Michael Simpson is the CEO and Founder of equitable hiring social enterprise, PAIRIN. He is a son of educators whose passion for helping people reach their potential was fueled by his own rise from poverty to international recognition as a market strategist. He co-founded PAIRIN after over a decade as a certified coach, and spending six years living in Russia coaching many at-risk young adults to successful careers.
As the CEO of PAIRIN, Michael works to bridge the opportunity gap for future generations by enabling educators and employers to predict and develop behavioral performance. He’s had the privilege of partnering with organizations like the U.S. Department of Labor, the Center for Data Science and Public Policy, the VA, post-secondary institutions and many workforce readiness programs. Michael serves as co-chair of the Denver Metro Tech Partnership and is a member of the Colorado Succeeds advisory board.
Here are the excerpts of the interview.
What technologies do you see as most central to helping economies and individual companies recover after COVID-19?
Recovering from COVID-19 and boosting the economy primarily means getting people back to work and dealing with the cycle of job shifting that will exist for years. For example, Marriott laid off 150,000 people because nobody was traveling. At the same time Amazon hired 100,000 people because everyone was updating their homes and ordering their groceries for delivery. Since 37 percent of people surveyed by Strada Education said that if they lost their job they’d change careers, what happens when Amazon no longer needs most of those 100,000 new people and Marriott can’t rehire all 150,000 because many of them are moving into new careers?
The cycle of people moving across industries, along with the associated reskilling, is becoming more common, facilitated by more easily available online training and an increasing resistance to on-campus degrees. So the key technologies will be those that simplify access to the wraparound government services people need during a transition, those that assess transferable skills and tech that connects people to training and jobs. As government entities respond, the technologies they choose must be fast to deploy and incredibly easy to modify, because they are structurally not able to create new procurements as this cycle repeats.
The cycle of people moving across industries, along with the associated reskilling, is becoming more common. What then are the key technologies?
What kind of technological pressures do you see companies facing in the post-COVID-19 world? How can businesses adapt?
Many businesses are wishfully waiting for things to get back to a normal that may never arrive. Businesses that have not enthusiastically embraced—in technology, culture and process—this new era of working from home, less commercial real estate, accepting and resourcing their staff’s work choices, plus hiring people, training staff, acquiring companies, and selling and partnering remotely, will be left in the dust.
If you didn’t do the work of building a strong culture, you will struggle to do that online. And what about major decisions like buying a company or hiring hundreds of staff that you’ve never met before? Hopefully, this will positively impact some biases like what clothes someone wears to an interview, but it will likely create new biases like what’s in your video background on Zoom, or how fast your Internet might be.
An entirely new class of technology that businesses are suddenly dependent upon will lead to a new class of threats, and with some lag, a new class of identity and security management.
Government services are usually the slowest to evolve from manual, face to face processes to online, and then those systems often appear to be provided by the lowest bidder in an archaic procurement process that doesn’t encourage best of breed applications or allow for small, innovative startups to compete. They are now forced to evolve, but how long will that take?
Don't just wishfully wait for things to get back to a normal that may never arrive. Embrace the new era, or be left behind
COVID-19 seems to be accelerating digital transformation in the workplace across industries. How are businesses fast-tracking their digital agenda amid this crisis?
Companies transitioning to remote workforces have accelerated digital transformation faster than ever before. It’s apparent how important technology is and will remain for companies in all industries around the world.
At PAIRIN we’ve fast-tracked our digital agenda internally by putting processes in place to stay in touch with employees, collaborate virtually, and keep productivity high. We’ve also realized that our customers are working to fast-track their digital agendas so we’ve hired new engineers and product managers for our team to help service the technology needs of our customers and their workforce programs as well. To help accelerate even faster, we’ve also seen an increasing amount of interest in partnerships and vendor solutions. Companies just can’t do this kind of work, at this scale, alone.
How do you see the future of remote work?
Remote work is here to stay. At PAIRIN, we have remained very transparent with our employees and in constant communication to gauge their feelings around working from home. Even though our employees love our office environment, they have been quite clear that until going to the office isn’t “weird” with extra processes, they prefer to stay home.
I have several CEO friends that have changed their minds about remote employees. We had a plan to not hire remote teams until we were twice our current size, because we wanted a strong foundational culture. We changed that mid-quarantine. Instead of hiring remote “teams” in a couple of years to enable a local culture with travel between sites, we hired our first fully remote individual employee a month ago who actually lives on an island off the coast of South Carolina. Talk about remote! Given the current state of business, our policy of not hiring remote workers became moot.
This shift in the workforce also presents a great opportunity to change hiring and create a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Remote working provides more flexibility for people who have kids, people who are working additional jobs or going to school on the side, and people who don’t have access to transportation to take them to an office every day. By opening up employment opportunities to more people, you are creating more diverse and therefore better work environments for all.
Companies transitioning to remote workforces have accelerated digital transformation faster than ever before. It's apparent how important technology is and will remain for companies in all industries around the world
While more businesses are turning to tech to battle COVID-19, according to research, global IT spend will shrink 8 percent in 2020. How do you see this?
Many companies cannot imagine doing a national or worldwide implementation of a multimillion dollar system from their kitchen table. Eventually, they will have to figure that out, but it won’t be soon. Every process created for implementing large IT projects must be rethought and retooled before those projects can go forward. How many companies are choosing to just put those projects on hold and wait for more normal times, and how many are just eliminating projects? If it’s only an 8 percent reduction this year, I imagine most are just put on hold.