Linium and First Advantage Found Success With a People Approach

After extensive growth and acquisitions, Linium helps bring First Advantage Corp. teams together to deliver end-to-end service

Although Linium is known primarily for implementing technology, it is also highly qualified and experienced in consulting on people management and processes through targeted transformations. Its people-centered approach made it a perfect fit for background check provider First Advantage Corp., which sought to address challenges associated with multiple acquisitions and rapid expansion over a period of about three years.

Linium dedicated a team of four—led by Ewan Gibson, director of enterprise readiness—to First Advantage. The team held initial discussions with First Advantage CEO Mark Parise, head of human resources Michael Pilnick, and CIO Nick Grecco, who identified cultural issues among the senior leadership team as priority areas to address. To some degree, this was no surprise, considering the company was still in the process of integrating teams from India and Atlanta, which had very different internal practices and businesses that were very isolated from each other. Atlanta was focused primarily on sales, while the Indian entities focused on operations. There were also issues that resulted from ongoing personnel adjustments and pressures due to restructuring.

The Linium team followed up with surveys and in-depth interviews with other members of the senior leadership team. These conversations revealed an extensive lack of trust among the group. That lack of trust resulted in inadequate transparency, conflict, and limited collaboration between business units.

“The workshop presented scenarios with behaviors and outcomes we were dealing with on a daily basis and could easily relate to. That made the process eye-opening and fun, which ultimately led to practical benefits and solutions.”

—Nick Grecco, First Advantage CIO

On a day-to-day basis, Gibson characterized these symptoms as individuals keeping their heads down, working hard to put out fires, and often failing to see the bigger picture. There was a focus on disparate functional activities rather than prioritizing end-to-end service or achieving the desired business outcomes.

This was an unusual situation for Gibson. “I had never worked with an organization going through quite as much change as fast as First Advantage was at all levels,” he notes. “The positive thing, though, was there was no sense of denial. Nearly everyone we spoke to agreed that there were problems and was eager to get them resolved. And that, as they say, is half the battle.”

The next step was to hold a series of experiential workshops in the United States and India—three-day sessions for senior leadership and two-day programs for international managers and leaders. The workshops simulated a fast-paced, high-pressure business environment. These workshops let participants experience how addressing the challenges would directly lead to improved business outcomes.

“We take a comprehensive business perspective that accounts for the ‘human factor,’ something that is often overlooked. It’s how we’re able to develop people-centered, holistic solutions that deliver real-world business outcomes.”

—Ewan Gibson, Linium director of enterprise readiness

“This is a very holistic approach that focuses on behavior, technology, processes, and systems to deliver targeted results,” Gibson says. “It is designed to bring up familiar challenges in recognizable scenarios and to require the group to work together to address them successfully in a safe learning environment.”

Gibson provided teams with problems to solve through reflection and constructive dialogue in a framework of continuous improvement. He required the teams to reach decisions by consensus and to work together to deliver end-to-end service. These activities helped to break down existing boundaries and develop trust and new relationships among participants, many of whom were meeting face-to-face for the first time. The problem-solving scenario also provided a forum for the company to highlight First Advantage’s core values, such as transparency, focusing on results, innovative thinking, acting as change agents, and accountability.

Nick Grecco looks back on the experience as being very engaging and rewarding. “The workshop presented scenarios with behaviors and outcomes we were dealing with on a daily basis and could easily relate to,” he says. “That made the process eye-opening and fun, which ultimately led to practical benefits and solutions.”

Gibson indicates that the First Advantage teams themselves were responsible for the positive results. “I was very impressed by the degree of positivity and enthusiasm throughout all the workshops,” he says. “Everyone was able to quickly recognize the benefits of communicating and cooperating effectively and the satisfaction of focusing on problems and coming up with solutions—all things they can now put into practice to achieve greater success.”

Since the workshops, First Advantage has developed a clear consensus on its business objectives and developed a revised set of core values and specific plans to help reach them. It continues to address the underlying issues, and it has even achieved results. A regularly conducted survey indicates that company morale has improved by 50 percent.

“When a team comes together with common values and goals, you get more comfortable working together and even feel closer with each other,” Grecco says.

While First Advantage keeps working toward its goals, Gibson indicates that part of Linium’s own success is rooted in the fact it goes beyond focusing exclusively on technology, processes, or people. “We take a comprehensive business perspective that accounts for the human factor—something that is often overlooked,” he says. “It’s how we’re able to develop people-centered, holistic solutions that deliver real-world business outcomes.”