Vitech Systems CHRO Andy Doyle

Andy DoyleVitech Systems CHRO

From his decade at Merrill Lynch, followed by a decade at OppenheimerFunds, to his current position as Chief Human Resources Officer over at Vitech Systems, Andy Doyle knows what questions he needs to be prepared to field and how best to represent his talent in the boardroom. In this episode, he fills us in on how he strikes the balance between profitability and compensation and how bonuses and salary increases are typically calculated.

Episode Transcript





[00:00:05] RS: Welcome to Talk Talent to Me, a podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the frontlines of modern recruitment.


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[00:00:51] RS: I’m your host, Rob Stevenson. You’re about to hear the best in the biz, Talk Talent to Me. 




[00:00:59] RS: Joining me today on Talk Talent to Me is the Chief Human Resources Officer over at Vitech Systems, Andy Doyle. Andy, welcome to show. How are you today?


[00:01:07] AD: I’m doing very well. Happy to be here.


[00:01:09] RS: Yeah. Happy to have you. How’s your week shaping up? Is it crazy, hectic are you humming along? What do the state of things over there?


[00:01:16] AD: Well, this is board prep week. We’ve got a big board meeting coming up next week. Vitech is owned by a private equity firm, and lots and lots of preparations for that meeting.


[00:01:27] RS: You probably presented to a board or two over your career, right? 


[00:01:32] AD: Oh, yeah, yeah. Many, many times. I was the CHRO of OppenheimerFunds. So five years of board presentations there. Even some board meetings at Merrill Lynch.


[00:01:45] RS: I’m guessing at Merrill Lynch, there’s like retail investors, more institutional investors because it’s a huge organization. At Vitech, is it private equity? Is it a smaller cadre of people?


[00:01:55] AD: Definitely, yeah. The board is comprised of private equity investors. The former, well, the former CEO and the founder of Vitech also sits on the board. Unlike in OppenheimerFunds, which was owned by MassMutual, and had a mutual fund board of people that didn’t necessarily have investments in the company. All of these folks at the private equity firm do.


[00:02:23] RS: Got it. What is the difference then in what you are asked as the CHRO, head of the talent department over there? I guess, first of all, let’s start with where you are now. Let’s start with Vitech. What do you go into the board meeting prepared to discuss? 


[00:02:39] AD: Well, you try to go in prepared to discuss anything that you might be asked. Part of our preparations are trying to predict what their interests are going to be. You know a big one is always compensation, and making sure that we are spending our dollars wisely. Compensation is one of the biggest expenses for an organization like this. So making sure that we are monitoring what’s going on in the market, and paying people appropriately so that we don’t have turnover, but not so much that we’re eating into our profitability.


[00:03:18] RS: That’s got to be a delicate line to toe, right? You want to stay competitive?


[00:03:21] AD: Well, and it’s especially difficult right now, because the market is really changing rapidly. We have a large operation in India, and salaries are increasing very rapidly in India. Even here in the US, I think wages were pretty stagnant for a long time, a decade. But now we’re really starting to see wages go up again.


[00:03:50] RS: Where do you come down on that question? Because, unfortunately, HR and the Talent Department writ large is often viewed as a cost center, as opposed to a profit center. But then you, Andy Doyle, man of the people, you want your employees to be compensated well. You yourself want to be compensated well. How do you strike that balance between the pressure to maybe keep costs down versus giving people what they want and need?


[00:04:13] AD: Well, I mean, it’s art more than science. That’s for sure. It really starts with getting into the data, participating in compensation market surveys, and understanding how other companies are paying those positions. Then you’re trying to come up with a compensation philosophy for the organization about how we are going to share profits with our employees, what’s important to us to pay for. It’s not just a straight salary. You’re talking about benefits, talking about the investments that you’re going to make into employees in terms of their development. All of these things create a tapestry, if you will, of your approach to talent. That’s ultimately, that’s what the board wants to hear from me. How we’re putting that tapestry together and why.


[00:05:12] RS: Could you give an example of a comp-based question you might field at a board meeting?


[00:05:17] AD: Sure, sure. Bonuses are always a popular one, and salary increases, what is the salary increase budget for the year. So it’s talking about the financial performance of the company, and what the company can afford, and what’s going on in the market, and then merging those two pieces of data together to basically come up with a proposal.


[00:05:46] RS: In that case, it’s probably not quite enough to have market data, right? You probably need to be in lockstep with your sales leadership to understand where money is coming from, because you need to have a pretty intimate understanding of the profitability of the company before you can start to balance compensation with that, right?


[00:06:03] AD: Absolutely. The CFO and I are always joined at the hip in this process. The CFO is really talking about what the company can afford. Then I’m bringing in the, what’s going on in the market. Then together, we’re coming up with a strategy for how we’re going to pay our talent.


[00:06:27] RS: Do you think the CFO partnership is perhaps the most important for the CHRO level? When you look at who are the other business partners you need to really ally yourself with to represent your people well, and to present a unified front end a meaningful strategy to the board.


[00:06:44] AD: Absolutely. I’ve been very fortunate. I have a great CFO of Vitech. I had a great CFO at OppenheimerFunds. So our partnership has enabled us to really get a lot accomplished. If you don’t have a great CFO, your job as CHRO is very, very difficult.


[00:07:05] RS: Yeah. I believe it. Would that even make its way into your assessment of a company, like when you were thinking to join a team? Are you asking like, “Okay, who are the other people I’m going to be working with? Can I see myself really being effective with this partner?”


[00:07:17] AD: Absolutely. That was definitely part of the process. When I was talking to Vitech, maybe not something I quite understood as well, before I became a CHRO for the first time. Subsequent to that, I always want to know what the CFO’s views are on talent.


[00:07:37] RS: Right, right. Make sure they’re bought in. I’ve caught you, Andy, at an interesting point in your career, I think, because you had 10 years at OppenheimerFunds prior to that 10 years at Merrill Lynch. You’re just rounding out your first year here at Vitech. I’m curious when you began at Vitech, which is by no means a small scrappy startup, right? There’s 1,300 or something, employees there. It’s a –


[00:08:01] AD: We’re 1,600 now –


[00:08:02] RS: 1,600.


[00:08:03] AD: Yeah. We’re an adolescent. We’re not a grown-up company yet. 


[00:08:09] RS: Yeah. A moody teenager company. 


[00:08:11] AD: Yeah, exactly. 


[00:08:12] RS: That’s got to be a big shift, obviously, from the larger companies you had to work for it in the past. As you look back in your first year, and maybe even when you’re just starting, how did you take stock of the realities of the HR department of the company and bring the rigor of more tenure at bigger companies to a Vitech or smaller operation?


[00:08:33] AD: Well, so first Vitech, yeah, definitely very different scale than companies I’ve worked for. In a way, it’s, I’m going back in time a little bit to things I did earlier in my career. In my role at OppenheimerFunds, I was a manager of managers. I tried to roll up my sleeves and stay very involved in the work, but now I’m in Excel spreadsheets. I’m doing all of the stuff that I used to do even 20 years ago. Then going from a meeting that to, “Okay, now, let’s prep for the board meeting.” It’s very interesting, actually, at this point in my career to be going back into the spreadsheets and presentations on performance management to getting back to the basics. It’s been nice, but it’s been challenging. I certainly am not as good at Excel or PowerPoint, as I was many years ago.


[00:09:37] RS: Do you relish that process of rolling your sleeves back up getting in the weeds, or do you prefer to stay high level?


[00:09:43] AD: You know, it’s been a nice change after what we were working on toward the end of OppenheimerFunds. OppenheimerFunds was sold to Invesco and taking a 2000 person organization through a transition when you’re acquired and trying to make sure as many of your people are getting jobs as possible. Very, very stressful. Yes, there is sometimes the peace and quiet of an Excel spreadsheet.


[00:10:14] RS: A cup of tea and a spreadsheet, yes. 


[00:10:16] AD: Yeah, no, but I also think that getting back into the nitty-gritty of providing development and putting in structure for the talent of Vitech is reawakening in my head. Some things about how this should be done. I’m learning a ton. By the way, I worked in financial services for 20 years. This is a FinTech, InsurTech. We have developers and coders and I know much less about them than I know about portfolio managers and investors and so forth. I had to learn a lot along the way.


[00:11:00] RS: In addition to the industrial shift, what did you do to stock of the talent department at Vitech when you got there and was like, “Okay, where am I going to be most impactful? What’s the reality of the maturity even of the team?”


[00:11:15] AD: I think, it’s fair to say that HR had been a little bit under-invested in, so a lot of it is setting the so-called table stakes for an organization. Creating career paths and putting in employee engagement programs. The firm is incredible at recruiting, and even during the great resignation. We were able to hire 500 people, lost a few. So we didn’t grow net 500, but we grew a net, almost 400 people in 2021. Now that we have all these people here, it’s putting in the programs to help develop their careers here, making sure that we have the pay programs so that they can share the wealth. As the company grows and that they continue to grow now that they’re here.


[00:12:15] RS: Did that look like succession planning to look like offering them education in the form of benefits? How did you go about showing that you were investing more in the workforce?


[00:12:24] AD: Well, and I don’t mean to make it sound like it’s a done deal. We’re still building and working on all of these things. We have to pick and choose where we spend our budget to the process of picking what things we’re going to do with our somewhat limited resources until we can grow as an organization.


[00:12:50] RS: I like how you said you’re being thoughtful about where the budget ought to go. At the same time, noting historically that perhaps HR had been under-invested in at Vitech. Was that a goal of yours to expand that budget? I’m just imagining you saying, “Hey, to really do this job right, you’re going to need to, you don’t just need to hire an Andy Doyle, you need to hire an Andy Doyle and give them something to play with?


[00:13:12] AD: Well, I think the board and our CEO and the executive team all knew that we needed to put in these programs. It hasn’t really been me having to convince anybody that we need to do this. In fact, it’s been just the opposite. There’s a line out my door, “Hey, we need this yesterday.” Kind of thing. Which is great. You always want, you want people demanding things, rather than having to convince them that they need them. So it doesn’t always feel good when someone’s demanding something, because then there’s an urgency to get it, but trust me, it’s much better than having to go around and convince everybody that something’s needed.


[00:13:57] RS: Yeah. What do folks ask for when they’re in the line at your door?


[00:14:01] AD: It’s all around our vision what I like to build is great places to work. We were able to do that at OppenheimerFunds. We’re very fortunate to win lots of awards, and that’s what we’re doing here. So there are a lot of things that go into being a great place to work. It’s having great people managers so we’re putting in training programs around managing people and leadership training. It’s a place that’s going to invest in you, so we’re putting in training programs to help people not just with the work that they’re doing today, but so that they can be promoted or do other roles for us inside the organization. 


Again, putting in compensation programs so that they can share the wealth and growth of the company. Then it’s also putting in a purpose, if you will. Building a social contract between the employees and the organization for why does the company exist? What is your piece in that company serving its clients?


[00:15:16] RS: Why is that social contract important?


[00:15:18] AD: Because I think that that social contract becomes the foundation of a strong company culture. This line from Peter Drucker gets overused all the time that culture eats strategy for breakfast, but it’s so true. I’ve seen the power of what great company culture can do in my career. When you don’t have that, it doesn’t matter what your strategy is.


[00:15:43] RS: Where does that start for you, that building culture? Because surely, it’s not just Zoom happy hours or perks or fun things in an office. I think we’ve moved away from that as a society, right? That the really cool office space is nice, but when you get into actual mature effective professionals, they care about other things. So for you, then does it start with the why we exist, here’s your role in the greater company, here’s a larger mission. Is that the foundation of building culture?


[00:16:18] AD: It’s yes. It’s certainly one of them. I think that people will care about their company when they feel their company cares about them. So the leaders of the organization have to do that, not just with what they say, but with their actions. So leaders who are very good listeners, and making sure that they’re hearing the employees, that’s a great start. That’s one of the things that Richard who is the CEO of Vitech and I are started a series called Coffee with the CEO. The two of us meet in small groups of nine to10 people. We’re going to continue to do this until we’ve met everybody in the company. They’re just conversations. 


One of the things that really been a problem I’ve been trying to solve during the pandemic, is that I used to get such great information in my previous roles, just walking the halls, and saying hello to people, and just engaging with people. You usually see the same people in your meetings all day, but if you want to get other perspectives on what’s going on in the organization as the person charged with the people, you need to get out and talk to the people. 


So working remotely and I don’t have those chance encounters anymore, on my way to get coffee. I’m seeing the same people in the team’s meetings that — every single day. This Coffee with the CEO, is giving Richard and I an opportunity to talk to people that are not in our regular schedule of meetings and hear all sorts of different perspectives. For me, anyway, it is really expedited my learning about my new company.


[00:18:15] RS: So that is a good example of a long-term effect of remote work that we will begin confronting. I think the last couple of years, it’s been all about how great it is that we don’t have to sit in traffic anymore and that companies don’t have to pay exorbitant rents on office space. You have time to do your laundry in between meetings now. People are just as productive, etc. But I do wonder, what are some of these other adverse effects? It isn’t all going to be good. I think one of them is, I don’t want to say a dissipation or devolution of culture, but it certainly it takes a hit when you’re not in person, when you can just be like, “Hey, let’s go grab lunch together, let’s do a happy hour after work.” 


There’s a less like ‘we’re in the trenches together’ kind of feel to just being on Zoom with folks. Also to your point about the non-meaning meetings that happen, the actual socialization and knowledge gathering happens at the water cooler. This is lost. The ‘Coffee with the CEO’ is a great example. What are some other ways you think that in a remote world, we can propagate culture and not suffer from some of these things we don’t have because we’re not in person anymore?


[00:19:30] AD: Well that is the big answer that organizations are going to be trying to solve, have been trying to solve. I know, I don’t think I quite have the answer yet, but I think organizations are going to, they need to give people a reason to go back into the office. What’s happened in the pandemic was already starting prior to the pandemic with the introduction of mobile devices, right? So the work is all based on 20th-century wage and hour laws around, manufacturing and punching a clock. So one of the things that we did at OppenheimerFunds as we began to think about the future of work and technology coming in is starting to question, why do we even have vacation days? Right? 


We went to something called responsible time off. I’m not going to measure you by the hours that you work. I’m going to measure you by your results. If you choose to do those from a balcony in Maui, as long as you’re getting great results, and our clients are happy, why should I care where that’s being done. Technology allows us to do that. So what began to happen at OppenheimerFunds was that we were focusing much more on using our office space for collaboration. I think that’s going to be what happens as people come back into the office now. 


In fact, Salesforce has put up some great stuff on their website about what they were doing during the pandemic. They were one of the first to adopt this, this hybrid approach. What they found is that nobody came into the office on Monday or Tuesday or Friday, everybody wanted to come in Wednesday and Thursday. When they came in, they weren’t really sitting at their cubicles working on their laptops, they were in meetings, and they were collaborating. They saved the laptop work for the Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays when they were at home. 


Now, obviously, everybody can’t go in on Wednesdays and Thursdays, that’s not exactly going to work, especially if, as you mentioned before, companies are starting to give up real estate, but I think that’s going to start to be the new rhythm for companies is really thinking about how do we get the most out of when people come together? As a people manager, how can I design this meeting time so that we’re maximizing our collaboration? Your tools that can help us do that, I think will be the next big thing in the HR technology.


[00:22:34] RS: Yeah, yeah. I think that’s right. Also, it seems just a better way to do work when you think of it from a productivity standpoint like batching meetings, batching heads down laptop time. You do hear about these companies instituting like, “Oh, we have no meeting Fridays.” Or like Tuesday is the day where you do all of your interviews, right? You will never be asked to an interview on only – on a day other than Tuesday. The idea is just, it’s so interruptive to be cranking on something in the half-hour between two meetings. How productive can you possibly be in between two meetings for a half-hour? I don’t think you can really get into the weeds on anything. You’re probably just answering emails at most or probably refilling your coffee, going to the bathroom, just not really doing anything. 


I think that just, you’re right, the pandemic brought this forward. But when you think of the ways people actually do work. I think of the full office, everyone in the office for eight, nine hours a day, five days a week, it seems so archaic. This morning, I was having coffee reading a magazine on my couch at 9:15 am and just thinking, “Wow, what a world.” Like I’m not in traffic right now, I’m not on a subway and not having to go into an office. I can have breakfast with my partner and relax and have a morning to myself. Seems weird that we ever did it any other way, frankly. 


[00:23:59] AD: Yeah. But I’ll tell you that it’s still a balance. I went into the office last week. I had only one in-person meeting that I had to attend last week. But just going into the office and interacting with different people than I do here at home and encountering different things on my walk to the office, it was really good food for my brain. I — my level of thinking that day was much less cloudy than it usually is.


[00:24:37] RS: Yeah. That’s an important call out too. It’s easy to fall into a routine or not leave your house or not get dressed. I think the varied input of a commute or being outside or a change of scenery is really important. Where I was reading this stat, some blog about how this factory owner realized that when he turned the lights up in his factory, his team was more efficient. Then sometime later, an intern realized, “Hey, if we turn them down dimmer than they were before, they’re also more efficient.” So it wasn’t about the lights are brighter you’re being watched, it was like it’s changed its variance. It’s like you shake up the routine a little bit and it just, yeah, like you say, opens new pathways, new action creates a new thought. We have to bake these systems in deliberately. They were part of the routine by default previously, and now they’re not. So if you don’t make it a point to exercise to walk around your block, to work from a coffee shop sometimes, work from a balcony in Maui. Then you’re going to stagnate. 


[00:25:41] AD: Yeah, no. I think that’s absolutely right. There is a lot to being a lifelong learner. That isn’t just reading lots of books and listening to lots of good podcasts. It’s getting out and seeing the world. I, for one, I haven’t done as much traveling as I would like to and that’s usually what stimulates my brain is I’ll be somewhere different and all of a sudden that problem that I was working on two weeks ago suddenly pops into my head in a new way.


[00:26:22] RS: Yeah, exactly. Well, on that note about not over-indexing on books and podcasts. Let’s finish this episode and have our listeners shut off the podcast and get out there into the real world. You bums, go experience some real-life, visceral input already!


[00:26:38] AD: Or listen to the podcast on your air pods as you’re walking around outside.


[00:26:43] RS: Exactly. That’s the compromise. Let’s pause here. Andy, this has been great chatting with you. Thanks for your perspective on representing talent to the board and just the weird state of in-between remote part in-person that we find ourselves in. It’s been a great chat, so at this point, I would just say thank you so much for being here and sharing with me today.


[00:27:03] AD: Well, thank you. Thank you for having me. I’ve enjoyed your other podcasts. It was an honor to be on this one.


[00:27:10] RS: Thank you so much. So glad you’re here. All of you out there in podcast land. Thank you so much for being with us as well. One more time, Andy Doyle has been Andy Doyle. I’ve been Rob Stevenson and you’ve all been amazing, wonderful talent acquisition munchkins. Have a spectacular week and happy hunting. 




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