The future of talent is elastic: Dolby reimagines their contingent workforce

Learn how Dolby builds an elastic workforce by connecting its contingent workforce to its overall talent strategy with skills-based AI.

The future of talent is elastic: Dolby reimagines their contingent workforce

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By 2025, most Fortune 500 companies will expand their contingent workforce from 6% to 30%. But the reality is that contractor hiring is a strategic afterthought for most organizations, causing process inefficiencies and unrealized talent potential. Learn how Dolby builds an elastic workforce by connecting contingent hiring into its overall talent strategy with skills-based AI.

Aashir Shroff: Perfect. Well, I’m excited to be here. So first off, let me introduce myself. Aashir Shroff, I lead up our Talent Acquisition and Talent Flex product areas and I’m really excited to be joined today by Alan from Dolby. And so we’re gonna have a dynamic conversation talking about elastic talent and how not only looking at full-time employees, your full-time talent pulls, but bringing in contingent makes a dramatic difference in your ability to sort of staff up and be ready for any situation when it comes to talent. So let me let Alan introduce himself.

Alan Kumar: Yeah, everybody. My name is Alan Kumar. It’s not coming through. One more time. Can you guys hear me? Interesting. All right. Sorry about that everybody. My name is Alan Kumar, Elastic Talent program manager here at Dolby Laboratories. Yeah, I oversee basically non-employee workforce pretty much contingent labor, our MSP outsource technical projects from there. And previous to that I was at a company called Upwork, which an online talent marketplace oversaw their contingent labor program. Prior to that was in the MSP space working for Apple and then also was a part of the VMs Space IQ navigator. And just really excited to be partnering with Eightfold in Talent Flex and what we’re doing here.

Aashir Shroff: Yeah, So I’m gonna start it off with a little bit of a warmup question just to get people to know you a little bit better. Yeah. So originally I thought we could just do an exercise routine right here. Now that we got chairs, we’re in good shape. So let me ask you a question. Are you a coffee or tea drinker for the audience? No,

Alan Kumar: I’m definitely a coffee drinker. I think since 16 years old. I can’t remember a day that I haven’t started a day with coffee. I can’t remember the last time I drank tea actually. So definitely a coffee person.

Aashir Shroff: Well that’s good to hear. Anything specific about your black cream and sugar? No.

Alan Kumar: Yeah, I need creamer for sure. I definitely can’t do straight black, but yeah, try to cut it down a bit, not four cups a day anymore. So yeah,

What is elastic talent?

Aashir Shroff: As I transition into of talking about the topic of today, right? Again, as I look at it over the last year and a half, we’ve been on this journey with Dolby to really unpack the way that they think about talent. So let’s, let me start off by asking you first question. Define elastic talent a little bit for this audience to learn.

Alan Kumar: So elastic talent pretty much is non-employee workforce. Anything that’s outside of your full-time employees it would be your contractors, your vendors anything that is related to non-employee basically. And I can unpack the bit more why we call it elastic, is the ability to be able to scale up and down just because they’re not your core full-time employees. They might not be with you for seven plus year stretches. It’s one to be able to empower how to be able to scale up and down with folks that are not your full-time core

Aashir Shroff: Employees. So I think this is really important. And just by way background prior to Eightfold, I used to run a platform that essentially did the same thing, right? Gig now, which was bringing in contract talent to help large organizations really staff up their needs. And one of the benefits I saw about this is, again, when Covid hit, we were able to scale back. When people stopped worrying about those things, we were able to scale up. And so if I think about daily situation, what was the driver to come to Eightfold to really think about us helping you solve that problem?

Alan Kumar: Yeah, I think Eightfold was very interesting to me in that you guys were guys already embedded in our talent acquisition ecosystem. It was one where before I came into it, I didn’t have a lot of exposure into the platform in itself, but as I was getting more experience into it, the AI benefits of it and just more so that this is a new product that you guys are launching I thought, okay, this would be very interesting to be able to see is there something that we can do here from a direct sourcing standpoint to be able to leverage our own brand that we could really utilize Eightfold from there. So I think age is it being a new product? Also too, I didn’t know your background, so that actually did help a bit as why I would have a level of comfort and a new product into it. And also just because it’s one where a lot of these platforms, VMSs been around for 20 plus years, you can’t change the engine while the car’s driving. And it’s one where it’s a really plug and play. You sort of take it SaaS platform where it’s more like, hey, we might actually have some potential to

Alan Kumar: Some insights

Aashir Shroff: On the building. I mean, funnily agree again, my thesis has been for the last few years is that direct sourcing owns the space in the full-time space and in contingent it has been really focused on using your supplier base to provide up talent. And the thing that’s at times is great about that is that you have people that are sourcing for this, but most organizations don’t control their destiny around this. And I think our first conversations with you and Nick from Dolby was, how do I control my destiny around this? How do I improve quality? How do I improve my time to fill? And I think that’s how some of this journey kicked off. Dolby’s a well-recognized brand in the industry for wonderful sound quality but how does that translate into talent and finding the right people to fill the roles?

How  can talent acquisition, talent management, and talent flex tools make HR recruitment efficient and talent elasticity possible?

Alan Kumar: Yeah, I think the big, interesting point for us is that I fundamentally feel that recruiting is a very inefficient process. You know, might have a hundred people, candidates that apply, you pick one person. It’s not to say that the other 99 were bad and it’s one where, you know, usually bring up a good example about GE and data, which I’ll let you say a little bit later, but it’s one where it’s like, if it’s an inefficient process, how can we re-leverage our brand and reengage people? It’s not to say that, Hey, we found one great event planner. It’s not to say that we couldn’t use additional help at some point down the line, how can we be able to reengage and rebrand into it? It’s one where if you apply, you didn’t get a job, you leave, have a bad taste in your mouth, maybe about Dolby. But if you reengage and if you can look into like, hey, maybe we can redeploy or maybe look into other folks in a more gig capacity, it really helps the brand and it really helps to be able to find a place for some of these silver medalists, these bronze medalists cause there’s good talent out there that we can’t always hire for a full-time employee, but maybe there’s an opportunity in a flex model.

Aashir Shroff: Yeah, no full heartedly agree. And again, I think one of the things that’s been really interesting about this journey with Dolby is again, they started using our talent acquisition product, they started then using our talent management product and then they now are using us for talent flex. And what it enables the organization to do is break down those silos. So no longer is the contingent person only focused on that, but really about helping the ecosystem Dolby really improve your talent base, whether it’s an existing employee or whether it’s a contractor that you bring on. And I think the example that Alan was referring to in some of our earlier discussions and some of the conversations I’ve had in my prior life is how do you use this as part of your ongoing strategy or part of your ongoing total talent strategy? Again, GE is the example I use, but GE struggles in finding data scientists, well recognized brand in the world, but not this sexiest place to work for a data scientist. And so the idea that they could bring on a great data scientist then use their full-time hire data analyst and pair those two together and really sort upscale them is sort the ability when you have a single platform that gives you all of those opportunities to look at.

Alan Kumar: I think it’s a really good point too, cause it’s one where, while I hope our brand is great, there’s a lot of other good companies out there, it’s foolish to think that we have the best employees working for us in that same vein of with GE. And data is the same thing for us of, hey, maybe this rockstar marketing person doesn’t want to be a full-time employee for us, but maybe they want to help with a branding initiative with a weekend in Justin Bieber and to be on a special project with us. And that’s the ticket that gets us greater talent than the person that doesn’t want to be full time with us. Right?

Aashir Shroff: Yeah, no not Justin Bieber for me, but maybe someone else . But yeah, again, I think that that’s the interesting thing and it’s about developing a relationship. It’s about really using this notion of candidate relationship management. How do you start it today in full-time over into contingent maybe as an employee go back and forth. I’ve always been of this idea, and again it’s in our logo, this infinite loop of how do you have people come in, touch your organization, add value, bring a set of, develop themselves, and then really move on to the next thing. I mean, the days have gone of passed where you know work at one organization for 30 years, right? But most of the Gen Z folks, most of the millennials I talk to want to do things in a very short-term capacity, develop their skills and then go move into a different industry, different vertical, different area so that they can continue to grow. And then at some point they may want to then just come in and spend five years Dolby and grow their career there. So thoughts on some of the ideas around candidate experience?

Alan Kumar: I think that’s a big one because it’s one where there are technically platforms out there that can provide you certain things. You don’t get the full control if you actually control it yourself from a direct sourcing standpoint. So it’s one where we can actually control the full flow. It’s like, Hey, what’s our outreach initiative? Or hey, how are we reengaging folks that maybe they applied into it. And I think also the Eightfold AI piece of it, it’s one where it’s always constantly updating our prior database of like, hey, maybe this person might have changed a different career trajectory and that maybe it’s not that silver medalist, maybe it was that 99th person that technically grew their career. And if you sort of reengage ’em again, it’ll be very interesting. You’d be like, Oh wow, Dolby reached back out to me. You might then be more interested to go buy our product or to go to Dolby cinema again. So the brand and candid experience piece, it really goes together quite a bit in my opinion from an engagement standpoint too. And just from a brand perspective out there, people

Aashir Shroff: Talk, I think this is an interesting notion, and I remember one of the first conversations with Nick and Alan was that even our talent strategy is not simply focused on hiring someone for that immediate need, but really developing a relationship. I think this is the thing that we often forget, Dolby is a consumer brand that brings products to market. And so leaving an awful taste in anyone’s mouth because they were not the finalists or not the one that was hired can be a very negative experience. And I think that what you guys are really thinking about what you’re doing adds a ton of value.

Alan Kumar: No, I completely agree on that piece of it. And it’s one where we want to be able to have folks leave with a good, so to say taste in their mouth or just a good feeling or perspective about Dolby and to be able to reengage on it at some point in the future. It’d be great if they buy the product, but also in general, if they talk to other people they can just say, Oh, it’s a good product and brain feel in general.

How and why should data be leveraged to hire elastic talent while building an employer brand?

Aashir Shroff: So I think one of the earliest conversations I had with you guys, and I think this is a challenge with the shift from an HR sort of landscape to what typically is done by procurement folks is how do you run these programs? How do you leverage your MSPs, How do you use your VMSs to provide up these things? But you guys are really focused on this talent lens. How do I add that to the equation? I’d love for you to talk a little bit about your thoughts, why that’s so important to drive the right candidate

Alan Kumar: Experience. I think it’s very important just because I’ve sat in organizations where my program was in procurement or my program was in hr. From a people perspective, I think where it sits in organization can really lend into like, hey, do I treat people like dollars or do I treat people? People? And for me, I think it’s actually both are fine, worked in both but I think in general you do need to be into the element that, hey, even though they’re not your core full-time staff, you do want to make sure that there’s a good impression that’s left. You do want to make sure that while you have these people, they do great work for you. And I think from that element of it, it’s one like, hey, you know, want to get away from the worlds of, I don’t wanna keep naming names, but certain companies are always in the news about their contingent labor programs and how they’re ill treated and all these type of things too. So it’s wonder if you’re dealing with people and knowing that you’re dealing with people and not just dollars and throw away resources. And it’s really big on that piece it to hey lending into that one of treating you correctly from the whole

Aashir Shroff: Process. We won’t go into red, bad, bad . But again, I think this brings another sort of interesting topic, and I think this is how of our journey started was the old way of doing things, staffing up a bunch of folks to maybe do a direct sourcing program or leveraging an MSP that’s got a bunch of all these other things was not the approach that Dolby wanted to take. They wanted to leverage the ai, they wanted to leverage the automation, they wanted to leverage the candidate relationship management aspect of it. And I think that that’s a fundamental shift from the traditional way of thinking about it. But again, any thoughts on some of that initial journey, especially as you guys are going around now talking to internal customers, internal stakeholders to really drive traffic to this?

Alan Kumar: There’s a lot of energy around it just because we really think that we’re gonna be able to build talent pools that we can be able to, it’s one where if all the predictors are right, 50% of the workforce by 2030 will be freelancing or gig. So by default you’re not gonna be able to hire full-time employees at the right clip at a future date. So I think in general, when you’re leveraging these types of things and being strategic about it, cause same thing that you mentioned, the archaic ones, what works today shouldn’t work as well five years from now. And if you’re using the same toolkit that you had five years from now, you’re not really moving the needle forward from it from there. So that’s

Aashir Shroff: Very, very much so. And I think the other thing is right leveraging data to really make informed decisions. So again, I’ll raise a customer, a different customer that we were talking about the same sort of thing, but love any of your insights after place this out there. One of the individuals we were talking to they were trying to figure out their talent sourcing strategy on the contingent side of things and they were trying to open a new animation office in Singapore. And one of the interesting things to me, we were in these conversations, I said, Well, what tells you that Singapore is the right place to hire a bunch of Maya engineers? And they said, Well again, it’s based on cost, it’s based on these other things. We feel that our suppliers have told us that they can find people there. I said, Well look, well, let’s use the jobs intelligence engines that Eightfold is built.

Aashir Shroff: See truly if there are that skill set that exists there, we piped in Maya into it, we saw that it was San Diego, la, San Francisco, and Bangor. I said, Look, you could spend 12 months hoping that your suppliers will come through with the right talent that know how to spell Maya and then actually know what to do with it. But again, in that respect, I think that’s the way that you guys have been taking this approach. It’s like how do I use data to inform where I open up offices, where I staff these things instead of a singular approach to,

Alan Kumar: Yeah, it’s a very true statement. We’ve opened two offices since we’ve been talking to you guys and we use that exact approach. It’s like, hey, where’s the talent going or where’s the shift happening from it? From there too of that piece And also just being cognizant you have a global workforce and to be able to get ahead of that piece of it.

Aashir Shroff: Yeah, no, and again, I think it just goes to highlight that going and looking at your talent pool, surfacing the right types of talent is a game changing way to really take the approach of staffing your contract business. And as organizations are going from 10, 20, 30, 50% it cannot be a neglected part of your group. And again, I know we’re sitting in a room of HR professionals on the talent side of things and next week there’s one talking to procurement buyers, but I think that the worlds are starting to converge. And so let me touch on that for a little bit. How have you bridged the gap with your procurement folks? ? Or is it a journey?

Alan Kumar: I think it’s a journey, right? It’s one where, like I said, depending on if you’re looking too much into dollars and cents, you should be looking at it more strategically as to, hey, if I put in this investment now will lead take greater trends down the line from there. And I think also from, and this sort of tees away from what you’re asking potentially, but it’s one of like, hey, is this something that makes sense from the investment piece of it? Maybe we don’t hire full-time employees, Maybe we take a bet initially with Elastic or with Flex. Do we really wanna ramp up cloud engineering or do we want to hire people externally that have done this forever? What’s the knowledge outside of Dolby that we could bring in from external resources and to be able to control it a bit more with,

Aashir Shroff: I love that. So using contractors to upscale the rest of the organization, start to really develop that ability with your existing employees and providing them the right potential of ironically mentorship that comes from contingent labor that really sort takes it to the next level. One thing that really stood out in the last few months of conversations with you guys is how invested you guys are in this approach. Because I think you guys are doing your fiscal planning and traditionally fiscal planning was like, how do I take my current headcount, look at the revenue numbers and say, okay, I want to be one x two x and in a great economy three x, right? But I think you guys have inserted yourself into the conversation in a very different way. Any thoughts there? To add?

Alan Kumar: In general, my greater org is work innovation and to the same lens. We want to be able to think about it of traditionally you have a head count, you try to bake all these things that this person can potentially do that’ll take you six months plus to find someone and some of the stuff you wanted they don’t even want to do in the first place anymore. It’s one where what we try to do is how can we deconstruct the work a bit more? How can we think more strategically is to like, hey, this is the core things that we need and these are auxiliary and maybe we can turn some of these other parts into a center of excellence or something of that nature. So it’s really about unpacking what is the core thing that we’re looking for, where does that talent actually live and exist? And ultimately how do we empower Dolby’s core employees to do its most impactful work? And where is there an opportunity to maybe leverage outside or external resources to move the other piece of it, core versus periphery core is our doby work. What are some of the periphery things that we can leverage external, which can become core at some

Aashir Shroff: Point? Yeah, no, no, I think that makes a tremendous sense because again, I look at the economy we’re currently in, right? We’re every day either hitting headed into a recession, coming out of a recession, right? Yes. So don’t know where we’re going with this. In my mind, when I think about this from a talent perspective, you need to have utmost flexibility, right? And I think most people in C did not have that flexibility. They didn’t know what to do. Panicked went to layoffs, then 2021 it was hire everyone back and then some because we need to do this. And I think the smart approach that Dolby kept coming to us was, how do I lever up and lever down as needed? And I think it goes back to that tenant, what is core to Dolby and then where do I go with this? And so as you guys look forward, what are some of the biggest opportunities for you guys to leverage the Talent Flex product to help you do some of those things?

Alan Kumar: I think an inadvertent thing that’s gonna end up happening is in most organizations, teams don’t talk to each other. It’s one where you might have a core marketing team, but you actually will have additional pockets of marketing based on product and vertical and all that type of stuff. Even with when I first came here, I was like, why is there so many different audio test things that are happening and why would we not be talking like it from what’s technical difficulty?

Aashir Shroff: No, no, no worries. We got a little too excited about audio technical and then the person pulled the mic.

How are talent pools, Talent Flex, and employee upskilling, beneficial?

Alan Kumar: Yeah, exactly. But from that piece, But I think what’s gonna be really big is it’s gonna be able to create talent pools. It’s one where I think with most organizations you know, might have 10,000 openings, it’s probably gonna be boiled down to a very finite amount of actual core things. So what I think is gonna be very interesting for Talent Flex is gonna be able to tap into like, Oh, I need someone to do event or market branding or something like that. We can tap into people that we’ve already leveraged before and be able to reengage them again in the future. And it’s gonna be built holes

Aashir Shroff: Basically. So yeah, the feedback loop, someone works six months, they worked out really well, they gained some new skills somewhere else and then brought ’em back in to do it again. I think is fundamentally shifting the equation on the way that people operate. So one last thing that I’ll close on before then I wanna leave it open for a couple minutes to questions, is, you started to touch on this, right? I saw when I first came into the contingent space, this idea of silos, hiring managers had their best favorite suppliers. It wasn’t done in a program capacity. Even the program managers never had full visibility into what was going on. I think that was one of the objectives that you guys had laid out was I want to know using data, the visibility across the board of what’s going on, where are we hiring, where do we have pipeline, all that sort of thing. But any thoughts to add to that one?

Alan Kumar: Yeah, I think it’s one where we want to be able to look at it from a total talent management workflow. And it’s one where with Eightfold, I think what’s very interesting in that you guys are a part of our full talent ecosystem, and now with Talent Flex, we can sort of talk to each other both ways, which is very interesting. It almost creates, I don’t want to say that I wish I had better words. Like a reseller channel basically of like, hey, this is a total ecosystem we can be able to tap in, re-leverage and if there’s gaps into it from there we’re actually talking to each other from a whole perspective. From a total HR and talent perspective,

Aashir Shroff: No, the total talent thing, the ability to abstract in and say, Hey look, I’ve got employees now that with the right upskilling could do the work. I’ve got full-time talent in a talent pool that potentially could do this. Or I’ve got contingent talent now that I’ve got a talent pool to look at. Yeah, that can provide these things is definitely a different equation than it was a year ago for you guys. So I wanna leave it a couple minutes, I think five minutes left. Leave it to the audience to bring us thoughts, questions, comments, Ryan ,

Speaker 3: Borrowing resources from TA or a bit of both?

Alan Kumar: It’s a bit of both. On that side of it, I think what eight fold does is actually automates a lot of the pieces of that flow. You do wanna make sure you do have that candidate experience touchpoint from there, which I already have with any actual core team, you should have team members that are from a talent background and all that type of piece of it. But from that piece of it, eight folds been good in that there’s a lot of automations when it comes to outreaches, comes to branding and all those type of things. From there we can do some pre-screens in advance, which is very good. There are touchpoints. It is one where right now just to get it off and from the full pilot, we’re getting help from our recruiting team, but it’s set up in a way that our team can fully manage and handle from it from there. So it’s a bit of a team effort, but there’s a lot better when it comes to cost savings just because your suppliers can technically mark you up 50 plus percent. Whereas with us and with some of our partners, it’s like, I don’t wanna give the pricing numbers, but it it’s, it’s preferential, preferential because we’re doing the legwork up front and we see these savings on

Speaker 3: The back. Was it hard to sell the vision of direct sourcing internally? How did you actually manage those conversations?

Alan Kumar: Yes. Well, I won’t say a broad one. I think it’s typically hard to sell it. I think with my team and Dolby, it wasn’t the hardest sell just because it is work innovation. But I think if you can start to see what the benefits are with direct sourcing when it comes to better brand, better recognition, better end to end experience from it. I’ve done this at other places too, with less stuff to work with and I think a lot of it ends up being too of hey, you can sort standardize the assessment criteria to make sure that people are, do be qualified or whatever company you are qualified. So there’s a lot of benefits on the backend that aren’t blatantly upfront recognizable. So.

Speaker 3: Awesome. Makes sense.

Aashir Shroff: Any questions from the audience?

Alan Kumar: Yeah, I think with us it was one where luckily with Dolby, our function sat within people, so there wasn’t a big grudge match. In places that I’ve seen with procurement, having that, how would you position this to someone that was adverse from the procurement side, If you can show them that, hey, from a cost savings perspective, you know, can leverage having internal people manage this because instead of getting that 50% markup, you’re getting it at a more preferential, I’ll throw a broad range of five to 20%. Five being if it’s C to C and there’s some other plays into it, but there’s a lot of indirect or direct cost impacts that you could alleviate from there that it depends on the persona of who you’re trying to impress or be able to buy into it. So

Aashir Shroff: Wonderful. We got room for one more question. Okay, well no more questions. Let me just leave them. One last thing. Is there anything if, for the folks in the audience to walk away with on how to potentially start this conversation inside an organization?

Alan Kumar: I’d say from a walk, crawl, run perspective, I think it’s one of, if you’ve been doing things one way for five, 10 plus years, why aren’t you looking or assessing different things? It’s one where you’d be foolish not to at least make a look or an assessment into it. Talents change, tools have changed, the world has changed. It’s one, if you’re not trying to tinker with things and trying to see what sticks and what, if you’re not trying to re-engineer your processes, you’re doing a detriment to yourself and your company in general. Because most companies should be innovating, HR should be innovating and that’s 2 cents.

Aashir Shroff: Couldn’t agree with you more. Alan, thank you so much. Yeah, it was a wonderful conversation. Again, audience, you are showing a good rest of your day.

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