Vikesh Mahendroo, Former President of Mercer, weighs in on the future work, and his newest venture with Nelson Rockefeller Jr.
Vikesh has over 25 years of experience in leadership and human resources. He is the former CEO of Intrepid Learning Solutions, a firm specializing in the design and delivery of business-focused learning solutions. Prior to serving as Intrepid CEO, he was Global Executive Vice President of Mercer Human Resource Consulting, and also served as President of the U.S. company. Vikesh received his bachelors and masters degrees in Economics from St. Stephen's College, Delhi, India and an MBA from Columbia University. He is a Board Director of Intrepid, Landesa (a global land rights organization), Frontier Signal, and the HR Certification Institute, an affiliate of the Society of Human Resources Management.
Frontier Signal (FS): What, in your opinion, is the biggest problem with the current state of hiring?
Vikesh Mahendroo (VM): The most critical challenge is nothing new: how do we effectively identify the talent needed for running a business? Talent acquisition has become a cumbersome and labor-intensive endeavor, and many companies are still struggling to perfect their screening methodologies. One of the ways companies have traditionally hired is by looking strictly at resumes, or using software to scan a high volume of resumes for keywords. Unfortunately, for good hiring outcomes, resumes have been perfected as marketing tools and lack a lot of the substance that is really needed to make an informed decision. Taking only work experience or education and pedigree into account might have worked historically, but hiring decision makers are doing themselves a disservice and closing themselves off to a lot of great talent in doing so. It can also be detrimental to companies looking to tackle diversity needs. Hiring a lot of people with the same background can breed homogeneity.
FS: How do you see the talent space changing in the future?
VM: For the first time in history, we have five generations coexisting in the workplace. People are living longer, and retiring later, and each generation brings its own dynamic to its work. The question then is: how do companies construct a talent strategy that will encompass all of these people working in harmony towards common goals? What is the underlying commonality in the needs and aspirations of these generations that can be harnessed, while also respecting how they’re different—this will be a huge issue for companies as they hire going forward.
FS: How is hiring in 2019 different than it was 20 years ago?
VM: Growth pressure isn’t a new concept, but businesses are growing more rapidly in 2019 than they ever have. As a result, organizations are under pressure to hire for open positions very quickly. Companies need to move faster, be more nimble, and competitive markets mean there is little room for error. It’s a balancing act between speed and accuracy—in a booming market there is little time for deliberation or mistakes, as the cost is very high.
We’re also finding that people don’t go to legacy companies to work for an entire career anymore. Motivations are different. A lot of hiring is being driven by midsize and smaller companies, who also happen to be companies who are most affected by hiring mistakes.
FS: In as few words as possible, what makes Frontier Signal’s solution revolutionary?
VM: What’s really unique is that the assessment is customized to a particular role and its requirements, and can be done so within the course of a day. I don’t know of any other assessments that have that capability. It sets a benchmark, then collects only the most relevant data that will be indicative of success, and is bias-free.
I’ve learned that good fit doesn’t come from pedigree, and Frontier Signal measures everything—going beyond skills and capabilities. I’m really excited about it. This solution can change the growth trajectory of a company. It’s powerful and exciting.
FS: What do you see in Frontier Signal, and why did you agree to be on its board?
VM: I have almost 35 years of experience working in HR advisory firms, human capital and leadership. All leaders at all companies struggle with the same talent problems, and Frontier Signal has such a unique way of helping employers solve those needs in a way that’s scalable.
Candidates will look so qualified on paper, have great pedigree, be working for competitors and can be failures once they join your team. I’ve experienced it. I've paid the price for it
Interestingly, I tried implementing a similar solution about 20 years ago and saw how successful the implications were. It was much more cumbersome, but the idea was the same: go beyond skills and experience, and really dive into personal team dynamics.
I agreed to be on Frontier Signal’s board because it solves the very issues I spent my career dealing with. These are real issues and I really want to be part of solving them.
FS: What’s it like working with Nelson Rockefeller?
VM: I’ve known Nelson for twelve years in both personal and professional capacities. He’s energetic, and passionate about the mission of the solution. Obviously he comes from great means, but he’s very humble and exhibits a lot of humility. Nelson is usually the first one who is really quick to acknowledge where there have been missteps, and is an eternal learner, so he’s always open to advice. He wants to be learning everyday, that’s a huge part of his commitment.
In starting Frontier Signal, he combined a business solution with a sense of social purpose— trying to service people looking for meaningful work, and connecting them to companies. He knows it’s important for people to love what they do everyday. Plus, the fact that he’s a sole investor means he’s not necessarily under the pressure of private capital. We can take our time and come up with good solutions in a very deliberate manner.
FS: What is your favorite business book?
SitVM: The one book I read that really stuck with me is called Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, by Neil Howe and WIlliam Strauss. I read it about 12 or 13 years ago, and that’s when I started understanding the different drivers for different generations. It took me down the path of being much more aware and sensitive to multi-generational workplaces. It’s well-written, and based on research. Using it in management practices was helpful.