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Problem Solver

This article accompanies Back on Track and The 2016 HR Honor Roll.

Over the past decade, Mark Andrekovich and his team at Maximus have been instrumental in reigniting their company with a whole new approach to HR.

Monday, October 10, 2016
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Back in 2006, Mark Andrekovich, chief of human capital at Maximus, a global health and human services company based in Reston, Va., learned that his underperforming company was positioning itself to be sold. During the next two years, it reorganized its portfolio by making divestures of noncore business lines in hopes of attracting buyers. But times were bad due to a struggling economy and buyers were scarce.

So the company's CEO -- Richard Montoni -- invited his leadership team, which included Andrekovich, to join him in taking a bold step that would either lead to the company's success or demise.

"We all sat around the table and decided to go off on a mission to capitalize on our  world-class project-management capabilities at running large projects for governments, staying very focused in our core markets of health and human services," he says. "We made a calculated bet that we could provide governments with excellent program-management services in the areas of federal and state insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansions."

That meant developing a centralized approach to human capital management. For the next several years, Andrekovich began building a global HR infrastructure that could scale alongside the company's growth. At the time, he and his team revamped HR systems and processes, ensured employees were paid on time and accurately, designed compensation and benefit programs based on market competition, and gained the organization's trust that HR could deliver on the basics.

Suddenly, HR was waist-deep in talent acquisition. Although it supported a promote-from-within philosophy, it still faced many recruiting challenges, such as managing the 750 agreements made by project-management staff with staffing agencies.

"We went through one agreement at a time, renegotiated better terms, got rid of nonperforming vendors, and then procured one management company to feed all of our contracts to," says Andrekovich, adding that the average temporary staffing fee has dropped over the past decade as a result, saving the company millions of dollars. "Now we have a fantastic infrastructure across the company of temporary staffing and recruiting capabilities that augment my HR team."

Simultaneously, many other projects were being tackled. Working with the company's leadership team, HR created a business-development academy in 2014 enabling sales and marketing leaders to learn and share best practices. That same year, the company was awarded the Health Assessment Advisory Service contract to provide disability assessment services for the U.K. government.

Winning that contract translated into a series of projects for HR. During the next several months, HR absorbed approximately1,500 employees from the company that previously delivered these services. In doing so, HR, along with the U.K. leadership team, re-allocated existing resources from the United States, Canada and Australia to help onboard and transition them.

Still, more work had to done. An HRIS had to be up and running within 90 days.  Even local resources were hired to assist with ongoing operations and selection of technology vendors.

The following year, Maximus' child-support business in Shelby County, Tenn., requested expanded employee coverage with a robust infrastructure that was less costly. Under Andrekovich's leadership, HR tapped into a candidate pool of highly educated stay-at-home parents and adult college students who couldn't work full-time and then built a flexible workforce model that now serves as its flagship.

"We have hired hundreds of smart and motivated people that we wouldn't have normally been able to recruit and [retain]," Andrekovich says. "There's employee engagement because employees are required to schedule themselves. If part-timers can't make it to work, they use an app we put in place to let others know there are available hours. We have very little absenteeism."

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Meanwhile, employee attrition at the U.K. project was growing unusually high. After the leadership team conducted a behind-the-scenes analysis, Andrekovich and his HR staff re-engineered the recruitment process. It ensured that recruiters were accurately communicating the job requirements and responsibilities to candidates. It also modified training materials to accommodate adult learners, offered tutors to help new recruits prepare for certification tests, and then offered online tools and mentors to help them acclimate to the environment. More than 1,300 doctors and nurses were hired within 10 months of the contract being awarded and turnover was slashed in half.

Now Maximus has roughly 18,000 employees worldwide: nearly 4,000 in the U.K.; 1,900 in Australia, 120 in Saudi Arabia and the balance (around 11,800) in the United States.

Back home, Andrekovich encourages his 200-member staff to continually develop their skills and talent, not just in HR, but also in other areas of the business. As a staff role model, he follows his own advice.

For example, since 2008, he has also served as president of the company's tax credit and employer-services division and sponsors new business strategies across the enterprise. While leading HR, he began mentoring the division's leaders and then started running the division.

What drives Andrekovich is not just his admiration and respect for his company and peers, but also his need to find solutions. Years ago, he worked in HR at a factory where he was cross-trained in warehouse operations, accounting, production, maintenance and employee relations.

"It really made me a better solutions person," he says. "That's my sweet spot. It doesn't really matter what the problem is, I think I can help bring my HR background in HR capabilities to almost any problem."

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