HR Tech Interview with Mahe Bayireddi, CEO and Co-founder at Phenom

Mahe Bayireddi, CEO and Co-founder at Phenom takes us through Phenom’s transformation through the years and shares his thoughts on the impactful ways in which companies are modernizing their HR operations with HR tech in this chat with TecHRseries;


Tell us a little about yourself Mahe…and your journey through HR tech; how did the idea of Phenom come about? 

From a very young age, I was taught the importance of work. Jobs, after all, not only provide income — they provide purpose. Growing up in India, my father instilled in me that the greatest accomplishment would be to provide job opportunities to as many people as possible.

After co-founding several start-ups, Phenom was born with the purpose of helping one billion people find the right job. Even as we’ve grown over the years, this purpose has remained our core objective, and it is the cornerstone of everything we do.

The Phenom platform delivers personalized job recommendations to candidates and helps companies identify that perfect hire. It also focuses on the development of employees, helping them map out the ideal career path while engaging with management and honing their skills. Serving some of the largest organizations in the world, the Phenom platform eliminates multiple point solutions, reduces cost, and increases ROI for talent acquisition and talent management.

We believe people should be happy and inspired by their jobs – just as we are. That simple belief fuels our collective desire to fundamentally transform recruitment marketing and talent management.

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How has the platform evolved over the years…can you take us through the platform’s transformation through the years?

When we first opened our doors in 2010, we were solely focused on mobile-recruiting services. Today, we are a pioneer in HR — providing the first holistic Talent Experience Management (TXM) platform to more than 300 global organizations.

Since its inception, Phenom has grown to more than 700 employees around the world, with headquarters in Greater Philadelphia and offices in Canada, India, Israel, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

Driven by artificial intelligence, Phenom TXM personalizes and automates the talent journey for candidates, recruiters, employees and management with the Career Site, Chatbot, CRM, CMS, SMS and Email Campaigns, University Recruiting, Internal Mobility, Career Pathing, Diversity & Inclusion, Gigs, Referrals and Analytics.

As a result, employers improve their talent acquisition and talent management efforts by helping candidates and employees find the right job, recruiters identify and engage the right talent, and management optimize HR strategy, process and spend.

What were some of the initial challenges or highlights you experienced as an HR Tech founder?

We worked hard to help HR leaders understand that experience is everything. Traditional HR systems are all about processes and transactions, but Talent Experience Management focuses on the whole talent lifecycle. We can look at data generated from interactions with candidates, recruiters, employees and hiring managers to highlight best fits and immediately begin focusing on their growth. We don’t just help organizations build teams; we help them deploy talent in roles best suited for enterprise and individual success.

How are you seeing AI impact the HR Tech marketplace in its entirety today and what are your thoughts on the future of AI in HR Tech?

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the game for organizations around the world. After talking with hundreds of CHROs and talent leaders, it’s apparent that many face similar challenges. Some companies are still hiring, and they need to bring in talent faster. Others have frozen talent acquisition initiatives and need their current employees to be agile as their responsponsibilities change or expand. Another set of organizations are considering how to handle furloughed and laid-off employees so they’re prepared when the economy recovers.

AI technology is addressing all these concerns, bringing much-needed automation to HR and increasing productivity for years to come. The success and future of AI tech lie in its ability to learn. Artificial intelligence and machine learning need data and the human element to become more effective and accurate over time.

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Can you talk about some game-changing ways in which global companies are using AI to redefine HR Tech innovations and employee offerings?

Global companies are turning to HR tech to modernize their best recruiting practices, gain efficiency and productivity, and restrategize talent management for an unpredictable future. Examples of effective and impactful uses of AI in HR tech include:

  • Using AI in the hiring process to help companies reduce — and even overcome — bias. While AI won’t consider diversity on behalf of talent acquisition professionals, AI will supply data to help humans make better decisions about diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Reshaping the roles needed at global companies and the skills required to fill them. As a result, company and HR leaders are developing reskilling and new-skilling strategies for candidates. HR professionals are learning how to analyze data in new ways, digitalize TA processes like onboarding, and apply new technologies as they emerge.
  • Personalizing recommendations so AI can offer more options to candidates and employees. AI-based solutions provide candidates with experiences that are user-friendly and increasingly efficient, and they help employees tap into their true potential and advance their careers in the most efficient ways possible.
  • Relieving the burden recruiters feel from everyday tasks by leveraging AI and automation through channels like chatbots, SMS, and email. Through an easy-to-use CRM, recruiters can dedicate time where their work is most important: building and maintaining solid relationships with top candidates, and providing the best candidate experience possible.

As AI powered systems mature and take on more burden from HR professionals, how do you think the role of HR will have to evolve to meet the connect between HR-HR Tech?

HR technology built on an intelligence layer delivers essential automation, eliminating tedious and repetitive tasks that often frustrate talent acquisition and talent management teams. By taking on activities like sourcing, screening, scheduling, and candidate discovery, recruiters are able to evolve and focus on the projects that really matter — like building meaningful relationships with talent and becoming a talent advisor. AI will not replace recruiters; rather, it will make them more human.

In today’s digital hiring environment; how can HR leaders use HR Tech in a more optimized manner to not only automate and personalize hiring processes at scale, but to also impact overall business outcomes with improved talent management / retention or training processes. 

Many HR leaders have turned to augmenting the employee experience in wake of COVID, and AI can discover skills that are hard to recognize at first glance. Companies that have focused on employee versatility have been better able to weather hiring freezes precipitated by the pandemic. It’s always an optimal time to establish your company as a place where employees can grow and take on new projects, and the decelerated economy has made this even more evident. Greater retention saves organizations an astronomical amount of money, as opposed to attrition and the expensive training that comes with onboarding new talent.

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What are some of the ways in which you feel HR leaders should drive more change within their organization (in terms of workplace culture, benefits, hiring process, etc).

With organizations facing an uncertain future, HR leaders must focus on hiring and developing talent that will make businesses more agile. During the last financial crisis, companies turned to their CFOs for urgent reactive strategies. The pandemic has placed more emphasis on a depressed job market, so CPOs and CHROs have an opportunity to transform HR. Now is the time for them to adopt innovative technology that can help their companies gain a competitive edge in a crowded talent market. HR technology — reinforced with powerful AI and automation — can make a huge difference in the appeal of a company to candidates and employees. Overall, it streamlines the talent journey, making it easier to upskill, reskill, and engage.

Before we wrap up, we’d love to hear a little about the employee culture and experience at Phenom…

Phenom is not your average workplace — we take pride in building a culture that is not normal and celebrates all of the ways our company and employees are unique. By creating a work environment that is as robust as our mission to help a billion people find the right job, our staff comes to life with all the best qualities. People should be happy and inspired by their jobs — and we serve our employees by creating memorable moments throughout their entire employee experience.

Our leadership team embraces a mentality that is employee-first, which feeds down to the rest of the company. By keeping employees happy and ensuring they love their jobs, this energy and positivity radiates out to their teammates, customers, and families.

Every Phenom employee begins their journey with us by sharing their favorite quirks, hobbies, and talents that make them one-of-a-kind. We call them #NotNormals, and it’s become a cornerstone of our onboarding process. New hires also see their own faces prominently displayed in our lobby during their first few days to ensure they feel like part of the Phenom phamily.

After onboarding, employees are immersed within the Phenom community. Prior to COVID, the team regularly went on outings to sports games and tourist destinations to strengthen team bonding and nurture a true work family philosophy. Employee-led groups, such as book clubs, were also available to promote community.

Phenom Cares, our philanthropic initiative, is our way of encouraging employees to give back to the community. Over the years, we’ve supported charities and events including the SPCA, Boys & Girls Club, clothing drives, as well as local communities in India. On a Phenom employee’s birthday, Phenom makes donations on their behalf to a charity of their choice.

After the COVID-19 pandemic started, we took care of the remote transition by offering flex time to parents, transition time for everyone to adjust to work from home, and reiterated our unlimited paid time off to be used as needed in the new environment. Next, we are setting up a Phenom assistance fund to help employees experiencing extreme hardship as a result of this pandemic.

We also committed to additional online learning opportunities and mental health resources.

Phenom People delivers the Phenom Talent Experience Management (TXM) platform to transform the talent journey from interested candidates to thriving employees to enthusiastic brand advocates, while helping HR break the stereotype of being a cost center instead of a revenue generator.

Mahe Bayireddi is the CEO and co-founder of Phenom People. He is a passionate entrepreneur, and has co-founded several successful technology companies.

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