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EP42: Jessica Mayo, Regional Vice President, Talent Acquisition - North America at RGP

Podcast Transcript

James Mackey  0:00  
Hello, and welcome to Talent Acquisition Trends and Strategy. I'm your host, James Mackey and today we are joined by Jessica Mayo. Jessica, welcome to the show!

Jessica Mayo  0:19  
All right. Thanks for having me.

James Mackey  0:21  
Yeah, we're pumped to have you here. And I've really enjoyed our prep call to the show. So I know we got some really cool topics to dive into today. Before we do, could you please just give us a little bit of insight into your background and the talent acquisition org you're currently running just so we can understand your perspective and where you're coming from in this conversation?

Jessica Mayo  0:42  
I have been in talent acquisition for almost 20 years. I started in the staffing world. At Robert Half. It's my first foray into that area and I just fell in love with recruiting and talent acquisition. I love it. It's exactly where I was meant to be. It's super fun and interesting and challenging. So it's great. 

I work right now for a consulting firm called RGP, we're a global organization. We have about 5000 employees total, including our consultants, and work with 2400 or so clients globally. We are a human capital firm that helps clients connect with the right talent at the right time. So we support them around project-based work in accounting, finance, and supply chain human capital, information management, those sorts of areas. It's a very flexible model. And our consultants really enjoy the work because they are able to kind of author their career. And there are a lot of choices involved in it, which is really very interesting to people, especially nowadays, and seems to be a big driver for why people want to join the organization.

James Mackey  1:56  
For sure. And y'all are publicly traded. Right?

Jessica Mayo  1:59  
Yeah, we are publicly traded. We've had things like six quarters in a row of growth and are in a really good place right now. Yeah, it's exciting.

James Mackey  2:09  
Yeah, it's really cool. I really want to talk to you about the return to the office. That's something that's really coming to the surface right now. There's certainly a lot of news about it. I don't know how many companies are really doing it. Or if it's one of those things where we're just seeing a big splash in the news or the headlines, something that doesn't necessarily represent the majority of the market, just kind of like LinkedIn news and layoffs. But, I think we are starting to see more of it, for sure, right, and we start to see, like, no apple's taking heat. 

Right now, tech workers are kind of fighting back which makes you feel like tech workers are gonna fight back more than the general population, because they're just so in demand and unemployment, like 1.7% for tech, so they kind of have that leverage to do so. But, you know, Goldman Sachs just came out saying that they're requiring 100%, back in the office. So it's something that we're seeing and there are some stats and some studies that are pointing to two benefits of an office, which we can also get into, but I just wanted to kind of get your high-level philosophy on return to the office, what you're thinking, and then what do you think most companies strategies should be when thinking about this topic? So I'll kind of hand it over, and we can just kind of flow, and back and forth, but curious to get your thoughts here.

Jessica Mayo  3:29  
Yeah, sounds good. So to go to what you asked first, is it really happening? Or is it you know, just a bunch of media hype? It is absolutely happening, a lot of companies are asking people back to work, you know, I would say the, what we have seen as far as our clients asking back, continually, the reason that my organization has to go out and find new consultants is because we don't have enough people that are willing to go on-site for the client demand. So at the end of the day, there are a lot of clients asking for it. But there are still a tremendous amount of people out there that are allowing at minimum hybrid, but really still 100% remote, lots and lots and lots of companies offering 100% remote. 

So, what we really see in our talent base, and what I see from the articles that I read, and everything out there on it is that people really want flexibility. You know, we all went home during COVID, right? And we all did our jobs and everything went great. And now these people, the CEOs, the organization, the corporate, whoever wants people back and they're not willing to go back, they've gotten used to putting their kid on the bus in the morning and going working out at lunch and getting all of their work done with a much better work-life balance and they're just simply not willing to give it up again. 

So, you know, personally, I'm not going to work in the office five days a week I live in a suburb I would have to commute to my office here in the Houston market is about a 45-minute commute and good traffic and you know I'm not going to drive that every day ever again. So I'll go in for lunch or a happy hour, brunch, or some other event that's fun, interesting, and collaborative. And that's what we really see, we see a lot of people, they want to come in for culture, they want to come in for collaboration, they want to come in for that sort of thing. 

In fact, I don't know if I made this up, or if somebody told me it, but at RGP we're like, stay home for the work, come in for the culture. So it's really like, don't come in and sit in your office and sit in meetings all day that you can do that or house come in if you're going to be able to communicate and join up with people and really collaborate and get that thing that you can't get sitting in your office.

James Mackey  5:48  
But Jessica, the issue is that Forbes just published an article saying that research has demonstrated that if we don't have adequate face-to-face time, we experience declines in well-being, increases in disease, and reduced lifespans. This is a Forbes article explaining why people should go back to the office, by the way, they recently published. Technology helps us connect but is inadequate because we can't read nonverbal cues, as well as we can't read in person. 

I feel like that's a really weird point to put back to back to reducing lifespans like they just claim it's reducing lifespans then immediately go into like nonverbal cues. Like, it just seems totally, like, Okay, if it really reduces lifespan, why are you saying anything else? Like, why is it cool? So this is what Forbes said, literally, less than a month or two ago, and talking about this topic. So it's just kind of weird because I don't see it that way at all. As you mentioned, people have more flexibility to work out, they're spending less time sitting and commuting in the car, they're spending more time being able to do things that they want, work on hobbies, get that time back, interact with family, talking about face to face time, they have more face to face time with their kids. I just felt like this, this article is pretty, I mean, I'm not saying there aren't any benefits to an office, I'm not trying to slam it.

Jessica Mayo  7:07  
There are great benefits to being in office. And I think clients generally, they're not all Goldman Sachs saying, we want people back five days a week, although there are people like that. And in fact, here in the Houston market, you know, we have some oil and gas companies that have had people back five days a week for a year and a half, two years, you know, but we also have tremendous turnover, because people just have options, and they want flexibility. And they want that choice, they want to be able to work with purpose, and like I said they want to come in when it's meaningful, and when it's important, and when there's a benefit to it. They don't just want to sit there you know, 

I have a girlfriend of mine that works for an oil and gas company. Literally, their role is like if anybody's on video, then they all have to be in their offices for the meeting. They can't be in a conference room, or some people are on video. So if some people work here and there or whatever. Anyway, half the time she literally sits in her office on a Zoom meeting with other people that are in the office and it's just the banana. She drove 30 minutes to do that, you know, she could do that at her house. 

James Mackey  8:12  
That's bad leadership. Goldman's it's kind of nuts, though. Like they're, you know, I guess they're also getting heat for lifting all COVID protocols, which some people are upset about, right? They're just saying that the risk of severe illness is significantly less. But they're just saying that they want to lead the charge and return to the office. That's just interesting,

Jessica Mayo  8:38  
It's a brave move in their heart. I'll give them that. You know, I think right now we're having a power play, a struggle between the employer and the employee that we've literally never experienced, the person with the power has always been the employer in the history of time. It's always been the employer. But now, there is a talent shortage. Even with this economic downturn, I said I wasn't gonna use the R-word. So, you know, with whatever's happening with the economy, there's still a labor shortage, there are still nearly two jobs available for every person that's looking for work. So it's just there are not enough people out there. So it's a bold move to say, we want people back in five days a week when the employee has very clearly said, we're not interested in that as a whole.

James Mackey  9:30  
Right? Well, what's really interesting about it is that I feel like employers are thinking to themselves like they've been so fed up with all the, you know, needing to convert to such an employee-driven market over the past couple of years that I think some CEOs behind the scenes are kind of like saying like, you know, if you're 25 year old, we want you to take care and I think they're miscalculating because basically what they're saying is Okay, now the market conditions, markets are contracting, so the powers coming back to us, but we're looking at the situation with the economy that we literally have not seen before. If we're in a recession, it's unlike, you know, anything else we've ever seen because of unemployment rates, I think at a macro level in the US three point something, a tech 1.7 as of July, so, it's just not like what we've seen in the past. 

So unless you're gonna, like, truly just increase salaries significantly more than the market average, where you can provide people, I would say 30% plus of what they're going to get anywhere else. It's just not going to be an effective strategy. And I'm wondering if it's like, remember, in 2020, when people were trying to return to the office too soon, there was all this back and forth, like, No, we're gonna return to the office in October. Oh, wait, we're gonna return to the office in November. And they just did that. And then their employees were just like, this is done, we're just gonna go work somewhere else.  

Wondering if that's going to kind of happen here, where they're going to, like, end up backpedaling and saying, Okay, maybe not full-time, maybe part-time because it's really aggressive to go from full remote to full in the office.

Jessica Mayo  11:13  
It really is. That's why I said, I mean, it's brave, it's definitely a bold choice. So we will see how it plays out for them, you know, financial services, one of our largest industries that we supported at RGP. And so we work with Goldman, we work with several other large companies like them, they're the first to make that strong of a stance. We work with a lot of high-tech companies on the West Coast, too. And I had said, probably like, two months ago, I was like, they're gonna have to get a conglomeration of all of them together and be like, Look if you want to work in financial services, you got to be on-site to make this work. It can't just be just Goldman because you know, who's gonna pick them up all the other financial services companies that aren't making them beyond site will be like, ooh, right. This is our Goldman's people because they still want flexibility and choice, and there are still options. There are tons of opportunities out there, especially in professional services.

James Mackey  12:09  
For sure. Yeah, I know and definitely in tech returned offices getting a lot, a lot of heat, like their significant pushback from people in the tech industry right now. So I think you're right unless everybody's employers kind of unify and say that this is the way it's going to be. I don't I honestly don't think that's gonna happen. I don't either. I really don't. Because I mean, enough, companies are going to be like this as an advantage, right? Basically, what these tech companies have done is just saying, like, our mission is such our brand. And our mission is, you know, we're changing the way the world does x. Right?

Honestly, I feel like there is a segment of the market that will buy into that, like, there are people who want to work for Tesla or SpaceX, or, you know, or Apple, right? I mean, there are just people that are going to be inspired by that, and they're going to be willing to make that sacrifice. So the reality is that these big tech companies don't have to appeal to everybody, you have to appeal to a segment of a player market that will buy into that mission, and that values those values in that culture. 

So I think what's cool about it, too, is like, you don't have to be for everyone, you know, Apple could easily just say, we're not for everyone if you want to be here than you do in the hybrid environment. This is what we're building, this is why we need you here. So I'm definitely not opposed to that. It's just interesting, like, again, I do think hybrid is definitely preferable to full-time. Because, again, people want flexibility, right? Like, I kind of like coming into the office, occasionally you do it, you know, I don't want to be there. I don't like needing to be somewhere like, you know, 8:30 in the morning, right? Just because

Jessica Mayo  13:54  
That's exactly what I told somebody, I was like, I wouldn't even come in. Maybe as much as like, one day a week, that's maybe one day a week, if I didn't have time I had to be there, you know, I'm not going to be there at 8:30. But maybe if I could roll in about 10 and maybe like, I have a break between meetings between two and three, and I could drive home during that time, you know, like, maybe that would work for me. But you know, that just doesn't work with my particular calendar and the way I structure my day. So I do try and go in, I lead a team of talent acquisition people for all of North America. And so I don't actually have anybody that reports to me that sits in Houston anymore. 

So I used to go in sometimes to have my one on ones and we would have our one on ones every other week. And we would go to lunch and we would have that time together. And I valued that and so did my employee and you know, I think there is a lot to be said for that. And like our Dallas office, we have a lot of talent people there that sit in the Dallas market and so they do get together more regularly because again, it may expensive if you can if it makes sense, I'm here for it, like, Let's get together I love in-person interaction like I love it, but like not to just sit in meetings all day or not to like work on spreadsheets, like there are so many things that are not conducive to that. And it's not necessary. And people have discovered that and they don't want to do it anymore.

I read an article yesterday, somebody was talking about Gen Z especially. And this person was talking about how they really enjoy a hybrid workforce workplace because they're like, I really want to be around other people. And I want to do all that. And they were like, Man, I can't imagine having to commute five days a week, like how do people do that before? COVID? Because they only like to come into work. They graduated like daring. COVID. They were like, how did that work?

Right? Why would you live your life this way? So I'm reading this Forbes article somewhere. And says, research from MIT found when people were in physical proximity, they were three times as collaborative and saw greater output in academic papers and patents. Harvard found when researchers were in closer proximity, their academic papers were of higher quality. 

James Mackey  16:21  
I think the underlying point would just be collaboration and creativity, what are your thoughts? Are you buying it? 

Jessica Mayo  16:31  
I don't think it's bad for your health to work remotely.

James Mackey  16:46  
From where they are getting the data? Like, there hasn't been enough time. It's been, like two years. I don't know. How are they getting that data? 

Jessica Mayo  16:57  
I have no idea. I don't know. Personally, some of the best things that came out of coming home to work for COVID was I have a young child. And prior to that, I mean, I left the house before she was awake. I came home, I spent like one hour with her before she went to bed. That was my entire time with my child. Now I get up with her in the morning. I'd make her breakfast, and we walk to the bus stop. I see her get on the bus every day for school. Half the time I got her off the bus with my husband I talked to her about her day, you know, those little, 10-minute like, even when I get off the bus and come back here, I still have work after that. But that 10 minutes of me seeing her and talking to her and all that like, was a game changer for me.

James Mackey  17:45  
Yeah, I love it. I drive my daughter to and from her little Montessori school every day. She's three, she turns three next month. And you can look at that time as this is just a transactional kind of grunt work or whatever you want to call it like, Oh, you just have to drive your kid to school? Like, is that really special? Like, yes. Because it's like those little moments, you don't have unlimited time. Right. So it's, it's, it's just being there. And being present, you know, is so important. And I think, you know, one of the things I think there's some validity to is, from a relationship-building perspective. 

Remote work changes that in good and bad ways, I think a good way probably does, there's probably less bias, if somebody has a stronger in-person relationship, there were plenty of studies that said that they were going to be more likely to receive a promotion. And I think it kind of levels the playing field when everybody's remote. It shouldn't be, you know, this kind of, you know, based on friendship, or based on a concept of like a work family or anything, it should be based on performance metrics that are clearly defined as and clearly defined a career progression. 

I think the downside, though, is maybe a little less empathy. Right? If you don't have those relationships in place, maybe it's like, if you're not seeing people in person, the relationships aren't as deep. I mean, what are your thoughts on that? Do you feel like empathy might take a hit?

Jessica Mayo  19:18  
I really don't, you know, I have so enjoyed it, and I may be in the minority here. I know, people are like, you're dumb, but I have loved like, the peek at people's personal lives that we have had with this virtual world that we never had before. You know, it's not unusual for my kids to get off the bus and come in here and talk to me for a minute and give me a hug and say hi to people on the screen or, you know, I have a very old cat and a very old dog and it's super common. 

They're here with me and I love that and I think that allows me to connect with my team differently than I did before. The same thing I see their families, I see their kids, I know them in a way that I knew them in a different way before, it wasn't like I didn't know things about them, but maybe hadn't met their children and especially, we have started hiring, which has been great. No matter where somebody sits, it doesn't matter, especially in the talent organization RGP they can, they can really be anywhere. And we have hired people that we would have never been able to hire before because we don't have an actual physical office there. And so I would have never met that person, in person, and I feel like I meet them and connect with them on a day-to-day basis. And, I feel that's a huge benefit of this type of interaction.

James Mackey  20:40  
I mean that's a really excellent point. Because less deep relationships would mean, you know, maybe less empathy. But the reality is that we are seeing a lot more people's personal lives. For instance, at my company, we have a random Slack channel where people are constantly posting things, not just what they're doing on the weekend, but throughout the week with their kids, dogs, or cats. And you're seeing a lot more like culturally, there's a shift where it's like, this integration between our personal and professional lives on a whole new level. Right. And I know more about my team.

Jessica Mayo  21:22  
I feel like the work-life balance has shifted a lot more to life, which is, I mean, probably how it shouldn't be right, and certainly, my knowledge of people doesn't just exist with their work and is a lot more personal than it ever was before. And that's been really fun. And I think it has created stronger relationships with my team that doesn't sit right next to me, you know, those people I knew well, already. 

James Mackey  21:51  
And it's just like these people that are saying, like face-to-face interaction with your kids. Like, what about your inability to see, you don't think that has an impact on their development?

Jessica Mayo  22:06  
I couldn't agree more with that. So RGP, there's a lot of women here, a lot of working parents, not just working moms, but a lot of working moms, our CEO is a working mom or CFO is a working mom, our SVP of talent. I mean, we just have a lot of women in leadership roles and a lot of working parents. And that has been one of the things, in fact, one of the guys on the Talent Team today posted about he had a sick baby at home today. And like people on one of his calls were like, you know, how's your daughter, how's everything and he's like, man, it feels good to work somewhere that cares about me versus just that. But, you know, I feel really lucky to have that kind of blend and be able to work when I'm working and be really committed to that and successful with that, but also, like, have my time with my family and my daughter and go and do PTA stuff at her school, which I could have never done before because I was an hour in the city, you know?

James Mackey  23:05  
Yeah, I couldn't agree more. The other aspect, too, is a reason I don't think companies are gonna unify for this is because I don't think every executive wants this. I mean, for instance, my company, it's a smaller company, than a lot of the obviously these big tech companies. But, I don't want to pay for these big office spaces. You know, I would rather reallocate that toward the salaries of my employees, so I can attract top talent and retain top talent, or I'd rather put that toward demand gen efforts, right, or getting stuff for the podcast and promoting it.

I mean, there's a bunch of stuff that is value-creating investments that I can use that money for, and then I'm also creating more value for the families of employees. 

Jessica Mayo  24:07  
I think that's what I would take honestly, to really see a giant shift. I think it would take all of them basically coming together and saying that because I've used this analogy several times in the past. So if you used to live in a smaller city, and you know, you were a good company to work for in that small city, you got the best of the best people to work for you in that city, you know, because everybody wanted to work there because it was the best place to work.

So, the talent competition for you is not super strong as a CEO of that company, right? Well, now those people have access to the best of the best everywhere, they can work anywhere. So that is a benefit to them. Certainly, it also allows that company, the company in the smaller city, to pull the best of the best from other places and to create opportunities. is where maybe they didn't exist before. And I just think that there are enough people from both a client perspective and the talent that really want to keep that flexibility and those options and natural stare that is just, it's just going to be, you know, the cats out of the bag. Right on how awesome it is not gonna be easy to shove it back in.

James Mackey  25:24  
It's not, but I will say the other factor is the unemployment rate, unemployment is super low right now that gives employees which I think is kind of a potential issue with the companies that are being too strict on returning to offices that I think there should be a consideration for an unemployment rate when making these types of decisions. And I, I just find it a little bit odd to take a really hard stance on this when unemployment is like, you know, it's ever been so I think, you know, look, if we were looking at like a five 6% unemployment rate, you know, then employers really do have more power to say, like, you're coming in office, like, but But now, it's odd, right? 

Jessica Mayo  26:05  
Maybe Goldman is probably banking on the fact that there is this economic downturn, and that, that that's going to push the same general things that it usually does, which is an employment app, and, you know, people looking for a big established name like a Goldman to work for, if they are making changes, and, and there is something to be set for that. You know, I mean, some people do really want that, that, you know, strength of, of a name like that. But really, I mean, what we have found as a firm, is that more and more and more people aren't as impressed by that sort of thing anymore. As far as like, you know, it's still a resume builder, right? It still looks good. 

But what they really want is they want purposeful work, they want interesting work, they want projects that are meaningful, and that adds to their skill set, and give them that ability to feel successful at what it is and where it is, isn't as important, especially with our work. We work with lots and lots of very big companies we work with, like 85% of the Fortune 100 companies. So we work with a lot of big names. But people really like our model, because they're able to come in and do cool projects, and then, like, leave and go do another cool project somewhere else. And so that flexibility in that choice. And all of that really plays a big part of why they choose to work for us. And they get to kind of have the best of both worlds.

James Mackey  27:38  
For sure. Well, I'd really love to speak with the Chief Revenue Officer at your company. So 85% of Fortune 100. I want to learn how to do that.

Jessica Mayo  27:50  
So we have an SVP of revenue named Scott McGuire, and then our CEO named Tim Brackney. And he is an awesome guy. Great. Just a super sales guy and a really awesome person. genuinely good, dude. They're great guys.

James Mackey  28:14  
Yeah, I would love to. One of the coolest conversations I've ever had, I had a chance to speak with the first Chief Sales Officer of Accenture, a few months ago. And it was just nuts. Because if you think about Accenture, it's like 50 -  60,000 employees. No, actually they're probably way more than that. Let me check it out.  I'm sorry, 500 to 600 thousand. Yeah, that doesn't sound right.  So it's basically like a small country. Right. And so just like the idea of being a C-level executive at a company that has like 600,000 employees, and also they're growing like 20%, year over year. 

Jessica Mayo  29:00  
That's crazy.  It's like, how are you doing that?

James Mackey  29:05  
Teach me your ways. It's so drastically different from a small business,  it's just so high-level. But it was just incredible to see people that are operating at that level, it's pretty nuts.

Jessica Mayo  29:20  
You know, when I think of like, thinking about RGP's success and what we do and what we do well, I think one of the things we do really well is we, we know what we do, and we try and really stay in the fairway of what we do. So we're not like just searching out business and anything we try and really stay there. And so I think another interesting, impactful statistic is like, we have had our top 100 clients 75% of them stayed over the past five years. So when we get in businesses like they stay with us year after year because we tell them what we're going to do, we do what we say, we operate with integrity. Our consultants are really, really good at what they do. Our people are good. I mean, it's not rocket science. 

James Mackey  30:11  
Right. Its rocket science is being able to do that well at scale, it's like you have to figure out, that's where you need those smart operations, people, to figure out how do we have consistency across the board across all these different divisions and customers and segments.

Jessica Mayo  30:27  
RGP we have grown tremendously over the past several years. But we're really aiming hard and a billion dollar organization, and we're over 8000, we came from, like, 6000 recently, so we're growing at a good pace. But it has been really interesting to figure out how to do the stuff that we do really well and do it at scale. It's been quite a fun challenge to undertake.

James Mackey  30:55  
Very, very cool. And actually, I just remember the name of the Chief Sales Officer at Accenture for anybody listening, John Walsh, Chief Sales Officer essentials, and make sure to follow him on LinkedIn as well. 

Jessica, this has been a  really great conversation. I think that's probably a good stopping point. Because we're gonna be coming up on time since I don't want to just like, you know, be rushed and jump into something else I need to stop. So I just wanted to say thank you for joining us today. And for anybody listening that wants to engage with you, and follow you online, where should they look for you?

Jessica Mayo  31:26  
So I'm on LinkedIn. I'm Jessica Mayo. You can just look me up there and our RGP website careers at

James Mackey  31:35  
Love it, love it. And for everybody else tuning in. Thanks for joining us, and we will see you next time. 

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