It’s a transparent world

#people  #purpose  #performance

The Adecco Group has embraced the digital world with both arms. And has also, as CEO Alain Dehaze explains, signed on to an ongoing revolution in the way that people work.

Text: Eric Johnson | Images: Markus Bertschi | Magazine: Trust in the Digital Age – December 2017

Has the importance of trust changed from what it was?

Some would say that trust is the new currency of the digital age. Back when the Internet was less omnipresent, our business depended on a physical, personal trust between job candidates and our colleagues as well as between our colleagues and our customers. Those relationships of course still exist and are very important, but now trust has broadened out to include the entire company and its systems. Candidates and customers entrust us with highly personal, sensitive information: they need to be certain that all of the Adecco Group will guard that and not abuse it. So, for instance, we’ve introduced some best-in-class cybersecurity measures to strengthen the protection of our candidates and our customers’ data.

Could trust be a competitive factor?

It is for sure something that could differentiate us from small and medium-sized competitors, who might lack the scale to be best-in-class with their IT systems. Our level of expertise in compliance across different jurisdictions is also giving us a competitive edge over some of the new market entrants, especially in digital. Our customers trust us to get that right because of our global expertise. On the other side of the equation, though, today we face much greater reputational risk than we did before. Events are much more global and transparent than they were: if something happens in one of the 60 countries where we operate, everyone knows about it in minutes. So, it is more important than ever that our candidates and our customers can trust us.

“Trust is the new currency of the digital age.”

With the upsurge in robots and artificial intelligence, can office workers trust in future that they will have jobs?

Agriculture provides a good example. Around the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, about 40% of the US workforce was employed in this sector. Today it employs about 2% of workers – yet it feeds a far larger population, and the American unemployment rate is at a historic low! This shift was thanks to mechanisation and automation, so I am very optimistic that new technology will create entire new industries and new kinds of jobs, just as it has in the past.

The rub, of course, is synchronisation. To avoid major upsets, the timing of workforce supply and demand must be kept reasonably in balance. And that’s where we come in: upskilling, reskilling, deploying and redeploying people so that they can embrace the new economy. The Adecco Group sees all this as an opportunity in a changing world of work, both for our company and for our clients, candidates and associates, and we are using artificial intelligence also to improve our own productivity.

AI-enabled tools help free up our people to do what they are really good at – building relationships and delivering service excellence to candidates, associates and clients.

Belgian born-and-raised, 54-year-old Alain Dehaze became CEO of the Adecco Group in late 2015, after holding numerous senior roles in the company since 2009. Prior to that he worked for several professional service firms, and before that at consumer-products giant Henkel and facility-services supplier ISS. Outside the Adecco Group, Dehaze chairs the Global Apprenticeship Network and sits on the International Labor Organization’s Global Commission on the Future of Work. The father of four grown up children keeps a photo of his wife and their progeny on his smartphone’s screensaver; one of the far-flung family’s ways of keeping up is via their own group chat.

With the ongoing decline in workforce numbers, surely automation is needed?

In some countries – Brazil, China, Germany, for example, we’re seeing a drastic shrinkage of the workforce. Japan is losing one million workers per year to retirements. They have lost six million so far, and in the next five years they will lose another five million. Automation can help plug this gap. So, too, can a more flexible workforce – this is reality, not just hype. The best example is Germany, which is among the top five countries in robotisation. We do 30% of our German revenues with car manufacturers, one of the most robotised industries. We supplied skilled workers, who often after working temporarily for us, end up being hired full-time by the automakers.

Speaking of hiring – hasn’t that process changed a lot through social media?

Society is becoming ever more transparent, and the younger generation wants transparency. When looking for a job in the past, you would have a reference check with schools and former employers. We still do this, but we also recognise the role of social media. Candidates are more exposed, and thus visible to recruiters like us who are embracing social media. Social media enables us to attract more candidates and helps us to find more work and training opportunities for them.

“Our job is to upskill, reskill, deploy and redeploy people so they can embrace the new economy.”

Is the job market more competitive, thanks to the Internet?

For certain jobs that are highly skilled and highly international, this is true. Candidates can come from most anywhere and go most anywhere. Nationalities are less important than they were. For instance, here at the Adecco Group headquarters in Zurich, we have 30 nationalities among around 200 colleagues. And young people are more mobile than they were. My four children, for example, work in three different countries, and none of those is Switzerland. The Internet and digitisation is also opening up fantastic new frontiers and huge opportunities for our industry, with apps and chatbots creating new areas of growth, improving how we work, and giving our customers the tools they need to succeed in the digital age.

Employer-rating websites have confronted your customers with transparency, right?

Ratings platforms provide wonderful ways for potential employees to get to know possible employers. They allow candidates to screen companies according to criteria of their own personal importance. One of our group’s ambitions is to be and to remain a great place to work – this is a competitive advantage. When one of my sons began looking for full employment, he was unsure of which direction to choose, so he simply selected the 50 best places to work, and then applied only to those. We want to have that kind of reputation and trust among employees and potential employees.

The Adecco Group is the world’s largest ‘workforce solutions’ firm, with revenues of nearly US dollars 23 billion and some 33,000 full-time employees in 60 countries. In its main pillar of temporary staffing, the company provides more than 700,000 people with permanent and flexible employment every day in 59 countries plus 1 million in China alone. Operating under brands such as Adecco Staffing, Modis, Spring Professional, Badenoch & Clark, Pontoon, Lee Hecht Harrison, Adia and Yoss, the Adecco Group does recruitment, outplacement, outsourcing, training and consulting. The company ranked number two among the ‘World’s Best Multinational Workplaces’ and 2nd among the ‘Best Multinational Workplaces in Europe’ in 2017, as published by Great Place to Work®.

What about salary transparency, that’s coming as well, isn’t it?

My salary is already transparent, and the forerunner in this area is Scandinavia. In Norway, for instance, all tax returns are published online. All you need is a smartphone, and you can find out exactly how much your neighbour or your colleague or anybody else earns. One of the key criteria of being a great place to work is transparency. People want to be able to trust, but they also want proof that their company is trustworthy. Transparency is proof of trust.

How do you personally use social media?

I have a public role; I need to be transparent. So, I am on social media channels, and I know that my activity is out in the open. The technology I’m really waiting for is holography. If I can replicate myself as a hologram, then I can reduce my travelling time and truly be in two places at once.

Transparency engenders trust; and the same applies to everyday work in the offices at Adecco Switzerland’s headquarters. © Adecco

Alain Dehaze
Short questions – short answers

What’s your favourite app?
Adia, Adecco’s new end-to-end online HR platform for clients and candidates.

Can you still remember your very first mobile phone? Which model was it?
A Motorola StarTAC.

What kind of screen saver do you have?
A photo of me and my family.