Digital transformation keeps ManpowerGroup ahead of the game
In the latest edition of FastTrack’s official newsletter In the Fast Lane, Jamie Killmier interviews ManpowerGroup ANZ Head of IT Kitty Chu. Read the interview below to find out how their approach to digital transformation helped keep ManpowerGroup ahead of the game when COVID-19 hit.
Q. Kitty, you’ve been part of the ManpowerGroup team for over 20 years and your LinkedIn bio mentions you mastermind strategic technology adoption & transformation for enhanced business performance. What problem are you trying to solve?
A. Broadly speaking, IT transformation gradually evolves into business transformation and the adoption of technology from a business perspective will typically drive the business return on investment. Over the past 5 years, FastTrack has been part of our journey in transforming our technology into more SaaS based and platform-based solutions to change and simplify the way we work. My role has been to look at the simplification of the core technology platform that is being used within ManpowerGroup Australia and allow the business to have clarity around our operational processes and execution.
Q. Where does strategic thinking regarding technology start in an organisation like ManpowerGroup?
A. Looking back at our transformation journey, we did have a technology challenge as an organisation through acquisition, creating a very complex landscape and a business problem that we needed to solve. Having variable technology creates different sets of processes across your business meaning you can’t easily measure performance and drive improvements.
At a leadership level, we addressed this as a business problem first and then we started a journey of understanding exactly what it is we wanted to achieve – consistent process and measurable performance, segmented reporting, readily available information etc., and then we aligned those business processes to global drivers and technology. As an IT leader, it was then up to me to identify the challenges before the business and find a way to define a set of programs to help us solve business problems. Fundamentally, it starts with everyone inside your organisation being on the same page, and then you can gain momentum.
Q. How has ManpowerGroup Australia navigated COVID-19?
A. Our digital transformation actually finished just prior to COVID-19 hitting. We had already adopted new technology across our business, so we were able to very quickly mobilise our people to work from home. We were also able to adapt processes across our business including customer support, so we didn’t have to worry about too many tech changes throughout the peak of the pandemic.
We were fortunate that we undertook our business transformation at the right time and all our applications were already accessible via the internet.
Transforming your business during a pandemic could be a recipe for disaster, so we had a good win because of our ability to stay ahead of the game!
Q. How did COVID-19 re-shape the way you do business?
A. As a business, we were reasonably contactless anyway, but we found you could lift the boundaries on what was previously possible. You could use technology in a different way, and we were able to interact with clients and candidates in a way that we didn’t imagine in our business previously. The new virtual world has removed an element of fear from the way we communicate and do business.
Communication has become more informal, and people have adapted quickly to this, appreciating the different conversations we are now having. It has been a complete mindset change and people who have experienced the pandemic now look at business in a different way. They are more flexible; they are finding solutions to problems and they are creating opportunities.
Q. As the world looks to open back up post-pandemic, what will the future of work look like?
A. Our technological transformation has enabled us to create different solutions to meet our workforce supply and demand. It has enabled us to connect our technology – from onboarding, to interviewing and assessment, to opportunity creation and enablement for employment…right through to pay. Our ability to manage a candidate end- to-end is the ‘one stop shop’ that the workforce is looking for and technology supporting artificial intelligence (AI) is already available to support that. Big data that can connect to technology solutions will be very powerful when used in a perceptive way.
More intuitive ‘cutting-edge’ technology and data capture will also enable us to be more proactive, productive, and present smarter workforce solutions.
Our mindset is already changing around work, and information is already coming to us, so we need to be able to adapt to the changes that are current and those ahead of us – and we can start by connecting all of our technologies together.
Q. FastTrack has been in partnership with ManpowerGroup Australia for 25 years and you have witnessed the evolution of the product. In your opinion, why has FastTrack’s technology stood the test of time in the ManpowerGroup business?
A. The FastTrack partnership has grown over time and that has surfaced a desire for FastTrack to evolve with our organisation. More than 20 years ago we had a standalone, heavily customised solution, we then moved to a baseline version before moving to the cloud and then building integrations through the MarketPlace. We have changed our mindset to a platform strategy and finding a product that moves with you to collaborate and solve business challenges is very important.
There is a two-way relationship with FastTrack that allows us to communicate openly and understand the role we play in achieving mutually beneficial business outcomes. We always know what is possible now, but also in the medium to long-term we know where our companies are heading and where our strategic investment is going. We are now talking to FastTrack frequently about what our local and global business goals are and how we can build a solution together.
Q. In an increasingly technology-driven industry, are we moving away from the human touch?
A. The re-skilling of our workforce will be prevalent in the years ahead because our jobs will change and, in some instances, become more automated, so we need to be really proactive in understanding what we are doing with the people, skills and information that is already in front of us. We need to look at how we can add value and train our workforce on the niche skills that will enable them to tackle the change that is coming. In our industry, we will always have the human elements but from a technology perspective, the data or information we have available should be able to provide us with the intelligence that will enable us to present the right solutions and add value.
Q. Why is change so hard: Where does process improvement start and why is change so difficult?
A. Change should never be like-for-like, it is transformation for a reason, and you need to take your people on the journey with you. You need to speak to your team and present the ‘why’ in a way that surfaces the emotion that is tied to change. The buy-in needs to be there because you are going to be asking your people to do something different.
Also, sometimes to get to the desired outcome, you have to take a step back before you can go forward. If you don’t have buy-in, people will question your decision and wonder why they are being asked to do what they are doing. If you are not clear about your outcomes and goals, the change journey will be very challenging. We are geared and wired to sell the good things but open and transparent communication about some of the bad is equally important. Don’t be afraid to provide your team with a view of the challenges that they can expect through change. There is no point selling them step 10 when they haven’t even navigated their way through the transformation journey.
Q. The mass resignation. Fact or fiction, is there a cliff coming?
A. Jamie, in my opinion the change is already here. We have already changed, so we are not going to go back to the way things were before. All our teams are virtual and collaborating in a different way, and we need to accept that people are already behaving differently. I do feel that businesses that have not had an open mind about how we work today, and want to go back to their old ways, will have more issues dealing with retention. At the end of the day, you need to have an open mind about what works for your people and gets the best out of them. You need to be close to your people and understand what they are looking for. My view is that you need to be ready for the next wave of change or you will struggle.
Q. Finally, do you have any tips for your recruitment industry colleagues reading this?
A. Staffing agencies need to continue to innovate and stay close to change, and importantly, stay close to the market. My advice would be to know what you are good at and continue to do it well. You need to continue to provide value to clients and candidates and help them engage with you through technology or solutions or initiatives because at the end of the day, people can choose who they do business with. Find the right formula that works for you but always be thinking about those niche solutions that will give you the edge.