It has been about 15 years since Lisa Price joined ADESA as corporate counsel, and as she now takes on the role as the first-ever chief people officer for its parent company, the world of automotive wholesale looks different.
And so does what is now known as KAR Global, one of the biggest players in that space.
“I feel that the change in the role is a statement in terms of how we have changed over my tenure here,” said Price, who has worked in human resources at KAR the last six years after starting on the legal side.
The shifts include the change from private equity ownership to being publicly traded as well as changes in nomenclature, from KAR Holdings to KAR Auction Services to KAR Global.
What has not changed are what Price described as the company’s eight core values.
“One of my primary objectives in 2020 is to take a look at how KAR has changed over the years and reflect with employees what is important to us and what do we feel our employer brand and our employer value proposition, and ‘update’ our core values,” she said in a phone interview late last month, shortly after the new role was announced.
“The company has changed significantly from a physical footprint to online, tech-enabled – a digital marketplace,” Price said. “And how do we reflect our employee values to move along with that? (It’s) certainly a timely effort in reviewing our values to show the transformation.”
Talent acquisition and training
One area of transformation is in the area of finding talent. While the skill-sets KAR looks for have changed, so has the scope of its talent acquisition efforts.
A dozen years ago, there was no talent acquisition team at the company, Price said. Now, there are “multiple-digit” employees in this area throughout the various business units and functions of KAR.
The company has dedicated talent acquisition partners and puts a focus on looking at its employer brand, its recruiting tools and developing pools of job candidates.
KAR also puts an emphasis on “candidate experiences that drive not only the pipeline, so sourcing of candidates, but the actual onboarding of candidates,” Price said.
And beyond recruitment and hiring, KAR continues to focus on promoting and moving existing team members, both within individual business units and across different ones.
That requires some cross-training and learning about different business units.
“One of our strategic pillars for the people side in 2020 is developing and fostering a learning culture,” Price said. “And two years ago, we invested in our learning management system to bring not only KAR operational training but safety training, soft-skill training and journeys for employees to take throughout their tenures.
“Some can be optional and some can be assigned to further develop their knowledge across KAR, but also their own individual skills, including management fundamentals, training and leadership development,” she said.
The company looks at how it can utilize stretch assignments for some employees or have them coordinate certain tasks with a different business unit to increase their exposure to other parts of KAR.
Another major peg in that is mentorship.
“For example, in a mentor program you might have the opportunity to shadow employees. We have a lot of job shadowing in corporate offices as well as in the field,” Price said, also noting the example of ACE Training in ADESA. “And in that program, you know, an employee can have the opportunity to work in every department of an auction to learn what that position does, how it contributes to the overall purpose and mission of the location, but also as it rolls up to KAR.”
Knowing the ins and outs of other business lines at KAR, and not just one’s own individual silo, could be critical as the company emphasizes an “enterprise-wide view.”
Case in point, the aligning of the ADESA and TradeRev sales teams in August.
Price’s “coined phrase” in this position is that she is “always looking at an enterprise-wide view,” she said. “That has been my platform since 2013. It's shared across the executive committee. We have a phrase here: one company, one vision.
“And so, since at least 2013, 2014, it’s been a concerted effort to bring transparency and familiarity across all of KAR’s business lines for employees,” Price said. “We have a dedicated focus this year, 2020, as KAR has spun off a larger subsidiary last year.
“We are different. We're assessing our strategy, where we're going — we're being very purposeful to be transparent with our employees. What is KAR’s strategy and how does what every employee within your organization (does) contribute to those results?” she said. “And from a people perspective, how can you move from one lane to another within the company, with that knowledge and understanding of how you can contribute in any position that you might (hold) within KAR.”
Impact of ‘collisions’
While the shift has largely been a digital one at KAR, one of the most noticeable changes at the company has been its new corporate headquarters, which officially opened in the fall.
Price agreed it is “absolutely a brand stamp” for KAR and represents its aspirations in the tech space.
The hybrid design of open space and tradition, the amenities (gym, café, onsite health clinic) and tech perks certainly help attract and retain employees, Price space.
“But the building was specifically designed to encourage cross collaboration … we purposely sit differently in this building than we did in the prior building to encourage what we call ‘collisions,’ which frankly happen every day.
“And you see and run into more people on our monumental staircase then you would have in our prior building in a month,” she said. “So, certainly our new surroundings and environment are not only a retention or attraction for candidates, but also help our employer brand and who we are from a community perspective as well.”