The Center of Attention

February 27, 2004
Wachovia Corp.’s director of recruiting solutions, Denny Clark, has an unusual guiding principle. He calls it "centralized decentralization." This seeming oxymoron isn’t really a contradiction. It actually describes how Clark’s multi-dimensional operation was designed to meet the specific needs of Wachovia managers at different locations around the country while simultaneously achieving strategic goals for the nation’s fifth-largest banking company.

    Clark, who has worked at Wachovia’s headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, since 1985, was named to his position four years ago. He supervises a staff of more than 300 recruiters, most of whom are stationed at facilities in Florida, South Carolina, Connecticut and New York. The operation is centralized. Clark can direct resources to places where they’re needed and assign workers to various corporate projects. But the system also is decentralized so that the recruiters are in the field, working directly with individual business units. The arrangement makes it possible for them to learn firsthand about the requirements of the specific business and to be better able to anticipate its recruiting and staffing needs.

    "While the recruiters are part of my organization, the internal clients feel as if they are working for them," Clark says. "It’s the best of both worlds." He says that developing multi-dimensional relationships makes it possible for the recruiter to be proactive. Because his staff members are closely involved in planning at a local level within Wachovia units, they’re in a position to support business initiatives from the start. When the company began expanding its retail operations into Manhattan last year, for example, Clark’s recruiters were able to move quickly to staff 10 new branch offices, two of which are already open. In working with Wachovia’s General Banking Group in Philadelphia, Clark’s staff looked at the sales increases that would be necessary to meet revenue goals, calculated that 20 to 30 new salespeople would be needed to make the sales and set about to recruit and deploy them.

    At the same time, being simultaneously plugged into all the far-flung business units enables Clark to use all his resources to meet a need in one area. When Wachovia recently had to restructure its investment banking unit because of declining revenues, a large segment of that unit’s employees faced layoffs. Clark’s team analyzed the investment banking specialists’ skill sets and backgrounds, with an eye to figuring out how the employees could be used in other areas of the Wachovia organization, and then marketed them to those business units. The result: half of the displaced investment bankers who wanted to stick with Wachovia were able to find new jobs elsewhere in the company. The bank saved "some pretty significant dollars" in severance costs and, more important, was able to hang on to some workers "with leadership and sales skills that we didn’t want to lose."

    "Sometimes in the past, we may have been focused too much on filling jobs," says Clark, who anticipates making 27,000 to 32,000 new hires. "Now we want to find the talent first, and then look for the job that fits." For developing a system that accomplishes that goal, Clark and Wachovia win this year’s Optimas Award for Service.

Workforce Management, March 2004, pp. 51-52 -- Subscribe Now!