Former football player Dean Forbes is the CEO of Cork-based tech company CoreHR. Here, he discusses the future of work, the freelance economy and what top recruiters need to know.
While some of the most senior thought leaders in HR might have clocked up years of experience in HR and recruitment, other leading experts can glean invaluable experience from other areas.
“When I left school, I was playing professional football so I was very fortunate to start by achieving my main dream at that point.” Forbes played for Crystal Palace but when his last contract ended and he didn’t get signed, he needed to find his way in the world of work.
“I had a number of sales jobs to begin with in small organisations and those worked out pretty well.” Indeed, Forbes said those small companies became big ones before they were ultimately acquired.
“I ended up running the European sales arm of an American software company called Primavera,” he said. “When I joined, we were 12 people. Over a six-year period, we grew that team of 12 to 120.”
Primavera was then sold to Oracle and Forbes remained there for a couple of years before a more dynamic opportunity presented itself in the form of French software company KDS.
As CEO, Forbes grew KDS for seven years before it was acquired by American Express. Once again, it was time for something different. That’s when he was presented with the opportunity to join CoreHR, which has “a lot of the hallmarks of the previous two projects” he had worked on.
CoreHR, a leading provider of cloud HR and payroll solutions, is headquartered in Cork. It currently has 330 employees and services customers in 16 different companies.
As CEO of a HR tech company, Forbes said he is extremely excited watching HR technology transition from its administrative legacy of payroll and holiday requests to something much more forward-thinking.
“How much of that talent do we have today? Where are we going to find that talent tomorrow? What are the expectations of that talent? How do we make the most of it? These are the questions that HR technology is really striving to answer,” he said.
The gig economy
One of the biggest trends emerging in the future of work right now is the freelancer and gig economy. Forbes said this is a hugely positive trend for everyone, provided they can come to terms with it.
“Like any new concept or way of working, it takes us all a little bit of time to become accustomed to it,” he said. “It gives people an opportunity to work in a more flexible and self-serving manner.” This, he said, would be beneficial to those who are balancing work with childcare needs, other interests or projects outside of work.
Forbes said that not only can the freelance economy be positive for those who want flexibility, but it can be a great opportunity for employers to try out specialist skills without the long-term commitment of employment.
“For employers, sometimes we need very specialist skills but we’re not sure how long we need those skills for,” he said. “It’s a tremendously flexible new model – we just have to come to terms with it.”
He also said the gig economy shouldn’t be something we have to protect against because it should always be a choice. “It’s a choice an individual makes to freelance. It’s a choice an employer makes to take advantage of freelance skills.”
Forbes advised those making the move to freelance to ensure they understand the cons (competitive market) as well as the pros (flexibility).
War for talent
While the future of work is changing many aspects around recruitment and HR, one challenge remains constant: the raging war for top talent.
“The emergence of really smart talent in the marketplace and the competitiveness for that talent makes recruiters now talent-focused and not employer-focused,” said Forbes.
“In the sports world, the agent represents the athlete, never the football club or basketball team.” And, when it comes down to it, who should the recruiter really represent?
“The best ones are the people that I can call and say: ‘I need a person shaped like this,’ and they already know who that is because they’re constantly engaged with those individuals and because they represent them and not us.”