Randstad RiseSmart: Moving talent and businesses forward

Randstad RiseSmart MD Alison Hernandez in The Australian Business Executive

The world’s fastest-growing career transition and talent mobility provider, Randstad RiseSmart partners with companies across the globe to help them improve engagement, strengthen their brands, and become employers of choice.

Managing Director for Randstad RiseSmart APAC, Alison Hernandez, leads a growing team of more than 330 coaches, resume writers, sales and marketing professionals, and practice and delivery experts. With inclusion and diversity at the core of her being, Alison is a gender pay equity ambassador and winner of numerous leadership awards. In 2004, Alison co-founded a specialist consultancy called Sageco, which was acquired by Randstad in 2017, launching the RiseSmart business in Australia. Since then, she’s developed a global network within Randstad and is well-respected for her career transition expertise both locally and internationally. Alison spoke to us recently about the various acquisitions that led to the creation of Randstad RiseSmart, the high quantity of invisible talent hidden inside organisations around the world, and the changes in employment uncertainty that are once more creating a war for talent.

Global workforce

“Randstad is a global leader in the HR services industry,” Alison says. “Founded back in 1960 and headquartered over in the Netherlands, Randstad currently is active in over 38 markets around the world and has a top 3 position in about half of those markets.”

The company has a global workforce of over 35,000 employees and posts annual revenues of over €20bn. Randstad’s overall ambition is to touch the lives of 500 million people by the year 2030. In 2020 alone, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Randstad helped 2 million candidates find a meaningful job and supported over 230,000 customers.

“RiseSmart was founded in Silicon Valley back in 2007, and was acquired by the Randstad Innovation Fund in 2015. Since that time, RiseSmart has expanded to deliver solutions in over 90 countries globally, and we work with over 3,000 customers providing talent mobility solutions.”

RiseSmart is engaged by organisations across the public and private sectors to support their employees and their careers as they go from beginning to new beginning, offering a range of services, such a career development, reskilling, redeployment, career transition, and outplacement.

Randstad RiseSmart was ultimately born out of the creation of specialist consultancy Sageco, the roots of which began in 2000, when Alison was appointed Career Transition Director for the Sydney Organising Committee for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games (SOCOG), where she worked with over 2500 employees.

“The CEO [of SOCOG] at that time, Sandy Hollway was a visionary. He actually launched an inaugural career transition program for the employees of the Olympic Games, with a view to wanting to engage and retain those key employees to deliver the best games ever – which we still claim – and then to support them with their life beyond Sydney 2000.”

Working within the HR and Employee Relations team during this role, Alison met and connected with Catriona Byrne, who is now the Creative Director for Randstad RiseSmart APAC. Together, they began to research global gaps in the market.

Randstad RiseSmart editorial image
The world’s fastest-growing career transition and talent mobility provider, Randstad RiseSmart partners with companies across the globe to help them improve engagement, strengthen their brands, and become employers of choice

“One of the areas that we became very passionate about was supporting people in late career. We knew there was a backdrop of an aging workforce – a significant, unprecedented demographic change sweeping the globe – and yet organisations were not focusing on or investing in their older workers.”

The niche play they arrived at was the launch of Sageco in 2004, looking to fill this gap and bring to the market solutions around an aging workforce, supporting people in their late career and those transitioning into their retirement plans. This remains a core component of the business today.

“There is invisible talent in organisations, and organisations really don’t know what skills and knowledge and experience they have in-house. If that talent is not seen clearly by you, it may be seen by others, and they will opt to create their new beginning with another organisation, rather than embracing opportunities within yours.”

When looking at skill profiling of employees, the visible elements tend to be only the tip of the iceberg, these being the skills and experiences visible in the workplace. There are huge amounts of hidden skills, experiences, passions and natural talents sitting below the surface.

“Organisations continuously search externally for talent, when the person with the will and the skill to do the job could be sitting right under our nose. Where RiseSmart comes in to support organisations is with that mobility of the talent that you already have, and really embracing the opportunity to make that invisible talent visible.”

This is achieved by a mix of skill profiling, online access, and algorithms designed to match people to opportunities, and opportunities to people. On top of that, the company supports employees in their future plans, both professionally and holistically.

“When we look at the future of work,” Alison explains, “it’s about bringing your whole self to work. It’s about organisations being able to support people, inside and outside of the workplace.”

In 2004, Alison co-founded a specialist consultancy called Sageco, which was acquired by Randstad in 2017, launching the RiseSmart business in Australia

The new war for talent

The employment and training sector is facing significant changes at the moment, many of which were highlighted in the publication of 2020’s Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

“Last year [WEF] research showed that 43% of organisations are still intending to reduce their workforce, which could impact 85m jobs around the world. However, 41% of employers intend to counter this, stating that they have an intention to increase the use of contractors and gig workers – a more flexible and potentially borderless workforce.”

This data is even more significant in the context of the ‘robotics revolution’, which is predicted to create 97m new jobs – largely in the environmental and tech sectors, across roles like content creation, product development and cloud computing. There does, however, still seem to be a big focus on the soft skills of human interaction.

“What we’re seeing now, as we go into 2021, the pendulum is swinging from a place of uncertainty and radical cost-cutting measures, which have ranged from standing down employees to making people redundant. Organisations are now focusing on rebuilding, on talent acquisition, and on setting the organisation up for growth in the future.”

As far as the industry is concerned, there is likely to be a massive shift in the levels of available staff in the market. Organisations will need to be more creative in how they engage, up-skill, re-skill and internally deploy the talent they’ve got.

“The war for talent is coming back,” Alison explains. “Simply put, there may not be a steady flow of available talent out in the market to fill the jobs as organisations resume their growth plan.”

Alison believes that the key to navigating the modern world of employment for those in executive positions is to ‘fit your own oxygen mask first’ and develop your own career so that you can support those around you.

“As an executive, we should be leading the re-skilling revolution, investing in ourselves, being able to consciously and intentionally take a step back, away from the day-to-day working in the business to really focus on working on the business.”

Executives should aim to become more informed on a wider range of topics, whether that is digitisation and technology, diversity and inclusion, or leadership skills. Alison believes it is important for executives to take their own advice and invest in their own re-skilling and continuous learning.

As a world-leading provider of talent mobility, Randstad has all the attributes needed to help employees and businesses navigate the new war for jobs

“I can step up there and say that in recent years I’ve had the great pleasure of being nominated to attend the Randstad Global Senior Executive Program, where they have partnered for many years with Insead [Business School] in France and TIAS [School for Business and Society] in the Netherlands.”

Alison took part in a one-year senior executive program in 2019, which culminated in a pitch to the executive board of Randstad for a solution. The project she worked on was advanced as a new re-skilling solution, and will be launched in 2021. This year she will also attend a transformational leadership course with Randstad at London Business School. 

“It’s hard to find the time to invest in these things,” she says. “The urgent always takes over from the important. But the re-skilling and the learning is a continuous journey, and it is very important.”

Another important piece of advice she gives is to be prepared to challenge your own thinking, as well as inviting others to challenge you. What has worked in the past for executives and leaders may not work the same way in the future.

“I guess my mantra has always been to surround myself with the very brightest and most capable and passionate people, and then give them as much freedom in the frame as possible. I like to think that I’m empowering my people to be able to innovate and create and also take informed risks, and even fall over and fail, because that’s where the richest learning is.”

As a passionate inclusion activist, Alison would like to see more executives investing in inclusive leadership behaviours and being role models for this from the very top, allowing leaders to truly lead from the front.

“We’re going to see a significant increase in the focus on talent mobility solutions going forward,” she concludes. “We are seeing a huge surge in appetite across the public and the private sector to help them find creative, innovative, scalable, consistent, and cost-effective solutions to how we support employees through their career-life course. Organisations that do invest in pro-active support for employees, at any age or life stage, will most certainly position themselves to compete more effectively for talent in the future.”

As a world-leading provider of talent mobility, Randstad has all the attributes needed to help employees and businesses navigate the new war for jobs. Find out more about Randstad RiseSmart by visiting www.randstadrisesmart.com


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