Never Duplicated

Xerox’s David McCullagh on what his company does differently and how ties to an iconic brand can take his team to new heights

Xerox HR Consulting is leading the human resources consulting and outsourcing market by leveraging its size, brand, and experience. The company, which offers a host of HR programs and solutions, takes a broad view of HR and looks at what’s most important to employees: health, wealth, and a career with success achieved through engagement. Recently, the company’s Canadian growth leader sat down with Advantage to explain how a new strategy is helping his company widen the gap in North America.

What’s helped establish your reputation as a leader in HR solutions?
It’s our approach combined with the things we do differently. We use technology to engage employees, and we approach the solution in a fresh way. We don’t lead with the technology. That’s not where we start the conversation with a client. We talk about the issues they face and demonstrate how we can introduce efficiencies or reduce cost from the HR function. We deliver with a focus on the employee’s results.

How do you do that?
We have a suite of tech and consulting solutions that we use when they make sense. My role is to bring the right solutions that address specific concerns—helping client’s HR work better. Some solutions are industry specific and others are client specific. The key is really getting to know both: your client and their industry.

McCullagh’s two-decade long career has included roles with iconic brands such as Sears and MasterCard

What’s the most important thing you can do as a growth leader to encourage and drive innovation?
It sounds simple, but part of the answer is listening. Really listen to my teams and encourage them to listen to their clients. People in our industry like to go in and prescribe fancy solutions with all the bells and whistles, but you can see the light bulbs turn on when you get to know them and bring real issues-based solutions.

Such as?
Maybe they have issues around cost-effectively engaging employees or managing cumbersome HR processes. These clients may benefit from a combined consulting and tech solution that involves an in-depth assessment of HR processes and leverages our modular portal technology to reduce paper and automate workflows. Most our clients have then used this newly found HR capacity to focus their teams and other resources on strategic issues.

What do you learn when you take this extra time to listen?
It’s more than what the company needs. It also drives our progress. We can each solicit feedback and bring it back to our team so we’re building responsive solutions. This approach helps us understand where the industry is going and where we need to go.

How does your role match where the company is going?
We want double-digit growth and we see a huge potential for our solutions in the market. We see ourselves as a true partner. I have to bring the right teams to analyze client needs.


McCullagh and Xerox specialize in helping clients reduce the time and expense associated with complex HR tasks. They’ve partnered with Star Media Group to administer the company’s pensions. Soon after, the relationship expanded to cover HR communications with Metroland, a far-reaching group of community newspapers. By implementing a-la-carte services, Xerox gave Metroland a way to get crucial information to employees faster than ever before through online portals and other channels. Through the framework, managers and executives can target specific employee groups with specific messages. The whole system is designed to increase and grow as the company’s needs and desires change.

What is it like to be a part of the services arm of Xerox? What can you do to capitalize on that?
We have a great brand that is known for technology innovation, and we can leverage all the relationships that come with that. Not everyone is aware of what we do from an HR perspective even though they know Xerox; so there is a brand perception gap that we’re addressing.

How do you crack that problem?
HR fits in to a lot of what Xerox does. All of the solutions Xerox offers are based on helping our clients focus on their core business. Our focus is HR, but the end goal is still the same—help our clients focus on their core business by helping them function more efficiently as an organization.

Where are the best opportunities?
A lot of times it’s with companies that do business here and in the United States. That’s a huge growth piece for us because we can reach Canadian subsidiaries of our US companies. Often times, we discover that big US companies are trying to do Canadian HR from the US or with a very small team in Canada even if they don’t understand the nuanced differences in regulations and benefits.

Is it hard to know where to focus time and resources?
We have a rigorous go/no-go strategy that we use to examine where we can add value when new clients come along. We do 30 to 40 responses to requests for proposals every year. 80 percent of what we do is growing our existing client base and 20 percent is new business.

You’ve led through a lot of transitions in the last year or so. What made it work?
Have to have leadership buy-in all the way to the front-line management level or else all hope is lost. Your culture shift has to align with your strategy, and there have to be proof points that resonate with employees so they can get behind and understand the change. They have to be involved in the conversation along the way. Companies that want to make big changes and just decide they’re going to do it without talking to influential employees won’t succeed.

What advice do you have for others leading through change?
Have lots of conversations and remember to examine your history and see what’s worked. Don’t throw everything out, but don’t hold on to everything. Focus on doing the work to take your company and your employees to the next level.