I can still recall the resistance to fax machines at Randstad. I’m talking about no more than 25 years ago. They came anyway. Did fax technology change our core mission? No. In essence, our job is still quite simple: directing people who are looking for work to companies that are looking for people. And vice-versa. Everything we do is focused on people and work. After all, work plays a pivotal role in all our lives. Work allows self-sufficiency and is a way to find fulfilment. Our logo – as open arms – remains the symbol of those values, our mission or ‘purpose’. More than half a century after our foundation, we still keep our promise of ‘good to know you’ each and every day. We get to know people properly and are reliable in helping them.
“It would irresponsible not to use technology, if it helps us to bring people closer together.”
If this core remains unchanged, then why change our brand promise to ‘Human Forward’? Because now, in year 2017, the impact of the digital revolution is far greater than the arrival of the fax machine. Technology is evolving so exponentially fast that the processes and the ‘how’ in our work cannot be left behind. And because candidates and companies also live, work and want to be given help in the same digital world. Contrary to what some people say, this digital reality is not a threat. It’s an opportunity. It makes the lives of those seeking work, employers and our own staff much easier. A consultant can reach thirty potential candidates with a single WhatsApp message. The days of having to make thirty phone calls are gone for ever. Digitisation and increased efficiency means more time can be invested in the human relationship. This connection between people is so important to us that we will use it as the focus in our branding. That’s the essence of Human Forward.
Real relationships do not come from algorithms: they develop with personal involvement. When my grown-up daughter says she will be eating at home, but then changes her mind after just 45 seconds on her smartphone, this says a lot about the impact of technology on her decision-making process. But little about the human depth of her contacts. It’s not because she reacts rapidly with her friends that she will then treat them less personally. It’s just the same in the process of matching candidates to companies. It would be insane, and indeed irresponsible, not to use technology when it helps us bring our clients, candidates and staff closer together.
Furthermore, big data and intelligent algorithms can reveal patterns and links that we humans would never notice. Forgetting ethics and privacy for one moment, just suppose that stacks of data were to show that truck drivers were potentially great violinists. With this knowledge, our consultant will know in which target- group – drivers in this case – to go looking for a violinist for the chamber orchestra. It sounds absurd, but this demonstrates that technology can make our work more meaningful. Of course, the ultimate question remains: does that truck driver actually wish to be a violinist? At such crucial moments, our human intuition, gut feeling and human knowledge still always makes the difference. Who knows what 2080 will bring? No-one. Yet I still believe that people will continue to perform a relevant role and add the appropriate input. Bottom line: our job will continue to evolve, just as the human angle will continue to become more important. That, once again, is the essence of Human Forward.
At Randstad we’re acutely aware of the generation pitfall. Are technocrats a step ahead of technophobics? Is anybody, regardless of age or origins, able to integrate the digital world in his or her life? It is our social responsibility to keep this vulnerable group as small as possible. Randstad has no simple ‘cure-all’ solution, but we do have the experience and knowledge to connect both realities in one way or another. Our group relies on ‘bricks & clicks’. Offices will never entirely disappear from the scene, as long as people still need to open the door for themselves. Forgive us because we, as people or as a company, will never be completely perfect. What a bonus though for all our staff, clients and candidates, that we - as Belgium’s largest HR service-supplier providing work to the greatest number of agency workers - receive the fewest complaints. That’s what the ACV, as Christian trade union, confirmed to us after analysing all their complaints from agency workers. That too is Human Forward.
Eddy Annys – Managing Director, Randstad Belgium