Within the World of Work, IT has traditionally been known as an extension of maintenance. It’s the break/fix: the tech person you call when something goes wrong. But as more people enter the workforce with fundamental tech skills, IT is evolving towards technology. It’s about the future — implementing new programs and creating a better experience for the workforce as a whole.
Paul Christian knows this shift first-hand. Over the course of his decade-plus career, he has designed, integrated and managed enterprise-class information systems and diverse technical teams, designed and provided support infrastructure, and provided executive consulting across a variety of industries including public utility, restaurants and hospitality, real estate, legal, and healthcare. Today, as Sr. Director of Technology at MRINetwork, Paul and his team are developing a reimagined future of talent access by redefining the IT department’s role and introducing a Business Intelligence mindset to our Network.
As Business Intelligence (BI) and technology continue to drive success in talent access, we caught up with Paul for a better understanding of tech’s role in the World of Work. Read on for our fireside chat, and discover how MRI is using leading edge technology to accelerate success at data-driven search firms.
Q&A with Paul Christian, MRI’s Sr. Director of Technology
How are you and your team breaking away from traditional “IT” to “technology”?
Today, IT is no longer about “calling IT to fix your printer” or to “create a spreadsheet.” We’re starting to see traditional break/fix roles in modern tech teams going by the wayside, largely due to a better technology proficient workforce and improved infrastructure. Forward-thinking organizations are leveraging tech talent to help the organization grow into newer technologies while consolidating existing information systems for a more cohesive user experience. Companies like MRI have figured this out already and are investing in their entire staff by investing in their technology.
Data is a foreign concept to many people. In the world of talent access, why do leaders need to build a strategy that leverages data?
The concept of an organization “leveraging data” used to be competitive differentiator in the marketplace. Today, it’s more of a participation skill set. Understanding the concepts of Business Intelligence, leveraging all available information at your disposal and using it in your Decision Support Systems for critical business decision-making is the new baseline for leadership teams now.
As additional small companies become active in broader regional or even global marketplaces relevant to their industry, the growing accumulation of data being collected across the internet is making us all more and more dependent on data individually. Access to trends and insights on where the market is going does nothing but help us; as recruiters or in any other field, for that matter. Those who are leveraging data and BI to get their company the next step will realize a significant competitive advantage.
How do you define data?
Well, at its technological roots, data is just ones and zeros — it’s information, and we all have it in varying levels of organization and degrees of structure. But the key to real, usable data which you can quickly leverage for decision-making, that data should have structure to be easily categorized and measured. Examples include financial information and key production indicators. There’s a place for semi-structured and unstructured data, and there are tools to help quantify that data for decision making, but it increases the complexity of the process. Bottom line here: you need to collect data with “what you’re trying to accomplish” in mind.
It might sound corny, but I talk about Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” — it’s habit number two: begin with the end in mind. You have to be collecting data knowing what story you want to tell. That starts at your workflow. What do your day-to-day habits look like to be able to collect that data, to be able to use that data, and give that data to your client as your story? Using this formula, good data will really help you to grow your business.
How do data and digital marketing coexist?
Great question! So we largely use data in the digital marketing context to measure effectiveness of our marketing efforts while also measuring market trends (outside the realm of our marketing efforts) to guide spend and alert market opportunity. In short, they completely coexist. Many data technologies used today are based on social media mining; which is part of the digital marketing strategy. They exist in the exact same universe.
At the recruiting firm level, what is the near-term future of MRI’s data systems?
The most effective data systems we’re seeing in technology today use analytical visualizations on the front-end as operational controls. Great systems, when you first log into them, you see your basic analytics in front of you. The decisions you make about where you’re going in that information system are based on what you see: where your certain KPIs are measured in the red. You’re clicking on them, you’re drilling down. You’re looking at what you need to do today to bring those things back up. Additionally, the most effective systems are designed to support work-flows. This minimizes the amount of time your best talent spends “keeping up with the data” and allows them to focus on making more customer connections, not to mention minimizing new-talent training and onboarding costs. We’re employing these methodologies and more to the design of future systems here at MRINetwork.
How has recruiting technology changed, and what can we expect in the future?
The hot thing to say about enterprise information systems 10 years ago was how “feature rich” an application was. As software developers, we were putting out things that could do everything for anyone. Lots of features, lots of menu items, lots of choices at your disposal. While we loved our systems, the reality was, all of the choices and options just made the application confusing and hard to use which resulted in either, our company hiring a “power user,” whose job it was to be the resident expert or worse, people simply didn’t bother using the system properly. This paradigm is changing. Today, applications are not about being able to do everything for everyone. They’re about specifically honing in on what workflow you are trying to accomplish as a user.
Nobody is opening my program to work for my program. It’s a small part of their day. They’re talking to people. They’re building relationships. They’re not trying to keep their data clean. They’re not trying to manipulate some huge, monstrous information system. They’re going to their system, whether it’s their ATS, CRM or placement tracking system, to record what they need to do to have it guide them and give them information and insights to be more productive and more successful. Then they close it and move on.
As new applications emerge, they’re more focused on workflow: “what are you here to do?” Because of that, the amount of training needed for those applications is going down significantly. The ease of use is going up significantly. And ultimately, adoption of these new systems is at its high. It’s about user interface. It’s about the user experience or UX. That’s where the future of successful application integration is going, and that’s what we’re looking at now for the future of MRINetwork.
What drew you to work at MRI?
I’m originally from Columbus, Ohio, so I was already familiar with MRI. It is not a new name in the world of recruiting. When I first got the call, the idea of working at MRI was exciting to me. Even though the number of employees at MRI technically classify it as a smaller company than many I’ve working for, at the same time, it’s a much larger company in terms of scope and services they provide to a massive, global group of talented people.
So I met with the executive leadership team and was really impressed with their commitment to growth and easily became excited about where MRI wanted to go. I knew I could bring a lot to the table. I’ve worked with and seen a wide range of organizations from Corporate America to government; from all different areas from real estate and finance to legal and healthcare. I felt that this was an opportunity to bring all of that to the table and use those experiences to really make a difference. It’s a great feeling and a real high-point of my career.
What did you know about the legacy of MRI, and what are the pleasant surprises you’ve experienced after joining the MRI team?
The MRI brand is as old as time. It’s just one of those things, you know. You see the name everywhere. You meet people who are part of MRI everywhere. But not being a recruiter, you don’t really know how MRI goes about doing what they do.
I’ve used recruiters in my career, but I had no idea about the amount of work that goes into the recruiting process. That’s been a massive eye-opener for me. The amount of work ethic and talent and technical expertise that it takes to create the massive network of relationships needed to make placements is way bigger than I had imagined. The system that I’ve seen MRI put together and duplicate at their franchise offices is nothing less than amazing.
Why do you think people should be excited about MRI’s vision for the future?
What excites me is the same about pretty much everything in life: it’s about growth. This organization is extremely growth-focused in helping partners within the Network to grow their businesses. It’s always nicer to be on a ship that’s sailing well than on one that’s sinking. From that aspect, it’s about innovation, discovery, empowerment — those are the things that make the day-to-day job really exciting.
What are people like here at MRI? What characteristics do you need to be successful?
To do well at MRI, you have to have confidence in your ability as the subject matter expert in what you’ve been brought in to do to execute. The leadership here at MRI, like no other place I’ve seen, empowers the people who are doing the work with trust. Everyone knows you’re going to deliver, not only from a production perspective, but also from an ideas perspective. The hardest part about working in an organization like this is you constantly feel challenged to up your own game, because you’re surrounded by seriously passionate and talented people. This is the big leagues. Working here, you really want to knock it out of the park. You want to stay ahead with the pack.
The Future of Your Firm
Curious how you can leverage technology and business intelligence to drive success at your recruiting firm? Contact us today to learn more about MRI technology, and how we can help you to build a thriving search firm.