All Episodes LKQ Director Of TA Gordon Patterson Gordon Patterson

LKQ Director Of TA Gordon Patterson


LKQ Director Of TA Gordon Patterson Gordon Patterson

Empowering Talent: Gordon Patterson's Insights

In this episode, I speak with Gordon Patterson, Director of Talent Acquisition at LKQ Corporation, about his mission to foster relationships and empower individuals. Gordon discusses LKQ’s current changes, the markets it serves, and his role in the company. He explains his innovative recruiting strategies, the importance of brand recognition, and the partnerships LKQ leverages for networking. Learn about LKQ’s employee retention programs, the “Your Voice Matters” survey, and Gordon’s methods for overcoming technology hesitations. He also covers LKQ’s people process technology (PPT) framework, the concept of “sweat equity,” and the critical role of leadership in recruitment. Tune in for insights on retaining talent and Gordon’s future plans.

Episode Transcript

Rob Stevenson 0:05
Welcome to Talk talent to me, a podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the front lines of modern recruitment.

Gordon Patterson 0:12
We actually want to understand the themes of someone’s life, we want to understand how they make decisions where they’re willing to take risks and what it looks like when they fail.

Rob Stevenson 0:22
No holds barred completely off the cuff interviews with directors of recruitment to VPs of global talent, CHROs, and everyone in between.

speaker 3 0:31
Once I went through the classes and the trainings and got the certifications through diversity inclusion, I still felt like something was missing.

Speaker 2 0:39
Talent Acquisition. It’s a fantastic career, you are trusted by the organization. You get to work with the C suite and the security at the front desk and everybody in between and everybody knows you.

Rob Stevenson 0:52
I’m your host, Rob Stevenson, and you’re about to hear the best in the biz. talk down to me. Okay, recruiting pals, it’s me, Rob, your humble host here again at the helm of your favorite talent podcast. And I have another great guest for you today. He is the Director of Talent Acquisition over at LKQ Gordon Patterson, Gordon, thanks so much for being here on the podcast with me today.

Gordon Patterson 1:15
Rob, thanks for having me. Really excited to be on the podcast with the top talent to me family and to be talking to you about talent and LKQ Corporation.

Rob Stevenson 1:23
Yeah, we have lots to go into. And we get into it in a minute here in due time in due course. But first just to call out that you really brought a little bit of swagger into the episode today you’re wearing a very dapper denim jacket, you’re layering here. menswear is about layering like people you know, this is an audio based medium, people can’t see that they don’t get to enjoy it. But I wanted to paint a picture for folks that know who they’re dealing with here.

Gordon Patterson 1:45
Man, Rob, I appreciate it. Actually, this piece is really special to me. It’s a jean jacket, Brandon with LKQ And I know the the

Rob Stevenson 1:53
company swag. Wow.

Gordon Patterson 1:54
It’s our 25th anniversary edition jacket that I received last year at our leadership conference from our Senior Director of Marketing, so I had to wear the jacket with the good Juju and represent LK Q and the 25 years that we’ve been around.

Rob Stevenson 2:08
Yeah, you had to represent. Well, I totally because LKP was just out of frame there. I didn’t realize that was company swag. That’s pretty awesome. The only company swag I ever get is like pens and notebooks and backpacks. I’m still using a swag backpack. I got it’s like a Timbuktu bag. So it’s good. But that company no longer exists. So it’s like, it was LAME for me to carry it around when I didn’t work for the company. But now I feel like it’s come around. It’s like vintage. It’s like oh, yeah, this company doesn’t exist anymore like this. I rescued us from Goodwill it no I didn’t. I’ve just been using it for the last 10 years.

Gordon Patterson 2:36
Isn’t that the thing with fashion, though. It always comes around full circle. So I like your mindset, the vintage idea with a backpack? Because that’s what fashion is right? It is what you make thread rules are no rules.

Rob Stevenson 2:46
Yes, yes. And learn the rules. So you can break them and everything old is new again. That seems to be the case here. So anyway, thanks for bringing it today. And 25 years, congrats to you and the team over there. Lots of folks, I speak to our younger companies than that. So for the folks out there who may not know I would love it if you could share a little bit about LK Q and then we’ll get into your role and what you’re working on.

Gordon Patterson 3:07
Absolutely. Okay. Q is such a unique company. We are one of the largest distributors of automobile parts, right. We’re in the collision business, we’re in the sustainability business. And in 1998, Don Flynn created l k q. And if you’re familiar with Don Flynn, he actually worked in the waste industry. So our industry is very similar to the waste industry where we’ve grown through acquisitions. And he saw opportunities for a bunch of mom and pops to essentially come together, these regional or local mom and pop was to turn into this big company, which is now called El que que we started out in Ohio. And we’ve grown to now we’re in all of North America, we’re in Europe, as well as we are in Asia as well. We’re in India. So it’s really grown in 25 years. We celebrated it last year. And it’s been just a fantastic journey for the company as a whole.

Rob Stevenson 3:59
Yeah, so I confess, I didn’t know anything about LK Q before we spoke, but shame on me, because this is a company that has affected my life for sure. And I’ve noticed this in a couple of different cases, I interviewed the CHR o of Riceland foods, and you know, they’re processing billions of pounds of rice every year, you know, it’s like I definitely had their products. Three M is another good example. It’s like, oh, what’s three M, they make like scotch tape and like fixtures and again, you’ve used their products, I promise you, even if you don’t know the company by name, even if you aren’t familiar with their employer brand, but that’s why I want to have you on because it’s like companies like this are such a great opportunity. I think for talent folks, because they are established companies. There’s loads of opportunity to bring technology and to bring exciting recruitment processes that we talk about in Silicon Valley, for example, into these really successful established great companies. That’s where you come in. So that’s why I’m excited to speak with you, Gordon and yeah, before I pat you on the back too much. Let’s hear about what you’re working on. Man. I’d love to know what’s going on over there and what’s top of mind for you?

Gordon Patterson 4:58
Absolutely. A lot of great stuff going on at El que que currently, like I said last year, we celebrated our 25 years. And we are currently going through a CEO change transition. So our former CEO, Nick Sarcone. He just presented at our last leadership conference in April of this year in Orlando, Florida. And now we have Justin Jude taken over which is extremely, extremely exciting. Justin, Jude has been with El KQ. He’s a lifer. He’s been here for over 20 years. And he truly is a humble and empathetic leader that has held many roles within the organization, which I think is really going to help allow us to be stronger as we go into this new regime, as you would say, under his leadership, but talent acquisition as a whole man, we are just getting after it ta at LK Q is still very young, we’re only six years old in the organization. And so it’s been really fun to see in my two years how talent acquisition has really evolved to impact the business as we continue to move forward, not just on our core business side with our North American wholesale, our pick your part in our remanufacturing business, but also on the specialty side with our elite tech operations that does car diagnostics, or auto parts out outlet and our Keystone Automotive Group. So we have a lot of great things, this is going to be a great conversation, because I’ll be able to dive into some of the different lines of businesses that we have, that your listeners may not be familiar with, and how we go about attracting and retaining that talent in those different business segments.

Rob Stevenson 6:32
Yeah, I’m glad you mentioned that those types of folks that you’re trying to get in front of because this is a really common interview question for making a recruiting hire, which is, if I took LinkedIn away from you, how would you get in front of people? That’s just a reality for you like the a lot of the folks that you’re describing, trying to get in front of they don’t have LinkedIn profiles, but they don’t check LinkedIn profiles. So when you answer that question, you don’t have to imagine what if right, you can just tell that person exactly how you do your job. So I guess that would be my question is how do you do your job? How do you get in front of these kinds of folks?

Gordon Patterson 7:03
That’s a great question. And I think every company has their own philosophy. When I joined el KQ, two years ago, one thing I quickly identified is that we had no recruitment marketing, we were one of the biggest companies that did not have branding, or people didn’t know who we were. And that was comfortable for me, because my background actually comes from the waste industry. So I kind of feel like I had some similarities like Don Flynn, who came from the waist industry as well. And so one thing that we really focused on in my philosophy was this idea of people process technology. And with people process technology, we’ll dive into it more. But for the sake of your question, we knew that if we didn’t have the brand recognition, if we didn’t have the local exposure, that we had to do some unique things, and we couldn’t just sit behind a job board, or behind a requisition and post and pray. And so one thing that we really pushed when I came in to the organization was building local partnerships. And since we have talent acquisition partners all across the US, we have about a team of 17. One thing that I mentioned was we have to dominate recruiting in our local markets. It’s just like a sports profession or what have you. If our headquarters is in Nashville, Tennessee, we need to be the employer of choice by the people in Nashville, Tennessee. And we took that philosophy all across the US where some of our more critical markets aren’t our bigger markets are. And that’s really been a tailwind for us to get people aware of El que que and the opportunities that we’re seeking. Because most of our employee base, I’d say about 75 to 85% of our employee base is frontline employees. So to your point, they’re not going to LinkedIn, or if they go to, indeed, they want to fill out an application extremely fast within two or three minutes, or they’re going to get disengaged. So we’ve really taken the stance on let’s get out into the local communities. Let’s identify the individuals that are interested in us. But also can we provide exposure to the communities that aren’t aware of us and how that can translate well into being an employee at El que que?

Rob Stevenson 9:11
Yeah, so when you speak about getting out into the community, what does that mean? Does it mean live events? Does it mean just like sourcing, particularly in your own backyard? What does that look like?

Gordon Patterson 9:20
Yeah, great question. We have a combination of national partnerships that have kind of these local segments or local locations. And then we do have some cities or markets that are very, very market specific. So we partnered with uso, we partner with the Army PACE program. Those are big national organizations that will have members or individuals that are in various communities across the US that we can leverage those partnerships for local events that may happen, right. So whether that’s a local information session or a virtual information session, or a community service event that we may sponsor or via Part of we get wind of that. And then we can deploy our individuals down to those locations to do more marketing and partnership there. But for instance, like here in Nashville, we have a partnership with Connect Seon Americas, we have a partnership with other more local organizations like community options, as to we have a point of contact that we engage with. And at the beginning of the year, we decide what are our opportunities to continue to be in front of their members and individuals and what a good partnership looks like year over year to build on, and then we execute from there and then review our results year over year.

Rob Stevenson 10:39
Now, I think there’s this myth, Gordon that people who don’t have LinkedIn ads, or people who get their roll through a two to three minute indeed, application are transactional in nature, that there’s a lot of turnover with those people. I spoke to someone from Walmart, and she was like we hire we turn over a million people a year when she thinks of all the associates in her stores. But that doesn’t sound like it’s the case for you, right? This is not a transactional hire you’re trying to make right?

Gordon Patterson 11:08
Yeah, you’re spot on. So our talent acquisition team year over a year, we do about 7500 hires a year. So we’re very, we’re very clear, very high volume. And LK. Q, we’ve been very fortunate even with all the acquisitions and movement that a lot of our frontline associates have been with the company for 20 plus years, when you look at our dismantlers, several of our dismantlers across the country have been with us for 1015 25 years, it’s often when I travel across the country, and even into Canada that I’ll meet with dismantlers, or yard workers or distribution managers that have been with the company for 20 plus years. And so we’re very grateful for that. One thing that helps us with that is that we do a your voice matter survey. And we are constantly surveying our employee base, not just our frontline employees, not just our leaders, even at corporate and support staff to really hear what it is that they’re thinking and what they’re looking for. One item that’s come out of our Your Voice Matters was increasing our tuition reimbursement. We also have a scholarship fund for any employee that has a child that’s going to college or junior college or vocational school, that they will get a scholarship to help them pay for university or Joseph Holston scholarship. So these are all items that have come out of our Your Voice Matters survey that we implemented a few years back to really help retain the talent that we have. Because we know that once you’re able to train up and develop talent, the last thing you want to do is see that talent walk out the door. Because typically, that puts you at a discrepancy and puts you back. So the longer we can keep our employees and keep them engaged and hear what they’re thinking about. We feel the better off we’ll be with retaining our talent.

Rob Stevenson 12:53
Could you share some of the questions you ask folks in that survey?

Gordon Patterson 12:56
Absolutely. We ask questions around your leadership, right? We ask questions around the sites that you work in, we ask questions around the benefits that you have, what recommendations do you have for benefits? Or what would make your job better? We also ask recruitment questions, onboarding questions, and overall satisfaction questions on this survey? It’s a survey of about 20 to 35 questions on average, but typically, employees can get through it rather quickly.

Rob Stevenson 13:26
Yeah. And I asked because it’s like, okay, you need to deeply understand what your employees are thinking and going through. And maybe if they’re anonymous, they’ll be a little more forthcoming with it. But then it also has to turn into something right. Like, you can’t just take 30 minutes of your entire workforce this time, and then be like, Oh, good, people are slightly above average, satisfied, guests will do nothing. And then like, it sounds like you’re using it to turn it into perks or to turn it into policy. So yeah, how do you translate that? How do you take the the response from a question and turn it into a policy?

Gordon Patterson 13:56
Absolutely. And all of our questionnaires are anonymous, which is really cool. And the results are only received by the firm that actually creates the Your Voice Matters survey. And then those are delivered to our senior director of employee engagement, as well as our SVP of human resources, Genevieve Dombroski, and then what they do is they collaborate all of the results. And then they’ll take a few of them that are really hot topics. And then they’ll take those to the board and to our executive leadership team, and put together a strategy on what it can look like for the employees. And it’s a really, really cool process. And we have been able to deliver back to our employees quite a bit since implementing the Your Voice Matters survey. Like I mentioned, we increase tuition reimbursement, we’ve expanded our scholarship fund, we’ve increased new benefits to the organization. So it’s been a really, really powerful tool for us and for our employees to remain engaged and for us to know what is actually being said at our different sites.

Rob Stevenson 14:59
Yeah, That makes sense. Now, I wanted to ask you, Gordon, about some of the tooling and some of the tech investments happening over there. Because even at really tech forward, young companies, recruiting is historically under sourced, right. Like, we don’t get all the fun toys that marketing and sales teams and certainly engineering teams get. So even in the best case, talent, people have to really box in for that sort of investment. And then in your case, your industry is tech adjacent, right? There’s a lot of technology at play, but it’s a more industrial sort of business. So I assume that might be even more of a challenge. It’s not the case.

Gordon Patterson 15:36
Absolutely. We are late adopters. I’ll go back to the reference in my career, I’ve been very fortunate to work in a similar industry in the waste industry. And being at a company that is large and scale LK Q is a fortune 400 company, we have over 1500 locations, we have over 42,000 employees. And for a lot of people not to be familiar with us, it’s mind blowing. But it is a blessing to though, and I love to turn things on the other side is because we’ve been able to develop our story. And we’ve been able to test a lot of things, to determine a lot of technologies, partnerships to determine what works for us in today’s marketplace, right? Because we all know that what worked yesterday may not work today. And because of that, we were able to develop our talent acquisition team and our overall HR team around some of the things that have been found to work for us. So when I’m recruiting for talent acquisition within my team, we’re character over competency, we look for individuals that have worked or for individuals that have an affinity for frontline employees and frontline managers that may not have the experience with technology that some of these early adopters may have right like at a cool tech company. And so because of that coming in the door, we kind of set the tone by saying we might have to use a little bit more sweat equity, to identify our talent and to help our leaders with recruitment. And so because of that, we do use the Indians of the world. But like I mentioned, we don’t have the core CRM that allows us to have two way communication or to move candidates very quickly. We unfortunately don’t use a lot of AI because our candidate pool were lucky if they finished the application more. So if they even have a resume. But the technology that we have invested in on the TA side, it has worked really well for us. And what I mean by that is the technology through our partnerships, like the UFOs, the army pays program, some of these other organizations that we partner with, a lot of them have a better local reach. And so because people are coming to them as a resource, they’re able to promote us more on a one to one basis and say, This is why I think that you would be great for el que que because you’ve worked in a grocery supply before or you’ve stocked shelves before. And you may have only made 14 bucks an hour but LK Q pay 17 bucks an hour. And they’re a shorter commute for you. So more of that personal touch, which then creates better referrals for us, which has really gone a long way. I do see in the near future that we will get to a CRM platform, and how that will look will be very unique. Because again, I think for us, it’s more about trying to get people to be aware of who we are, and on the backside, having the ability to move people much quicker and get in contact with them faster, so that we can keep them engaged. So those are some of the technologies that we’re looking at moving forward probably at the beginning of next year. But in the meantime, we’ve learned so much on our current applicant tracking system, our partnerships, and really building good connections in the community and with our partners to identify and attract candidates.

Rob Stevenson 18:56
Now on the one hand, Gordon, you’re saying that, okay, you don’t have the CRM and some of the funds rules. But yeah, then you have the insight to know that three minutes is far too long to request. Someone fill out an application, right, which I think that’s telling, right, it’s like, okay, look, even if you don’t have all the flashy toys, there is still an opportunity to be really, really mindful to get really granular like that data probably still exists, even if you don’t have it presented to you in a nice handy dashboard.

Gordon Patterson 19:23
Right ! Well, it’s funny you say that, Rob, because you know, when I started two years ago, one of the first things that I’m laughing because this is really true. Genevieve, she’s gonna die when she hears this, but she said, Gordon, I just need you to get me a report that tells me how many requisitions we have, with the technology that we had. It was very difficult for us to just get the number of hires than the number of requisitions all in one place. So I partnered with my leadership team when I first came into the role Shawna and we were able to create a report We partner with our HR systems to partner with our field HR to get the report that we needed to identify just how many requisitions and what those wrecks were. But to your point, once we were able to get that data, we were then able to build on that. And that’s one thing that I think our talent acquisition team did a fantastic job of, we started to do quarterly business reviews, so that each talent acquisition person in our organization would then go through and list out, Hey, these are where my employees are, here are my critical markets, here are my headwinds, my tailwinds? And what do we need from the leadership team. And that really helped accelerate what I would say, our ability to attract candidates and overcome some of the hurdles of tech right or overcome some of the hurdles of candidates not finishing the application, because we could then do some more sponsor jobs in those critical markets where we’re seeing applicant flow is lower, right, or we could do an easy apply, or we could do campaigns for career fairs that are local in our local markets to attract individuals to come at a broader scale. So we’ve really used that data in a way that most companies today and 2024 would use a lot of technology, where we’ve used it a lot for sweat equity, and a little bit of technology to attract and identify our talent.

Rob Stevenson 21:24
Yeah, I’m glad you put it that way. Because I’ve long believed that lots of sass companies are just replacements for a spreadsheet. It’s like, let’s take all of this data that exists in your company. And we will present it to you in a clean way, and allow you to run reports against it such that you don’t have to know any Excel formulas. But again, like that data, It all exists out there, right. And so it took time for you to speak to stakeholders and understand, for example, how many wrecks there were. But it was not like it was impossible. It was not like the technical debt made that unknowable. It just took a like you say a little more sweat equity. And you probably looked like a hero after he were able to compile all that.

Gordon Patterson 21:59
So a lot of sweat equity. And another thing that really helped us out, Rob was identifying where our temporary talent was. Right? Like that was one of the objectives that I had in my first full year with my team was how can we reduce our contract labor, because that directly hits the bottom line. And we were able to drop our staffing spin in 2023 by over $3 million. And with a goal of this year to drop it by like $8 million. But when you see the business going to contractors or temporary talent, however you want to call it, where there’s smoke, there’s fire, right? And so from a full time employment perspective, that was where our talent acquisition, business partners and partners started to focus our attention. Was it a lack of attraction? Was it just easier because the staffing agency, what was it? So when we got to the root cause we get to actually come up with a solution to then limit the amount of staffing and contractors in our sites?

Rob Stevenson 22:57
Yeah. So when there’s that much spend on something like, you know, contract hires, there’s enough work there for to be full time roles. Yeah. So it was that the kind of conclusion you came to is like, okay, when you said there’s smoke, there’s fire, you know, what was the fire?

Gordon Patterson 23:10
Yeah, I think it was a combination of a few things, Rob, you’re spot on. Right? I think part of it is, talent acquisition is still only six years old. So when I came in, it was four years old, right. And I think our business leaders were not used to having a resource for staffing. So when you have to do it all yourself, and you have to get the delivery trucks filled up, you got to get those trucks out, you got to get to customers. But then you got your other inventory that’s coming in, you got to put it on the shelves, sometimes it’s just easier to call the agency down the street and say, Hey, give me eight guys or gals to start work, versus having the ability and building the relationship with someone internally, that can keep an ear to the streets in their market and have individuals ready to go for you versus going that extra step. And so now you eliminate or you reduce a lot on that p&l, right for operating costs and personnel costs to say, hey, we did it all internally. And now we don’t have to have that extra layer, or we have to wait for a certain amount of hours to be worked to convert them to full time, which in my humble opinion here that reduces volatility, right? Because if it’s an internal employee, there’s a lot of benefits to having that. And there are perks for the workers, the employee to stay with the company. So I think part of it was not having that resource as talent acquisition and being very forthcoming with you. We had to create some stability, we had to provide some tools, and we had to create processes for leaders to follow and to know what their role is in that recruitment process, to then build that trust and belief that they can rely on us and count on us. And we’ve been able to do a pretty good job of that up to this point.

Rob Stevenson 24:57
Yeah, it makes sense and You’re just speaking the language of the executive, when you start talking about like, oh, we can actually save 3 million bucks by doing this, this is how talent in my opinion moves from order taker to like strategic business leader, right? Because when you tell, oh, we got time to hire down this much, who cares, we saved $3 million, by getting you off of Contract Hire. That’s how you I feel like become more instrumental in the business.

Gordon Patterson 25:21
I couldn’t agree with you more Rob, I would say this, in my experience, I was again, I was very blessed and fortunate to learn the p&l as a talent acquisition partner when I was a junior recruit early in my career. And when you understand the p&l, and you know what’s coming in and what’s going out, right, it helps you then know where you need to put your focus, and how you can essentially make better profits. And what I say to our team all the time, is you may see a business unit that has three openings, and you may see one that has 10 openings. But when you really understand the business, yes, you need to hire those 13 people regardless 100%. But does that site with 10 openings, where are they at on their p&l? Because they may have 35% margins and may be high flying, versus the business unit that has three openings that may be right at that line. And so now my attention needs to go there, because those three hires are going to be paramount for the health of that business unit or that site versus that other one, right. And so knowing that if you can have positions filled in those critical markets and those critical places, and not have that turnover, that just helps that business leader so much more, because it’s one less thing for them to have to worry about knowing that they can operate at a high level fully staffed or very close to fully staffed. And that they can count on their talent acquisition business partner to understand the inner workings on why they’re working on that specific position.

Rob Stevenson 26:54
Yeah, of course. Well, Gordon, here we are approaching optimal podcast length. Before I let you go, though, one last question here, just slightly known. Let’s say you had your druthers, and you could just kind of go there and to the market and by whatever flashy, new recruiting toy you wanted, would it be a CRM? Or what do you think we had the most impact?

Gordon Patterson 27:13
Yeah, that’s a great question. I try not to think about that, Rob. Because as you know, like, even with fashion, I like to go after the high flying stuff. But I would say what would be great for my team specifically would be a CRM, having the ability to get to candidates faster and more flexible, would be huge for what we do at El KQ. And to be able to move people quick, and have two way communication, and we’re well on our way. So hopefully, that’ll happen soon. I do believe in the powers that be there. We’ll get there. But in the meantime, what we’ll do is just continue to stick to the fundamentals and get better at what we do support our hiring leaders. And then when we get that technology to streamline all processes, man, I think there will be a force to reckon with.

Rob Stevenson 27:57
Absolutely. I feel like you already are but perhaps more so in the future. Hopefully, Gordon, this has been really fun man, thanks for coming here and sharing all about your experience and what you’re working on. I’ve loved chatting with you today.

Gordon Patterson 28:08
Absolutely. Rob man, I’d be happy to come back anytime. I really appreciate you and talk talent to me podcasts and until the next time, I appreciate it.

Rob Stevenson 28:20
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