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HRExaminer Radio

Guest: Chris Havrilla, VP, Global HR Technology, ADP
Episode: 166
Air Date: April 6, 2016


Chris Havrilla is currently the VP of Global HR Technology at ADP – Responsible for envisioning, overseeing, evangelizing, and ensuring implementation of ADP’s corporate strategic direction of global HR systems, data & analytics – as well as an internal influencer in product direction. She started her career as a Software Engineer, eventually finding her true passion in HR — working at companies like Deloitte, Hitachi, Eclipsys/Allscripts, and CTG — or consulting for SMB to Fortune 100 companies on all aspects of strategy, process, technology, and training as it relates to Talent and HR. Never straying too far from her geeky roots, Chris loves figuring out how data, tools and technology can help change the face of HR and how business decisions are made leveraging two critical differentiators in the success of any business — talent and information management.

Audio MP3





Begin transcript

John Sumser: Good morning, and welcome to HR Examiner Radio. I’m your host John Sumser, and we are coming to you today live from beautiful downtown Occidental California. Occidental is not only the home of innovation in California, it’s one of the test gardens for Luther Burbanks roses. There are roses everywhere, and after all of the rain this winter, they are starting to explode. It’s like sitting in the middle of a slow moving fireworks display.


Today, we’re going to be talking to another slow moving fireworks display, Chris Havrilla, who is the VP of Global HR Technology of ADP. ADP, you probably know, is this ginormous company through which 25% of gross domestic product flows every single payday. We’re going to learn about ADP a little bit, we’re going to learn about Chris a little bit. How are you Chris?


Chris Havrilla: You know what? I’m fantastic. I can’t, for the life of me, remember when somebody’s called me slow moving before, and I think you know better. I’ll just leave it there.


John Sumser: Slow moving fireworks display doesn’t mean slow moving. It means fantastic to watch in action.


Chris Havrilla: Ah, I like that much better.


John Sumser: Yeah. You have to listen to the whole compliment. You don’t get to pick nits and pieces of the compliment. Slow moving fireworks display. Awesomeness.


Chris Havrilla: I love it.


John Sumser: Awesomeness embodied in a senior executive at ADP. That’s going to strike people as an interesting beginning to a story. Why don’t you take a moment and introduce yourself.


Chris Havrilla: Absolutely. My name, obviously, Chris Havrilla, and as you said, VP of Global HR Technology at ADP. I know you’ve heard this, but I’ve had kind of an interesting background in that I’ve had the journey from being a technical and software engineering person, to consulting, to functional HR, and moving up the ranks through that, so it’s been an interesting journey. I ultimately married it altogether and created a focus completely on HR technology, and analytics, and how it changes the face of HR and the world of work.


John Sumser: When you were a little girl, where did you grow up?


Chris Havrilla: Sorry. I grew up in Atlanta. Atlanta is my home. I’m definitely a southern girl, and loved technology from the time I was nine, was the first time my dad gave me a computer, which was many, many years ago, embarrassingly too many years ago.


John Sumser: Way back in the early 2000s.


Chris Havrilla: Exactly, exactly. He taught me how to code literally at the age of nine. I’ve always loved techy stuff, definitely a geek at heart.


John Sumser: Geeks at heart don’t generally grow up to become involved in HR technology. How did that happen? How did that happen?


Chris Havrilla: It was interesting. It really all started as a project. I was working in a consulting firm and my first taste into it was kind of griping about recruiters and them not ever bringing me the right talent. It was kind of a put your money where your mouth is situation. If you’re going to gripe about it, be a part of the change, and here’s a project, and what would you do to make it better. It was funny, because that took the form of, here you become the director of recruiting on an interim basis, and you’re a consultant, a business consultant, a technology consultant. How do you bring this all together and make this function work better?


I had 12 recruiters reporting to me, and they were thrilled about it of course. “Here report to the sorry manager that knows nothing about recruiting.” I pitched it kind of like I have everything else in my consulting career. You ask a lot of questions, and learn, and try to figure out how to make people’s lives easier and better. Part of that is figuring out what’s the strategy, why, why, why, why, why? What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Figuring out what process that needs to be, and then figuring out what technology can help kind of bring those efficiencies, and how do you arm people with information so they can make good decisions.


Honestly, it was really just, even though the journey looked odd, everything to me has always just been about taking a problem and trying to solve it. I think being in consulting, you really have a focus on how important people are because they’re your product. For me, it was always the function itself. It was like, wow this is a really undervalued function that is really so critical to the success of the company and how they differentiate themselves. As is was information management too. How do you get the right information in the hands of people. To me, it all makes sense, and I love kind of being blessed with being able to work on both sides of that because I think product and service only gets you so far, but your people and how you manage information is really the big differentiator, so that’s kind of how it all came together for me.


John Sumser: What does a day look like to you in this job? ADP is a complex universe with a whole boatload of different kinds of technology as product, and probably in the way that you run each of the individual operations, so you must just pull your hair out on a routine basis. Is that what the day is like? You get up, you go into the office and just start pulling your hair out?


Chris Havrilla: And the hair starts going? It’s interesting. Excuse me for the cheapy hair club for men analogy, but I’m just the VP of Global HR Technology, but I’m also a client, and a really, really big client. That’s what my day looks like is how, as an organization, do we use ADP’s products, whatever proprietary products, or whatever external products that we have, and the goal is to try to showcase all of that. I lead this fabulous team that functions a little bit like an internal consulting firm. Every day is different, but I’m responsible for the strategic direction and the implementation of our entire portfolio of technology worldwide.


We kind of sit an interesting intersection of ADP’s strategy to be a leading practitioner of HR and a leading provider of [inaudible 00:08:13] solutions. My day, and the day of my team kind of looks like, from a how do we help be better practitioner side is kind of looking at not just these technical solutions, but kind of an end/end approach of looking at that strategy, and structure, and process, so that when we align technology, we’re aligning the good things, so it’s not like we have all the answers, but we try to work with our field, and business team, and HR, and our COEs, and ask a lot of questions about why, why, why, and how can we make this better, so that when we do align technology, it really is an asset, and we’re not working for the systems, and the systems are kind of working for us.


Then from a provider’s side, just on the other side of it though from being a better provider is how do we kind of advise and influence our own global product and technology teams, and kind of give them that per view of knowing technology, and the function, and how it’s used, and being a voice for the customer, but really still knowing what these systems and technology are capable of. It’s kind of a cool place to sit, honestly. No pulling my hair out. It’s fun.


John Sumser: That’s good to hear. How do you stay on top of emerging technology and new ideas that might change the way you do business?


Chris Havrilla: Honestly, everything for me, it’s just a curiosity. Whether it’s going to conferences, or reading, or spending time in our innovation lab in Chelsea, where I was just even on Monday, it’s talking, and paying attention, and trying things out, and just being intensely curious because that’s where you kind of get that art of the possible, is watching that stuff. I wish I had more time to do it, but I think being with ADP affords me a lot of opportunities to see things and try things just by virtue of the fact that we’re a technology company, so getting access to trying things, and looking at things is a part of what I get to do.


John Sumser: I’m going to ask you a long question. It will take me a little bit to get this formed. I’ve been looking recently at sort of the edges of computational analytics. In computational analytics, much of what gets done is statistical rather than causal. In the edges of technology today, what I’m seeing is a move towards ideas that can be correlated to results rather than explained clearly as causing results. There’s a kind of a new way of thinking that has to do with being willing to be on the percentages, even if you can’t get to the answer to the question why, why, why, why, why. I wonder if you see that coming, and if you see that being a challenge for a workforce that’s been used to explaining it’s behavior with a story now moving to something like explaining your behavior with the betting odds in Las Vegas. Does that make sense as a question? Chris?


Chris Havrilla: Sorry. I was drinking water and I muted. I think it does make sense. Especially in a function that is so heavily driven on people. There’s sometimes you do have to take a shot and a bet, and I think where the complexity gets is how do you do that where it’s not emotion based, and that’s where data has always come in where we want to try to prove things, or show ROI before you even do something or whatever, but there’s a certain amount of if you’re trying to be on the edge and you’re trying to innovate, that you do have to do that. Getting to move people in a way to do that based on that, is I think where it gets complex.


John Sumser: I’m sure that you are introducing predictive analytics into your system. Talk about that a little bit.


Chris Havrilla: You know, I think that we face a lot of challenges as organizations in terms of predictive analytics because you have to ensure that the data that you have is good in the first place. I think part of the challenge is for me, and I’m still fairly new in roles, making sure that we’ve got good data, and that there’s good, sound process, and people are doing things the same way, and there’s standards, and things like that, so that you know that the data that you have can truly be predictive, but I think there’s a lot of opportunity that we’re trying to look at in terms of maybe it’s hiring in sales, and looking at trends, and what should our head count planning be, or how do we look at all this rich data that we have to start to determine what that talent looks like, where we should find them, what they should be paid, down to what benefits should we offer.


There’s so many opportunities, but part of my job right now is to make sure that we’re capturing the right data, that the data is sound, and good, and clean, that there’s standards behind it, and [inaudible 00:14:48] so that we know that the information we’re getting is good and can truly be predictive. Part of that is actually doing things and then validating it, so that’s really kind of the part of the process that I’m in right now.


John Sumser: I’m seeing a lot of stuff, a lot of stuff that might suggest, here’s Chris Havrilla, and Chris has these five characteristics, and if you’re going to interview her, you want to ask her these three things, and if you’re going to email her, you want to be sure to use this sort of tone in your voice. Are you imagining installing that coaching into your systems?


Chris Havrilla: Absolutely. When you say systems, it’s not just from a technology perspective, it’s in how we do things. The first step is owning who you are as a company, and I think we do that really well. If I’ve ever seen a company that lives their values and tries to instill those values in the work, and the people that they get, it’s part of that, but then there’s the deeper side of your team, so knowing who you are so you can then look at those characteristics in people and start to use it to validate if you have the right person, but also how you attract them. Are you setting the stage for them so that they’re coming to because it matters? You’re marketing to them because of their personas because you know who you are, and you know that this persona is what works here and what makes a difference, so absolutely. that’s not just technology. It’s got to be weaved into the way you operate and what you do with that information.


John Sumser: I’m looking at, I am subscribing to a service called Crystal. Crystal gives personality profiles for the people that I need to talk to based on aggregated social data. It says, when I’m speaking to Chris, I should keep sarcastic remarks to myself, set clear expectations for the conversation, stay objective rather than emotional, and keep the conversation brief. If I’m emailing you, I should use data to prove a point, write three sentences or less, state your purpose for email in the first sentence, and provide lots of detailed information and instructions. Is that close?


Chris Havrilla: To me, I think that’s another dimension of it. I think realistically, there’s not a lot of people that have gotten down to that level, but I’d be curious to know if they have. I think, for us, it’s more about, okay if these are the people that we’re trying to attract and these are the values that we have, and this is what we’ve seen in how people perform, and these are the kind of projects and deliverables they’ll have, so the kind of person that we need to attract is this. How do we target these people, and how do we come up with content that attracts that person. I definitely think that next level is to do exactly what you’re saying, because that goes in a deeper way. Can I say that we’re doing that at this point? No, but I love the possibilities in how we get to that.


John Sumser: It’s a pretty interesting world if when I talk to you, I’m looking at a full screen of information about how to butter you up and get what I want.


Chris Havrilla: Absolutely. I think when when we have the results of assessments like that, I think where we’ve seen people go is knowing what motivates them and how to tell them what about this job would appeal to them, but that, like I said, takes it to another level in terms of the words that you use, and how you use them, and like you said, the number of sentences. I love that. I love that direction. Especially where you have small pools of talent that are highly competed for and sought after.


John Sumser: You really should look at this thing. It’s Crystal talk [inaudible 00:19:49]. I just opened the screen that tells me how to ask you for a raise. You’re about to get, as are all managers, about to get bombarded with much more effective communications that accelerate the pace of decision making.


Chris Havrilla: I love it. I can honestly say I haven’t heard of this one, but I’m dying to look at it. You give me great things to look at. That’s what I love about you John.


John Sumser: This is coming. When you get data like this, you don’t ask why, why, why, why, why, it’s a statistical forecast of what will work, and you just go do it, and as you gain experience with the statistical coach, and discover that 95% accuracy is better than your 50/50 guess, you start to be able to rely on this stuff. It’s my take that this ushers in, tools like this usher in an entirely new way of thinking about business.


Chris Havrilla: Absolutely. How much have you used it? I’m dying to know. Have you validated that it’s awesome?


John Sumser: This is the second time I’ve looked at it, but it’s pretty awesome.


Chris Havrilla: I love it.


John Sumser: It’s pretty awesome. If I was going to ask you for a raise, what it says is, avoid any expressive language or appeals to emotion, as they will make your request appear more biased than objective. It’s telling me if I want you to do something, I have to present you with the data. That’s cool.


Chris Havrilla: Yep.


John Sumser: That’s cool, and I bet that works.


Chris Havrilla: I bet it does. You’ll have to ask.


John Sumser: For everybody who works for Chris, here’s how you get a raise.


Chris Havrilla: They will not be hearing this podcast.


John Sumser: What else is on your radar that’s interesting and exciting to you?


Chris Havrilla: With respect to what I’ve been doing, it’s honestly for me being about intersection, to me it’s extremely [inaudible 00:22:16] because my goal is to make sure that we’re showcasing everything, and part of showcasing is knowing that you’ve made a different, and you’re adding value, and whether it’s internally or externally, that’s a pretty good place to be.


Systems are one of those things because of the way that so many organizations have them set up that you literally are working for the system and changing the world by having some [inaudible 00:22:49] for people and having that opportunity to be at the intersection of trying to make the business work great, and the products work great, to me is a happy place to be.


That’s what gets me up in the morning and keeps a smile on my face. You know how much I love my work. Just to have the opportunity to do this, because as we do showcase, ADP has such an amazing mass of clients that we get to showcase for and so much rich data that we can learn from and help our clients learn from as well, I couldn’t be happier. It’s an amazing place to be.


John Sumser: That’s great. You’ve been on the road a lot recently. Where have you been, and what did you learn?


Chris Havrilla: I have been. For the last four weeks, I’ve been on the road straight, and I’ve had the opportunity to be at our corporate offices, and I attended an executive management program that ADP puts on for their executive leadership, and met a lot of amazing people, and it was so interesting hearing so much about direction, and strategy, and ADP is definitely a place people should be watching. That was really cool.


I got to go to D. C. and attend our user conference, our client conference meeting of the minds. That is always such a phenomenal experience for me to be around our clients and hear what they’re doing. It’s a great place for me to meet up with a lot of our product teams, and our implementation teams, and see them, and talk to them, when half the time you’re on the phone or on a video.


Just understanding where we’re going and what’s coming next, but doing it all in a place where you’re seeing it all together and seeing how it’s coming altogether instead of, this day I’m working with this team, and this week I’m working with that team, so just watching it all come together and seeing how the clients are reacting to it, and seeing their excitement about it, and talking to some of our partners, and watching how that and our ADP marketplace is coming together. That was really cool.


I had the opportunity to go to Shanghai and meet with our teams out there to get ready for planning for our next fiscal year. That was a great experience. It was my first time in China, and then of course this past week, I was back in New York and in our innovation labs, and that’s always exciting because we’re talking about the future, and where things are going, and what the strategy is around that. I haven’t been home much this month, but it has been an incredibly amazing four weeks. It is good to be back at my home office.


John Sumser: I bet. I bet you’re tired from all that.


Chris Havrilla: I’m not going to lie.


John Sumser: We have blasted through our allotted time. What should I have asked you that I didn’t yet do?


Chris Havrilla: Oh my God. That’s a good question. I think for me, one of the things I always wish people would ask me is exactly what does ADP do, because every time I talk to people, it’s amazing to me how people still perceive us as a payroll company. I always like having a chance to talk about that because I’m always astounded at all that we’re doing, from payroll of course, but HR, and taxes, and time, and talent, and benefits, and insurance, and retirement. There’s just an enormous amount that ADP does, and all this rich data that we spin on that is now getting weaved into our technology and available on our site for people to learn from.


That’s always been a big thing for me, is how do we utilize, when I was still consulting two companies, how do we leverage the data that our vendors have, and that is sitting out there, and how do you make it work for you as an HR professional, and just to see all that we have that literally just sits out on our website and from a research institute. All of those things, to me, because I’m so astounded by it, I wish more people realized it. That’s always what I hope people ask me and give me a chance to talk about.


John Sumser: It’s hard to explain what a big, complicated organization like that does.


Chris Havrilla: Right.


John Sumser: It’s been great having you on the show Chris. It’s about time. We’ve been trying to do this for some time. Would you take a moment and reintroduce yourself, and tell people how to get ahold of you?


Chris Havrilla: Absolutely. Again, my name is Chris Havrilla. I’m ADP’s VP of Global HR Technology, which means I’m just as much of a client as it is being an influencer with our products and our functions. How they reach me is very easy. I’m on every social platform known to mankind. My Twitter handle is @havrilla. They can me at ADP at, but it is very easy to find me. If there’s a social platform out there, I’m on it, and it’s almost always under my last name, Havrilla.


John Sumser: Thanks very much Chris. It’s been great having you on. You’ve been listening to HR Examiner Radio. We’ve been speaking with Chris Havrilla, who is H-A-V-R-I-L-L-A. She’s the VP to Global HR Technology for ADP. It’s been a delightful conversation Chris, and I want to thank everybody who’s listening for tuning in today. See you the next time around. Have a great rest of your day.


Chris Havrilla: Thank you John.


End transcript

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