Embracing Talent and Removing Staffing Road Blocks (HR Technologist)

Brandon Ramkey   January 30, 2018  
HRTalk is an interview series on HRTechnologist.com that features companies and leaders redefining the way the industry functions. HR Technologist recently sat down with Talent Rover co-founder and president, Brandon Metcalf, to talk about how the Talent Rover platform is solving problems and approaching trends in the hiring, staffing, and recruitment industry.
1. Thanks for talking with us, Brandon! Let's talk about the problems that Talent Rover is looking to solve in the HR space. Why did you choose to build what you built?

Talent Rover was born from frustration – the same frustrations that nearly every external staffing and recruitment firm we work with are still facing today. Teams are often relying on dozens of single-function tools and make-shift solutions that render them disconnected and ultimately ineffective. Talent Rover not only solves these problems, but we work with our customers to help evolve their current workflow to keep up with how the industry is evolving.

When we talk about what we’re trying to solve, I try to look at things from the perspective of someone on the desk. How do we get them from an initial sales conversation to an invoice as quickly as possible? I don’t like using buzzwords, but Talent Rover is a true platform. We’re built on Salesforce technology, so we benefit from all of that innovation. Our platform connects sales and recruiting teams, fully aligns front, middle, and back office operations, and harnesses the power of candidate and client relationships inside branded communities. We’ve taken all the most important data points a recruiter needs on a daily basis and placed them strategically throughout the platform which allows our customers to make data-driven decisions, increase speed-to-placement, and gain a competitive advantage.

2. What are some of the common misconceptions that you have had HR personnel sharing with you about deploying recruitment software? What are some of the best practices you can suggest HR teams to follow to fast-track their staffing processes?

The biggest concern or question that we hear from staffing and recruitment professionals is about how to increase user adoption. One of my personal frustrations, across several industries, is when software companies are willing to add new things whenever the customer asks for them - more features, more functionality, more fields, more buttons, etc. By the time they’re done developing Frankenstein, no one wants to use it. This is especially difficult in the staffing industry where firms typically have two segments of employees - those individuals who are fresh out of school have high expectations for the technology they use and those individuals who are more seasoned (and profitable) and would rather do things the way they’ve always done them. The guiding principle has to be ease of use. Can someone who’s never done recruiting sit down and figure this out? Can someone who’s been doing recruiting for 40 years see value in the software? We always challenge our customers to be really honest with themselves throughout the process - try not reinvent the tool that you’re buying and actually use the tool that was developed. You’re buying software for a reason, hopefully from an expert who understands your industry. If you find yourself in a place where you feel it’s necessary to customize every single aspect, you’re probably buying the wrong one.

3. New millennial and experienced talent may lie on different ends of the recruitment spectrum, have varying skills to offer and different needs to be fulfilled. From fast learning to growth to career ambitions of this wide talent pool, what are the unique algorithms Talent Rover deploys to ensure the right match?

Our Search & Match tool works for every type of hire, skill set, and level of experience. The algorithm and the technology is flexible and scalable enough to accommodate the nuances unique to the industry and all the different types of jobs and candidates that come with it. Where the real advantage comes in is our ability to capture millennial candidates and applicants from all of the sources and devices they most use to apply for jobs. Their job searching behaviors are a little be different than other groups in within the workforce.

A great example of this is our mobile-first Communities portal - a place where candidates can manage their profile, their availability, their schedule, and submit time sheets all from their phone. Another example of this is our ability to accommodate and schedule for every type of shift, no matter how unorthodox. This is useful not only for temporary and part-time workers, but for freelance, per diem, and contract placements as well.  

4. Talent retention is the flipside of recruitment, and if companies could put in some effort into retaining top positions, it would help their growth to a large extent. Considering this, how can talent acquisition software serve their customers by helping them know their C-level employees may be inclined to leave and help with a possible damage control?

The overly-simple solution here is that hiring the right candidates - at any level - reduces the risk and rate of turnover. You need a software that can look at the subjective pieces of a person, not just the skill set or the background. Someone could look great on paper but be terrible in person for what you need them to do. Capturing all the data from every conversation, every interaction, every message, is critical because it paints a clearer picture.

5. With the trend of flexitime, temp staffing and gig economy being increasingly seen amongst the workforce, how does Talent Rover support its clients to fulfil these needs?

The gig economy has dramatically changed the staffing industry in the same way that LinkedIn changed the staffing industry, in that it’s no longer just about the candidates in your database, it’s about a relationship. Recruiters are still important and will always be needed because finding a job is a very personal process. However, for those that aren’t looking for a full time job, it’s powerful to have a software that captures the relationship between candidates and previous clients or a client and previous candidates. It gives you a different way of analyzing who’s going to be a fit even for a short-term gig. What we’ve learned is that even firms who still make the bulk of their money by finding candidates and placing them out on jobs have now embraced online staffing in an attempt to adapt.

6. What is your take on the massive explosion of HR Tech companies across so many categories? Salesforce, too has made inroads into the HR space, and Talent Rover is in fact, built on the Salesforce platform. Besides this, Talent Rover has also collaborated with Adecco, the global front-office staffing firm recently and Fyre, which synchronizes Vendor Management Systems and job boards. Could you elaborate more on these alliances and what value they bring to growth-stage companies?

Technology in the HR space is being disrupted, just like technology in so many other spaces. Historically, even today, HR tech is always well-behind any other tech that’s out there. Systems like Talent Rover and other single-function products that focus on solving one or two specific needs are coming out because the technology that exists is just so bad. A big reason for this is the consumerization of business software. B2C software is far more advanced than most B2B software that is out there simply because consumers refuse to use difficult software. A great example of this is the iPhone. It doesn’t come with an instruction manual because it doesn’t need to and, if it did, consumers wouldn’t use it. In contrast, when you purchase enterprise software, it’s so complicated that it comes with huge amounts of instruction and training just to do the most basic things. I think what’s happening is that software companies are starting to realize that simplifying software leads to better user adoption, and user adoption is a critical piece of growing sales and retaining clients.

As an example of how this applies to staffing and recruitment, we’re currently working with a customer that has a 90-minute job application process. No one has time for that. If it’s difficult to apply, candidates will just stop applying. If you’re not really embracing the new technology you’re not going to be able to attract the same level of talent as those that do embrace it. Companies and software providers are realizing that which is why the space is so incredibly hot right now.

7. Regulatory compliance is an integral part of HR, how does your product/solution address the same?

The bottom line is that you have to make it easy and using the right technology can make it easier. At Talent Rover, we’ve tried to simplify this process by building compliance and credential management tools into our platform. We tackle this element from both sides. On the recruiting side, we’ve given recruiters complete visibility into the credentials that are expiring or outstanding so they can prioritize filling in those gaps. On the candidate side, we have Communities – our mobile-first candidate portal – that empowers candidates to maintain and update their own compliance documentation so that these issues get resolved faster.

8. What questions are your buyers asking you? How is that impacting your product/solution roadmap? Are there any new features or upcoming upgrades that you’re excited about and would like to give us a sneak peek into?

I’m not surprised at how symbiotic our partnership becomes with our customers - I’m surprised at how others are not. We understand what our customers go through because we’ve been on that side of the desk. We’ve always embraced the difficult questions or requests from customers because it’s our job to listen and understand the outcome that they’re wanting the system to produce. But that’s where the customer input stops and our expertise begins. This gets back into why I think so many softwares have turned into Frankenstein - because software vendors will just deliver whatever their customer asked for. It sounds like the right answer, but it’s the wrong answer. Our customers are brilliant at what they do, but they’re not software people. They know what they want and why they want it but they don’t necessarily understand how that translates into a simplified software-based solution. It’s our responsibility to look at the philosophy around our product and make sure whatever our customer is asking for holds true to what our values are.

Our product roadmap is crazy and exciting. The partnerships we have with Accenture and some of our other SI partners have enabled us to condense a 4-year roadmap down into 9 months. The level of innovation and the number of product releases that are coming from us will dramatically reshape the industry. To give you a sneak peek, we have a new BI suite that we’re rolling out this month called Talent Rover Analytics. We’ve also just wrapped up a full direct API integration with LinkedIn. Next year big things are going to come around AI, more streamlined efficiency, and lots of other features designed to get our customers from sales to invoicing as fast as possible.

9. It’s been a year since Talent Rover set up offices in Japan and Australia. How different is the APAC job market compared to the US in terms of industries, designations, the talent pool, demographics etc? Any specific insights for HR personnel recruiting for global teams?

The biggest thing for firms recruiting in APAC is to embrace that the way they do business is different from the US and EMEA. Asia, and Japan itself, has a very specific way of working. For example, in the US it’s absolutely wrong to ask someone how old they are throughout the job application process. In Japan it’s completely normal and a driving factor in who is going to get hired because it’s looked at differently. Seasoned professionals are often preferred because they bring a lot more experience with them. The biggest insights for HR personnel recruiting for these markets is understanding these culture differences - what’s typically recruited for and why - and not to be biased by what we’ve always been told is a no-no in the U.S. What we’ve learned is that having people who live and are from these areas is critical to understanding the market and learning how to adapt to these differences.

10. Can you share a screenshot of the homepage of your smartphone (iOS/Android/other)? It would be interesting to see some of the apps you personally use on a daily basis to get things done and stay on top of your day.