We talked to Sergey Salikov, General Director of ANCOR, an international staffing group, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sergey Salikov: There was no time to think about COVID. Work issues, plans on the company’s development, private and family matters, my kids’ education took all of it. We have all faced a huge number of challenges in 2020, which had to be dealt with quickly. Thus, there was no time for procrastination. We did not standstill.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded ANCOR.
Sergey Salikov: I was born and raised in Vladivistok, graduated from the Far Eastern State Naval Academy with a degree in boatmaster engineering. From 1985 to 1994, I trained and worked in the Russian navy.
In 1994 I joined ANCOR as the company’s regional representative for the Far East. There were only 5 people in our representative office at the beginning. In 1995 I was appointed as the director of ANCOR Vladivostok subsidiary. And in 1998, I signed a franchising agreement with the head-office and became the owner of ANCOR’s Vladivostok business unit.
From 1999 to 2000, I was busy building ANCOR’s Eastern division, opened subsidiaries in Irkutsk and Khabarovsk, and in 2004 entered in the established ANCOR holding with the three offices.
From 2004 to 2007, I worked as the Regional Development Director in the holding headquarters and, as of 2007, became Vice-President for Business Development. On September 15, 2008, I was appointed the General Director by the Board of Directors.
How does ANCOR innovate?
Sergey Salikov: Having started in 1990 as a company specializing in personnel recruitment, ANCOR is the staffing industry leader in the CIS now.
During these thirty years, we have always been innovating and, in fact, forming the staffing industry in Russia and the CIS.
Our employees have been trained abroad and participated in the workshops of foreign coaches to master and adapt the most advanced recruitment technologies for the local market. We developed our own tools and IT products to automate and speed up the process of working with candidates, etc. This knowledge is widely applied and cultivated in ANCOR through a system of professional and corporate training and is the value of the organization.
We monitor interesting start-ups in our sphere on a regular basis. For example, ANCOR acquired “Podbor” in early 2021. It is a smart system to search for developers and other IT specialists. With its help, recruiters can quickly find relevant candidates: programmers, testers, analysts, product managers and other IT professionals. We expect “Podbor” to become a leader among technological solutions for IT recruitment in the coming years in Russia and the CIS countries.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Sergey Salikov: This past year has been one of the best growth rates for us in the latest 7 years. Despite a very complex market in 2020, ANCOR grew by 16,5% in rubles which is 4,5% in dollars. Our clients paid a lot of attention to personnel-related issues and up to the last tried not to reduce the staff number.
Such industries as aviation and shipbuilding, agribusiness, medicine received state support and have a significant number of jobs. The development of ANCOR’s client portfolio in these industries has allowed the company not only to maintain but also to increase recruitment volumes. The outsourcing service has brought a significant share of the revenue. Most of our industrial clients did not stop their production and felt the need to attract specialists. So our services have been in demand all this time.
The changes that have taken place in the world, accelerated by the corona crisis, require changes in the company, despite the successful past year. Explosive technology development has changed our reality; business processes have accelerated. Customers are now waiting not only for quality but also for high speed of decision-making and service rendering. ANCOR has already entered the era of digital business transformation, but it is not only the introduction of technology standing behind this but also a profound rethinking of the management process. Important steps in the transformation are management’s decision-making based on the big-data as well as high speed of decision-making and implementation.
The role of the management company will also be changed. At the moment, the centre’s main task is to manage the group of companies functionally. When the management company is digitalized, the role of the management company will be rethought and can be described as a venture fund or private equity fund. This will affect all areas of ANCOR’s life.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Sergey Salikov: The corona crisis in 2020 and 2021 has not only become a source of a large number of immediate challenges that needed to be addressed. It served as a catalyst and exacerbated many issues that have long been brewing for business.
First, a dilemma between a classic offline company or an investment in digital processes. Secondly, it is a choice between industry or product market development. Third, in the event of a decision to transform into a digital company, which IT infrastructure to choose as the basis for further development of business processes. When choosing between MDM and CDP technologies, we are more inclined to the second option as a more promising and query-focused for the business of the future.
One of the main conclusions that we have made, and in the loyalty of which have been repeatedly convinced, is that the choice should be made not on the basis of emotions or personal sympathies, but on the basis of market analysis, expert opinion and data.
What specific tools, software and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Sergey Salikov: The innovation culture development is one of the most relevant tools at the moment; it is the engine of business today and tomorrow. We need to think about the future: it is important to create a corporate culture of innovation and an environment in a company that inspires employees to unleash their creativity.
We have also built mechanisms within ANCOR to quickly develop effective teamwork. Of course, all of these tools require appropriate skills. Therefore, today it is necessary to constantly increase one’s knowledge, learn, find new ways to look for ideas, information, use critical thinking, and quickly filter huge streams of information.
Another important step is the introduction of specialized Office 365 software for efficient operation, including distant work. This is an opportunity to perform job duties remotely, take part in video conferences from any location, which by all means requires providing all employees with the necessary equipment. Remote work is neither a blessing nor a punishment. It has brought new opportunities for the company, tools to keep working under any conditions.
The situation has also changed for those who currently work in the office. Thanks to our own IT products employees can book workplaces, meeting and conference rooms in advance. This makes it possible to distribute the load on the working premises evenly and effectively comply with sanitary and epidemiological norms.
Change requires flexibility, and it’s a very useful skill. The principle of “Flexible Path” is not new; it is used even in martial arts, for example, in judo. One can and should be flexible on the way to building the most attractive brand.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Sergey Salikov: What allowed us to stay ahead of the competition?
1. Development of expertise due to the long history of work on the markets of our presence
2. Geographical coverage
3. Wide range of services
4. Resource opportunities to engage the best people from the market
5. Strong, up-to-date management
6. Professional and corporate training system
7. The newest technologies usage
Previously, we competed with staffing companies, now in most countries of our presence, we compete with system integrators. What has always distinguished us from our competitors is the ability to introduce a variety of modern technologies, including sophisticated high-tech tools. And the only way to “stay in the game” now is to change together with the market and the world around us.
This means digitalizing, digitally transforming the company with a change in management, production and information culture.
What are the fundamental signs of a digital company?
- A digital company must have ambitious goals
- All IT developments, solutions and software developments must be within the company.
Digital transformation rests on the three pillars:
- Changing the system and management ideology into digital format
- Accumulating, processing, storing and using big data for decision-making
- Automating the processes that constitute an organization’s business processes
We have a long and difficult road to the digital world. To the world where no one has ever lived before us.
Your final thoughts?
Sergey Salikov: 2020 is a year of change across the whole civilization and not certain individuals or companies. A good milestone and a turning point that impacted important changes. Society has made a qualitative leap in the field of digital technologies, medicine and communication culture.
2021 is a time to think, shape new plans and start their implementation. Prospects are there! And the prospects are fascinating…
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