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Ep. 5: Vince Consoli of Promark

Summer of 50 PGH Tech Stories

Vince Consoli from Promark talks about HR practices and tech when heading back to the office post Covid-19. Promark, a Career Partners International firm, provides local talent management expertise, with a global delivery reach (over 300 offices in 50 Countries), in leadership development, career management, executive coaching, human resources advisory, outplacement and career transition services. Promark serves Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and the world for over 50 years. We provide global scope with a local focus.

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This is Jonathan Kersting hanging out with Comcast bringing you the summer of 50 Pittsburgh tech stories. I'm trying to tell the cool stories across the Pittsburgh technology ecosystem. And one of the biggest things going on out there right now is getting people back to work. It's really just just just treating people like people, whether people are coming or going. And the end of the day, we need these skills in order to really just make sure that our employees are happy that they're engaged. And today I'm talking to Vince Consoli from Promark, this guy has some serious, serious HR chops, his experience goes way back, and I think he's gonna have a lot of great insight as to some best practices around getting people back to work. And really just some of the new tools that are out there and Primark has this really cool app that I'm excited to learn more about? It's allowing people to stay connected if they've been furloughed, because so much that is still going on right now. And so, Vince, thanks for taking the time today to be part of our conversation. I think our viewers gonna have a real treat talking you today. You definitely keep the positivity. Yep. And I just love that about you.

Well, thanks for that. Although I think there was some kind of insult there with lots of chops. In other words, he's the old guy around a long time. But yeah, that's that's about right though. I mean, that was nothing but respect because I think we need to rely on people that have been there and done that because you you've seen everything there is to be seen when it comes to all things HR, that's for sure.

Well, if I if I wrote a book, they would not put it in, you know, they would put it in the fiction section. You know, can I was making it up? Exactly. True.

Oh, goodness. That's crazy. That's crazy. So first off, give us the elevator pitch for Promark. And tell us what was so exciting about you taking your experience and being part of Promark.

Well, Promark's been around for 52 years. They started in Cincinnati, you know so but a good friend of mine and my CEO bought the company a year or so ago and we brought it to Pittsburgh and other parts of western Pennsylvania and West Virginia and still in Ohio. But Promark takes care of people. Yeah, everything on on the talent lifecycle from thinking about bringing them in until to walk them out the door. So all the things that happened with people in my 38 years of people experience, you know, some in operations management, some in executive management, you know, executive HR, mostly stuff, just perfect for this because we get an opportunity every day to help companies help their people, which by the way, and you know, I mean, you're in the technology world, technology has come a long way, and it's fabulous, but you still need people.

We need people and people are tech companies, most important assets. So keeping them keeping them happy, keeping them involved is 100%. a top priority.

That's for sure. Engaging folks is the is the one thing that we sometimes we talk about a lot, but folks don't actually, you know, they're not sure exactly how to do it. And now with all the stuff that has happened around COVID-19 we have people everywhere. They're in the office, they're in the factory, they're in the facility, they're at home. They're working from the beach. They're furloughed. They're all over the place and trying to keep track of where they are. But keep them engaged and connected gets to be difficult. Sometimes it does. So how do we do that? Come on, give us some give us some stuff around that yeah. Well, first and foremost, you have to be motivated in order to do so. First, you have to believe that keeping your people engaged is an important thing, and then caring for them. Once you get to that, then it's just a matter of, you know, where are they What are they doing? How can we do it? You know, goofy things. We have a, you know, we created a product, we had to do it. We couldn't find anything out there when we started seeing a lot of companies, furlough people, and then we would ask, so are these people laid off? Are they ever coming back? And it's like, No, we want them back. Well, what are you doing to change? keep them engaged. And it was likely Well, what do you mean? Like, what do I mean? You know, they're gone, you just cut them off of their server, you've cut them off of email, you've cut them off of all conversation, and you're gonna want them back in a couple of months. What have you done? And they said, Well, we don't know, what can we do? You know, after about six or seven conversations like that, we created a product, we call it pro navigator. Right? So and the secret version of pro vault on it's designed as a product that keeps people engaged. It looks like, you know, like a LinkedIn or a Facebook, posting wise, but it's loaded with so much information about being laid off being, you know, being furloughed, what to do with the government, you know, how to get out employment, all that kind of all these resources there. Yeah, all the resources there and a lot of education stuff. So while you're off, you might as well get some training, build up some skills, maybe get some certifications, but mostly, it's about getting communicating with other people in the same situation as you, and a place where your company can't, you know, the CEO can do a, you know, a vlog once a week, and they're right out there, and it's someplace where they can go and just check it out. And it's designed as a voluntary program. So you don't mess with the, you know, the working rules, you know, once once, right, yeah, once Yeah, once you're, they're laid off, you can't call, you know, can't ask him a question, or you got to pay him for that thing.

That that told him to make so much sense because as you mentioned before, they want to bring you back. And in that two month period of time, anything could happen. You could start losing that talent, they might find another job. They might just become disassociated and say I don't want to hang out that company anymore, because if the more you think about it, maybe the more angry you get, if you're able to talk to your fellow employees who've been also furloughed, you're able to get messages from the company to kind of reassure them that this is what's happening and keeping them in the loop and everything.

Oh, yeah, I come from the old school. I come from the old school. If you don't tell them something, they will make it up and then tell their friends So you know, you have to control that conversation and keep them engaged. Let them know you're working as hard as you can to get things back to normal you, you've got new plans and processes and systems when they come back will be so that they're ready to go day one. You know, we're starting to see a lot of folks coming back now. And is great. Yeah, yeah. What's the feedback been like on the app? I'm assuming, like, once you have this deployed, you probably got some happy customers know, just knowing they got this easy to use platform. It's allowing these these these conversations and connections to happen.

Yeah, well, so far, so good. You know, I mean, you know, we we have heard nothing but good things about it. They love the information there. It keeps them busy. You know, there are good people out there. You know, you hear stories. Well, I got I'm getting more money being laid off than I was at work and I'm just gonna goof off. Well, that's not true. There's a lot of people who are working hard, and they're, they're, you know, improving their skills. They're doing something that because They can do it here. And they have one place to go where they can do all these things. The companies love it, the participants love it. So far, so good. You know, we're happy about it.

I love it. I love it. This is why I keep saying that during this whole pandemic, crazy, cool solutions are being developed to be helpful and to make things better. And that's just proof of it right there. How cool is that?

Yeah, well, you know, and what we also discovered is after this is over, and your people are back, this is a great communication tool for forever. You know, it's one of those things where you know, you, you can actually put all your training systems and processes and stuff on here and have people access it. We've seen that a couple of times. I love the companies. My favorite companies are the ones that have done well, okay, they weren't allowed to work. So they decided, well, we're going to either layoff people shuttered a facility or how about we retool and try something new that they need and you know, and now they have another revenue stream for witnesses all over. So I love that. I just love that. Very So Vince, tell us how else are you working with your clients right now obviously, they're probably leaning on you really hard. Because it means this is like like a like, like in HR Fantasyland, for lack of a better term with all the things that are going on lazy people working from home, people working off facility, some people being furloughed. It just seems like there's all types of every HR scenario seems to be happening at once, I guess. It seems like to me, yeah, our HR folks are pretty beat up out there. You know, they're their laws are changing. regulations are changing constantly. They're trying to keep up with that. They got CEOs that are breathing down their neck, about the people. And you know, and there's so many things happening. We're trying to work with our clients to make sure they're prepared for what's coming next. You know, the stuff that's going on right now, you we can't do much about what you know what the government decides to do, what restrictions they decided to give us. We can't do much about that. But if we're not prepared for what's going to happen in the future, You know, there was a talent war before this all started Exactly. And now it's going to be even worse because there's going to be a lot of people available at one time, you know, that more people available than usual, depending on how they were treated when they were furloughed or laid off or, you know, even at work are forced to go home or forced, stay in whatever happened, you know, there's going to be a lot of changes, you know, I have a fun story, this, this kind of, you know, blew us away here. But a company we were aware of manufacturing organization, decided they needed to furlough 50 people. Well, then as they were looking at it, they said, Well, we think some of them will come back but we're not sure if all of them are going to come back. So maybe we'll just do a layoff and call it a layoff and and then that way that you know, if we get them to come back, great if not, okay, okay. Well, in so doing they decided that, well, you know, everybody else is doing the same kind of stuff. So We're not going to bother doing any outplacement or we're not going to help them in any way. So they let 50 people go, Wow, kind of unceremoniously, you know, the perp walk down the hallway. They're done. And didn't realize that, you know, the people that were removed that remained the employees that were still there that they kept. Yeah, really were upset about how their colleagues were treated. I can imagine right? Yes, so much so that within 10 days, 19 other people quit. Wow. So now they got another thing and one fail swoop, one not paying attention to engaging with their people. They not only lost a good relationship they had with their employees, they damage their reputation, you know, and their brand. And now when it comes back to trying to recruit the hired people back in there, we're gonna have trouble.

Yeah, they're gonna be too many steps behind it. That point Wow, that is Exactly just because of one little thing. They weren't paying attention to what they're what all of their people think. Absolutely. Switching gears just a little bit. Have you had a lot of your clients ask you about how to set up really good working remote policies and best guidelines around that?

Yeah, we've had some we've had some of that. But you know, right now, a lot of folks have had some experience with remote workforce, it may be a tiny percentage, and they had an increase their percentage, the biggest issue we're seeing is those companies that did not the management, they're up. If you're used to management by walking around and you're used to walking down the hallway and telling your subordinates you need to do this or do that. You can't do that anymore. It's their home. So those kind of things have had to change. Meeting styles have had to change, you know, zoom and teams and those kinds of things have been great assets. But if you've got a hardcore manager who has been around a long time, who's used to yelling and having When somebody comes, you know, those guys are struggling right now. So yeah, we've had to do some retooling on people, you know, do some coaching and some, you know, to help these managers understand that they can still manage and do a good job, but they just don't you know, it can't be the same way that they're doing it not gonna be a lot. So obviously, I'm sorry, you're gonna be a lot going.

Oh, you know, my heritage is 100% Italian. So I gotta admit, I'm one of those guys who like to yell down the hallway and come back down to run. I would never guess that. Yeah. And even when I'm not yelling, people think I am. So yeah.

That's hilarious. So what else is going on? Well, and then you've been seeing that that's been popping up during these very unprecedented times.

Yeah, well, yeah, that there's there's a lot happening. HR people, as I said, are kind of getting beat up there. They're making up stuff as they go and you know, typically a Are folks are not big fans of making up stuff as they go. We like policies and procedures and things in place just nicely. Does it go into

a binder, right? Yes. Yeah, exactly. But we don't have much of a choice at this point in time, because this is all new stuff. Right. So, you know, the one thing I have noticed, at least in the HR world, is they're getting together with each other. They're there their support, seeking out people. Yeah, they're seeking out people like us who've been around for 3040 years doing this stuff. And no, I've never had another pandemic in my time. But I've seen enough things that we can put together great, you know, great process for now. But But whatever works, and by the way, one of the things that I think we miss a lot of is just general questioning, ask, you know, if you're not sure what your people are feeling, ask, you know, and then you know, not try to assume Well, maybe they're upset about this. Maybe they don't like working from home maybe, you know, I always Tell story about my middle son. He was he comes from an organization there they had to do you know, they wear suit and tie every day to work. They like people in the office, they don't work from home. Well, he's had to work from home. Let me tell you his, his his results have doubled. He's done a great job. And I don't think he's worn pants for two and a half months. You know what I'm saying? So he's been working from home with no pants and he's done better white, better job. So all of a sudden now they're thinking, Okay, maybe this isn't a bad idea. Maybe we ought to do this because productivity is improved greatly. And you know, but that's the policy work. They're different productivity working like a charm for him. I mean, he's loving the no pants thing but yeah, absolutely long as you keep long as he keeps the screen, you know, here long. Exactly.

Good stuff. It's good stuff. And so every every one of these podcasts and video casts that we do here with Comcast. I like to ask a question. It's a little it's a little just changing the gear. A little bit, trying to pick people's brains as to how we can all start thinking about ways that we can kind of bridge the digital divide that we've been seeing that's just really increased have we really seen or is coming to notice since the whole COVID thing, it really put a spotlight on the fact there's so many people that don't have access to technology in order to work from home or to learn from whom and so forth? What are your thoughts on ways that we can make sure that we bring everybody along for the ride here and everyone has tech skills, and they're all enabled?

Well, if you look online, of course, if you're not online, then you can't really look there. But if you look at there are so many training things available. Yeah, to people who don't know, I mean, if you don't know how to do something, and you can't go to YouTube or some other place skill, so you know, one of those places that you know, then then it's just insane But uh, but as I was mentioning earlier, companies have to be committed to this kind of stuff. If a company is committed to make sure that all of their people are trained the way they need to it's not going to be your real difficult for them to do. Because again, there's so much stuff out there, they don't have to build a new system, because it's already there. And you know, little things like, you know, folks that, you know, I've seen people panic with zoom, for example, because they don't have a computer that has a good camera and speaker system, right? But they're walking around like this all day, every day on their smartphone. It's like, Hey, you do know that zoom has an app. And so all the other ones where you can do this from your phone, and I'm 60 some years old, you know what I'm saying? So if I know that, how is it that the other people know. So you know, you don't need a ton of equipment to stay in there. You can do exactly that with that. But a company needs to be committed, if they're committed to their people and bringing everybody where they need to be. It's not going to be hard because they don't have to reinvent the wheel. It's already out there. There's a ton of education pieces out there and they just have to be committed to doing it very much. Appreciate that insight. Thanks. If people want to learn more about pro mark, they want to like talk with you and say, Hey, I got some ideas. I need some help. What's the best way for people to reach out and get get a hold of Vince console here?

Yep, that's probably the easiest thing to do. You know, I'm on LinkedIn, I'm on I'm available. But yeah, just talk to me. I'll put you in the right direction. If it's not me, it's somebody else. But you know, being Italian I you know, I know a guy. So you know, you're calling I know a guy. I'll get you taken care of whatever it is you need. Yeah, we'd love to talk about those things. You know, we'll talk with folks to see if that's the best. All of our solutions are, you know, individual, they're spec specific for your organization. We have thousands of consultants and coaches available all over the world. You know, it's a global organization. So we're prepared to help anybody anywhere. So, love it, Vince, I can't thank you enough for taking the time to talk to us here on our 50 stories with Comcast like, just a fabulous conversation. You definitely have my inner You level today? I really appreciate it.

Yeah, for an old fat guy got a lot of energy. There's no doubt about it.

You're doing just fine. Vince, you're doing just fine, everybody. Thanks for checking us out on this session of our 50 stories. can't thank Comcast enough for making this happen. This has been Jonathan Kersting with the Pittsburgh Technology Council.

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