A bald, smiling man with glasses in a patterned brown suit against a bright background.
Jim Link. Image: Randstad North America

Randstad HR chief on why companies need to ditch the bureaucracy

23 May 2019

Jim Link is the chief human resources officer of Randstad North America.

Randstad is a global leader in the human resources (HR) services industry, so it’s only natural that its North America chief HR officer (CHRO) would have a unique insight into what the future holds for the sector and what industry professionals need to know.

Jim Link oversees all aspects of HR for Randstad North America and is a well-known thought leader in the field of human capital. Here, Link talks about the importance of utilising technology to assess human capability and the risk of falling behind in the HR world.

Tell us a bit about your career background.

I have had the privilege of working in some of the best human resources organisations in the world including GE, Pillsbury, Porsche and Randstad. My experience has primarily focused on human resources, although I’ve done significant work in acquisitions and mergers as well. Throughout my career, my efforts have been directed toward ensuring companies understand the strategic intersection between business outcomes and human capability. Those two components come together nicely in my current role as the head of human resources at Randstad.

What are the biggest HR challenges facing Randstad right now?

Our biggest challenges are all about preparing for the world of work tomorrow. Technology has had an important and visible impact upon human resources. The ability to harness the power of technology to drive human capital strategy for our own company as well as our clients and customers is at the top of the list. As a result, we continue to identify next-level technologies that serve as a catalyst for hiring, developing, retaining and engaging the workforce of the future.

Our second challenge is workforce readiness. Today’s workforce development infrastructure is inadequate. To counter today’s talent shortage, it is important to ensure we are engaging current and future employees with skill development, career experiences and clear opportunities to thrive in an environment that is both successful for the company and engaging for the employee.

What are some of the main responsibilities of your own role, and how much of it is spent on recruitment?

My role focuses on all aspects of the employee life cycle, from attraction to retirement. In today’s post-digital environment, more of my work has been focused on building a strong employment and career destination brand that makes us a desirable place to work. Additionally, recruitment is a significant component of my role. Any organisation that is not constantly recruiting will find itself in a difficult situation in today’s tight labour market. As a result, I invest noteworthy amounts of time in brand-building, networking and sourcing emerging talent from entry level to board level. I think the single most important thing I can do as a CHRO is to ensure we have a strong pool of human capability. That pool is created with the identification of talent within our company as well as always being on the hunt for skilled individuals who are passive candidates but could very well be your employee tomorrow.

What are the HR technology trends and opportunities you’re capitalising on?

There has never been a better time to work in the human resources field. Technology has enabled us to know more about our own workforces than ever before. Likewise, technology has enabled our function’s ability to draw insight from human capital analytics, create employee experiences that really matter, and to gather and provide feedback in real time. If you aren’t already utilising technology to assess human capability and improve human performance, then you are already behind what the leaders in human resources have been doing for the last five years.

What has been the biggest culture change within Randstad in the last five years?

The most significant change has been reassessing what true leadership looks like in a new work model. Technology has changed everything and this is primarily true in what competencies are now required of leaders in a post-digital era. At Randstad, we’ve been primarily focused on ensuring we can purposefully become a digital company by carefully identifying what new leadership behaviours will get us there.

What key strategies are you using to prepare for the future of work?

Ensuring your company has a culture that encourages innovation and intrapreneurship (as opposed to entrepreneurship) is of primary importance. I see many client companies who openly express a desire for such a culture but don’t have the leadership or wherewithal to make it happen. Companies that deplore hierarchy and bureaucracy also tend to be receptive to new work models, encourage agility and reward outperformance. Most surveys will also tell you these same companies have higher profitability, higher employee engagement and higher customer satisfaction scores. At Randstad, we’ve deliberately stated our transformation goals and are holding leaders accountable for delivering on these objectives. In the end, there’s no better way to make it happen than to say where you are going and then creating the culture required to deliver the outcome.

What is the one thing you think HR teams should stop doing, or start doing differently?

HR teams tend to spend too much time focused on what’s happening right now rather than preparing for what lies ahead. I understand you can’t completely vacate the administrative component of HR in many companies. However, with the help of technology, you can partition that work in such a way that you allow those who enjoy those tasks to do them while allowing others to focus on the future of human capital.

I encourage every HR leader to ensure they have an acute and visible business acumen. Gone are the days when you could work in HR and live in relative isolation. Now, it’s important to demonstrate your capability as a business leader who also understands and values human capability, and can furthermore analytically describe the strategic connection between a business goal and the human ability to deliver.

What resources can you not live without?

I am a voracious reader and listener. I find great value in any future-focused reading to keep my thinking directed toward what might lie ahead in the next five to seven years and beyond. I consume resources such as the Harvard Business Review cover to cover every month. I also think it’s important to keep the creative juices flowing and to know what else is happening in the world, so I also read National Geographic magazine every month and never travel anywhere without a couple works of fiction at my disposal. I’m constantly browsing all the major human capital company websites for new information, and listen to podcasts like Chris Rainey’s HR Leaders podcast. I wish I could spend even more time reading, absorbing, thinking and listening. In my role, I find I need to set aside time to ensure this happens.

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