When you command a team of over 300 consultants, you learn a thing or two about identifying “A” players. Executive Director of Technology Enablement, Lena Haviland has spent the past 16 years perfecting hiring systems. She understands that the acquisition and retention of top talent begins with identifying their “why” and meeting their needs accordingly.

She shares with us what hiring slow and firing fast really means and why it is essential to the health of your firm. How setting goals and expectations with your team is an evolving process that should be communicated frequently. And she reveals why firing an employee is best for everyone involved.

Key Takeaways

  • Soft variables remain the same. Hire on the human level for traits like truth, transparency, and collaboration. Well-communicated hard skills can be developed as the company evolves.
  • Success comes down to people. Solutions can only be activated when the proper full-time employees and consultants are in place.
  • Little projects go a long way. For long-term hires, a project demonstrates the candidate’s dedication to the position, ability to deliver, response to feedback, and communication skills.


Maria Monroy, LawRank, TEKsystems and Lena Haviland


Lena Haviland (00:02):

Knowing what the quit criteria is for your employees is critical to deploying a solid retention strategy.

Maria Monroy (00:09):

It’s so important to have systems and standard operating procedures in place because if we know that on average what we’re going to get out of an employee is going to be two and a half years, you don’t want to be so dependent on that particular person.

Lena Haviland (00:25):

If you don’t know what motivates them, what keeps them there, the probability of you keeping them intact is slim to none.

Maria Monroy (00:33):

In law school, attorneys are taught to challenge everything, tear things apart, break them down, but the qualities that make lawyers great can be some of the worst for running a business. At every stage of growth, running a business and practicing law can feel overwhelming. And what happens when you try to add life and family to the mix? It can feel nearly impossible. You don’t have to do this alone.


I’m Maria Monroy, co-founder and president of LawRank, a leading SEO agency for ambitious law firms. Each week we hear from the industry leaders on what it really takes to run a law firm from marketing to manifestation. Because success lies in the balance of life and law, we’re here to help you tip the scales.


As executive director of technology enablement for a TEKsystems,

Lena Haviland oversees the placement of 300 contractors for the biggest brands in the world. She is our first guest that isn’t legal specific. Learn some of the best practices in hiring and retaining from a woman in her A game.


Today we get into the line between dragging your feet and making an intentional choice when hiring, understanding employee motivation for higher retention, why it’s important to automate your training, and how to get over your fear of firing. Lena has been at TEKsystems for 16 years. This is how she got there in the first place.

Lena Haviland (01:58):

A guy named Gary asked me the question of, “Why do you enjoy working here, and do you even want a job? Or do you just want to hang out at the beach?” I answered Gary with, “Well, of course I want to be at the beach, but I need money for bathing suits and for food and drinks, so I would like the job please.” And he hired me. Since then I progressed through the various different jobs that I’ve had. At this point, I’ve done every single job in the sales tower and landing me to where I am today.

Maria Monroy (02:30):

Wow, that’s impressive. How many times have you been promoted?

Lena Haviland (02:33):

Oh God. Let’s see. A minimum of 10.

Maria Monroy (02:39):

I feel like once a year. Once a year, you’re like, “Got great news, got promoted.” I’m like, “Again? How do they have positions left at this company?” I really wanted to pick your brain on hiring in systems, specifically systems within technology, utilizing technology. But let’s talk a little about TEKsystems.

Lena Haviland (02:59):

All right, I shall. TEKsystems is part of the Allegis Group. Allegis Group is a broad strokes large company that has about $15 billion worth of revenue flowing through it. TEKsystems is a $5 billion entity underneath the Allegis Group umbrella, and we exclusively focus on technology. What that means is our customers across various industries, including the legal space, but mostly inside of healthcare, government, finance, and technology, they have projects they need to get done in technology that they either lack expertise, people, or process or tools around doing. And when they run into those obstacles, they solicit our help.



We can help them with as little as providing a resource to help compliment a project that they need assistance on all the way through to turnkey outsource solutions. We do this work globally and at scale. It’s a lot of fun because no technology project is like the other, and as we all know at this point, you can’t stand up and have a conversation without technology being part of our world. So it’s a lot of fun and incredibly rewarding.

Maria Monroy (04:01):

That’s amazing. How many employees does TEKsystems have?

Lena Haviland (04:06):

We employ 80,000 US based consultants. And then internally we’re at about 15,000 employees. We have resources all over the world, including Hyderabad, Bangalore in India, the UK, APAC all across the board, EMEA. And in the US we have over 100 different locations.

Maria Monroy (04:25):

That’s ridiculous. You guys must have some crazy systems in place.

Lena Haviland (04:29):

Oh yeah, systems, processes, tools. I mean, it’s been 35 years. The company started down in the basement by two guys, two cousins, like every good company does in some kind of random basement, hopefully not a creepy one. And then it morphs into something if you’re lucky. So these two guys are able to spin up this empire, and they’re still around and attached. It’s incredible what they’ve been able to build.

Maria Monroy (04:54):

How many direct reports do you have?

Lena Haviland (04:55):

I have 300 people. Because we’re a matrix organization, they’re not all by name and title badged to me. That would be ridiculous. You want the rule of eight. I have six direct reports that are all directors. And then we have 300 individuals that in some shape or form touch our tower, which is exclusively focused on the top brands in the world, including Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Meta, Dell, IBM, HPI, HPE. So all the hardware, software, SaaS, infrastructure as a service companies, and the mega techs all are in my sphere of influence.

Maria Monroy (05:29):

Wow. Now, you said something to me before we’re recording. I’m not going to do it justice, but you mentioned something about, “Well, it’s not just that we’re in technology, we have to hire and keep this talent.” Do you remember what you said?

Lena Haviland (05:44):

Absolutely. Every solution you put together, whether it’s in your space in law or in our space in technology, comes down to the people. How good are the people doing the work? And if we don’t have proper full-time employees and consultants to do the work and retain them and attract them, you have nothing because no solution can be activated without the right people to actually activate it for our customers.

Maria Monroy (06:08):

Absolutely. You started out as a recruiter, right?

Lena Haviland (06:10):

I did, yeah, back in 2006, but I took the job because of helping people. My job exclusively for the first year of my employment was to find people jobs. Being an immigrant, being a refugee to this country, knowing how important it was for my parents to find work when we first came over, it was such a cool opportunity to be able to find out what somebody likes, what they want to do, where they want to work, what makes them really excited and passionate and match it up with an opportunity at one of our customers.


It’s literally life changing. And it’s interesting because I’ve gotten farther away from that, but I still find a lot of passion in talking to the recruiters inside our organization and surveying them on how they like it, what new challenges they’re coming into contact with because holding a book of 80,000 US based consultants takes a lot of art and a lot of science.

Maria Monroy (07:00):

Absolutely. I want to go back to your 16 years at TEKsystems. Do you think it’s less common for people to stay at one organization for so long?

Lena Haviland (07:09):

The new generation has different priorities. As we look at our younger siblings, our younger friends, coworkers, et cetera, they have different priorities. And the average tenure is about two and a half years at a given corporation. What I’m doing is definitely atypical in terms of 16 years.


I have a lot of partners who are in my generation who have been with the company 20, 25 years. That is not common for the new employee. They definitely get their experience, they get what they need to, they get in and they get out onto the next. To build that level of loyalty and continuity and work is very rare in today’s society.

Maria Monroy (07:46):

I think that’s why it’s so important to have systems and standard operating procedures in place because if we know that on average what we’re going to get out of an employee is going to be two and a half years, you don’t want to be so dependent on that particular person. You can be dependent on that position, but what do you do when that person quits?


I think every business right now, and I know it’s definitely happening in the legal space, they’re having a lot of issues hiring and retaining people. A lot of people don’t want to work. Now you have that silent quitting. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Lena Haviland (08:24):

Yes, I know exactly what you’re talking about.

Maria Monroy (08:26):

That apparently is happening. There’s so much. What has helped you stay at one organization for so long?

Lena Haviland (08:35):

I think you really need to know your criteria to stay. And you hit on a lot of really good topics there that we could probably have a separate podcast on. The silent quitting is very real, retention of employees, very real, and the need for systems, imperative. For me and for many others, there’s criteria that you have that makes you want to show up to work.


Last time I checked, hopefully none of you who are listening to this are forced to do the job you’re doing. Maybe your wife or husband is forcing you to, I don’t know. That’s a personal issue that we can get into next time. However, for the most part, you show up to work or you do your job because you’ve chosen to. It’s imperative to know why you show up to work.


For me personally, it’s the ability to be myself. Any company who doesn’t let me be myself is not worth being at. It’s the ability to make money and continued earning potential. Number three, it’s the ability to continue to actualize the work and the efforts I put in into a promotion, into continuous progression, into opportunity. And lastly, I really want to help people.


Luckily over the last 16 years I’ve had the ability to have four of these elements continuously be present. For me every year I evaluate that and think, okay, am I getting these things? Did my criteria change? Flexibility was a new one that got added, especially after having kids. And that’s another element that continues on for me. As long as those things continue to stay in place and I could be a good mom and a good friend, a good daughter and a great employee all at the same time and manifest those things, I’ll continue to stay for another 16 years.


But having that quit criteria really nailed down for each person and then you as the leader of those individuals, you talked about attrition in the legal space, knowing what the quit criteria is for your employees is critical to deploying a solid retention strategy. If you don’t know what motivates them, what keeps them there, the probability of you keeping them intact is slim to none.

Maria Monroy (10:24):

Wow, that’s great info. Maybe I need to reevaluate. Just kidding. The saying goes, hire slow and fire fast. Do you believe in that?

Lena Haviland (10:36):

130%. There are plenty of bad decisions I’ve made. And usually it comes down to not listening to that philosophy. Hire slow doesn’t mean though drag your feet. That’s how you lose a candidate. Again, just like we talked about, the quit criteria, you need to know what your hiring criteria is. And once a person satisfies that and you do your due diligence, you have to make fast decisions because through the interview process, especially when our new generation, everyone’s evaluating you just as much as you’re evaluating them. And if you drag your feet or you show disinterest and you’re not selling the opportunity, likelihood of someone else picking them up and them not going to your opportunity is incredibly high.


Similarly, the hire fast or the hire slow and then the fire fast philosophy, if you don’t get rid of people who are not living up to your standards and expectations, and if those aren’t clearly articulated, a bad performer can take down the entire team if you allow that behavior to persist, which is why that fire fast philosophy is integral to a business success and towards continuity of the good employees you actually want to keep.

Maria Monroy (11:44):

Why do you think people don’t fire employees even though they know that they should or why they drag their feet?

Lena Haviland (11:53):

I’d say it comes down to three variables. One, in terms of firing. People form an emotional connection to people, and that supersedes the desire to get the job done. We’re all running a business. And I think sometimes people forget that they’re running a business and let the emotional components take over.


Two, employers don’t set clear enough expectations. Without setting clear expectations, they feel bad about letting go of people because they themselves have failed at setting up those clear expectations. So instead of going back to the drawing board and resetting, they choose to keep around these employees too long.


And then lastly, there is a shortage for talent and there is a lot of work that goes into procuring new talent. People get lazy, they get tired, they don’t have suitable replacements, so they say it’s good enough. It is a process to hire. It’s a very lengthy involved process, and it’s one you must invest in if you’re a leader. A lot of people take the lazy path and retain talent that shouldn’t be retained.

Maria Monroy (12:49):

Absolutely. I can relate to that, to all of those things that you mentioned. We’ve learned a lot in the past almost nine years now. And even before that, all of my management experience. I also think people are scared to fire. I remember the first time I fired someone, I was so scared. Now it’s like I’ll fire people for others. I’m like, I’ll fire someone if you need me to. I’ve done it so many times at this point that it just is what it is.


And you’re not doing them a disservice. You’re doing them a disservice if they stay because if they really loved what they were doing, they would be excelling. You wouldn’t feel like this isn’t the right fit. Does that make sense?

Lena Haviland (13:30):

130% it does. And I think on top of that, you as a leader are responsible for setting clear expectations like we talked about, and giving them the tools and the processes to be successful. That’s where you are held accountable. If they don’t leverage those tools and bring the desire and the aptitude to use what you’ve provided, that is entirely and fully on them.


So I think you should ask yourself, have you given this person that you seemingly hired for all the right reasons, the right tools to be successful? If yes, and they’re still not using them, and you’ve been phenomenal in this arena, then it’s time to progress to the firing phase.

Maria Monroy (14:05):

Absolutely. How often are you setting goals and expectations with your team?

Lena Haviland (14:09):

Goodness, all the time. All the time. But I’d say when a new member comes onto the team, that is a pivotal period of time. That first 60 days, I’d even say the first 30 are critical to learn each other ways of working and expectations. And then there’s team goals that you do have to continuously reset and ensure they’re the right ones.


What is it? The most constant thing is change. Nothing will ever be as slow as it is right in this moment, so our world, technology, law, et cetera, it’s constantly pivoting. If you don’t change in terms of how you address your team and expectations don’t pivot to meet the new demands of our world, it’s not going to be fruitful.


Example, sales company, recruiting company, recruiting from 16 years ago when I joined to recruiting today is drastically different. Whereas 16 years ago, it’s a lot of a phone based system. Emailing was the path to reach them. Now there’s at least 10 different mediums to reach individuals. There’s LinkedIn, there’s text, there’s chat, there’s adverts, there is passive looking, there is referrals. So you can’t have the same expectation for a recruiter that you did in 2005 as you do for someone in 2022. If I’m a betting woman, in 2029, those expectations will continue to shift. And if you’re not consistently resetting, that’s critical.


I will say the thing that should stay the same is your hiring practices and expectations at a human level. My entire team knows that it is non-negotiable to be kind to our partners. It is non-negotiable to be truthful, transparent, and collaborative. There’s those soft variables. And I’d say those change less. It’s more so the ways of working and the expectations that need to be consistently refreshed, evaluated, and communicated around.

Maria Monroy (15:55):

Now, you mentioned not dragging your feet. Where is the line between making an intentional choice and dragging your feet when hiring?

Lena Haviland (16:04):

You have to have your criteria, and your job description has to be very clear, and you have to decide for yourself what qualifies someone as having the right expertise in the areas you’ve outlined. I’ll use an example to illustrate it. When I hire a salesperson, they have to do business development. Business development is a core criteria for me to hire a salesperson. I have mechanisms to vet that. I have them provide me with information regarding how they’ve showcased their business development in their last place of employment.


What executive relationships did you make over the last 10 years that you were selling? Could I call them to validate that you have that experience? Could I put a call in to your references or your leader who would validate that you are this business development machine you speak of? Quickly have that conversation. Quickly do the validation. Make that phone call, don’t hesitate, prioritize it. And then you’ve checked the box on business development.


But if you drag your feet on, all right, I’ll call the person they gave me in a week or in two or when I fitted in or after that Thailand vacation, you have an unmet expectation. You’ve asked for information that you haven’t capitalized on. You could have validated that. If hiring is really a priority for you, you would’ve validated that quickly. And if that component of the hire is critical for you, you could have satisfied that very urgently versus dragging your feet. I think there’s a reasonable time of response versus this lengthy period based on what you deem important for your hiring needs.

Maria Monroy (17:33):

How quickly could someone be hired without it feeling rushed or like you’re hiring someone in a panic?

Lena Haviland (17:43):

I think it’s tough to put a timeline on it, and that has to be self developed. But I hired people before off of a phone video interview. We made a connection. I felt sufficiently validated in terms of what needed to be validated. And I was able to make that decision because based on what I needed and the consulting need, it was a three months hire, and it was something that needed to be done that was very surgical. They came as a referral from someone I knew who I trusted. The conversation was more a validation. And once I had that, I knew that for a finite period of three months to do a specific piece of work that had been validated by a trusted reference, I could hire this person off of a phone video situation.


Now, if I’m hiring someone for five or 10 years, maybe I would’ve wanted them to connect with the team and have an additional conversation. However, this wasn’t the case. So I think you really have to right size the duration, the impact, and figure out do you have enough information for that duration and impact to make that hire more quickly?


My recommendation would be if it is a long-term hire with highly impacted parties, consolidate the interview process because sometimes Joey can’t make it. He’s off in Paris. And Susie’s off cleaning something for her kids. And suddenly we’ve dragged on the interview process to be weeks. You’ve lost that candidate, both their interest and their ability to take on your job.

Maria Monroy (19:01):

Do you ever have candidates do a task?

Lena Haviland (19:06):

Oh yes, all the time. I don’t hire anyone without a task for a long-term position. So typically, one, it’s to show that they actually care about getting the job, and I want them to do some effort to show me they want the job. So I will say, “Okay, great. I heard what you said. It all sounds lovely. I think you should put that out on paper for me in this fashion and then send it to me.” They’re like, “Well, when do you want me to send it to?” “Well, I don’t want to infringe on your life and your schedule. When do you think you could send it to me?”


It’s a great validation mechanism to see how urgently they feel about getting the job, how excited they are about showing you that work product, how they communicate in written speech as well as oral. And it’s really critical. Sometimes that work output can be actually in an accelerator for them to get the job or a giant detractors, like this person can’t even spell. They sure sounded good, but this wasn’t great.


I think it’s a really good mechanism to use, especially in positions where you need them to have certain attributes that are both oral and written, but also as an accountability measure and to gauge that interest. Very, very effective.

Maria Monroy (20:12):

Absolutely. We do tasks as well, and then we’ll critique the task, even if it’s complete BS just to see how they handle feedback. Do they get really defensive? Are they like, “Oh, no worries, let me change that and send it over to you.” Is it obvious that they are not open to feedback? That’s been life changing.


The other one is we always ask, what are your career goals as the first question on our first interview? Because if their career goals are completely different than the position that they’re applying for, it’s like, well, then you’re not the right fit. Why are you applying to do this job when your end goal is to go to school to be a vet? But it can be so hard to know what goes into selecting the right candidates, and getting the right people is more than just matching a resume. So, what makes someone an ideal fit for an organization?

Lena Haviland (21:11):

I think you really have to know who you are as an organization to answer that question. For us, we have core values. And core values come down to relationships, commitment, collaboration, diversity, equity, and inclusion. And having that clarity of values is critical to hiring the right person because then you could vet for those values.



And then you also have to make sure there’s a definition that comes along with those values because you may think collaboration, super clear to everyone. Everyone should know what collaboration means. Urgency, very clear. You may have to define that early on in the interview process for someone or ask them to define it for you and say, “Hey, our core values are relationships, diversity, equity, and inclusion, collaboration. Talk to me about relationships. What does that mean to you inside of an organization? Talk to me about diversity. How do you see that manifest? Do you believe in diversity? What does that mean to you?”


Those qualifiers are really important. And then asking the follow on question of, “All right, you said you value diversity. You’re kind of supposed to say that in today’s world. Nice job on being PC. What does that actually-

Maria Monroy (22:11):

Or you get canceled.

Lena Haviland (22:12):

… mean to you? Right, exactly. You get canceled. I get it. Thank you for confirming. What does that actually mean to you, and how have you leveraged diversity inside your past organizations, and how have you ensured that diversity is present in what you do?


I think some of those actionable qualifiers are really critical to define those values and ask for examples. That’ll kind of showcase to you what kind of person is this that I’m working with? And then secondly, I think it’s really important to talk to references. I really do. And not just who they give you, but the next layer of who they don’t give you.

Maria Monroy (22:46):

I want to talk to you about remote working. Do you work remote? Does TEKsystems as a whole work remotely? I’m talking about full-time employees. How do you feel about it? Do you think it’s more productive to be in an office, a combo? What do you think?

Lena Haviland (23:01):

This is a really passionate topic across the organization because we have a lot of brick and mortar locations, over 100 in the US like we talked about, and there’s varying opinions on it. I do a hybrid approach as does my team. I think there is a lot of value in collaborating locally in office where appropriate.


I think what’s extremely not valuable is going into the office and doing things exactly as you would at home. If you do come into an office or you travel in to a conference, use that time to do in-person activities you can’t do over the phone. I think the biggest mistake companies are making all across the country and nation and globe really is they’re having people forcefully come back and not necessarily coming back to do the right activities, but rather to check a box.


So in my opinion, the hybrid is great. I love the human contact, but there’s also things I love to do from home. I’m extremely productive. We get to do this podcast today. I’ve had a full day of work. I mean, there’s a lot of things you can do when you don’t have to leave the place you’re in and then go get dressed and then go and do the commute. So I think a hybrid approach is really beneficial and something that a lot of companies are adopting.

Maria Monroy (24:08):

But do you think employees working from home are less productive or you think they’re more productive?

Lena Haviland (24:15):

As long as you set clear expectations, the employees you hire are good employees and they don’t run with scissors. What I mean by that is are they responsible and did you make good hires? If you make good hires, I don’t think you have to be less productive at home. In fact, you could be more productive based on all the things we just highlighted. However, where employers fail is they don’t set clear expectations and then employers don’t know what’s expected of them. There’s misalignment and then these employees are deemed less productive. But it comes back to the failure of the employer. So I think that’s really the variable on whether it’s more productive or less.


I think if you set bad expectations, it’s less because you’re not lording over them and standing over them as they do the work, but I think that’s really a bad use of your time. And then if you set clear expectations and you let them work from anywhere, whether it’s home or hybrid or in the office, it doesn’t matter because when someone’s underperforming, everyone’s aware why. And when someone is performing at an optimal level or exceeding expectations, everyone is also aware why.

Maria Monroy (25:14):

Absolutely. I agree. We all work remote. I mean, we’re a digital marketing agency, so it’s a little bit different. But I agree. I think if you have A players, and there’s a good culture, they have the goals, the expectations, the tools, the support, everything that they need, I don’t think it’s going to make much of a difference.


Now I do think that of course the human element, that’s something that we miss out on a lot except those of us that travel to conferences and we get to see each other then. But yeah, that is that one element that we don’t get to have. Now, do you guys do any personality tests?

Lena Haviland (25:53):

It’s a leader by leader decision. I really like the Enneagram test. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but I think that one is fantastic and extremely accurate, and I have all my team members take it. If you guys haven’t heard about it, it’s 114 questions and it really prototypes different people’s personalities. I’ve heard of DISC being used, and that’s another good personality option.

Maria Monroy (26:16):

We do DISC.

Lena Haviland (26:16):

Yeah. I love those. I love that stuff, period. I’m the girl that used to read astrology books on the floor of Barnes & Noble. For me, any tools to get a little bit more clear on who other people are and how they like to work I think is extremely beneficial, especially to your point in a remote environment. I think that ratchets up the criticality because it helps accelerate your knowledge of what you know about your team.

Maria Monroy (26:36):

Tell me what’s next for you at TEKsystems?

Lena Haviland (26:40):

My team right now, we’re in the middle of a giant transformation, and it’s so much fun. So I need to get this team to the right place, which will take me probably a good six to 12 months. And I have a lot of leaders that are currently developing that I think could do my job, which is also, in my opinion, a sign of a good leader. You should always be working on your replacement and your backfill and bring people up along with you.


Once I have those individuals fully prepped and ready to rock and get things in the right place, I’ll be ready to either tackle another one of our verticals or move into a different position in our organization. I think the strengths I have are really quickly figuring out what people are good at and optimally leveraging them to drive a big initiative across a team. Anywhere I go to do that, where I could deploy processes, bring people together, leverage their strengths will be a lot of fun.


So I see myself staying at TEKsystems as long as that quit criteria stays intact. And as long as I’m working around fun people and having a good time, I’m going to be here. Regardless of what capacity that’s in, it’s going to be lasting.

Maria Monroy (27:43):

When deciding how quickly to hire, consider the duration and impact of the position. A three month and a five year hire have different approaches. Long-term positions should require a hiring task. How they perform demonstrates the level of care, a sense of urgency, communication skills, and how well they handle feedback. Once an employee has joined your firm, it is the leader’s responsibility to set clear expectations, give employees the tools and processes to be successful, and understand their motivation to retain top talent.


Thank you so much to

Lena Haviland at TEKsystems for everything she shared today. If you found this story valuable, please share it with someone you want to see succeed. Subscribe so you never miss an episode and leave a five-star review. It goes a long way to help others discover the show.


Catch us next week on Tip The Scales with me, Maria Monroy, president of LawRank. Hear how the best in the business broke out of limiting beliefs, overcame adversity and built a thriving, purpose-driven business and the process.

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