Every company is a technology company in today’s business environment. And, every company will face disruption, given the pace of technology innovation. Either your company will be the cause, or it will be forced to deal with the effects. Regardless, technology disruption is now a fact of business.
So, you’re in your office watching the wave of disruption building off in the distance. Artificial intelligence, drones, robotics, machine learning… Maybe it hasn’t hit you yet, but you know it’s just a matter of time. What does a CEO do to gracefully lead their company through incorporating these technologies into day-to-day operations? How do you decide which specific solution to adopt? When is it actually time to make the leap?
We discuss these questions with Joan Guillory, CEO of GSquared Group, and her Managing Partner, Jennifer Mitchell. They run an INC 5000 award winning IT staffing company. So, they are looking at these questions from two angles—participants in the technology industry and operators of their own growing talent search firm.
Become Technically Fluent
As a CEO, to lead effectively through disruption, one must understand the underlying technology. Joan explains, “Ten years ago, IT, or technology, was just a support group. And now, it is a critical piece of a business. A competitive differentiator, and we see that across the industries.” Because IT is now a strategic concern, in order to make thoughtful decisions, high level executives are now compelled to become technically fluent in a way that was simply not necessary before. They can’t just delegate to an expert; the decisions are simply too important.
For example, in Gsquared’s case, artificial intelligence is the technology most likely to disrupt recruiting in the near future. Instead of having a human process each resume in a talent search, new “digital recruiters” are using machine learning, neuro-linguistic programming, and other algorithms to perform the initial screening, leaving people to review a narrower field of pre-qualified candidates.
A January article from the HR Technologist says, “Intelligent recruitment platforms incorporate [a] combination of elements that enables a digital recruiter to recognize specific employer requirements, identify the best potential candidates, and initiate intelligent matching based on employer criteria. A fully functional digital recruiter eliminates the need to examine each candidate’s resume or application. Employer-based parameters will be used in the matching process encompassing experience, skills, expected salary, education, internships or any other desired requirement. Employers and HR departments can then discern if the potential candidate provides the expected value to the company.”
Joan and Jennifer understand how this technology works and are following it carefully. They know what potential solutions are being developed and where the solutions will be integrated into their current operations. Although they haven’t adopted them yet, they have a plan.
Project Into the Future
Let’s go back into that quiet moment in your office where you are thinking about the technology tsunami that’s building in the distance. You are not alone. Joan says, “It’s been on my mind for quite a while now.” She and her team have taken some concrete steps. In addition to “going deep” technically, Joan and Jennifer have done some extrapolation and expect some aggressive consolidation in the staffing industry.
Projecting into the future, Jennifer says, “We’re in that transition phase, and we’re at a tipping point where a lot of these smaller companies cannot survive. They cannot survive with one or two people. They just cannot survive. They are having a hard time scaling. So, they are very interested in consolidation. There’s also the other side of that, of companies that have been very well established. Their executives are nearing retirement or they are just ready, they see the market, they’re ready to get out of the market.”
Even better, they’ve consulted some experts who have helped them quantify the task of surviving this consolidation. Joan shares the most critical insight, “I’m very fortunate that one of the individuals who’s involved with the staffing industry analysis [lives] here in town. So, I’ve been able to leverage his talent and expertise. It’s almost like there’s a magical number. He said, there’s two factors. The amount of people — the amount of money, the revenue that you have. Once you get to that ten million mark, you have a solid framework to boost up.” This data gives her team a clear watermark for the sustainability of her company.
Culture is Still Number 1
The main thing is still the main thing—culture. Despite the pressures of artificial intelligence, acquisitions, doubling or tripling in size, culture is still number one. “That’s on my mind every single day because the hardest part is scaling, but not losing the culture,” Joan says.
How do they intend to maintain their culture? By making healthy relationships their primary motive. There’s a tremendous amount of data that’s being gathered to feed the algorithms to support digital recruiting. “Right now, as it sits today, your resume, your information, goes into a large database. Who knows what happens to it. With AI and machine learning, you are opting in and providing more information about yourself, as an individual, as a candidate,” Jennifer mentions.
That data can be used in either a transactional way or in a way that furthers the relationship. GSquared continues to focus on relationships and making this the cornerstone of their culture, even in the midst of the impersonal shift to artificial intelligence. It’s about tailoring to preferences rather than driving to dollars. “AI will help because it’s going to be a way to engage them in the way they like to be engaged… that’s a part of our consultative model,” Jennifer moves on to say.
Maintaining these beliefs as the company scales will be a product of transparency and consistency. Jennifer repeats the themes we hear often on the show, “[The culture] has to be ingrained in everything that you do. Every piece and form of communication. It is not just about putting in a formal training program…It’s living, breathing it. It’s leading by example.”
Back to your office again. You see the technology disruption tsunami in the distance. But, you’ve gotten clear on the technical details of what’s in the wave; you’ve projected out to what it means for you and your company; you’ve gotten clear on how to maintain your culture at its core. You take a deep breath and know everything will be fine. Now, on to the next problem.