Mike Giuffrida is co-founder of NGA.NET, which began in 1997 in, wait for it, Melbourne, Australia. CEO since 2002, Giuffrida traveled overseas to the States and opened an Arlington, VA-based office three years ago. Today, he has relocated his family here to focus the company’s efforts on building talent acquisition and talent management technologies.
Giuffrida spoke with WashingtonExec about why he left Australia for the States, differences in American-Australian business practices, company pride, challenges and opportunities, the talent recruitment industry, and more.
WashingtonExec: WashingtonExec: Can you tell us more about your background, and what made you want to open up an office in Virginia for Australia-based NGA.NET?
Mike Giuffrida: After completing an Engineering Degree in 1994, I became very interested in the Internet and the impact it would have on the world moving forward – particularly in the area of how organizations connect with Talent.
As a result, NGA.NET was launched in 1997 and delivered Australia’s first online resume builder for applicants to reach organizations. This evolved into the first online searchable resume database and, subsequently, the first online applicant tracking system.
This evolution continued to the point that some 10 years later, 95% of the Australian government had implemented our NGA.NET Talent Acquisition solution suite.”
As a result of this success we began to engage with the U.S. Public Sector and found that the U.S. market had many similar challenges to Australia’s. Very quickly our solutions started to be adopted in the U.S. Federal Government and have led us to a permanent and growing operation in Virginia to service our U.S. Federal government customer base.
Exciting times ahead!
WashingtonExec: What are some big differences you’ve seen in how Australian businesses operate as opposed to American businesses?
Mike Giuffrida: The interesting point here is that the problems and markets are more similar than different.
Both countries embrace innovation and a willingness to leverage technology to make improvements.
We have been received very well in the U.S., as we have a solution that is proven and delivers results for government customers in other parts of the world. This is combined with a real awareness that the talent management challenges facing government are real and need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
WashingtonExec: What does NGA.NET pride itself in? What do you think makes it different from its competitors?
Mike Giuffrida: What makes us different is our unrelenting passion and focus on the customer.
What we see, time and time again, are competitors who have lost the focus on the customer and do not evolve to meet customers’ and the market’s changing needs. Without this focus and understanding of the customer, every aspect of your business solution suffers.
This is what has happened here in the U.S. Public Sector market and this is very much the reason that we are seeing such quick success here in the USA. There is an absolute need for a technology that can meet and evolve with the very real talent management challenges that the U.S. government is facing right now, including the retirement of a major piece of the workforce and competing with the private sector for new, qualified talent.
WashingtonExec: What are some challenges, as well as opportunities, you have faced that have stood out as particularly memorable and beneficial?
Mike Giuffrida: It is always challenging building a global company organically and without external funding. You need to be able to attract the top people for every facet of an organization from sales and R&D to customer services and administration. We have thrived in Australia and developed an incredible team and we are excited about building on that success here in the U.S.
Any type of success for an organization is based on an absolute recognition that you cannot succeed without your people. We understood this very early at NGA.NET – as such, this creates a challenge and an opportunity for our group. We are continually striving to improve the way we attract, communicate, inspire, engage, develop, reward and motivate our employees.
We see the results of this focus every day within the teams. There is nothing more memorable than seeing your people grow as a result of being part of the NGA.NET team. If our people are growing, we are growing and our customers are happy.”
WashingtonExec: How has the talent recruitment industry evolved over the years? Do you find it to be more active in Australia than it is here?
Mike Giuffrida: In the beginning HR was seen very much as an administrative function within an organization – and our initial solutions were about moving from ‘paper and pencil’ processes to online processes to improve efficiency in talent acquisition.
Today it is much broader than that.
HR is now a very strategic function within an organization and talent acquisition is no longer a stand- alone process. HR is about attracting, retaining and developing your people. Talent Acquisition, performance management, learning, development and more need to work seamlessly together for HR to be successful. But at the end of the day, you need to be able to measure how all these pieces are working together in order to determine where you have gaps that need to be fixed.
Organizations at present are working toward trying to ‘measure it’. However, success here is a journey and not a destination. Before measurement can even be accomplished, you need to get back to the basics of reporting and analytics. Once you analyze and understand it, you can measure it and then fix any areas that need improvement.
WashingtonExec: What are some of the biggest issues the government is facing in terms of talent acquisition?
Mike Giuffrida: There are two ends to the primary issue facing government and they are both generational.
At one end, we have the Baby Boomer generation. This generation of people is reaching retirement age right now. What this means is that over the next five to 10 years we will see a steady and increasing number of Baby Boomers retiring from government. This has been referenced as the ‘retirement tsunami’ in government and statistics already show this ‘tsunami’ has begun.
As a result of this mass retirement, there is a lot of knowledge and talent exiting government at one end of the spectrum.
At the other end of the spectrum, government has a challenge in attracting younger generations to the public sector. Government has to compete with private industry here – and this can prove difficult.
So in summary, we have a situation where a lot of talent and knowledge within government is leaving and at the same time the government is challenged with attracting new people.
The result here is that agencies will find it very challenging to meet their Agency mission, and doing more with less will take on a whole new meaning.
WashingtonExec: What’s your most favorite part about being CEO of NGA.NET? Does any single memory stand out amongst the rest?
Mike Giuffrida: Engaging with our people and customers is my favorite part of being a CEO.
Working with such amazing talent to deliver world class solutions to customers is very rewarding. We set a very high benchmark at NGA.NET, and our team continues to exceed those benchmarks over and over again. It makes me very proud of what we have been able to achieve for our customers and as a company.
WashingtonExec: If you weren’t doing this, what would you do?
Mike Giuffrida: I can’t imagine doing anything else – but if pressed, it would be running a Kite Surfing shop on Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday islands. It’s the most beautiful beach in the world!