by Divina Paredes

CIO100 2018 #31-100: Jonathan Rice, Joyn

Mar 28, 2018
Digital Transformation

‘Disrupt or be disrupted’ is a challenge hurled to organisations if they want to thrive in the digital era.

In the case of Jonathan Rice, the target of disruption was the own company he and Sean Walters launched three years ago. VirtualRPO provided an ‘as a service pay’ ‘pay as you go’ ‘on demand service’ for recruiting staff.

The company has been renamed Joyn following a major business transformation integrating new technologies and more agile ways of working.

“We already had an innovative recruitment offering with VirtualRPO so it was quite a wrench tearing that apart to infuse it with greater technological capabilities and processes,” says Rice.

“But we wanted to combine clever new technologies with our existing human expertise,” he says.

“The recruitment industry is a very human-focused sector for obvious reasons and many companies who have sought to disrupt it in the past have looked at technology as being the be all and end all,” he says.

“We don’t believe technologies like machine learning and AI are quite at the stage where they can replace a recruiter’s brain entirely though, so we have succeeded by introducing a technological slant to the recruitment process whilst combining it with the human expertise we already had access to.

“Our key innovations have been using data and technology to remove the ‘smoke and mirrors’ elements that typify many traditional recruitment agencies, while building the model into a highly efficient recruitment-as-a-service offering that is a win/win for both client and consultant in terms of cost and productivity,” says Rice.

He believes the new business platform provides them a competitive advantage.

“We were the first recruitment business to build a recruitment-as-a-service offering at scale, which enables us to develop innovations at greater pace, and provide a far wider range of specific areas of expertise to clients in all industry sectors.”

The innovation is an entirely new way for businesses to work with recruitment and HR services and as such this presented issues with pitching, engaging, educating and winning new clients to the model who had nothing to compare it to, particularly at the rate of growth we feel is achievable, he says.

“We overcame this by building a website where a prospective client can type into a predictive text window with the type of role they are looking to recruit, or HR project they need doing, plus their industry sector and business location, and an algorithm then works out the best-suited consultants to deliver that project.

“On top of this, the search results reveal the average rating the consultants have gained from past assignments, plus an idea of the project cost.

This, he says, helped educate prospective clients who can enter data and view various results before taking the leap of faith to try something new.

“We held focus groups while developing the platform and selected a small group of end users to test out the new technology working on real life projects to get buy-in from key stakeholders.”

“To achieve our objectives we employed Agile methodologies, which involved regular contact with the dev team, and short two-week bursts of work with focused objectives (sprints).

“Now clients can visit our website and type in what recruitment or HR project they are looking to achieve, we serve them up profiles of best-matched freelance consultants to deliver the work, along with estimated project costs, before we facilitate partnering the client up with their consultant,” says Rice.

“The proprietary technology we have developed provides the freelance consultant with a dashboard containing a range of tools for them to use in delivering their projects, and clients can sign into a dashboard giving them real time data and analytics around their current and historical projects.

“The impact on this has been increased organisational efficiencies, a significant rise in projects for consultants to work on, a greater degree of transparency around project status and cost for clients, and significant cost-savings compared to traditional recruitment processes.”

Being involved in human resources, he says the company pays close attention to gender and cultural diversity.

He leads a team of 12, who come from four different countries, and composed of six men and six women.

“We set clear goals on a quarterly basis, and operate in a very open and trusting environment, where staff are held accountable to agreed deliverables but otherwise free to work where, when and how they wish.”

For the past two years, their staff are allowed unlimited annual leave.

“With a diverse team, everyone’s working practices to achieve their targets differ, so we placed freedom in the hands of the team,” he says.

“The end result is a more engaged workforce who feel valued and trusted, and our employees know what is expected and appreciate the freedom.”

Rice says the community of freelance consultants (currently 80 and counting) as an integral part of their team.

“We are developing a “My Community” section on their dashboards that will work in a similar way to Slack, and enable them to feel part of something larger and more collaborative, even while working remotely from wherever they are in the world.”

He says this transformation project also gave him the biggest lesson in his career.

“You need to be prepared to adapt and change direction on things midway through a project, and get initial testing done to a good enough level that you can launch as soon as reasonably possible,” he says.

In the case of Joyn, they only did beta testing for two months.

“Our offering wasn’t perfect when we launched, and we are still working on things now, but it was better to just get it out there than keep holding it back trying to make it perfect pre-launch,” he says.

“By putting ourselves under pressure with the offering alive and kicking in the real world, we have been able to move things along much quicker and implement improvements along the way.”