Introducing our new CEO, Nigel Kirkham
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null Introducing our new CEO, Nigel Kirkham
Introducing our new CEO, Nigel Kirkham
Nigel Kirkham recently joined Enterprise Solutions as our CEO. As he approached the one-month mark, we asked Nigel to reflect on his time at Hays, as well as share his vision and ambitions for the future of both our organisation, and the clients we partner with.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.
A: In a nutshell, my career has been focused on helping businesses grow. I started my working life in sales. I used to sell first-generation office automation technology for General Electric many years ago. One of my prospects happened to be KPMG. While they didn’t buy the tech from me, they offered me a role as a junior consultant – which I took, and I didn’t look back.
After a decade with the giants, I teamed up with a small group of partners and bought a company, a small project management business called OSI. During our tenure, we transformed the organisation into a full range IT services business, which was later sold and rebranded to Xansa. I spent several years with Xansa, including a stint in the ‘Big Apple’ overseeing the consulting practice.
Fast forward a few years and I found myself at Avanade, the Microsoft-Accenture joint venture, as their Global Head of Sales. I was tasked with the transformation of their go-to-market strategy, moving from knocking on doors to a digitally driven, account management strategy.
My most recent role, prior to joining Hays, was at the TMF Group as their Chief Revenue Officer.
Outside of work, I’m a keen artist with a studio in Cornwall, UK. In the last few years, I have found a niche in the form of ‘surfboard art’, taking end-of-life boards that would be heading to landfill, repairing them and using as canvases.
My (grown-up) children, Toby and Milly, are both making their way in the world of work. My daughter in the world of technology and my son in the film industry. And finally, I’ve got two wire-haired dachschunds with my partner, Daisy. Enough to keep us all busy!
Q: What motivated you to join Hays?
A: I see in Hays the same kind of challenges that I’ve faced in other organisations, notably Avanade and in TMF. Based on these previous experiences, I know that I can help to make a difference here.
Many of our clients are global businesses, and they want to see a consistent service from a single partner. Multiple touchpoints and differing approaches across regions create frustration for our customers. We’re on that change journey, reshaping and realigning our global service offering to ensure our customers are at the heart of everything we do.
As CEO, I see my role as one of bringing people along on the journey together and showcasing the benefits that will come as a result of this change. The talent and dedication of our people is evident across the business – my responsibility is simply(!) to channel this passion in order to drive the business forward.
Listen, learn – and then lead.
Q: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about Hays since joining the company?
A: This is an easy one – I've been astonished by the sheer tenure of so many people across the organisation. In my first fifteen days, I’ve had over 100 meetings. One of the first questions I always ask is how long the person has been with Hays. I’d say 95% of Hays people have recorded upwards of 15- or 20-years' service.
I’ve never worked in an organisation where there is such loyalty to the brand. I’ve since learnt that this sense of teamwork and ‘togetherness’ is aptly named the ‘Hays spirit’.
There’s a real sense that anything is possible when it comes to your career. The service of so many is testament to the fact that people enjoy working here, and that the organisation encourages mobility across both functions and locations.
Complementing this deep understanding is a regular injection of talent across the business. The blend of fresh thinking with extensive knowledge about what we do is what makes us stand out from our competitors.
Q: What is your vision for the next 12 months as CEO of Enterprise Solutions?
A: Truthfully, it’s probably a little early to commit categorically to a vision, or indeed huge amounts of change.
However, broadly speaking, my vision for Hays is to do more, be more and achieve more for our customers. We’ve got a fantastic portfolio of clients across the globe – some of the greatest companies and most recognisable brands are working in partnership with Hays to source the talent they need.
We’re currently supporting these clients with their various workforce needs, but there is enormous potential to do more with each and every one of them and ensure we are proactive in adding value to our relationships.
I call this the ‘white space’ opportunity that we can go after. I’m challenging my colleagues across Hays to drive the conversation with these clients about their needs – both now and in the future.
The opportunities (and challenges) are seemingly endless. Take the decarbonisation targets and regulations signed by major cities across the globe as an example. Hitting these agreements will require specialist skillsets to ensure the decarbonisation of our urban environments, and these ‘green’ resources are in short supply.
Q: In your opinion, what are some of the key challenges facing our customers in the months ahead?
A: We are all living through some of the biggest disruptions to our working and personal lives. While the most tangible impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have largely subsided, in its place we are seeing growing geopolitical instability across the globe, which has prompted rising costs in raw materials and inflation rates.
Despite the uncertainty of our economic and socio-political landscape, the world of work remains optimistic. A survey of global Chief Information Officers, conducted by KPMG, found that although many leaders anticipate a recession in some form, the majority remain fairly optimistic regarding the global economy as a whole – as well as the growth of their own organisation.
But this instability is impacting the way in which we source and support talent across the workforce lifecycle. While there are indicators that the Great Resignation is ‘on its way out’, the mass movement (and for many, exodus) from the workforce has created a shortage of skills.
Competition for the best candidates is fierce, and retaining this talent presents a whole host of additional complexities. Conversely, a narrow focus on cutting jobs while maintaining productivity will be hugely detrimental to the growth agenda of an organisation, not to mention the morale of a workforce that has endured enormous upheaval over the last few years.
We’re also seeing a rise in the number of contingent workers engaging with organisations on a per-project basis. Talent Acquisition teams will need to draw across a greater range of suppliers in order to shape a workforce strategy that leverages the best of both the permanent and non-permanent skillsets.
It’s a tricky balancing act for businesses to navigate alone. Here at Hays, we’re partnering with our clients to provide the insights, support and solutions which scale to their needs.
Q: Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) is perhaps the ‘hottest’ topic of conversation at the moment. What role do you think technology will play in shaping how we partner with our customers?
A: Of course, it’s difficult to predict what the world will look like, even in the near future. We’re hearing vociferous voices from tech leaders in seemingly opposite camps almost every day.
What I do think we can agree on, however, is that in the face of continued talent shortages, many companies will be looking for ways to streamline their hiring processes, cutting administrative costs wherever possible.
Automation will enable teams to eliminate the elements of ‘busy work’, enabling recruiters and sourcing specialists to refocus their efforts into the more nuanced and ‘human’ elements of talent acquisition. Consider the time spent producing job specs or answering questions from candidates – and the impact on time-to-hire with the support of a sophisticated chatbot.
Disruptive AI will also create a huge number of jobs, in ways we likely haven’t even imagined yet. We’ll need to support our customers in identifying the skills needed for a new tomorrow, where digital is at the heart of everything they do.
While we can’t paint the full picture just yet, I think it’s important to focus on the opportunity at hand. AI can absorb the time-consuming or repetitive parts of thousands of roles, giving us time to focus on more strategic or creative pursuits. With research indicating that 80% of jobs have the potential to incorporate generative AI technology and capabilities, I think it’s a case of ‘leaning in’ and seeing what’s possible.
McKinsey captured the sentiment perfectly for me when they stated ‘the genie is out of the bottle, and it’s probably not a wise strategy to try and put it back in’. There is a shared responsibility across leading technology providers, government regulators and business leaders to define how we use it in ways that are productive – but also safe.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received during your career?
A: The best piece of advice I've been given is to never make big decisions or enforce seismic changes too early. I tend to live by the 100-day rule: within the first 100-days, don’t make any big decisions, because they are very likely to be wrong.
Most large businesses are very complex machines with lots of moving parts. During the period of discovery, where you are meeting people, understanding how the business operates, how people interact and deliver products or services, it’s very easy to think you’ve spotted the key issue to change within the first few days or weeks.
My advice: don’t. Wait until you’ve triangulated other data points and perspectives. Build a holistic view of the business, then make your move.
And because I've discussed the importance of adding value, I’d like to offer a second piece of advice – to communicate. Very often, I think leaders overlook the importance of regular, open communication to their teams, and also the wider business.
Best case scenario: people aren’t sure what’s going on. Worst case, they feel isolated and as though they are working in a vacuum, forcing them to draw their own conclusions.
Whether it’s townhalls, newsletters, blogs, emails – keep things short, sharp and regular.
Q: If you could have dinner with anyone – past or present – who would it be and why?
A: I’ll try not to make a habit of changing the rules, but similar to the pieces of advice, I’d like to have two guests at the dinner table.
The first would be my father so that I could say a proper goodbye. Sadly, he passed away when I was 21. At the time, I was backpacking with some friends around India, Pakistan and Nepal. In those days, you couldn’t even call home from a landline without pre-booking the call, and this was a process that could take up to a day.
My mother had sent an urgent telegram to Chennai, which was the only place she knew that I’d be during our stint in India because we had tickets for the England v India Cricket Test Match. I waited four hours for a call to connect, only to be told that my father had passed two weeks earlier. I’d love the opportunity to see him and talk about everything that has happened since.
The second person who would get a place at the table is Larry David, the creator of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’, and the co-creator of Seinfield. He’s both a genius and a giant in the world of comedy, so he’d be an entertaining dinner guest! I’d love to ask him how he comes up with the scripts that he writes for ‘Curb’.
Looking to the future
Here at Hays, we’re excited about the journey that Nigel will lead us on as CEO of Enterprise Solutions.