Multinational service provider of complete contact solutions
By Cheryl Long
Several years ago, Allied Global Holdings Inc. began preparing for changes in regulatory compliance that had the potential to dramatically impact their business. Though they had already been through the launch of the National Do Not Call List and knew that Canada’s anti-spam legislation was looming on the horizon, the Newmarket, Ontario-based company wasn’t going to be caught off-guard.
They hired a Chief Compliance Officer who would operate independently of the business operations, reporting to the company’s board of directors. A newly-fortified compliance team received ongoing education, and Allied Global representatives participated in conferences and other events to ensure that the company had a “voice at the table” and a leadership role as changes took place. “It wasn’t that hard of a shift for us. It was much harder for other companies, but it was something we embraced and we have continued to do so,” explained Allied President and CEO David Rae. “… while I agree that there has been a significant change and increased costs, I also think it has been a great change for the industry because it removes a lot of the less scrupulous types of operators and creates a much greater barrier to entry.”
The industry has undergone vast changes since Allied Global’s early days. The company dates back to 1955 when Rae’s father started an accounts receivable firm for local doctors who, prior to the launch of OHIP, had to collect payments from their patients. After several years of growth in Canada, the business expanded into the United Kingdom and later underwent extensive changes, including ownership, over the next few decades. In 1989, the senior Rae decided to sell the company and in the following year, David stepped in to purchase a 20-percent stake in the company. Four years later, he and four partners bought the balance of the business from his father’s estate and set out to create the multinational company that Allied Global is today with locations in Canada, the UK, the United States and, most recently, the Philippines
Clients range from banks to health care
The Canadian-owned company operates a diverse business with services ranging from call centre outsourcing and debt recovery to automated messaging for most applications. Their clients span many different markets including banking and finance, telecommunications, utilities, education, government, health care and the auto industry. Allied International Credit (AIC), Neptune Innovations and the Bill Gosling Outsourcing Experience are three different service lines operating under parent company Allied Global.
Ensuring that Allied Global stands out among the crowd of organizations offering similar services has been a priority since the company’s early days. Call centres are known to experience high staff turnover rates but Allied Global addresses the issue by creating a supportive and collaborative culture for all employees. “It’s been something that’s been part of our company since the early days … and it’s something that has continued on consistently and something we work hard at to get in to all of our centres wherever we operate,” Rae said.
“We know that call centre work is not necessarily the type of job that somebody is going to necessarily get and then say, ‘This is my long-term career ambition and I want to do this forever’. Some people do that, but it would be unrealistic to think that that is the goal of most of the people that come on board,” he explained. That’s why the employee experience revolves around a culture of respect, fairness and something known as “cheering the progress”, which celebrates both success and failure and encourages employees to learn from each other.
Ongoing training benefits young workforce
Many of Allied Global’s employees are young and often new to employment in a business environment. That’s why the company considers it so important to continually train and motivate staff, and provide opportunities for professional development and advancement in an effort to bring out the best in each team member. The organization tries to fill 75 percent of job openings internally, and that means providing all the tools that a dedicated worker needs to advance within Allied Global. New employees aren’t left to acclimate on their own thanks to checkpoints conducted at scheduled intervals throughout their first six months. At that final checkpoint, Rae or another senior manager will meet with groups of eight to 10 staff members for an open discussion, encouraging recommendations for improvements.
“A lot of the things we work on as it relates to improving the business come out of those types of focus groups,” Rae said. “It’s pretty casual and it’s purposely done that way so people feel that they can put out suggestions based on their experience up to the six-month point.”
Though they’re an expansive company operating in seven locations and employing about 1,300 people worldwide, fostering a family-style atmosphere is an important part of the company’s culture. Renovations to the 800-member head office location in late 2013 included the addition of fitness facilities, games rooms and casual rooms designed for reading or relaxing. Incentive programs give employees a chance to earn trips for annual top performances, or points that they can exchange for prizes such as lunch with a senior manager or coffee for their team for the day. In addition, teams choose a few of their favourite charities that the company supports each year.
The inspiration behind Allied Global’s culture comes from Gung Ho!, a book by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles that looks at ways to increase productivity by fostering excellent morale in the workplace. Tagged the Allied Way, the company follows three principles of motivation: “cheering the progress”, “worthwhile work” where the team understands that the work they do has meaning for themselves and their clients, and “in control of achieving the goal”, which empowers each employee through training, tools and guidance. Rather than pitting people against each other, Allied Global has built a collaborative team environment that encourages support and celebrates success.
One of Canada’s Best Managed Platinum companies
That focus on internal values is just one of several reasons why Allied Global is among companies recognized by the Canada’s Best Managed Companies program by Deloitte. A member of the Platinum Club, which salutes companies that have won the award seven years consecutively, Allied Global is no stranger to industry awards but appreciates the way the Best Managed program evaluates them against their peers. “When we get feedback that we’re doing many thing relative to other companies out there that are innovative and creative and are proven to be successful, it’s the type of recognition that tells us that we’re on the right track,” Rae said. “Sometimes we maybe don’t take enough time to sort of celebrate the accomplishments that we’re making and this is something that gives us the opportunity to say, hey, the things that we are doing are making a difference…”
For the eighth consecutive year, they made Training Magazine’s Top 125 for 2014. Their “green” initiative, which helped the company earn a Newmarket Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award this year, is one way Allied Global continues to look to the future. They encourage employees to car pool, take public transit or cycle to work when possible, limit the use of paper and printers, and reduced their electricity useable by 50 percent by changing office lighting. They also adopted a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system called Workday, a cloud-based application for managing human resources and finance. They were the first company within Workday’s customer base that implemented both financial and human capital management on a global scale at one time, Rae said.
Allied Global’s future also includes plans for expansion. The Philippines operation, which opened in January 2013, outgrew its first location and moved to larger premises in October 2014. Other opportunities for growth being considered in South or Central America and a few Caribbean locations, Rae said, which the company will begin exploring in mid-2015.
To learn more about Allied Global, visit their site at www.alliedghi.com.