Ivan Jimenez Aira Leading Bizkaia Talent with Rare Acumen and Expertise

Bizkaia Talent
innovative business leaders 2021

Entrepreneurship and businesses worldwide are flourishing at a fast pace, and with the amalgamation of technology, this growth is significantly raised. However, there exists a neoliberal economic model that has neglected social equity and environmental sustainability. However, in the last few decades, Basque Country has proven to be one of the most internationally competitive, socially inclusive, environmentally progressive economies in the world. This success is due to the contribution of exceptional entrepreneurship in the region. Despite the challenges, companies like Bizkaia Talent are exploring the opportunities.

If we closely observe the companies that have outperformed consistently through the years, the one common factor amongst them is leadership. Strong leaders have always made a difference, especially when uncertain factors are affecting the business environment. Ivan Jimenez Aira is the CEO of Bizkaia Talent and leading the company for more than a decade. Ivan holds a degree in Law & Economics from the University of Deusto, MBA by the Deusto Business School, currently he is a Candidate to Master Executive in Business Analytics by ESADE Business School. He is leveraging his expertise and acumen to promote the technologicalization and internationalization of the company, and along with other international organizations creating the European Talent Mobility Forum— a community to improve best practices and try to attract talent to different European Regions.

Under Ivan’s leadership, Bizkaia Talent has grown leaps and bounds and assimilated several awards and accolades. Last year, the company has won the Place Marketing Award in Economic Development Category, and also the Small Business Award as the best talent management organization and in 2021, it acquired the 100 Global Award as the Best Talent

Management Organization. Alongside leadership skills, he speaks five languages, Basque, English, French, Italian, and Spanish which helps him to gain and maintain personal contact with foreign talents.

Evolving and Improving Services

Bizkaia Talent was initially established with an aim to reattract highly qualified professionals that left the country, it was a small proportion of people but it was like a debt that a Country had with them. Besides, the focus was also on helping foreign talent coming to the Basque Country. In 2015, the team created the “Be Basque Talent Network”, with the purpose to invite any highly qualified professional to be part of the Country, wherever they were or came from. This turned into the main focus and the company and thus it accelerated the use of technology such as big data management and networking tools to be able to identify the needs of the companies and stay abreast of them, likewise focus on personal contact increasing the international network meetings.

The blend of personal contact and technology tools is what makes Bizkaia Talent unique in the industry. “We decided to move where the talent is instead of waiting for them in our Country. Those talents appreciate it very much, we personalized their experience with us as much as possible,” says Ivan. Moreover, innovation is at the center of what they do, hence the team is constantly trying to implement new services. The team might fail but they continually strive to use the failure as a learning experience.

Having different innovation dynamics has been the key to experimentation in Bizkaia Talent. For instance, “innolak” a mix between innovation and “olak” a Basque term used for many things among them is “ikastolak” a place to learn. The team learns through innovation. Also, the team undergoes several training sessions about concrete projects where the members of the project can exchange opinions or brainstorm for ideas. The company uses the MOTOROLA system—what was ok, what was not ok or wrong, what will we do differently next time, and what we learned—for all their activities. Despite being a lengthy process, this approach helps to evolve and improve the services offered. The innovation team at Bizkaia Talent is one of the important assets of the company.

Embracing Collaborative culture

Ivan believes that having a great team around has helped Bizkaia Talent to move towards success. As a leader of a good team, Ivan just needs to have a clear vision and share it and the team together strives to achieve it. He advises that one should base the leadership on trust and give the team the freedom and responsibility alongside regular feedbacks—especially positive. Being the leader means always be prepared to support the team, take calculative risks, learn from the surroundings and adapt to reality and leverage the data to make decisions. “Collaborate with other stakeholders, with anyone that can help you wherever they are, don’t do what others are doing better than you but what makes you special,” explains Ivan. The key is to adapt to the changing realities and brace for the transformations.

Bizkaia Talent embraces a culture based on shared leadership. Ivan adds, “You can be a collaborator in one service and have a colleague who is the leader and on the other way round in other service or project. So the collaboration culture is basic if we want to succeed.” Ivan’s leadership style has helped him in tackling the challenges of the pandemic. With the advent of COVID-19, the main challenge for Bizkaia Talent was to maintain communication with the people living around the world. But before the world was pushed into remote working, Bizkaia Talent was already adept with remote working. As the team traveled a lot, they had to be prepared to work from anywhere and the systems were prepared for that so they can collaborate remotely on any project before the pandemic. The team developed great technology tools to deliver a nice user experience to the users. A personal connection is necessary with candidates even today—especially if they are doing place branding.

Working in Harmony

In the coming years, talent attraction will be one of the main focuses of territories to improve their competitiveness. Bizkaia Talent has successfully retained the talented team due to their work environment. The employees are given minimum daily hours which can be organized to distribute the annual hours of working, making it most intensive sometimes according to needs. It does not control the employee but gives them the freedom to promote their creativity and motivation. In the coming years, talent attraction will be one of the main focuses of territories to improve their competitiveness, the lack of highly qualified professionals is making bigger and bigger, especially in advanced economies.

Ivan anticipates that with the upgrade in technology it will be easy to contact and select the right talent and even work from anywhere, however, the positive here is that your talented team is also on the radar and can be hired by companies from anywhere. Talent retention will become a highly competitive space, Ivan further explains, “This is a big opportunity for those territories that are very attractive for digital nomads or remote workers but of course most of the jobs will still have to work located where the offices are, and again how to combine a very good experience in the company and in the exact place where the Company is will be a key factor for that competitiveness, so more than ever, public institutions and private companies will have to work together.”

Quote: “Don’t base your leadership on control but on trust, just give them trust, but never forget your responsibility, give them feedback, especially positive.”