Welcome to the latest post in Robert Half’s Thought Leader Q&A series, which features insights from those who have made our company a great place to work and a premier provider of talent solutions.

When we spoke to Rob Hosking, he had just returned to the role of executive director for Robert Half’s administrative and customer support (ACS) group the week before. But he’s a familiar face at the company, having spent more than two decades leading high-performing teams across the organization.

Here’s more of what Rob shared in our recent Q&A session:

What road brought you to your current role leading ACS for Robert Half?

It started in Canada, where I’m from. I graduated from the University of Guelph with a business degree, convinced I would spend the rest of my life in hospitality and hotel leadership. I thought eventually I would manage a big luxury resort, but after six summers and two years in that business, I realized I didn’t want to work 12–18 hours a day while everyone around me is on vacation.

I was referred to Robert Half by a friend who thought I would do well in the recruiting business, especially at this company. I took a position in the Mississauga office as a staffing manager, placing accounting and finance professionals in temporary roles.

At the time, I was doing a lot of business development because back in mid-1990s Canada, the temporary staffing business was really underdeveloped. We had to educate the market on the benefits of hiring temporary workers in place of full-time employees to staff particular needs. And we’re still doing that every day.

Except for a period when I took a position in another company, I’ve been working at Robert Half for over 22 years, looking after almost all the business lines at some point — from finance and accounting to administrative and customer support.

You recently returned to Robert Half after a few years with another organization. What advice would you give employees wondering if they should rejoin a former employer?

The decision to return to a previous workplace will depend heavily on the reasons you decided to leave in the first place. It may have been something about the former company — little growth opportunity, a difficult manager or a change in policy — or it may have been something particularly attractive about the new employer — a bigger salary or a higher position, for example.

If you’re given an opportunity to come back, make sure you are very clear about what has and hasn’t changed in your absence. Ask a lot of questions and confirm the answers. Are any problems that drove you elsewhere still present? Are the pathways to your success now open?

In my case, I wanted to explore a different challenge at the time, but I always believed I’d come back to Robert Half eventually, and I’m so glad I did.

You’ve volunteered to serve as the executive sponsor for BELONG, Robert Half’s LGBTQIA+ Employee Network Group (ENG). Why do you think groups like these are important for employers to provide?

More and more, we get questions from candidates about a potential employer’s DEI commitments, so from a recruitment and retention perspective, ENGs can play a significant role — for women, for ethnic minorities, for their allies and for everyone who works with them.

When organizations commit to ENGs, it says a lot of things: We’re serious about your career and leadership development; we respect you as a unique contributor; we care about your safety and emotional well-being; and we believe in the power of community. Most importantly, it shows everyone is welcome and will receive the support they need, and allies can listen and learn about these employees’ unique experiences.

I love knowing our ENGs have the enthusiastic backing of senior leaders — they’re not sitting on the sidelines but joining in. These groups are taken very seriously as a Robert Half employee benefit, and the outcomes are more opportunities to advance internally and greater job satisfaction.

Speaking of opportunities, what trends are you seeing around the career prospects for administrative and customer support professionals and the future of this type of work?

These jobs have changed so much. It’s no longer about answering phones and chasing paper. These professionals are being pulled into almost every area of the organization where they are really depended upon.

The tasks are much more technical — even technological. Your executive assistant is likely to be the one who researches and recommends companywide systems to streamline operations and trains others to use enterprise software and platforms.

Administrative and customer support professionals are also taking over many accounting and finance tasks, like expense management, budgeting or payroll administration. They create presentations and manage projects and are strongly connected to what’s going on in the business.

There is room for them to really rise in the company, and the pipeline from administrative professional to the C-suite is very possible these days.

What about the impact of AI on administrative and customer support positions? Should these professionals be worried?

There’s no doubt many administrative tasks can, are and will be automated. It’s always been this way. Yet, we still have millions of people in these roles. Robert Half’s research shows the administrative services sector has the second-highest number of entry-level jobs, behind professional services.

The human-to-human aspect of these roles can’t be replaced by automation. So much of what these professionals do relies on clear communication and collaboration. And frankly, it’s becoming more difficult to find employees who are skilled and comfortable interacting directly with stakeholders and customers. Many were raised on written communication — texting and social media — so getting on a phone or leading a meeting isn’t always as natural as it was for my generation. But this ability is highly sought-after in administrative professionals.

What might we find you doing in your free time?

My husband and I live in Toronto and have been married for nine years. We really love to travel, so the pandemic was a difficult time for us. We spent much of it at our cottage on Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay, removed from everyone. I have enjoyed the tranquility and the ability to recharge, but we can’t wait to get back to international travel.

Our home away from home is Barbados which has a special place in our hearts, and I’m a massive fan of Africa, having spent time in East Africa with my brother and in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana with my husband. There is just something really special about the continent. Whether you’re in a city or in the bush, the huge variety of culture and local color is just breathtaking. Even the air is different. When I first get off the plane, I love to breathe it all in. Africa never stops fascinating me.

Part of my love for travel is also a love for airplanes. If I hadn’t taken the path I did, I think I would have loved being an international airline pilot. I love the concepts around aviation and all the mechanics and science. So, of course, getting my pilot’s license is also on my bucket list!

Follow Rob Hosking on LinkedIn.

Meet other Thought Leaders at Robert Half, such as Jason Flanders and Ryan Sutton. And be sure to subscribe to the Robert Half newsletter for future installments of our Thought Leader Q&A series and to discover more unique stories, experiences and perspectives on the latest hiring trends.