Interview with Tom Ritsch, Co-Founder of AOAIO

“We are not looking for consultants, we are looking for people who fit in well with us.” – Interview with Tom Ritsch, Co-Founder of AOAIO

Hi Tom, this week we’re looking at the question of why companies should even bother assessing candidates in depth if they don’t have much choice anyway. What would be your spontaneous answer to companies that think this way?

This is probably more about internal and external employer branding. Even if it seems that you can’t find suitable employees, this is exactly what you should be focusing on. Companies must always work on positioning themselves on the market for existing and potential employees. Employer marketing is the key to sustainable success here.

When it comes to the skills shortage, we see different perspectives: some say the shortage is real, while others believe that there are enough people to do the job, but the antiquated structures in companies prevent them from working efficiently. Partly because they are not working in the positions or roles that suit them. Do you share one of these perspectives or do you have your own?

The shortage is partly real, but often a good excuse. In my opinion, it’s about doing an excellent job at all levels. Yes, I also believe that there are enough suitable employees (as always, exceptions prove the rule), but recruitment is still often wrong. Companies need to learn to focus more on the personality to see whether someone fits into the company and the team. Of course, if someone needs certain skills for the job – languages, programming, finance, etc. – they have to have them. But for me, the focus is on the person and the fit. At AOAIO, for example, we are not looking for consultants, we are looking for people who fit in well with us and who I would take with me to the customer any time. You can learn a lot in our job, but empathy and social skills must be there, as well as entrepreneurial potential. So I agree with the statement that it is outdated structures that prevent us from finding suitable employees. In the first place, companies are still searching as they did 20 years ago (it’s a miracle that they don’t still advertise in newspapers) and secondly, the processes and requirements are no longer up to date.

At AOAIO, you support companies in transformation processes. What challenges do these companies share and what differences are there, perhaps with regard to different industries?

What all companies share is the great challenge of digitalization and optimization and the enormous speed that is required. In contrast to the financial industry, where the message has gotten through, industrial companies in the SME sector are struggling enormously with these changes and the necessary investments. The core problem is still that the companies are doing well, perhaps too well, and therefore do not yet see the need for change. There are often people at the top who grew up in a different era and function differently, which is very dangerous for these companies. But often the core problem is that they do not know how to proceed. Who can I trust to do what is really important and necessary? Who understands my needs and who just wants to sell me software. This is something we often struggle with, or come up against when the wrong decisions have already been made. The digitization requirements are actually the cause, because instead of looking at the topic holistically – why do we need what exactly at what point and how does this help us to become more successful (digital roadmap approach) – individual processes are backed up with new software and thus adjusted. The process is rarely considered end-to-end and the customer perspective is all too often overlooked. The result: frustrated employees, dissatisfied customers, bad investments. That’s why I love to show the basic formula of digitalization:

OP + NT = EOP → Old Processes + New Technology = Expensive Old Processes

This means in one sentence: With all the digitization hype, one must not forget that the processes have to be adapted!

As a consultant you are specialized in “human transformation” in an organizational context. From your perspective, do the organizations need to change or the people?

That’s an interesting question. First of all, it’s up to the managers. Just because you read a book about New Work during the vacations doesn’t mean the organization will change. Organizational development has become a core issue and this includes taking people with you, involving them and giving them more responsibility. However, this does not happen overnight, it is a process. It always starts with self-reflection. So the answer is: everyone has to change and be prepared to do so.

How do organizations find the people who are right for them?

To do this, organizations first need to know who they are. What is the culture of the organization, what values are being lived and what makes it special? It is essential to reflect on the company. Just because values are written somewhere on the wall does not mean that they are actually being practiced. A cultural analysis or simply a suitable employee survey helps enormously. If it is clear what makes you tick you can look for suitable people on the market and place your messages in line with the target groups. Of course, for larger companies this can mean having several structures and approaching the market with a variety of approaches in order to position themselves. I address construction workers differently than HR employees.

Looking at the younger generation: How have career requirements changed and how can companies adapt to this?

I don’t quite know if I’m the right person to answer that. There are specialized companies set up by young people to answer these questions for established companies. I personally believe that it has changed massively and will continue to do so. I think it will move more towards a hire-on-demand-concept, which will make the human fit even more important. Project teams will be organized like you select the right players for a specific task in team sports. Careers are becoming less and less relevant and companies have to develop such New Work concepts. It’s not about a nice workplace with table football and a juice bar. It’s about concepts that are contemporary and meet all needs. But here, too, the first step is self-reflection: What does the company need in order to be successful? It always comes down to these three central questions:

  • Where to play?
  • Who is in the team?
  • How to win?

What role does AI technology currently play in transformation processes and what role do you think it will play in the future?

A huge role! However, companies must first learn to understand what this hype is all about and where the benefits are significant. We successfully use Zortify’s AI based tools in our projects because we put people at the center of things and not simply rely on a self-assessment based on the Big 5. Those days are definitely over. Let’s use AI where it makes sense. It’s not so much about finding out who is right and who is wrong, it’s about helping people to improve.

You have just mentioned that you and your colleagues use Zortify’s employee diagnostics for your consulting. Can you give some examples of how you work with it? Perhaps you even have an anecdote about what you were able to recognize or achieve with the help of AI?

At the beginning of our transformation processes (SharedWhy), we primarily rely on Zortify GROW. This gives us very good insights into the teams and provides us with a perfect basis for reflection. We also often use iHPT (instant High Performance teamingg) in various areas. The central issue here is the perfect composition of teams. We work very closely with Zortify on this topic in order to develop it further as we believe there is enormous potential there. Especially with the iHPT process we are always amazed at how easy it is to get management to really think about it. These reports trigger excellent discussions, which often circle around the impact and role in the team. Suddenly questions arise such as:

  • Hmmm, am I actually the right person on the management board to address the employees just because I’m CEO? Or is there someone in our team who is better at talking to employees?


  • Should we as managers communicate this change of mindset to our employees in order to act as role models?

Thank you so much for the insights. We have one last question for you: In the past you have founded a start-up in the sports sector. Imagine you’re standing on the sidelines of the field cheering for a prototypical SME in the “game for the future” – what do you shout to them?

That’s a bit difficult in the sport I’m involved in. First of all, there’s no sideline in golf and shouting isn’t really the issue. 🙂 Joking aside. I do the same as I do with the players I still coach and often use these metaphors in the business world:

  • Your success doesn’t depend on this one action; think and act long term.
  • Create a team of people you trust (internally and externally) and decide together.
  • You train to be OK on a bad day, not to excel on a good day.

Thank you for the interview, Tom. 

For more information about Tom and his work at AOAIO check out their website or follow Tom on LinkedIn.