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TecHRseries Interview with Hari Kolam, Chief Executive Officer at Findem

Hari Kolam, Chief Executive Officer at Findem joins us to talk about the growing impact of HR analytics and HR tech in today’s marketplace and how data will reset the way hiring manager and teams plan their recruitment processes.

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Tell us a little about yourself Hari…and your (two-time!) startup journey, we’d love to hear about the thought / story behind Findem.

As an engineer turned entrepreneur, my journeys have always started off with the urge to solve the hardest problem that’s having the greatest impact. When you launch a business, that problem — and job number one — is almost always the tall task of building and scaling high-performing teams. From personally going through this at Instart, my previous venture where we grew to upward of 100 employees across the globe, I learned first-hand how extraordinarily difficult it can be to bring together diverse individuals and form a cohesive, high-caliber team.

After Instart, it really started to sink in that this ubiquitous team-scaling problem was still being traditionally approached using brute-force along with a human element. I knew there had to be a better way. As I studied it closer, it occurred to me that this is a data problem at its core, and the right way to solve it was to approach it like a data problem. This idea kernel first grew into a passion project and then into Findem. I was fortunate to bring together a skilled Findem team that worked fervently in stealth mode for a year to develop what we believe to be the best solution thus far —  a People Intelligence platform built on top of a robust data infrastructure. We officially launched from stealth mode in October 2020.

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How are you seeing HR analytics influence business and HR decisions today; in what ways do you feel HR analytics will reshape the HR and HR Tech segment in the near-future?

HR analytics is already having an increasing influence on workforce planning and compensation benchmarking, and playing a bigger role in analyzing employee engagement and turnover. In our conversations with various HR teams, we’re hearing that there is a clear desire to use analytic insights to learn more about the hiring workflow, such as time-to-hire and to anticipate future talent and skills gaps, as well as to identify the characteristics that make up high-performing employees so they can mirror those in new-hires. The biggest challenge with this today is that teams are only getting access to fragmented or incomplete data sources that limit the kind of granular analysis needed to get a complete picture.

As we look ahead into the next 12–18 months, I predict we’ll see more HR teams using data analytics to drive their recruitment and hiring decisions, and more HR professionals becoming data fluent. With these tech advances, they’ll have the means to glean true talent insights, such as which recent hires were successful and why, who has proven to be a loyal employee in previous positions and who might be predisposed to job-hopping. As a result, there will be less reliance on pricey staffing agencies. HR analytics will also play a greater role in workforce management and planning, telling business leaders whether they should invest in building teams from within or hire from outside, if reskilling or upskilling is a wise move, and which employees aren’t receiving equitable pay for their positions.

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What are some of the biggest people challenges you see HR and business heads in B2B and Tech still struggle with despite sophisticated talent management systems and intelligence platforms? How would you advise teams to revisit how they deploy / optimize their HR tech stack to yield better results?

I’d say one of the biggest challenges for HR leaders is implementing 21st century tools and technology — namely HR and people analytics — to enable their teams to make strategic, rather than tactical, people decisions. Without access to the right data, they’re basically stuck in a wheel of reactive decisions and not able to step back and bring a strategic view to bear.

Another big one is determining the attributes or characteristics that make an employee successful within the company – things like whether they embody the company values, are proactive and have a strong work ethic. Not having these insights limits the ability of HR leaders to define or set the right employee development and hiring goals. Even if they were able to determine these exact attributes, talent acquisition teams have no easy way to translate them into keywords in a way that allows them to pinpoint the ideal candidates who possess those attributes. The net-net is their talent pipeline ends up inefficient and inaccurate and it’s frustratingly difficult to meet hiring goals.

Eliminating bias from the recruiting process is another key challenge, and one that we’re seeing a large number of companies working to solve to ensure they’re building a diverse, competitive workforce. For most companies today, every part of recruiting involves human decision making, which inevitably introduces bias. Making diversity central to the hiring process requires training and commitment to execution at every step of the recruiting funnel.

The best way to overcome these hurdles is to bring all people data together in one place, so every people-related decision can be based on complete data, not just bits and bytes. It’s foundational to what we do at Findem, and we’ve seen HR teams literally transform when they’re able to make decisions based on hard data and not guesswork. When they have this view, companies can then determine the attributes that make up successful employees, hire for those attributes and so on. Having a data strategy is very important, if not imperative. When it comes to eliminating bias in recruiting, companies should be monitoring diversity metrics at every stage of the hiring process.

How would you tell HR leaders to use data-driven insights to further optimize their core processes and people culture / employee experience?

The cost of involuntary turnover is exceedingly high. I’ve seen estimates from SHRM showing total costs of turnover range from 90-200% of annual salary, which is an alarming statistic. My belief is that turnover can be mitigated by looking at the right, holistic data. Collecting data around employee engagement and productivity, for example, can be used to understand the trends and patterns around why employees choose to leave a company and what factors make someone a bigger flight risk. You can use employee survey data to understand what makes employees happy, look at the attrition workflow to see which managers require training, and examine internal benchmark data to ensure employees are compensated appropriately and promoted in a timely fashion — all leading to improved employee experiences. Analyzing the data effectively can help companies make predictions about turnover and, better yet, help prevent that turnover from happening in the first place.

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How do you feel HR tech will evolve in 2021 and beyond to meet more challenges in business and HR?

For one thing, it’s going to need to be applied in new ways to support the sudden shift to a massive, global remote workforce. Algorithms will need to be adapted to assess performance, productivity and other metrics that are difficult to measure in a remote world, as well as to find gaps where reskilling, upskilling or training is needed. Some of the most advanced people analytics will even be able identify the employees who are the most successful remote workers, and HR can learn the attributes that make them successful and find ways to impart them on others.

I’m confident we’ll also see AI and machine learning continuing to transform the world of talent

acquisition and internal mobility. For instance, we’ll see analytics used more prevalently to identify active and passive candidates immediately after a job is posted, to predict how well a candidate might perform in a certain role, to help employees find internal jobs they never considered and to see where there might be wastage within an organization. I also foresee “blind” hiring becoming a norm, where hiring decisions are based on merit and performance and little else.

What are some of the top tech trends you feel will dominate HR / HR Tech in the near-future?

The emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace is a trend that isn’t going anywhere, and rightfully so. However, companies are still challenged in their goal to build more diverse and inclusive teams, so I believe this trend will continue to dominate until companies become truly representative.

Another trend taking shape is data-driven HR. HR teams everywhere are seeking to use the right data to make better, more predictive and more strategic people decisions. This is especially the case in such a tight talent market where talent is one of a company’s biggest competitive advantages. This ties into how AI and ML are transforming recruiting — helping companies automate processes, mitigate bias and find the best, most diverse talent. It’s not just external talent, though, companies are also focusing on uncovering the capabilities that already exist within their organizations and upskilling employees to help the business meet its goals. This is all in the context of today’s remote workforce. Organizations will need to continue to improve the employee experience and determine how to measure productivity and engagement outside of an in-person, office environment, and tech will be the key to making that a reality.

We’d love to hear about your upcoming plans for Findem!

We recently came out of stealth mode and it’s been a lot of fun getting our solution out into the world since launch! Our current focus is on empowering HR and Talent teams to drive a new era of business growth and productivity by backing every people decision they make with People Intelligence. We want to help people teams use data and unbiased data insights to make decisions about everything from sourcing, to hiring, to development, engagement and retention.

On the platform side of things, we’re moving quickly toward offering a self-service version of Compass, the component of our platform that enables hiring teams to make warm introductions to top candidates. We’ll also be further integrating with additional ATS, HRIS, CRM and internal productivity systems such as Zendesk and Salesforce. We’re moving quickly, so please keep checking in to see what’s new.

Before we wrap up, we’d love to hear a little about the employee culture and experience at Findem! And a few parting thoughts for HR Tech founders around the world…

We’re a small, close team that’s excited to be solving real problems for our customers. I would say the biggest defining feature of our culture is curiosity. Everyone at Findem loves to learn. We constantly embrace new ideas and iterate fast on what we’re building to make it better. A big part of this culture is not being afraid to fail – successful teams fail all the time! It’s important that we all feel comfortable being able to challenge each other and question why we’re doing things a certain way, knowing that we’re in it together and are working toward common goals.

Findem is transforming how companies make their people decisions. Backed by AI and all the world’s people data, Findem’s People Intelligence platform empowers HR and talent leaders with the data-driven insights they need to architect and develop a best-of-class workforce. With Findem’s platform, companies can uncover the talent attributes that matter most to their business goals, benchmark their talent internally and externally, identify skills and diversity gaps, and fill those gaps through automatic introductions to exceptional and interested candidates—all without bias.

Hari Kolam is the Chief Executive Officer at Findem

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