Gibbs Hybrid: The art of talent management in tech
Farida Gibbs began her career path in a call centre. “What we used to call tele services back in the day,” she remembers of her time at Sitel, when heavily involved in people management, recruitment and strategy setting for its European call centre operation.
It was working with people that excited her the most, especially helping people into work, as her remit was to coordinate shift patterns ensuring hundreds of staff were in place seven days a week. Gibbs worked around the clock sourcing a diverse range of talent via recruitment fairs and community engagement. “I found myself helping single parents, and the retired, back to part-time work, along with people with disabilities who had previously experienced difficulties finding work,” recalls Gibbs, who notes the job satisfaction she felt and the passion for people which propelled her towards a career in recruitment.
In her experience many firms in the recruitment industry were unethical around commissions and contracts, so Gibbs started thinking about how she would do things differently if she had her own company. Respect for others, honesty and integrity were at the heart of those plans… In May 2005, armed with a £2,000 redundancy cheque, she set up her business with an early focus on talent acquisition. “It was the opportunity I had waited for – to embed my core values into how a recruitment company should be run,” affirms Gibbs who took niche opportunities from her client network to build her business. “Before I knew it I’d turned over £250,000 in the first six months working from home. I knew then I could either make this a lifestyle or build a sustainable business.” She opted for the latter, partnering with her sister who took over delivery while she focused on selling talent management services to new clients.
Today, Gibbs Hybrid also partners with businesses to offer outsourcing as a service – to help them transform and deliver quantifiable improvements across a range of business processes, market mapping and talent acquisition. Aiming to develop visibility and add control with measurable, predictable and repeatable outsourcing service delivery, the Gibbs Hybrid offering focuses on three main principles: customer first, automation, and cost control across Shared Services, BPO and RPO Centre of Excellence. Allied to this, and building on its recruitment base, Gibbs branched out to deliver a new line of business for Gibbs Hybrid – technology consulting services. “Our Programme Technology Solutions division is where we take on more risk, and reward, on some of the projects we deliver for our clients across sectors with innovative statement of work solutions that can meet the needs of your technology and business enabled programmes,” she asserts. “Offering flexible options to control resource demand, project consultancy and delivery, our clients have consistently reduced their total cost of ownership by partnering with us to determine through life resource requirements and successfully deliver the right talent, to the technology and change programmes, at the right time.”
Gibbs Hybrid has traditionally been a people-based business using third party technology solutions off the shelf. However, during the company’s footprint expansion Gibbs has found this approach is becoming more expensive and complex. “There are a lot of vendor takeovers in this space which has an impact on us. I’ve reacted to this by appointing a head of technology and product enablement to lead our innovation, examine where the gaps are in the business and build our roadmap to 2020 (driven by automation and the need to become more operationally efficient), and discover where we want to be by 2025 and what we need to achieve to get there. We need to look at how we can integrate better with the suites of technology used by our customers.”
How do they do that? “We’re building our own innovative solutions and technology platforms to promote integration and work smarter with our customers. To that end we’ve created BUDI (Business platform for Uniform Development and Integration) to improve our clients’ capability with process integration and automation from both cloud and on-premise. We’re delivering bespoke solutions based on listening to customer problems.”
Gibbs explains the approach to a pilot scheme where the company looked at a client’s current position and pledged to replicate that, but actually be more efficient with just nine people when using the BUDI tool. “It delivered cost savings, drove greater tech innovation and increased technological efficiencies,” she adds. “We’re keen to build on that with Gig BUDI to bring talent to the customer rather than going via a third party. People might think it could put us out of business but we’ve got to innovate or someone else will. We believe tech won’t kill the recruitment industry, it’s going to improve it, bringing the talent and the gig economy straight to the customer. Businesses are questioning why they use all of these agencies and looking at ways to attract talent directly to their brand – stripping out third party suppliers is a big thing right now so we see the opportunity for Gig BUDI to become part of a company’s toolkit. It can also offer flexibility for the talent out there looking for new ways to keep in touch with brands about job opportunities. It’s about people, processes and technology. I like to think we would be selected by businesses for who we are and what we believe in – fundamentally we’re about putting people into work and achieving good things in our communities.”
It's a bespoke approach to providing solutions based on customer feedback which Gibbs believes reflects a growing trend in the industry, allowing more agile firms like hers to compete with the likes of Manpower, Adecco, Capita and Cognizant. Gibbs admits her biggest challenges still lie with what she calls the ‘David and Goliath syndrome’, where prospective customers may feel safer working with a bigger brand. “Helping us overcome this, I’ve had customers that have taken a leap of faith and believe in what we do and what we can deliver. The whole diversity aspect has been a big door opener for me in terms of Gibbs Hybrid being a woman-owned, ethnic minority-owned business. Big corporates are starting to understand the relevance of having a diverse supply chain. Sometimes you can explain the values and benefits until you’re blue in the face, but the risk element can’t be overcome and it’s easier for them to sign up with Accenture, and pay a lot more for that reassurance factor. I really want to see more businesses taking that leap of faith with mid-market companies and SMEs like ours. Most of the innovation comes from these more agile companies who are not suppressed by red tape.”
Gibbs reveals she’s working with a client in fintech who wants to support small companies before their competitors find them. “We’re working to help them on-board innovative and nimble companies that may not have the business background, but have a product they want.” Gibbs highlights a client in the tech space that found two teenage brothers working out of a shed in Slovenia who developed an API payment system that can revolutionise the way payments are made… “These guys are very passionate for tech, but how are they going to understand a 78-page MSA that covers legal requirements? We can help give them short-form contracts, educate and support them through that on-boarding process. When they hit a reasonable revenue, they’ll move on to a different contract. As a single source supplier, we can do talent, technology and strategic counselling as part of our hybrid approach.” Gibbs maintains corporations are looking for new ways to compete and operate in an ever-changing, dynamic environment. “Many of the larger firms struggle with legacies – legacy software, legacy structures and legacy business methods. All of the strategies that served them well for years or even decades are now under scrutiny. Slowly in some cases, radically in others, sacred cows are being jettisoned.”
This flexible hybrid approach has seen Gibbs take on the goliaths, and win. Three years ago, the company won Tier 1 contracts worth over $35m with the world’s largest technology services company. Building on its previous Tier 2 association, Gibbs was able to put the company on a level playing field. “It’s a testament to how far we’ve come and a game changer for us. If we can do it for them, we can do it for anybody. It’s opened the eyes of other big corporates to show our capabilities.”
These capabilities are in demand. In the past six months, with Brexit looming, some of Gibbs Hybrid’s customers are moving operations out of the UK to key locations around Europe. “It made perfect sense to scale up quickly to support them,” says Gibbs. “We’ve established a presence in seven new markets in the past 12 months. Lots of companies have pain points with Brexit even though we don’t know yet what the real implications will be. It’s important to make smart decisions now to prepare for what happens beyond the uncertainty. To stay relevant, we need to make customer-lead business decisions to remain sustainable. For example, we’re now in Luxembourg because our customers want us to be there. Replicating our UK model in new regions has been key to our expansion in Dublin, Poland and the US. Now we’re being asked to deliver this model to the APAC region, India and Singapore.”
Gibbs Hybrid recently posted $102mn in European revenues, achieving a year-on-year increase of 29% in 2017. “Focusing on expansion in North America, we’re passionate about replicating what we’ve achieved in the UK,” says Gibbs, who expects her company to reach $50mn revenue across the pond within two years. “The US is highly concentrated with staff augmentation companies but we’re bringing something different as a solutions provider, which our customers in the US are passionate about. Our project management as a service (PMaaS) solution is already sparking a lot of interest (in particular from a financial services company and a pharmaceuticals vendor) because it can provide a single platform for project management across vendors, rate cards and skillsets. It’s a huge growth opportunity for Gibbs Hybrid in North America, as our three-pillar model enables companies to address their key concerns when it comes to digitally transforming. This can be anything from improving operational efficiencies, compliance with legislation and battling against evolving security concerns.”
Gibbs believes working with SMEs has another major benefit allowing her company to remove barriers to innovation and gain competitive advantage for her clients: “The CEO is not some faceless person in a far off ‘corporate office’ – it’s me. I – and all the other CEOs of small and growing businesses – care deeply and profoundly about the people who work for me and the companies who have chosen to trust me with their business. This kind of authenticity and connection can’t be faked. We don’t operate like a conveyor belt, shuffling through people and clients like so many packages; we treat each client, each staff member, as an individual. The client has access to the top decision maker always, not some corporate VP: I respond, I empower decisions, I facilitate. Because in the end, while we don’t want to be the biggest company to serve our industry, we want to be respected and valued for what we do. What corporate vice-president could say that?”
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