Former President at Manpower Group
David has over 40 years of experience in the recruitment and staffing industry and is one of the most experienced and leading figures of the industry globally. He joined Manpower in the late 80’s and spent 30 years at the company running Europe before moving up to lead Marketing and finally as a Global President. He helped the business scale across 100 countries and was a pioneer of the first global enterprise deals. David currently runs his family consulting business and works closely with the UN, World Economic Forum, and various other entities to drive social change in recruitment. Read moreView Profile Page
Disclaimer: This interview is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions. In Practise is an independent publisher and all opinions expressed by guests are solely their own opinions and do not reflect the opinion of In Practise.
Can you describe the industry when you joined Manpower in the early 90s?
I joined Manpower in the late 80s when they bought part of my family firm to get me, first of all, to coordinate and run Europe, then global marketing and finally President. It was a strange world in those days; recruitment was not what you see today. It was like the Wild West. I joined this company that had operations in 100 countries and every country reported direct to the CEO and founder of the company. It was an odd structure which I explain to my doctoral students as purely transactional; the customer wants something which you provide at the best price. We went through an amazing 26-year journey of both changing the recruitment industry and the way workers are treated worldwide through many initiatives. I was learning as I went along and was Mr Bottom Line for a $9 billion revenue US company.
I worked for Hewlett Packard so I understood what American corporations wanted which was returns on shareholder value. We have changed the industry slightly from being transactional and shareholder/owner centric to focusing on the people you work with to help and engage them.
What philosophical or cultural change enabled the switch from shareholder value focus to a more holistic focus on employees that deliver value?
I made the first global deals in the industry with organizations like IBM and Hewlett Packard. The very first global deal was with a company which nobody remembers today, but it was in the top three at the time, called DEC or Digital Equipment Corporation; Digital, who were later bought by Compaq and then Hewlett Packard, anyway it was an amazing company at the time.
Big corporations realized they could scale more efficiently with multinational relationships with companies such as Manpower Inc, Adecco and Randstad and put in place global agreements to source people better. Globalization of the concept of recruitment and supply to big corporations started the change and grew from there. We started doing amazing things in terms of taking a global role in protecting workers, advising governments and being the key players at places like the World Economic Forum and the United Nations.
What did a global agreement look like for a Fortune 100 using Manpower?
The very first global one between Manpower Inc and Digital Equipment Company basically said the following: for all of our joint 100 countries we will put in place a commercial agreement that we will supply you with temporary workers at a market cost plus markup; with contractors at a market rate plus a hiring fee, so that you can employ them. Temporaries were always on our contracts and permanent recruits were hired at a given percentage of annual salary.
I call those kinds of deals from those days essentially hunting licenses. We made a deal with DEC which gives permission for their local companies to work with our local companies at or within a specific pricing framework. It is not rocket science but nobody had done it before.
Would they commit to certain volumes?
No, customers will never and should never commit to a given volume because it comes from the value and efficiency in the delivery process, which when you get right, happens. The secret was not to sign a global deal but it was down to the local provider, Manpower and later my colleagues in the industry, to provide the best-in-class service at the best price, because it was still an open market.
So the local prices could still change when the market changed?
Yes, there was no global pricing. It was a relationship deal that said you and you will work together because we believe in each other and will put together the best supply deal.
There was no binding agreement, exclusivity or volume targets but rather we like you, we believe in you and this relationship and this is the pricing architecture?
What formed the trust in those relationships with big enterprises?
In the early days, it was about delivering the goods. We had one contract with IBM where we had to deliver over 100,000 temporary workers annually on given terms. When you deliver that it builds trust. We started with Hewlett Packard in 50 locations, then built a global contract relationship and at one point, IBM were a quarter of a billion US dollar customer annually.
That was all through the trust we had built by building the relationship first then delivering.