We asked Witt/Kieffer’s Kimberly Höglund about a recent collaborative project and the personal career journey that led to where she is today.
Centric Chicago partnered with Witt/Kieffer, a premiere executive search firm, to move the company from using a variety of reporting and dashboard tools on ad-hoc basis to implementing interactive dashboards that helped them gain new insight into their data.
The company was looking for a simple and intuitive way to support their practice leaders by giving them the ability to access and monitor the most important information about their business.
A team from our Chicago office – a Project Lead/Business Analyst and Data Architect – worked with Witt/Kieffer leaders to create an executive dashboard, that provides new ways of measuring and managing their business. The dashboard allows leaders to review and analyze all of their information – projects, accounts, financials and more – from one place.
Leadership was ‘wowed’ by the information and interactivity the new dashboards are able to provide, and the fact that the platform can grow with us, said Kimberly Höglund, Witt/Kieffer’s Chief Knowledge Officer
“The relationship between the two companies has been one of partnership and collaboration from the start – since our initial project more than three years ago,” said Bill Chamberlain, Director of Technology for Centric Chicago. “We are truly honored to have been selected by Witt/Kieffer to work with them on developing and implementing a business intelligence solution.”
He added: “We also feel very fortunate that our relationship with Kim and her leadership team has evolved over the years into a long-lasting partnership and great friendship.”
We asked Kim a few questions about the challenges they faced, the solution we helped them create, and the impact it has had on the business. In honor of Women’s History Month, we also asked her to share some of her best career advice.
But first, let’s look at some of our questions and her responses about the project:
What issues or challenges did the business face?
We’ve grown in market share consistently over the last six years. We primarily specialize in the Healthcare, Education, and Life Sciences sectors. Our industry is experiencing ongoing competition from new recruiting technologies that enable in-house recruiting teams.
At the same time, our clients’ expectations for speed, transparency and quality are high. These three factors influence every decision we make regarding technologies and processes that support our business.
We partnered with Centric for two important initiatives:
#1 – Selection and implementation of our new search platform: We had been using our proprietary platform for nearly 20 years, and it was not a platform that could carry us 10 or more years into the future.
We knew that the selection process had to be thorough, objective and fast. And, we knew that implementation would involve a significant degree of change management. Implementation also had to be flawless.
#2 – Architecture and implementation of data store and management dashboards: A lot of our work is done in the not-for-profit sector, which is traditionally very mission-based. Every day of every year, we’re searching for the best talent to lead organizations that impact human lives. We take that charge very seriously. In that respect, we’re also a very mission-based organization – much like our clients.
Our business is people-based. Helping our clients hire great senior leaders depends on our consultants’:
- Deep understanding of our clients’ industries, organizations, strategies, cultures, and people.
- Wisdom and experience – in short, intuition – in assessing individual candidate abilities, strengths, challenges, personalities, and fit for the role.
Not surprisingly, those ways of thinking about how we do business have, for many years, translated into how we think about, measure and manage our business. And, we’ve been successful.
As we grow, and our business becomes more complex, individuals at every level of the organization require access to clear, easily consumable information that helps them to make decisions for their segments of our business.
Why did you choose us?
When we were looking at partners for our first big project (implementing a new search platform), we looked at a variety of partners who were similar to us in size and culture. Ultimately, the team chose Centric because Centric was the best match for us, culturally.
Centric’s pragmatic approach, willingness to employ strategies and methods that worked with our culture, all while bringing a wide range of experience were ultimately why we selected, and continue to select, Centric for important, strategic initiatives.
How would you describe our solution?
In these two major engagements, Centric chose the appropriate approach for our organization, which, candidly, is more important that being purely innovative.
Centric brought their experience and blended it with our culture to achieve the best results in the shortest amount of time for us. Centric balanced innovation with our culture.
What was the result of the solution?
#1 – Selection and implementation of our new search platform: It’s been two years since our implementation, and the new platform has met the goals we set initially. It allows us to track every aspect of every search, from leads to projects, to deep information about each candidate and organization.
The platform has increased transparency across our business and has made detailed information related to our leads, engagements, and operations available to the people who need it, when they need it.
It’s also provided the foundation for sophisticated business intelligence. And, because we managed the change, we enjoy a high degree of adoption and usage.
#2 – Architecture and implementation of data store and management dashboards: We just completed this initiative this past January.
Leadership was “wowed” by the information and interactivity the new dashboards are able to provide, and the fact that the platform can grow with us. And, despite being a very intuitive business, leadership is using the data to supplement and challenge their intuitions – best of both worlds.
Now, let’s shift gears. In honor of Women’s History Month, we also asked Kim to tell us about her own career journey and how that led to where she is today. Here’s what she had to say:
Can you tell us about your personal career journey?
I got my start in technology developing end-user databases and managing networks for a small risk management firm in the early 90s. From there, I moved into a technology support role with Hewitt Associates (now part of Aon). I spent about 12 years at Hewitt, in a variety of technical and leadership positions.
There, I had an opportunity to develop experience in a wide variety of disciplines – support operations, infrastructure technology, applications, organizational change management, project and program management, and of course, leadership.
I left Hewitt and joined Heidrick & Struggles as the Director of Application Development. After Heidrick, I joined Centric Consulting, where I managed a variety of projects in several industries – from technology to pharma to higher education. Following my time at Centric, I joined Witt/Kieffer as the Chief Knowledge Officer.
As the CKO, I lead Information Technology as well as two groups that directly support our business operations – Research Strategy and Research Operations. Throughout my career, I have developed skills in some key areas: technology (of course), business process improvement, project/program management, and organizational change management.
What advice had the greatest impact on your career?
I’ve been so fortunate to have worked with some great people and great leaders. I could write reams. It’s hard to pick just one piece of advice. Four key messages stand out, however.
- Management is, first and foremost, about people. It’s not just about leading-edge technology, getting things done or making operations more efficient.
- Managing client expectations is not necessarily synonymous with giving the client everything they want at no cost. Client management, whether internal or external clients, is the constant art of negotiation.
- Part of leadership is confidently standing by your well-reasoned convictions, especially in the face of disbelief, wariness and/or criticism.
- Another part of leadership is trusting your teams to deliver based on high-level direction. At a certain point, when you get in the weeds and try to provide specific direction, you will frequently be wrong.
What advice would you like to share with others?
- Be observant–watch and listen widely. Coaching and mentoring is essential, but close observation provides insights and perspectives.
- Results matter, but people matter more. If you produce amazing results but don’t acknowledge and encourage the people who helped to achieve those results, you ultimately will not be successful.
- Really know what drives you. Do what you’re passionate about for a firm you’re passionate about. A great job match in terms of experience, education and skill does not necessarily mean a great culture match.
- Influence and negotiation are cornerstones of most professional relationships. Invest the time to learn to do both well early in your career.
- Always keep learning. Take opportunities to work outside your “comfort zone.” Read, listen to podcasts, go to interesting places.
What are your favorite quotes from women leaders?
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Meade
“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.” — Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady
Witt/Kieffer recruits outstanding CEOs, CFOs, COOs, physician leaders, presidents, and other senior-level executives for hospitals, health systems, academic medical centers and other health-related organizations; colleges and universities; life sciences companies including pharmaceutical, biotech, diagnostics and medical device corporations; sports and alumni foundations; and not-for-profit community service organizations and associations.
Clients have relied on Witt/Kieffer for more than 45 years to help recruit leaders with the best mix of skills, experience, vision and character to fulfill their missions. For them and for us, executive search is about much more than filling a chair. It’s about bringing great leadership to organizations.
We’re always learning from our clients about what it takes to lead organizations committed to improving the quality of life. With each executive search we conduct, we are aware of our clients’ goals – including: making high-quality, cost-conscious healthcare widely available to individuals and families, advancing higher education, and achieving medical innovation in life sciences companies.
Reaching these goals requires stewardship, highly specialized knowledge and broad experience – all of which Witt/Kieffer offers.