As the largest human resources (HR) firm in the world, Randstad operates 38 different markets. The business aims to bring people and work together whilst “combining technology with the human touch,” reveals Richard Tanaka, Chief Technology Innovation Officer of the company’s Japanese division. As CTIO, Tanaka defines his position as very unique: “Innovation is really the core part of my role. I find ways to bring innovation and technology into the company, and we’re specifically aiming to do that in Japan, which is why the position was established here. It’s not so much an operational role as it is more a strategic one. I do not work alone. I work and align together with the tech leaders from around the globe to leverage that we are One Randstad. There is huge collaboration at the APAC regional level, as well as at the global level.”
Within Tech and Touch, the company established a global initiative called “Digital Factory” which is already touching all parts of the world. While each country is different, with the Digital Factory, Randstad is able to re-use and share all kinds of technology. “We don’t believe in re-inventing the wheel for each country,” remarks Tanaka.
In Japan, a very technologically advanced nation, Randstad is noticing a conservative and risk-adverse approach to change. As an American who has lived in Japan for the past 17 years, Tanaka is able to bring a more western approach to the business in order to facilitate the required changes. “Japan is really great at innovating and thinking of new technology, but to actually adopt it into a working environment or an office is a little bit of a challenge. So, it’s a bit of a paradox. An important part of my role is to help facilitate the adoption of technologies, processes and ways of thinking. Mindset change is quite a bit topic at the moment,” Tanaka notes.
Despite working within a technology framed role, it is clear that Tanaka’s job is heavily change management focused. “A big part of it is the people management side, so I need to get my staff in the right mindset to be able to adopt different ways of working, accept newer technologies, or maybe even take some risks. I need to get people on board,” he says. “In order for change to happen we need to really focus on the people, and being able to give my staff the Freedom within the Frame is as exciting as much as it is not well understood.”
In 2016 the company revealed its Tech and Touch strategy, which seeks to address how the business can combine technology to better serve its candidates and clients and bring operations together. As HR is a people oriented industry, it has often remained traditional and maintained manual operations. For Randstad, introducing technology to the front line of its business strategy will bring it one step closer to meeting its mantra of ‘combining technology with the human touch’. Tanaka discloses: “We want to make technology an integral part of the way the business works, and an integral part of the way we interact with potential candidates or with our clients. Technology is all around us, so if you receive a resume on a piece of paper then you can’t very easily share it with a fellow co-worker or with a potential client or employer, so we’re striving for ways to leverage technology and innovation, such as mobile platforms, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.”
Randstad Japan is currently adopting low-coding platforms with OutSystems. “We embrace their platform and it gives us the ability to develop ideas, tools and systems in a very quick and efficient manner, at a speed that was never seen before,” remarks Tanaka. OutSystems’ offering enables Randstad to develop a system in a fraction of the time that it would have previously taken – reducing years to months to weeks. “The platform is very modular and scalable. We have it set up in nearly a dozen countries, and so we can share, for example, a design, corporate colours or branding, a layout, or even an app between the other markets. It’s all pre-packaged for us, ready to go. Having to do everything from scratch is a thing of the past – we have a very high reusability factor with what we’re doing,” he continues.
According to the CTIO, Randstad Japan is reaping the benefits of new flexible systems that feature greater access to data. The firm is able to be more data driven whilst taking advantage of the rapid adoption of mobile technology. The company is designing applications for mobile and tablets to be used by employees out in the field. “The apps will hold client data, offering the latest information and orders. All that good, valuable information will be available right at our employees’ fingertips, so no opportunity would be wasted,” says Tanaka. Through its partnership with DOMO, the firm has gained access to a data visualisation tool that has enabled data-driven decision making within the operations. By having more data-driven operations, the company can also reduce the amount of paper it uses and improve agility. “Compared to our previous functions, we had a lot of paperwork, and with the importance of personal privacy at an all-time high, most paperwork will have to be shredded,” Tanaka explains. “DOMO is allowing us to be more agile with where and how we work, and this is having a profound effect on improving our business as well as giving our clients a better experience.”
As the HR giant continues on its digital transformation journey, Tanaka highlights that technology is not the only important aspect of the evolution. “At least half of any transformation is being able to take the first step. Randstad Japan is taking its steps forward and embracing organisational change and mindset changes, and of course along with that come system changes. I think the transformation really starts with the right people and the right leadership with a common vision,” Tanaka comments. “I can really say that change management in Japan is not the easiest thing to do, but I think a little bit of creativity can help. Sometimes you have to do things a little outside of the box. Being able to tell a story, or being able to share the vision goes a long way, especially here in Japan.”