Robert Half’s Thought Leader Q&A series features insights from those who have made our company a great place to work and a premier provider of talent solutions. In this post, we feature Jim Dinneen, managing vice president, managed business solutions, at Robert Half. His career path with our company began in the late 1990s, not long after Jim graduated from Elmira College in upstate New York with a sports marketing degree. At the time, Jim’s brother was the division director of our administrative and customer support practice in Boston. He encouraged Jim to work at the office three days per week as an intern, so he could learn the business. A summer internship worked fine for Jim because he had another job that required his full focus from fall to spring — at the hockey rink. “I had signed a contract to play professional hockey at the minor league level in Texas, for the Fort Worth Brahmas,” Jim explained. “They were a team in the old Western Professional Hockey League that was affiliated with the Dallas Stars.” For two years during hockey’s offseason, Jim worked as an intern at Robert Half. And when he decided to retire from the sport in 2000, he didn’t have to wait long to pivot to a formal career at our company. “One of my mentors when I was an intern was Bill Hayes — who just recently celebrated 50 years with Robert Half, by the way,” said Jim. “He had told me, ‘You have a home here at Robert Half, whenever you’re ready. I took him up on that — and in November 2000, I started work in our contract finance and accounting group in our former Lexington, Mass., office.” We recently sat down with Jim to learn more about his long career track at Robert Half, the trends he is observing among companies tapping our managed solutions offering, and the various ways he stays connected to the world of ice hockey, long after he hung up his pro skates.  What first inspired you to play hockey? I started playing hockey when I was four years old. In 1980, I watched goaltender Jim Craig, and the U.S. Olympic hockey team win the gold medal in the famous “Miracle on Ice” game in Lake Placid, New York, when they beat the Soviet Union. After that, I knew I wanted to be a goaltender. Why did you decide to retire from hockey in 2000? I had wanted to play in the National Hockey League. But when I started playing professionally, I could clearly see all the talent — and really tough competition — around me. I got traded, and I was going to play in Europe. But I stepped back and thought, “Is this what I really want to do? Or is it time to settle down, instead of getting traded around the world of minor league hockey.” Also, I was dating a girl at the time who had just starting a nursing career. Today, she’s my wife, and the mother of my three children. So, let’s just say I’m sure I made the right decision to retire from the sport. Playing hockey was a great experience, though — and I loved every minute of it. Twenty-three years is a long time to stay with one company. Why have you worked at Robert Half for so long? If I was to choose one core reason for building a long career at Robert Half, it’s the positive impact that we have on both clients and candidates. To help someone find a new job, achieve a professional milestone or just get the career guidance they need is very rewarding. And it’s so fulfilling to provide companies with the resources and tools they need to overcome significant challenges, whether it’s a staffing-related issue or a big project that they can’t manage on their own. Also, personally, I think another reason I have stayed at Robert Half for so long is the fact that I’ve had multiple job opportunities here. No matter what role I’ve been in, it’s a different job ever day at Robert Half. In 23 years, I have never experienced monotony. I’m always dealing with new challenges and new people, and it creates that sense of, “What does tomorrow hold? What will I be doing next week?” What do you enjoy most about your current role as managing vice president of managed business solutions at Robert Half? I love that I can partner with teams at Robert Half and Protiviti.* Through our managed business solutions offering, we provide a flexible delivery model where we blend Protiviti’s world-class business consulting experience with Robert Half’s deep operational expertise and global network of specialized staffing resources. We can build customized teams for organizations to address their business challenges, and what we can offer is truly unique. In addition to partnering with multiple arms of our enterprise, I also get to meet with our clients directly, either in person or virtually, to discover what their problems and needs are. I then help develop a road map for how Robert Half and Protiviti can work in alignment to address those issues. Why is it important for today’s businesses to have access to managed solutions? When companies need to solve problems, they often look to hire more people as a way to address whatever the issue is. But that’s just a band-aid approach. And some companies will engage consulting firms, which do a great job of identifying what the problem is. However, they don’t provide the “who” — the people with the necessary skills — who will actually come in and fix the issue. Bringing in a blended model of consulting services and staffing resources can help companies identify and address the root causes of their problems. For example, a client might tell us they need to hire more accounts payable staff. But we try to understand the why for that need. Often, after peeling back the layers, we find that there are deeper, operational issues that hiring more staff alone can’t solve. We take an enterprise approach with managed business solutions, and help companies to improve their processes, departments, efficiency and productivity. Every company is different, of course. But do you see any common themes across the organizations you work with in terms of what challenges they are trying to solve? Definitely. We see a lot of companies struggling to move away from outdated processes, including manual processes. Many firms are looking to automate work and implement new tools, like artificial intelligence (AI) solutions, to improve their overall efficiency. Businesses also come to us for help with systems-related work. For example, maybe they need to implement new accounting and finance systems or an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, and then manage that change. We also see a lot of companies positioning for mergers and acquisitions. Overall, I think many companies are challenged with finding the people they need to accomplish their business objectives, whether that’s due to staffing shortages or the inability to find professionals with the right skill sets. Businesses are also seeing many valued employees retiring and taking a lot of knowledge out the door with them. That’s another reason companies feel a sense of urgency to try and document and update processes and automate where necessary. As companies work to modernize, how do you see the future of work shaping up? It’s interesting to watch how automation and AI are evolving jobs. In finance and accounting, for example, there is such a persistent shortage of skilled talent that automation of certain tasks is essential to keep businesses running efficiently. But you still see a strong need for people who can review and analyze data. Also, businesses still need people to review budgets, understand profitability margins, make sure that company’s working capital is aligned, and more. Companies need to invest in upskilling their talent, though, so they can adapt to the change that technology brings. They also don’t want to risk losing their best people, so it’s vital to give them all they can from a career development perspective. It’s getting harder and harder to replace highly skilled and experienced people, especially in areas like finance and accounting. How would say your sports experience helps you to excel in your career today? I always say there are two types of people in this world — those who buy tickets to sit in the seats in a stadium and watch sports, and those who are in the locker room, suiting up to play on the field or on the ice. You have to decide which group you want to be in. It’s totally fine to be among the spectators. But if you want to be the one on the field or on the ice, you have to work harder and be competitive — and do the little things that maybe others won’t do or think about. That’s the sports side of it. Let me tie this to something else I learned recently. [American businessman and academic] Bill George said, “The longest journey you will ever take is the 18 inches from your head to your heart.” (According to George, he learned this from a Buddhist monk years ago.) The takeaway was, “Whatever I do, and no matter how competitive I need to be, if I can do it all with a moral compass, I’ll be successful.” Are you still involved with hockey? Yes, in a few different ways. First, I’m a Boston Bruins fan. I live in New Hampshire, but I grew up just outside of Boston, so they’re my team. I also coach my 11-year-old daughter in hockey. She plays soccer and lacrosse, too. My son, who is my oldest, is going to prep school, and he plays hockey and golf. My middle daughter is a soccer and basketball player. So, I’m always bouncing around their various sporting events. I also like to play golf, but I don’t find much time for that! I also stay involved with hockey through a charity organization I helped to start about seven years ago called Spartans for Life. We raise money for families who can’t afford hockey tuition. A young family with a child who wants to play hockey can expect to spend anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000. That’s just on tuition — we’re not even counting hockey gear. I am deeply passionate about this work. I am the charity’s chairman of the board, and there are four other people I work together with along with companies and organizations locally in the southern New Hampshire market. So far, we have raised almost $650,000 to provide financial assistance to families whose kids want to get on the ice. Follow Jim Dinneen on LinkedIn. *Protiviti is a Robert Half subsidiary.