Randstad is investing in digitalisation in order to offer a user-friendlier, quicker and more transparent service to clients and candidates alike. Finance is evolving in tandem, making life easier for foreign branches by providing real time insights in all relevant data and KPIs. This clever use of data is creating more space for vital human interaction.
It is 1960 when a young Frits Goldschmeding dispatches his first temporary staffer. While working on his graduation project, economics student Goldschmeding had come to the conclusion that the Netherlands was ready to embrace the concept of workers on demand. It turned out to be a brilliant brain wave and 60 years on, Randstad is the world’s biggest staffing agency. With 38,000 staff based at some 4,800 offices in 38 countries, Randstad is currently the employment go-between for over 670,000 temporary workers.
Digital innovation is crucial for a multinational of that size and the finance department has to be the first to take this on board, say CFO Henry Schirmer and his right hand man Jorge Vazquez, responsible for Group Control & Strategy.
How important is digital transformation for Randstad?
Henry Schirmer: ‘It’s essential. It is our mission to find the very best candidates for the companies that make up our client base. This means we have to offer a service that is more user-friendly, quicker and transparent. That can only be achieved through digital transformation. We are, for example, in the process of automating certain administrative duties to free up intermediaries who can then concentrate on finding the perfect match between company and candidate. Both clients and candidates want to be able to contact us at any moment of the day, irrespective of how or where. That has prompted us to adopt a multichannel working practice which is digital wherever possible. Digitalisation is progressing apace at Randstad. Our motto is ‘tech & touch’. It refers to the fact that despite the use of advanced technology, recruitment and selection still depend on human input. Our opinion is that technology will never take over the job but is there in a supportive capacity. Hence the ‘touch’ bit: both candidates and potential employers prefer to meet face to face.’
Henry Schirmer (54) has been CFO at Randstad since 2018. His former places of work include a British equity firm and Unilever where he filled the positions of CFO Europe and CFO North America.
Jorge Vazquez (43) has been serving as Managing Director Group Control & Strategy at Randstad for the past two years. He was formerly in charge of Randstad Brazil and filled senior positions at TNT Post and Spring Global Mail.
Human contact remains a core value despite a no-holds-barred digitalisation?
Jorge Vazquez: ‘Human contact is, and will always be, indispensable. The more time we can dedicate to personal coaching, the sooner we will get results. Smart technology can help. The Randstad concept of ‘tech & touch’ cleared the way to a new external market brand position. ‘Human Forward’ signals our willingness to embrace technology and use it to offer both our internal staff and temporary workers the most advantageous career path possible. And that in turn benefits our clients.’
Can you give some examples where digital technology is used at Randstad?
Vazquez: ‘It is used to link data in a way that will provide a wealth of information about the labour market to our clients. It also makes the matching process a more tailored and efficient one. We have an app, for instance, which candidates can use to signal their availability for certain jobs to our intermediaries with one push of a button. They can also upload their references online which can then be checked automatically by our systems. Another app will give people access to us at all time, and there is an online system which allows companies direct access to their workforce data. Data-rendered insights can help us recognise candidates’ career possibilities more quickly. The work is organised in a more efficient way so more time can be spend on maintaining personal contacts. That is the essence of Human Forward.’
‘People are often influenced by
their own ambitions
and that tends to cloud their judgement.’
What will digital transformation mean for Finance at Randstad?
Schirmer: ‘Our organisation structure is relatively flat and most of our staff operate locally, in their own country and in their own market. Each of the subsidiaries has a robust finance department. But the strategic and policy decisions are made here, at our Amsterdam headquarters where company-wide tasks in the area of governance, taxation and treasury are centred as well. We are, of course, at the forefront of digital transformation and one of our core missions is to make life easier for our international colleagues. Here at our headquarters we have a comprehensive birds’ eye view of countries and silos and that means we can see much more than our colleagues abroad.’
Vazquez: ‘We help them by no longer preparing the closing month but by giving them real time access to all kinds of data and KPIs and other data relevant to them. The step from static, fixed time reporting to a much more fluid real time assessment has been a major one. Finance still checks the rear view mirror from time to time but it’s a quick, automated glance. We focus on the future more than anything else, for instance by means of algorithms, and on how we can best anticipate developments.’
Does that new role put you in charge of the bridge?
Vazquez: ‘Yes. And to broaden the metaphor, we can now plot a course avoiding the icebergs, whereas in the past we could only report nothing bad happened on the journey.’
Schirmer: ‘I like the way technology not only makes fewer mistakes than humans but is also capable of a more objective judgement because it is based on data and nothing else. People are always influenced by their own ambitions – including in the board room. And that tends to cloud their judgement.’
If your colleagues can access the relevant data themselves what added value can Finance offer?
Schirmer: ‘We are not only holding up a mirror. We also advise and provide relevant solutions. Think of us as a car navigation system that tells you there’s a traffic jam ahead and how to avoid it. We used to be data poor, now we are data rich. The next step is to become data intelligent.’
How does Randstad acquire the know-how needed not only to make digital transformation happen but to be a pioneer in the field?
Vazquez: ‘In three ways. Firstly, we stimulate local innovation. Secondly, we support the Digital Factory, our laboratory for innovative and preferably scalable projects. And thirdly, we invest in startups active in HR tech via our own innovation fund. We are currently helping 17 companies. One of these is Cruchr, which specialises in people-analytics, developing tools which will give companies a better insight in their human capital. Crunchr is working on a cloud-based solution for HR reporting and workforce analysis, something we are very interested in. The use of people analytics in our sector is in its infancy but the applications are promising.’
‘Data-rendered insights can help us recognise candidates’
Last year you overtook Adecco as global market leader. Did you throw a big party?
Schirmer: ‘Ha ha, no, perhaps a very small one. It’s not size that matters but speed and manoeuverability. If you constantly think about how big Randstad is you might become complacent. We would rather think of ourselves as lots of small units, able to react quickly to the needs of the market. It’s the human scale that matters in this business. That is the way it has been for the last 60 years and it has made us what we are today.’
€ 23,8 billion
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