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Agility-First: Shifting to a Global Workforce

Following the global pandemic and through continued financial uncertainties, finding agile and flexible solutions to getting work done is crucial. On this month’s Subject to Talent podcast, Allegis Global Solutions Vice President of Global Business Services Tom Jewett explains how creating a new architecture for addressing the needs of the global workforce – bringing the work to the people, instead of bringing the people to the work – has been key to successfully guiding clients through turbulent staffing challenges.

Transcript:

Bruce Morton: Welcome to Subject to Talent, brought to you by Allegis Global Solutions (AGS). Similar to you, we're always trying to learn more. On this podcast, we speak to workforce and talent experts from around the world, covering market trends, technology and our ever-evolving dynamic industry.

Bruce Morton: Hi, I'm Bruce Morton, the host of the Subject of Talent podcast. Today, I'm joined by my very good friend Tom Jewett. Tom is the vice president of Global Business Services (GBS), lovingly known as GBS, here at Allegis Global Solutions. Tom has been in the staffing industry for over 20 years now, and his current role, he oversees global delivery, customer enablement and the technology and analytics teams. Tom, welcome.

Tom Jewett: Thank you, Bruce. Great to be with you today.

Bruce Morton: Great, thank you for joining. So those regular listeners will know, we always ask our guests the very same first question; and that is, how did you get into the workforce industry and what was the journey to where you are today?

Tom Jewett: Yeah, thank you, Bruce. My journey into the staffing and recruitment industry is probably similar to most, which was that I kind of fell into the industry. Upon graduating from Alma College back in 1998, I was looking for a job, needed to get to some work, and went to a job fair and met with a few different companies. But what really stuck out is that I met two leaders from Aerotek. And just getting to know them, just the rapport and really the sign of culture that I saw drew my interest. And I went through the interview process and a month later I was a recruiter, which I kind of fell into the industry like I said.

So, I got my start there, worked in Detroit, staffing engineers for General Motors for a couple of years, and was just very fortunate to be a part of a journey within Aerotek where AGS was really formed. Our first customer was General Motors, so a bit of luck and a bit of good fortune, if you will, that I was working in Detroit servicing that account. And the organization moved into MSP (managed service provider) services as our start and I happened to be a part of that. So, I really have been a part of AGS since the inception.

Through that time, I've had some really good fortune to move to New York City, to work within another service line or RPO (recruitment process outsourcing) service line at the time. I moved up to Toronto, supported our first engagement up there as MSP started to take off as well. I had an opportunity to move back to New York, was part of a global RPO Solution at that time. Moved back to Detroit for some family reasons and took on some more leadership of accounts, if you will, within the RPO portfolio.

And then likely three years ago or so, I moved down to Jacksonville before to open up our new recruitment delivery center. And then certainly during the pandemic is when GBS was really born within the organization, and I was fortunate to lead that through. So again, started as a recruiter within the organization and just had a lot of good fortune to grow my career and have a lot of great experiences throughout.

Bruce Morton: Awesome. And as you say, like most of us said back in the day, fell into it by a mistake, but what a great mistake, hey.

Tom Jewett: Exactly. Best mistake I've ever made.

Bruce Morton: For sure. So you mentioned the pandemic there. So obviously during the pandemic, the workforce industry was plunged into a massive shift and companies need to adapt very quickly for continued success, and everybody was making it up as it went along, in a way. But as you touched on, one way AGS responded to that was the creation of the GBS function. Tell us a bit about what the function is, and how that was actually formed and how it helped to meet those challenges and those very difficult last couple of years?

Tom Jewett: It's obviously a big question and a great one. Certainly, COVID and the pandemic brought a lot of change, a lot of unexpected outcomes, if you will, to our business and to the industry. And what it really drew to me and drew to us as an organization is the strong ability to turn on a dime. Agility is probably the most important word or important lesson learned throughout the pandemic. Client demands shifted. Our workforce shifted.

Bruce Morton: Right.

Tom Jewett: (The) need to address supply chains and so on. So as an organization, we decided to really move from a product-led organization where we had our MSP solution and RPO solution really separated. And we decided to move more towards total workforce. And within that there was a sense of creating global business services, GBS, to support those businesses holistically. 

So GBS is roughly 1,400 people. We're all around the world. I think we're in 14 different countries and we support all of our service lines within AGS, MSP, RPO, services procurement and direct sourcing. Majority of our resources sit in our recruitment delivery centers, which are located in Budapest, Bangalore, Manila and Shanghai. And we also support not only recruitment administration, but a lot of the functional groups that support our day-to-day programs.

So we come in and support the implementations of new programs. We run the supply chain within our MSP programs. We're responsible for all the analytics that support all of our different client engagements. We head up our technology strategy for the organization. We even do some activities associated with employer marketing and automation. So it's a unique collection of talent within GBS. We have recruiters, administrators. We have solution architects, data engineers. We have folks that are creative. It's a really unique and great group.

Really aimed at supporting our client engagements and really driving best practice all around the world and providing agility and strategic solutions really to meet that client demand. So, we took a look at what happened during the pandemic, how it impacted us, impacted our industry, and felt like we needed to build a solution that really was aimed at solving the agility problems and the global best practices that we felt our clients would certainly value.

Bruce Morton: Right. And now that you've helped those centers set up, and I know we're continuing to grow and develop those around the world. I know one phrase you use a lot is, “This gives us the ability to send the work to the people instead of the people to the work.” Can you just expand on that philosophy?

Tom Jewett: Yeah, it's been certainly a big shift that we've seen for a while and something we believe in as an organization. I think not unlike many other providers in our space, we were at one time set up certainly in our product lines, which were much more siloed with MSP solutions and RPO solutions, which typically resulted in us having different customers, different stakeholders, different buyers if you will.

And with the talent shortages being what they are, the world getting smaller, talent everywhere, our clients have become less concerned with the type of worker and type of solution that we provide them and more just quite frankly interested in how we get the work done. So uniquely, we have 1,400 people all within our centers. And the approach that we take and we really believe in is, it's less about the type of worker and working within silos.

And it's more about understanding where we can get that work done and which one of our centers or which place around the world can help meet that demand, if you will. So, bringing work to the people from our perspective, brings some unique values potentially to our clients: it's faster, cheaper, higher quality.

Again, less about the type of worker in silo, but more about the speed and agility of really getting that work done for our clients. And we see this as something that's progressive and something that's happening more and more with our client engagements, and we see it continuing to take off in value as we move forward as well.

Bruce Morton: Great. And as you think about, just the global talent shortage, which isn't getting any easier, we all know that. It looks to be even tighter next year. And on top of that, the recession or impending recession, let's say, how does the structure that you now have in place with GBS actually provide the means for our clients to overcome those challenges and help with the cost as well of course?

Tom Jewett: Sure. I think if the pandemic told us anything, it's to be ready for the unexpected, right? And so as we go into the markets here in the next couple of years, the importance around agility and flexibility of resources is just critical for us. So within GBS, we're spending a lot of time understanding how we can maximize our agility and servicing our clients.

We absolutely anticipate slowdowns with some of our clients. And with that being said, we have an ability, if done right, to shift resources very quickly to assist with clients that are ramping up and how well we do that is really going to make all the difference in how we service our clients. So, I think our approach is really focused in on maximizing our complete recruitment delivery center workforce, if you will, that's one aspect of it. The other is we have a great focus on technology and data solutions.

I think it's really important, now more than ever, that we have insights into how to advise our clients around how to get that work done quickly and what are the indicators around where we can service them as their demands slow down and quite frankly, speed up if you will? I think the third aspect of this too, is the notion of automation and the concept of taking people out of activities that are common and placing them more into the relevant activity and having automation manage the repeatable tasks, you can get greater efficiencies as well.

So, when we're entering a time where there's going to be great shifts, highs and lows if you will, the more that we can be smart around what our people work on. What we can take off their plate. And really focus in on our best people working on delivery, that's really the focus of where my team is spending their time.

Bruce Morton: Right. And talking of technology and data, obviously data is more important than ever and there's a lot of it, right? And sometimes people say, "It's like drinking water from a firehose, there's so much data, what do we do with it?" And how do you get the right technology in place to take advantage of that whilst giving everybody great experience? So how do you think about making that easier for the clients and being able to bring perhaps best of breed technologies into one place? And what different source of data are you looking at right now?

Tom Jewett: Sure. And that's a giant question. One that I personally believe will never have a complete answer. I think it's always evolving, but AGS has been making substantial investments into technology and data over the course of the last couple of years. It's only going to be increasing for us moving forward based upon the relevance and importance.

But from a data perspective, there are different forms of data that our clients value. Certainly, we need to give an indication of their own workforce, on productivity, we need to bring in labor and market analytics as well. And then at AGS, we have a unique ability just being how large of an organization that we are. We have many data points around really important recruitment statistics that will help us make those decisions around bringing work to our people.

And so, the important aspect of that is making sure we have all the right data sources from all the places our clients are doing work. But more than that, setting up a platform in which it's easy to consume, it's data on demand and it allows them, our clients, as well as us to make really smart decisions around that.

So it's really twofold. It's about what data do we want to access, which to your point there's endless amounts, if you will. But how do you make that into a practical, easy decision-making format, if you will, for both ourselves and our clients to consume? I think the other aspect of this is technology. Certainly within our industry, whether it be the MSP side or the RPO side, we are in an industry where our clients have technology partnerships that are oftentimes customized for their needs.

And so we have seen a shift and what we talk about internally is we're not just a services' company, we're services and platform company. And so, part of our journey is to build out a technology strategy that allows us to work with all the different client arrangements, if you will, but can do so from a consistency perspective. So, we can build our sourcing and our data and our automation solutions, and it can fit for purpose, if you will, for the client. 

So again, a big question and a lot of activity here, but there's certainly a sense of simplicity as it relates to engaging with the client around giving them the right data to make decisions and then having the right technology tools that allow us to be flexible and agile.

Bruce Morton: Great. And it makes a little sense of how your clients are benefiting from that strategy and that investment, but let's look internal for a second inside AGS. Now that GBS is a couple years old, how are you seeing the organization and the individuals at the desk level actually benefiting from that strategy and that infrastructure?

Tom Jewett: Yeah, one, our resources are feeling more informed, right? So as they have insights into data and outcomes and certainly are being held accountable to outcomes, that's something that's really positive and it allows us to run as efficient in business as possible. And when you put the automation aspect into it as well, it's having our individuals at the desk level focus more on activities that have a higher yield than ever before.

I think the second part of it is it increases opportunities as well. So as you just look simplistically at our centers as they're all working off of one common platform, it's not uncommon for us to have one of our recruiters in Bangor, India support one client in North America from a sourcing perspective. And as demand shift, they can quickly be redeployed on a different account, if you will.
So there's a job stability perspective that this has brought for us. It's also increased interactions and ability to learn for our people at the desk level too, which is a great thing. So diversity of work, different client exposure, different type of skill sets to work on as well, something that we receive a lot of positive feedback from our teams on.

Bruce Morton: Right. And you mentioned that you started in Detroit, then you went to New York, then somewhere else I can remember we went back to Detroit now Jacksonville, but I guess the RDCs (regional delivery centers) take you around the world as well, I'm sure. I know you are visiting those on a regular basis. Have you had any recent trips?

Tom Jewett: Yeah, I just got back from about a month's worth of travel. It's the best part of my job. I had a chance to go and visit our team in London, but then more recently just got back from a trip in APAC where I visited our teams in Bangalore, made a stop in Singapore and Manila as well. And so it's really exciting for us.

You know, culture is really important at AGS and it is the best part of my job when I get to walk into one of our centers. We have hundreds of people all focused on the task, the energy, the excitement, the engagement within those centers. It really brings our culture and company to life when I have an opportunity to visit those different centers. 

Bruce Morton: You're hearing from them again at the desk level, the impact it's making on them?

Tom Jewett: Yes, for sure. I think there's really two pieces of feedback that stand out to me. One is just the amount of opportunity to do different work based upon all around the world, if you will, with the clients that we support is something that we get a lot of positive feedback. And then the second piece is a little bit longer lasting. By bringing all these functions together, it's provided us a unique opportunity to present career growth.

So, it isn't uncommon for us to have a person start off as like I did, a very entry-level recruiter if you will, grow their career. And then because GBS provides so many different types of services, growing their career, maybe moving to implementation teams or moving to our supply chain team, or if they have a real passion around data or technology moving into analytics or technology, which is all part of our culture and our growth. It's why we have a lot of people here at AGS that have a high degree of tenure. It's about career advancement.

And so GBS is just based upon what was put together from a grouping perspective. It allows people to have many different channels to grow their careers. And we benefit, having a person on our implementation team that really understands how to recruit is a unique benefit for us, in those conversations with new clients or during expansion. So, something we're really passionate about, it provides a lot of different career options and opportunities for our people as well.

Bruce Morton: Yeah, that's great. And I can hear the passion and congratulations on the 20-plus years and look forward to the next 20-plus years.

Tom Jewett: I hope so.

Bruce Morton: Talking of which we look here a few years, perhaps not 20, but a few years into the future. Let me ask you the crystal ball question. How do you see GBS evolving and how's it going to look different in a few years’ time, I guess is the question?

Tom Jewett: Yeah, it's funny, the longer I'm working here, the more I realize the less I know about the future just in terms of where things are going. But couple things come to mind just around GBS. I think this notion of bringing work to people and being able to deliver talent from anywhere is something that is going to make an impact on GBS and ultimately AGS. So the hubs of talents that we have all around the world will continue to get larger.

I would anticipate new RDCs potentially in more strategic locations that are growing, if you will, around the world as well. And we're already down a road where specializations really important within RDCs. So Manila, for example, is known within our organization of doing really high quality administration work within the recruitment process.

So, whether that be skill sets or functional outcomes, I think RDCs will mature from that perspective so that's one thing. I do think the technology and automation piece will only continue and GBS will play a big role in cultivating that solution around data technology and automation. 

And I think the necessity and the speed at which client demands have increased over the last few years. I think GBS’ agility and flexibility as we look into the future is going to be tested more and more. We have to be ready for that test. So in everything that we do, implementations and supply chain engagement and analytics and data and so on, I think there'll be real focus on expanding our technology capabilities to meet speed and agility overall to meet those client demands. So crystal ball, that's what I think our focus areas will be, and that's how I think we'll be supporting AGS and the clients with them.

Bruce Morton: Great. Well, a ton of stuff achieved so far and a lot more to achieve, so exciting journey. Tom, thank you so much for checking in today and sharing your story and what's going on with GPS through the podcast here. And if listeners want to learn more, where can they find you? Where can we check you out?

Tom Jewett: Yeah, feel free to check me out on LinkedIn, Thomas Jewett. That's probably be the best place from a professional perspective like most people. But we'll love to hear more from folks in the industry and certainly enjoyed my time today. Bruce, it was great to catch up with you as well.

Bruce Morton: Great. Thanks, Tom.

Tom Jewett: Thank you.

Bruce Morton: To learn more about AGS, please check us out at AllegisGlobalSolutions.com. You can also send questions for me or our guests. Just tweet us here @AllegisGlobal with a #SubjectToTalent or email us at SubjectToTalent@AllegisGlobalSolutions.com. And if you enjoyed our podcast today, please subscribe, rate us and leave a review. Until next time, cheers.