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 Tim Hird, executive vice president, enterprise optimization, at Robert Half and Protiviti, our company’s business consulting subsidiary. One of Tim’s primary responsibilities is to act as a “bridge” between Robert Half’s specialized talent solutions business and Protiviti, helping the two organizations to collaborate and collectively solve problems our clients face.

For example, Tim works closely with executives at both Robert Half and Protiviti to assist in developing strategies for our clients and helping to coordinate managed solutions projects for them in areas such as business process improvement and risk and compliance.

“The blended model combines Protiviti’s project management and other consulting expertise with Robert Half’s specialization in providing highly skilled contract talent through our global network of staffing resources,” Tim explains. “These enterprise-level projects — managed and supervised by Protiviti subject matter experts — are customized and flexible, and in areas such as business process improvement, risk and compliance, and digital transformation. They are initiatives that companies don’t have the expertise, capacity or resources to execute on their own, or they choose not to handle them because they aren’t core to their business.”

Tim also oversees Robert Half's management resources practice group, where he previously served as executive director before taking on his current role in 2019, partnering closely with Global Executive Director Jason Flanders, who now leads that group.

We recently sat down with Tim to learn more about his over two-decade career at Robert Half, his take on how companies can be successful in the new world of work, and his longtime support for the English Premier League football team, Crystal Palace, F.C.:

You’ve been with Robert Half since 2000. What’s kept you working for the company for so long?

I always say that life at Robert Half is like working on multiple short-and long-term strategic projects. There’s always something new happening here. And I’ve especially enjoyed being part of developing our collaborative Talent Solutions and Protiviti go-to-market strategies over the years, and Robert Half’s digital journey. That transformation is always evolving, and we have accomplished so much in this area. But so far, I think we’ve innovated beyond what any of us imagined. I’ve been very involved with that process, which has been great fun and a rich area of professional development for me.

I’ve also had tremendous opportunity to travel internationally during my time with the company, living and working in different countries in Europe, Asia and more recently in the United States, which I’m really grateful for. It’s been great to learn about different cultures, see other perspectives and lead teams across different countries.

One reason I joined Robert Half is that I wanted to be part of a global company, and I’ve been lucky to have had three international assignments in my time here.

Where have you worked while at Robert Half?

Well, I first joined the company in London in 2000, and I spent about three years there working on our management resources practice. Then, I traveled extensively in Europe, partnering with our senior field leadership to open up and grow our management resources offices in France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.

After that, I moved to Asia for five years, initially, to open our Robert Half office in Singapore, and then I spent the last few years expanding my area of responsibility to the company’s operations in Japan, Hong Kong and China.

In 2012, I moved to California to become the executive director for Robert Half’s management resources practice. I now partner closely with Jason Flanders, who has been in this role for the past few years.

Can you expand on how Robert Half and Protiviti collaborate on projects?

Connecting great people with great companies has been Robert Half’s focus from the beginning. Through our collaboration with Protiviti, we can take our core practice groups to market while bringing best-in-class consulting firm insights and solutions to our clients.

We support the projects we pursue together with contract/temporary, full-time and permanent professionals. By collaborating in a highly focused and strategic way, we can provide a truly unique range of offerings to the companies we work with around the world.

We have been increasing collaboration across our enterprise in recent years and making a concerted effort to share learnings and successes. That experience has helped bring our enterprise even closer together. It also affirmed for us that Robert Half and Protiviti can together provide companies with a great deal of value by giving them access to the resources, experience and capacity they need to execute mission-critical projects and navigate unforeseen events.

Why are solutions like these so important to companies right now?

There’s a “perfect storm” of challenging dynamics motivating many companies to seek out managed solutions and other blended enterprise offerings as a way to help them stay agile and competitive.

One factor is the current and future state of the labor market. Unemployment and labor participation, in particular, in specialized skill sets is low, and voluntary quit rates are high. Many companies are finding it difficult to hire and retain skilled talent, and that’s leading to a lot of unplanned and very inconvenient gaps in organizational charts. At the same time, uncertainty in the current climate and constant change in business, generally, have many employers recognizing the value of engaging contract professionals to address those gaps.

Meanwhile, to stay competitive, companies are in a mode where they’re digitizing everything they do — not just in their technology department, but in other areas like accounting and legal. And the reality is that many companies don’t have the skills in-house to execute certain projects, especially those that require digital skills. So, they’re turning to external providers or third-party firms that specialize in providing those skills and subject-matter expertise in a highly agile manner.

Many businesses remain leanly staffed in their middle management layer, including in areas like finance and accounting. As a result, they’re having difficulty moving projects forward. Middle managers are typically the ones responsible for project-based initiatives. So, when these companies want to undertake a major initiative, like pursuing a merger, upgrading an enterprise resource planning system or onshoring a business function, they find they lack both the skills and capacity.

There’s a lot of debate about whether or not the Great Resignation is still in effect. Yet, as you noted, we’re still seeing millions of workers quitting their jobs month after month. Why do you think that’s happening?

In my 20-plus-year career, I have never seen an employment market quite like this one. I think the recent pandemic has been, and continues to be, a reality check for many people. They’re motivated to make life-changing decisions about their work — which companies they work for, how many hours they work, if they work in a company’s office or not, and how often.

We’ve also seen the rise of a geography-agnostic, remote workforce. Companies can access in-demand talent from anywhere and in any place, virtually. As a result, people don’t need to be locked into any particular city or location to advance their careers. This trend has opened up the whole employment market for a lot of people. They can apply for really good job opportunities with companies based on the other side of the country, or even the world.

So, I think the work-anywhere environment is giving many people career enhancement opportunities they never had when they were more limited to the job market in their local area. We also have the demand for skilled talent outstripping the supply. These and other dynamics, including many workers seeking new jobs because they want to earn higher salaries, are motivating many companies to review and adapt their talent management strategies.

What would be an example of how they’re adapting their strategies?

I’d say employee listening is one. Business leaders and managers are finding they need to spend more time listening to and engaging with employees than ever before. It’s necessary for retention, but it’s also because their relationship with employees has become more complex.

People are juggling so many different priorities — including navigating remote and hybrid work arrangements. And they’re more focused on finding more purpose-driven work while also maintaining a better work-life balance. That’s driving the need for leaders and managers to do a better job of trying to understand what their employees want and need, and how they can support them effectively.

Conducting regular touchpoints with employees and more formalized surveys can help companies stay on top of the issues their workers are concerned about. Employers also need to be prepared and willing to adjust their strategies to respond to employee feedback, depending on what they learn. We conduct employee surveys at Robert Half, and the insight we get is hugely helpful for us in reprioritizing changes we need to make around talent management, talent potential, recruiting and more.

What recommendations do you have for companies that want to be successful in the new world of work that’s still taking shape in many ways?

I’d recommend that every company, if they haven’t done so already, consider embracing a broader talent management ecosystem — not just relying on traditional direct hiring. There are many more channels now for companies to get access to skills that they do not have internally, such as managed solutions firms, contractors, project professionals and others.

In addition, I would suggest businesses move to an “anywhere workforce” model for the long term. If they don’t, they will likely struggle to access and retain skilled talent. Making a permanent shift to this model isn’t easy for many organizations, but it’s important to look at the benefits that flexible work can bring as opposed to fearing the change.

I would also suggest that companies intensify their focus on employee engagement. For example, make sure that compensation, including salaries, bonuses, benefits and perks, are equitable and comparable to — or ideally, more competitive than — what other companies in the industry or market offer. Also, proactively identify the non-monetary aspects that are important to individual employees, and recognize everyone will likely have different priorities.

You talked about how the recent pandemic has prompted many people to reprioritize aspects of their work and life — and how we’re still seeing that play out. Can you share how the pandemic experience has impacted your life and career?

This question is easy to answer. Before the pandemic, I was traveling about 90% of my working life. My routine was generally, “leave on Monday morning, come back on Thursday night.” If I had to travel internationally, I’d also be away for the weekend. Now that I have more flexibility in my work schedule, I can spend more time with my family. That’s been a huge change, and one that I’ve certainly welcomed.

I also have more time now for strategic thinking. I suspect many people who previously had heavy travel schedules like mine may be experiencing this, too. When you’re not beholden to a weekly air travel routine, generally, you have more time to think about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. It benefits the people I work with each day and the company.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I try to keep fit. I consider exercise time as “my time” because it helps to release stress and tension. I do Spartan races, which are great fun. They’re obstacle course-style races that range in distance from three miles to marathon length. I also love to ski with my family, and I enjoy hiking and mountain biking. I like watching sports, too, and supporting my kids in all their activities.

My big passion in life, though, is soccer. I played it for years when I was growing up in England. I am also a huge supporter of Crystal Palace Football Club. When I was a kid, I went to school in Croydon, in South London, and I lived close to Crystal Palace’s home ground, Selhurst Park. I spent a lot of time going to their games with my friends. I watch the English Premier League games every Saturday on TV now that I am living in California.

Follow Tim Hird on LinkedIn.