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TecHRseries Interview with Jim Buchanan, CEO at Cadient Talent

Data and Analytics should play a huge role in your talent acquisition system advises Jim Buchanan, CEO of Cadient Talent in this interview. At a time when remote work has become the new normal for the software industry, the role of HR is also changing. Catch the complete story to grab more insights on what it takes to lead a team in challenging times.


Tell us a little about yourself Jim, and a little about your journey as the CEO of Cadient Talent – how have things changed or how has a typical workday evolved in the recent past (before the pandemic)? What does a typical day at work look like for you now?

I’ve been involved in the talent acquisition industry for over fifteen years and have seen both changes and advancements in the recruiting process.  The dream of Cadient Talent was conceived several years ago as we saw a great opportunity in the distributed hourly hiring sector. After years of discussion, we were able to carve out the talent acquisition business unit from a large private software company. Talent acquisition was not strategic to the other company but the business we acquired had capabilities that we believe are pretty unusual in the recruiting industry. I’m very excited and honored to have the ability to lead Cadient Talent.

On a typical workday we’re very collaborative as a company. We are a software company but we’re laser focused on providing a solution that provides the best business outcome for our clients. That solution is delivered through software, but it’s the total solution that provides value. Consequently, a typical day consists of many discussions about how we’re doing on our various objectives to help our clients hire the right people. Our mission statement is “To fuel our clients’ success by providing solutions to identify and hire the best talent through informed decisions”. Every day is filled with activities to support that mission.

The pandemic has been difficult for everyone and we’re not an exception to that harsh fact.  However, we are fortunate to be in the software industry and able to work remotely. This doesn’t mean that the work stops or that our people less productive. In fact, when your daily commute is up a flight of stairs as opposed to 30 to 45 minutes in traffic, people are often more productive. Collaboration doesn’t happen as naturally, however, but there are a number of software platforms that make it manageable.

Given your time and expertise in the human capital management industry – we’d love to know your thoughts on how the typical role of the HR manager in the tech industry has evolved over the years. What are the demands/requirements for HR leaders in SaaS/Tech today?

An HR leader has always had a difficult job, but it’s incredibly hard today.  Obviously, there has been a radical change in the last few weeks but up until the pandemic, the unemployment rate was at its lowest level in fifty years.  That made sourcing candidates a tremendous challenge for all employers.  We used to talk about the “War For Talent” but that gave way to the “War For Attention”.

HR leaders are tasked with many responsibilities, but we have always believed that putting a recruiting program in place to hire the best people is the number one priority.  Years ago, HR was looked upon as the compliance people; they keep people out of trouble.  They still do that but today, HR leaders are charged with more strategic and operational responsibilities – hire people who live up to corporate values, recruit employees who will be more productive on the job, attract people who will stay longer on the job, and reduce employee turnover.  These are responsibilities that absolutely have an impact on the company’s bottom line.  That’s true for all types of employees but particularly true for customer facing jobs in retail, healthcare, business services and other industries where companies have a high contingent of hourly workers.  If those employees embody your corporate values and are a good fit for the job skill-wise, personality-wise and experience-wise, your customers will have a much better experience leading to increased revenue, lower turnover and improved financial results.  HR leaders understand this very well, but it’s often overlooked by many.

Read More: TecHRseries Interview with Steve Auerbach, CEO at Alegeus

HR Tech is enabling the efforts and goals of HR teams worldwide, could you share your top five must-haves or must-dos when it comes to selecting/adopting an HR Tech stack – what are the top factors global teams with a distributed work force should consider most?

With respect to recruiting solutions, first, it has to be easy for both your candidates and your hiring managers to use. Candidates will abandon the application if it’s not a convenient and efficient process to apply.  Store managers in a distributed environment are responsible for many responsibilities, one of which is hiring. They are not dedicated recruiters that sit in front of an ATS all day. They need to be able to process candidates through the system easily and not have to retrain themselves every time they log on to do the next hire.

Secondly, they need an evergreen system. By that, we mean that positions are always open.  Most recruiting systems require a job requisition to be posted, then that job is filled, and the requisition is closed when someone is hired, and opened again when there is a termination.  It goes on and on creating several inefficiencies. With an evergreen system, you’re always accepting candidates for your positions. When someone quits unexpectedly, you have a pipeline of candidates to review and consider. Even if you don’t have an open position, the manager may see a candidate that would be an exceptional hire. There may be an opportunity to bring that A-Player onboard, work them into the shift schedule, and schedule less hours for the C-Player who is not performing well.

Thirdly, you need candidate pooling capability. Hourly workers tend to apply for jobs near their residence.  They probably know your business either as your customer or proximity of your location.  But your company has other locations in the vicinity that are not top of mind for that candidate.  Candidate pooling allows applications for a job at a specific location, who is not currently hiring, to be reviewed by other nearby locations.  It’s very likely that a slightly further commute won’t be an objection for the candidate. It’s a great way to be able to share candidates amongst sister locations. We have clients who have had 2 of 3 candidates take jobs at a different location than where they applied.

Fourth, you need an experienced team of people to support your talent acquisition efforts. Our Client Success team is made up of people with an average of 15 years of experience in recruiting. They know the software inside and out, but they also know what works in recruiting.  They’re focused on the solution of hiring the best employee.  We like to say that while our competitors deliver Software-as-a-Service, to us SaaS stands for Software-and-a-Solution.

Finally, data and analytics should play a huge role in your talent acquisition system.  When you have distributed hiring managers spread across a large region, it’s very difficult to get consistency in your hiring.  We’ve processed over one billion applicants and we have the data on all those applicants.  We also have the feedback loop on all those applicants: Who was hired?  Did they turn out to be a good employee, meaning did they stay on the job longer than usual? How did they perform?  Does that new candidate have some of the same qualities that your best hires possessed? A decision support system based on machine learning from one billion applicants with a 360-degree view of what happened to that applicant is an extremely powerful tool to review applicants and support the hiring process. But a word of caution here; the data must be depersonalized and carefully evaluated to make sure that the criteria is strictly job-related and does not cause any adverse impact. We’re fortunate to have the resources on our team to keep those safeguards in place.

Read More: Job Market Metamorphosis: How HR Can Prepare

In what ways what you advise tech teams / HR teams to use their HR Technology to enable better employee engagement at a time when working from home is becoming a norm due to the current global pandemic?

There have been so many advancements in recent years that make the current work from home environment easier to manage.  Consider payroll and benefits.  Need to make a change to your withholdings, your address, or check your last paystub?  There’s a portal for that and it’s easy to use.  Need to make a change to your benefits?  Go online and it’s done.  Need to communicate with a team member?  There’s a slew of applications that make it easy whether you need voice, video, or to share a screen.  Recruiting is hard, however.  That sit-down face-to-face interview isn’t happening right now.  Video interviewing has been trending up in recent years, but it’s really taking off now.  We didn’t have it in our product offering but we’re working very hard right now to make it available to our clients as soon as possible.

What are some of your top leadership tactics that you’d say help enable better team building and alignment of goals?

Communication is number one, number two and number three.  We have regular all-hands meetings and company-wide correspondence with our employees.  I want every single person in our company to understand our strategy and our plans.  As an employee, you need to know why you’re working so hard on that particular project and where it fits in the overall company plan.  They may be getting tired of hearing about the strategy and direction, but we provide regular and consistent messaging about it.  Earlier this year, we shared company objectives and each department’s objectives for 2020 with the entire team.  It’s good for everyone to know the game plan. It helps keep each of us accountable to achieve those goals and keeps our team informed about what we’re doing.

Can you talk about some of the most innovative HR/workplace culture trends that you see taking over the tech and B2B industry, given the current world situation? How, according to you, is the Future of Work (and life!) going to evolve given the current pandemic and the influence of HR Tech?

The work from home or work remotely trend has certainly been growing over the last several years and whether you agree with it or not, you’re doing it right now!  Early in my career, face time was everything.  If you were in the office 12-14 hours per day, you were promotable and you advanced in your career very quickly.  Never mind that your personal and family life was falling apart, you just reached your goal of Vice President.  Thankfully, we’ve gotten away from that and now it’s more likely that you earn advancement through your actual accomplishments.  We have a much healthier work/life balance opportunity today.  This pandemic is forcing us to do things differently.  The HR Tech tools in our industry have evolved rapidly over the last several years.  Remember when you went into the business location to complete an application?  We’ve already made a lot of changes with the advent of the internet that have prepared us well for this environment with the pandemic.  But, some of the changes forced upon us now will have a long-term impact.  Video interviewing will continue to grow because both candidates and hiring managers will get used to it.  We can’t get to a place where we completely de-personalize the hiring process but more and more automation will come.

Read More: Top HR Tech tools that Help Assess Productivity and Improve Global Workforce Management

What are the top 5 points of advice you’d give SaaS teams and SaaS leaders struggling to cope in times of global uncertainty?

  • Know your clients.  In our business, it’s critical to know how our clients are doing in terms of applicants and hires in order to support them.  Some of our clients, such as grocery stores, wholesale clubs, and other food supply companies, as well as medical facilities and healthcare organizations, have experienced an increase in activity during the pandemic.  Others, such as health clubs, restaurants, and non-essential retailers are way down because their locations are closed.  We are in the best position to help them when we know what’s going on with their business.
  • Be a solution.  Some SaaS companies get their clients implemented, set up the hosting access connections and then provide technical support.  It’s up to the client to figure out how to get the most benefit from the software.  We believe the best SaaS companies actually educate their clients and assist them in providing a solution to get the best business outcome from use of the application.
  • Communicate. Check in regularly with employees and clients.  There is general anxiety about the future.  Employees aren’t sure if they will have a job and clients aren’t completely sure that you will stay in business (or if they will stay in business). Communicate honestly and regularly. People understand that we are having some rough patches and it’s better to work through this together.
  • Don’t panic.  It’s tempting to take drastic action to slash cost and preserve cash.  Many companies have been forced to do these things because plants and facilities have been forced to close or they suddenly have no revenue.  The SaaS business model has always been a great model and we’re fortunate in the software business that we can continue to operate prudently but fairly normally.
  • Research the CARES Act. Determine if there are any aspects of that legislation that could be of benefit to your company.  Like all government legislation, it’s tedious to read and can be confusing so it’s important to get good legal advice on how to proceed.

Cadient Talent offers a leading end-to-end hiring solution for distributed workforces. Built specifically for the field, for customers like Costco and Genesco, Cadient’s intuitive and flexible platform meets the complex needs of high-volume, hourly hiring and provides managers with a constant pipeline of quality candidates.

Jim has spent the past fifteen years in executive management roles in the talent acquisition industry. Prior to Cadient Talent, Jim co-founded Merlin Technologies, the parent company of Assess Systems, a human capital management company specializing in assessment software and solutions. Under his leadership, the company experienced significant growth and was acquired by a private equity firm in 2015. Jim earned his bachelor’s degree at Indiana State University and his MBA at Indiana University.