Many organizations don’t have much insight as to how employees perceive their efforts around DE& I and often simply assume they don’t have any issues. Our tool is easy to administer and can help organizations be proactive about efforts they want to make rather than having to be reactive when something goes wrong. If there is a product I want people to use more, it would be the DE & I survey because of all the good that can come from it for our clients and their employees.
The two products mentioned above are aligned with our mission to develop stronger organizations. The strongest organizations will be open to understanding what they’re doing well and not doing well as it pertains to engagement and DE & I. Rest assured that employees are thinking about these topics and they’re going to expect their employer to take steps to create the best environment possible within which they can thrive.
What is PRADCO’s “Why”?
While we all bring a unique “Why” to the team, I can safely say that collectively our “Why” at PRADCO is to be of service and help those we work with be the best versions of themselves. Whether we’re helping to ensure that a person is the right fit for a job or coaching a leader through a challenging situation, we want to help. We enjoy getting to know our clients and truly understanding their business so that we can help them meet their goals. Our relationships are important to us and we work hard to ensure that we exceed expectations for our clients as well as the people we develop. I can confidently say that everyone on the PRADCO team embraces this mindset which is why we have been in business for over 65 years and are still going strong.