Remote Work = Talent Uptick: This is huge — in fact, it’s probably the biggest thing to come out of the pandemic. Millions of people are now working at home, and folks aren’t wanting to give that up. In order to find and retain the best talent, companies will need to make concessions when it comes to where people work. And for job seekers, this is the very best scenario. They are no longer required to live in specific cities or decide what jobs to apply for because of commute preferences. We’re sitting on a goldmine of talent for companies around the globe given the new remote work environment.
There have been major disruptions in recent years that promise to change the very nature of work. From the ongoing shifts caused by the COVID19 pandemic, the impacts caused by automation, and other possible disruptions to the status quo, many wonder what the future holds in terms of employment. For example, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute that estimated automation will eliminate 73 million jobs by 2030.
To address this open question, we reached out to successful leaders in business, government, and labor, as well as thought leaders about the future of work to glean their insights and predictions on the future of work and the workplace.
As a part of this interview series called “Preparing For The Future Of Work”, we had the pleasure to interview Bert Bean.
Bert Bean is the CEO of Insight Global and has been with the company for 17 years. He started as an entry level Recruiter in the Atlanta Headquarters in 2005. As a company that promotes from within, he worked his way through the organization to CEO in 2018. At his core, Bert believes a company is only as good as its people. He also believes people can learn anything. He’s used that philosophy to build a developmental culture at Insight Global, a culture that supports and stretches people to become the best versions of themselves and encourages them to Be The Light to the world around them. Bert also plays the role of cool dad to his four kids and devoted tennis cheerleader to his wife of 15 years.
Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?
At my core, you can consider me a small town guy. I grew up in a town in South Alabama with just 9,000 people, and it shaped me into who I am today. That small town mentality has taught me how to be inclusive, how to work hard, and how to break the mold with a bit of perseverance and grit.
While I’ve been at Insight Global for most of my professional career, I had a series of jobs when I was younger that taught me incredible life lessons.
It may sound crazy, but the hardest job I’ve ever had was working at my local veterinarian’s office as a young kid. I was in charge of managing the dog kennel and had to be up and at the vet by 6am. That’s a hard feat for a high school kid. While it wasn’t a fun or glamorous job by any means, I wanted to learn the ins and outs and be the very best kennel manager the town had ever seen. The life lesson here was that I could work really hard.
Then, there was the job I took working out West one summer at a national park. I went out there completely alone. I hitchhiked, met new friends, and lived on my own. The life lesson here was that I could be independent and step outside of my comfort zone.
Finally, I had an internship at a medical pharmaceutical company in Manhattan during college. I thought that it was the job I was “supposed” to be doing — the one that every college kid vied for after graduating. But, the life lesson here was that the corporate world isn’t necessarily all that it’s cracked up to be, and I had the opportunity to chart my own course.
Each job I’ve had has molded me into the leader I am today — one that wants to work really hard and inspire others. I take this with me into Insight Global every day, and I’m proud of the very meaningful work that our company has done over the last several years.
What do you expect to be the major disruptions for employers in the next 10–15 years? How should employers pivot to adapt to these disruptions?
I think a lot of people would answer this question by talking about technology disruptions. Or how artificial intelligence will present challenges to hiring and staffing. I may be in the minority, but I think these types of disruptions are actually good and will encourage job seekers to work even harder to differentiate themselves from the pack.
Even more so than technology or AI, I think a major disruption could be the rapid pace at which we’re all moving when it comes to hiring and staffing. With this increased pace could come a significant decrease in the time that companies spend developing and growing their people. If the time isn’t taken to do this, companies will get hurt. They need to realize that their goldmine is their talent and that they need to spend time fostering growth to retain that talent.
The choice as to whether or not a young person should pursue a college degree was once a “no-brainer”. But with the existence of many high profile millionaires (and billionaires) who did not earn degrees, as well as the fact that many graduates are saddled with crushing student loan debt and unable to find jobs it has become a much more complex question. What advice would you give to young adults considering whether or not to go to college?
There’s no doubt that college was an amazing experience. I attended Auburn University, and I can’t deny that I learned a lot — most notably how to live on my own and have emotional maturity. I also met my wife there, so that’s of course a huge plus.
With all that said, I don’t really hold a great deal of stock in a college degree. Most college students graduate with a mountain of debt and are stuck in a mid-level job, which means they will be paying off that debt for years to come.
Insight Global tends to hire a lot of folks with college degrees since we’re on the road all year at college job fairs, but we’re at a pivotal time where I’m encouraging us to look beyond the degree. As a company, we talk endlessly about grit and high character, and those things are way more important to me and to our industry at large.
Despite the doom and gloom predictions, there are, and likely still will be, jobs available. How do you see job seekers having to change their approaches to finding not only employment, but employment that fits their talents and interests?
It’s historically been that job seekers get an offer and have two options — take it or leave it. Coming out of the pandemic, we’re seeing a very strong reversal. Job seekers now have the power, and that means they need to have confidence to find their voice when interviewing. They should talk about what’s important to them, ask the hard questions about opportunities for growth, and do the digging to find out if the culture is a right fit.
More so than ever, the newer generations of job seekers (i.e., millennials, Gen Z) want to work for a purpose driven company — one that stands for something and isn’t afraid to share its point of view. While these younger generations have caught some heat for being so emboldened, I applaud them and think it’s going to be table stakes for companies as we move forward. People want to know how they fit into a company’s purpose, and companies better know who they are and how to communicate that purpose.
The statistics of artificial intelligence and automation eliminating millions of jobs appears frightening to some. For example, Walmart aims to eliminate cashiers altogether and Dominos is instituting pizza delivery via driverless vehicles. How should people plan their careers such that they can hedge their bets against being replaced by automation or robots?
I feel quite strongly that technology and artificial intelligence will do more good than harm. While robots may be on their way, they aren’t here yet, so I don’t think there is a need to panic.
Furthermore, this gives job seekers the opportunity to step up in a big way and have a growth mindset as they look for jobs. They’ll have to figure out how to position themselves as an invaluable asset that cannot be disrupted by technology.
Technological advances and pandemic restrictions hastened the move to working from home. Do you see this trend continuing? Why or why not?
Absolutely. I recently read that searches for remote jobs are up by 460 percent. It’s a sign that this trend certainly has staying power. Even more so, I think this presents a world of opportunity to job seekers and to companies that are looking to hire. The talent pool for companies has just multiplied as we’ve seen that people can be just as successful and productive while working remotely. And, positions for job seekers have also multiplied with remote jobs now being a real and viable opportunity.
What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support the fundamental changes to work?
While younger generations care about finances, they care about purpose-filled work even more. As Generation Z grows and matures, companies will have to adapt. This generation cares more about equity across a company and fair pay. They care more about ESG — not just checking a box to say you do it, but creating meaningful and real change when it comes to social governance.
At the end of the day, you can’t grow a company unless you have a very engaged workforce, so you must invest in the things that your workforce cares about.
What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employers to accept? What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employees to accept?
For employers, the hardest thing is to unequivocally trust employees. And in this new world where remote working is becoming the standard, you must have trust. Let your employees be independent enough to make decisions, and as a leader, work really hard to empower those individuals to make those decisions. While they may (and most likely will) mess up at some point, you can handle it together.
For employees, the hardest thing for them to accept and learn is that it’s not just about them. Work is about an entire team, an entire company. It’s about creating and instilling a culture that makes people want to work hard. For employees starting a new job during the pandemic, they don’t have the benefit of being in a physical building with a whole team, and that’s really hard. That’s why it’s more important than ever for employees to understand the power of a collective team.
The COVID-19 pandemic helped highlight the inadequate social safety net that many workers at all pay levels have. Is this something that you think should be addressed? In your opinion how should this be addressed?
The pandemic threw the U.S. economy into crisis mode, forcing so many of us to cope with the major consequences of mass unemployment — the loss of income, the loss of access to health insurance and the disruption of public services on a national and state level. This is such a complex and complicated issue and one that will take years to figure out. In the meantime, it’s up to individual companies to help as much as possible when it comes to taking care of employees during this crisis and others that may take place in the future.
I feel fortunate that we entered the pandemic in a good situation and were able to keep all of our employees, even during the toughest of times. We also launched an amazing program called IGFF (the Insight Global Family Foundation) in early 2020 that was crucial during the pandemic. The foundation is all about our shared value of taking care of each other, and it helps employees who are experiencing personal financial hardships due to unplanned events. Since launching in early 2020, we’ve granted more than 300,000 dollars to employees across the company. It’s amazing to see what is possible when we come together and harness the power of our collective team.
Despite all that we have said earlier, what is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
Optimism is the only way to move forward. I believe that we’re in a country that has infinite opportunities. I think we’ll see an insane amount of growth over the next five years. As technology continues to propel us forward, people will have the opportunity to learn new skills and create new areas of opportunity for themselves. If you think about that at scale across the country, it is so exciting.
Historically, major disruptions to the status quo in employment, particularly disruptions that result in fewer jobs, are temporary with new jobs replacing the jobs lost. Unfortunately, there has often been a gap between the job losses and the growth of new jobs. What do you think we can do to reduce the length of this gap?
I sort of see Covid-19 like a worldwide hurricane. When a hurricane hits the coast, it can take an entire town out, and it can take days, months or even years to get things up and running again. And even when things are relatively back to normal, that town will be forever changed.
Covid-19 is the same. We saw industries go to zero revenue for months. A lot of businesses and companies were completely eradicated. Many people’s jobs became obsolete. As we slowly come out of the pandemic and start to rebuild, it will take time. People are still licking their wounds as they collect unemployment. They are rethinking everything, including what they want to do, where they want to work, and how they want to enter back into the workforce.
Prior to March 2020, the single biggest week for people filing for unemployment was in 1982 (695K people). We were over that number for 48 consecutive weeks with millions of people filing for unemployment every single week. We have to put that into perspective. While the economy might be coming back, we need to give ourselves grace as people combat these very complicated situations.
I’m in an industry that is critical to the recovery and stabilization of the workforce. I’m proud of my entire company as we help put people back to work while keeping our purpose top of mind. We develop our people personally, professionally and financially so they can be the light to the world around them. We’re helping to provide light to the millions of Americans who are looking to get back to work with jobs that fill their cup.
What are your “Top 5 Trends To Watch In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Remote Work = Talent Uptick: This is huge — in fact, it’s probably the biggest thing to come out of the pandemic. Millions of people are now working at home, and folks aren’t wanting to give that up. In order to find and retain the best talent, companies will need to make concessions when it comes to where people work. And for job seekers, this is the very best scenario. They are no longer required to live in specific cities or decide what jobs to apply for because of commute preferences. We’re sitting on a goldmine of talent for companies around the globe given the new remote work environment.
- College Degrees — Take ’Em or Leave ’Em: Like I’ve said before, I really don’t hold a massive amount of stock in college degrees. We look for high character and hard work above all else, and if we see that, we scoop it up fast. Companies need to alter their work qualifications if they want to find the best talent.
- The Reinvention of the Resume: I know the resume is all we really have at the moment to connect with job seekers on the first stop of their application journey, but there has to be something better. I’m not exactly sure what this is, but as we continue to digitize everything, I have a feeling that the resume will undergo a pretty significant renovation.
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) As A Non-Negotiable: Our customers at Insight Global have been coming to us asking for DE&I strategies that can create tangible change. This is a profound sign that DE&I and culturally relevant work will change the way companies lead. It’s everyone’s job to train leaders to be great culture builders, and DE&I is a big part of this.
- Digitization on the Rise: Digitization is impacting every facet of every industry, and the staffing industry is no exception. It is and will continue to change the way we recruit, onboard, and hire. The pandemic has certainly sped up this process, and we’ll continue to see rapid change in this area.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how this quote has shaped your perspective?
The first piece of advice I received when I became CEO at Insight Global was from a board member, and it is something I will never forget. Trust yourself first. I know that some people are more experienced than others, but I also know that people have all sorts of biases, fears, or fixed mindsets that can alter how they make decisions. So, the best advice and life lesson are to trust yourself first. People get so caught up in the outside elements of making decisions, whether they are big or small. Put that to the side, trust yourself first, and know that it is more than okay to want to make your own decisions.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I’d love to have lunch with Doug McMillon, the CEO of Walmart. He started from the ground up at Walmart, just like I did here at Insight Global. He led a cultural transformation for one of the biggest companies in the world, and he has shown that grit and perseverance pay off big time. Finally, he’s been investing very heavily in Walmart’s digital transformation for the last five years, and we are just starting our digital journey here at Insight Global. I see so many similarities in our approach and our experience, and I know I could learn an endless amount from him.
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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.