A Combined Workforce: Tech Data's HR Chief Puts Empowerment To Work Following Avnet Acquisition

Avnet Technology Solutions employees came to Tech Data's human resources chief earlier this year with an emphatic request: Please don't change our leave time policy.

The Tempe, Ariz.-based division had gone over to a flexible time-off policy, meaning that the workforce was no longer required to track their sick or vacation time, said Beth Simonetti, Tech Data's chief human resources officer. And the Technology Solutions employee base was very nervous about losing this perk, she said.

So Tech Data moved quickly to reassure them by not only retaining the benefit for Technology Solutions workers, Simonetti said, but also extending it to all of Tech Data's legacy employees.

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Combining Technology Solutions' leave time and change management policies with Tech Data's diversity and inclusion and video interviewing initiatives will maximize retention and productivity for the combined organization, said Simonetti. She joined Tech Data in September 2015 and assisted the distributor with due diligence around the February Avnet Technology Solutions deal.

"We don't make anything, so this acquisition is all about the talent and the relationships and the intellectual property that they bring to the table," Simonetti said. "The value of that business is the people that come with it."

Tech Data under Simonetti's charge has accelerated its diversity and inclusion initiatives to strengthen its relationships with vendor partner and solution provider customers, boost its corporate reputation, and ultimately improve business outcomes. "This isn't a numbers game. It isn't a quota game," Simonetti said. "The more inclusive we can be, the more engaged workforce we'll have."

The distributor has launched employee groups in the U.S. for female workers, military veterans and LGBTA workers, she said, each of which has executive sponsorship, goals for what to accomplish, and an assessment scorecard. Ladies of Tech Data has initiated mentoring programs for girls interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), she said, while TD Patriots had held drives to send care packages overseas. Simonetti has received a lot of inquiries from Technology Solutions workers about participating in these groups, and Tech Data plans to duplicate the events taking place at its Clearwater, Fla., headquarters in Tempe.

Technology Solutions also has a more planned approach to how it carries out deals since it engages in a smaller number of large transactions, while Tech Data operates at a "fast and furious" pace to handle the thousands of deals moving across its radar. Technology Solutions' change management strategy addresses how to rapidly spread awareness of changes, Simonetti said, and Tech Data has now adopted that approach and trained its human resources staff and managers in the uniform methodology.

When it comes to interviewing potential hires, Simonetti said Tech Data asks applicants to videotape themselves answering pre-selected questions. Those videos are submitted to the hiring managers, enabling them to watch 10 or 12 videos at their convenience without having to schedule individual phone appointments. Tech Data plans to expand the video interviews to the Technology Solutions side of the business, according to Simonetti.

Tom Sharp, vice president of operations for Glastonbury, Conn.-based Kelser, No. 253 on the 2017 CRN Solution Provider 500, said the combined organization has highlighted additional skill sets within its employee base, new capabilities across the company, and ways Kelser can tighten its relationship with some of its largest vendor partners.

"There's a lot of enthusiasm and energy between the teams," Sharp told CRN. "It really comes across that there's a good symbiosis between the two sides, and it's homogenized into one group a lot faster than we expected it to."