RecTech Bad Ass - Adam Godson
When you want to talk recruitment tech you need to call upon one of the very few BAD ASS RPO tech overloads around the globe. So that's exactly what Chad & Cheese did...
Adam Godson is High Commander of Tech Solutions at Cielo - that's what I call him - where they have 150,000 hires per year in 27 applicant tracking systems and that doesn't even touch the cool ass tech outside of the ATS.
PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION sponsored by:
Chad: Dude, I just got off the phone with Teg.
Joel: Teg, Teg ... Oh, yeah, over at Uncommon.
Chad: Dude, do you know another Teg? Anyway, Uncommon just opened up their resume database of 100 million candidates to recruiters for free.
Joel: Whoa. Wait, what?
Chad: Yeah, Uncommon's releasing their new database-matching tech in beta before the end of the year, and they want to show it off to recruiters for free.
Joel: All right, let me get this straight. Recruiters can sign up for Uncommon's beta, post their jobs into the system, the system then matches only qualified candidates from Uncommon's database of 100 million candidates, and this is all for free?
Chad: I know, dude!
Joel: Dude, Uncommon has some of the best matching tech in the industry. That'll be like cheating for recruiters.
Chad: I know. Uncommon uses the qualifications in the job description to automatically source, screen, and deliver candidates that meet all requirements. It's pretty freaking dope.
Joel: Did you just say "dope"?
Chad: Here's how you register: go to uncommon.co, click on the "Join Beta" button, and for all you Chad & Cheese listeners, if you use the promo code ChadCheese, you will get extended by a full week.
Joel: I'm sorry, did you really say "dope"?
Chad: Dude, shut up. Tell your recruiter buddies uncommon.co, join beta,
ChadCheese. It's dope.
Announcer: Hide your kids, lock the doors. You're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts, complete with breaking news, brash opinion, and loads of snark. Buckle up, boys and girls. It's time for the Chad & Cheese Podcast.
Chad: Welcome to the Chad & Cheese Podcast. This is Chad Sowash.
Joel: The way-too-early edition.
Chad: Yeah. And that's Joel Cheesman, by the way. Just so that you know, today, once again, Chad & Cheese are committed to bringing you the most high-quality guests on our show. Well, maybe not today.
Chad: So today we have Adam Godson, who is the high commander of recruitment technology at Cielo. Did I get that title right, Adam? High commander?
Adam: High commander, I'll take it. I'll take it. Why not?
Joel: The most biblical name on the show, to date.
Chad: Adam Godson, yeah.
Adam: Very much so.
Joel: Eve Godson is on next week.
Adam: Yeah, she was unavailable today.
Joel: That's right.
Chad: It's kind of like Odinson. Is that what you're thinking? A little Marvel action? Everybody out there, and just for Joel as well, Adam already speaks fast as it is, okay? He's a quick talker. And then he speaks faster when he gets excited. So when he talks about recruitment technology, he speaks very fast, so I suggest that everybody listening to this podcast listen at half speed so that you can understand.
Adam: That's right, back it off. Back it off just a little bit.
Joel: And if you're in a pot-legal state, go ahead and smoke up while you do that.
Chad: Which Wisconsin is not, and that's where Adam's at.
Adam: That's true.
Chad: So Adam, give us a little bit of background about you, Cielo, what the hell is a Cielo. Give us a little bit.
Adam: Yeah, so I lead technology globally at Cielo. Cielo does recruitment process outsourcing, so we hire some or all of a company's hires, always under their brand. We have a "we become you" promise, so people apply to one of our partner companies, they think they're talking to a recruiter that works for them, they're actually talking to a recruiter that works for us. So we drive process and outcomes through outsourced hiring.
Adam: My role is the best role in the company, and I work on technology systems. We've got a few technology systems that we bring to help recruitment. We typically work with our clients' ATS systems, so think of that what you will, but we oftentimes inherit those. We use 27 different applicant tracking systems in our client ecosystem, some of them better than others.
Joel: So like 1% of them.
Adam: Right, exactly. That actually is fairly close. And then we try to wrap the data all together in analytics platforms to make good stories of what's actually happening for talent acquisition and what those outcomes are. But the cool part is we get to try lots of stuff. We know a lot of the recruiting technology in the market, and we're always experiencing, trying, seeing what works, seeing what doesn't work in being able to stay ahead of the game. So that's, I think, where we add some value.
Chad: So TA ... oh, talent acquisition always likes to bitch about their applicant tracking system. So at this point, what I'm hearing is, "Shut the fuck up. We have too many."
Chad: All these applicant tracking systems. But seriously, how many clients does Cielo have? You guys are global, so how many clients do you deal with? And I mean, these are applicant tracking systems that are not just US-based, right?
Adam: Yeah, of course. We've got over 160 clients around the world. We make over 150,000 hires a year. We've got 10 offices around the world in every region of the world. Yeah, over the years, it's gotten much more complex. I've been here for seven years. We were a 200-person, little RPO when I started, focused only in North America. We've been able to grow to over 200,000 employees around the globe and take on really one of the only handful of players in the RPO space that could really handle global complex deals. And that's what makes it a ton of fun, man. It really is, just being able to solve really meaty complex problems you've really got to wrap your head around and think about and do it with tech.
Joel: So talk about the global, I guess, variety that you see, what trends are you seeing, globally, for those of us in America that don't necessarily see the world on a regular basis?
Adam: I was in Argentina a couple of weeks ago, for example. The economy's really rough in Argentina right now, so I think it's, you know, good times and big parties in North America and in a lot of Europe, but there are certain parts of the world that it's not right now. So I think understanding not only the economic situation of those countries but also their maturity when it comes to talent acquisition. The story we hear over and over and over again in Latin America and Asia Pacific is, "There's a global ATS implemented for our company, but nobody really uses it. And there are processes that corporate follows, but here it's different in our region. Nobody uses those systems." And some of that is the systems' fault where they're not really set up to handle those environments well.
Adam: But a lot of it also is just business process maturity. In many ways, those regions are the Wild West, and it's the global companies that are coming first to introduce more process and introduce more systems to do that. So that's much of what we do in our programs, is get more global consistency. Because companies want to globalize, they want to be able to see where their talent is around the world. I mean, mobility of talent is incredible today, but it doesn't work if we're not all working in some of the same systems and have the right business process.
Chad: And you can't find them here, right? So if you can't find them here in the US, and there are individuals that are obviously abroad, and you can work virtually, then yeah, there's an opportunity to do something like that. Now, you talk about process, and when we talk about technology, I don't believe that we talk about process enough, but I would believe ... and tell me if I'm wrong ... that process has a lot to do with the technologies that you and Cielo actually pick to integrate into your clients' systems or their "stack."
Adam: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. It's a ton about process. I actually think that process is where ... I mean, the process is the name of RPO, right? Process outsourcing ... is a big reason why we're able to be somewhat successful in making technology work for clients, because we always have ... our vantage point is always the end outcome in mind. Like, we don't get paid for making people feel good, we don't get paid for getting 30% more clicks. We get paid for hires and outcomes, right? And that always has to be our focus, so we can't use technology that is super cool and we like the salesperson, but does it work? That's not our game. Everything has to work, and we have to be able to get outcomes from it.
Adam: I think I was talking the other day about what I see with vendors starting to
have some challenges because they only see part of the outcome in what they're putting in, and the incentives aren't always aligned. I was working with a client last week, and they had two vendors kind of working together, and I could tell that both vendors had their goal, neither of which was the client's goal. The vendor at the front end, their goal was to get more people through the very front end of the process, through the website. And they did it. They got 30% more people through the front-end application. They felt great, and they thought they were serving the client really well.
Adam: The second vendor was working on screening, and their goal was to get as much of the process in their tool as possible. So they wanted to be sticky, they wanted to be that vendor that could be really well embedded, and so they created this long process where they were using a ton of that solution. And at the end of the day, they had half the output that they did before those two vendors tried to optimize this process. And that happens because those vendors achieved their individual goals, but neither of them looked at the process and the actual goal of the client.
Chad: So you, in effect, are really referee and diplomat all the way through this. I mean, you have to focus on the client's goals because, at the end of the day, if they're not getting outcomes, it doesn't matter if these other two platforms feel good about themselves. If they're not getting outcomes, none of this matters.
Adam: Yeah, I mean, "diplomat" is probably a strong word. I'm probably not a very diplomatic diplomat, but yeah, I mean-
Joel: Neither is Chad.
Adam: Chad's definitely not. But yeah, that's exactly it, right? Like, trying to get everybody to play, because this is getting more complex in getting vendors to work together, kind of creating these stacks of technology in an ecosystem. It just requires someone with that process focus, the outcome focus, and the data focus to make it all work together, to orchestrate the parties. Because everyone's got their lens, everyone's got their incentives, and making sure that the incentive is always outputs.
Joel: Adam, there are about three or so recent events in recruiting, and I just want to get your thoughts on each one of them. Is that cool?
Adam: Yeah, let's do it.
Joel: All right. Number One: Amazon recently canceled an AI recruiting program because it was biased towards men. Upwork recently went public. Interested in your opinion of the gig economy and where that's going and how that impacts your business. And yesterday, LinkedIn launched an ATS. Those three things, I'd like your take on those.
Adam: Awesome, quick hit, here we go. I mean, Amazon should cancel AI if it's biased against women. I mean, absolutely. That's just a good object lesson to say there's lots of fancy things out there, and I know lots of startups that are working on those problems that are all excited to use machine learning technology to do these certain things, but I think we've just got to be sure that it works. One of the things that we have at Cielo, we have something we call SkyLabs, and that's where we test things.
Adam: So we've got lots of things in testing all the time, doing exactly what Amazon did, which is to ... let's put something into practice, let's learn from it, and let's figure out if this is going to be scalable or not. One of them we use is a voice analysis tool so we don't have to listen to recorded interviews, those types of things to do that. And we just spent the last six months gathering data on it but not actually using it. So we'll go back and we'll just ex-post analysis on whether that has bias in it, whether it's effective, those types of things. It was just a good object lesson in we've got to test. We've got to be sure that all stuff works in the real world.
Joel: But you're still bullish on AI, I'm hearing?
Adam: Yeah. Oh, for sure. For sure.
Joel: All right.
Adam: I mean, applied broadly to lots of different ways. You can use that word to mean just about anything these days. But yeah, I think there are lots of AI that drives automation in the process, for sure.
Chad: Before we hit Upwork, the definition of "what works" is pretty important. The prospective impact on your talent pool, and ... you know, obviously a talent pool that you have in your applicant tracking system, and also the talent pool that's out there you're going to try to attract ... but to me, it seems like we just overthink shit too much. This AI ... is it just me? I mean, the simplicity of if you're qualified or not qualified, to me, is ... you know, that does kind of make sense. But don't you think a lot of these algorithms are just getting way too complex and they're not focusing on what really matters?
Adam: I would say there's a pretty good bucket of stuff that we're overthinking, and there's probably a decent bucket of things that we're way underthinking, and we've just got to get right in the middle of that. We've got to get to our sweet spot.
Chad: Okay, so Upwork. What do you think about the gig economy?
Adam: Yeah, I mean, gig economy is real. Certainly, lots of people want to work in more flexible ways. I think Upwork is one of a few companies that have a good chance to change how people in the corporate world access this talent. So I think we've got to find a way to have people access that talent that is secure, that helps get them paid well, and helps get this done. But I think what we see is one of a couple things: we see people doing it in the dark, where they're running gigs on Upwork or Fiverr and then expensing it because they ... doing that, or some of it's run of it by procurement, and HR has no sense of any of this going on. And as you think of HR's responsibility to manage talent and organization, that has to be included in that total talent package.
Adam: And that's the first step, and that's actually moving contingent labor and permanent labor together, so contingents often run out of procurement today. But then how do we work with interns? How do we work with contractors, volunteers, people in our expert network, gig workers, even robots, robotic process automation? How do we keep that in our total talent pool to make HR responsible for getting work done? And the total workforce, not just permanent hires, it just doesn't make sense to have those all over the place in the organization. So in Upwork, they've got a good chance to help take a good step to bring that together.
Chad: So do you see Cielo actually prospectively creating a model to help some of your clients start to use and start to change the way that they think about work? Instead of it being a 9:00 to 5:00 kind of a job anymore, it's broken up into projects that, instead of them trying to manage ... because that would be a total bitch for them to try to manage ... Cielo could have a model to be able to manage those types of things. Is that something that we could prospectively be seeing?
Adam: Yeah. We have programs at early stages of that today. The hotter market for that right now is actually Europe and specifically the UK, where much of the total talent market has started to mature a little bit more quickly, I think, than the US. We've also got a couple of pilot programs in the US that are happening with total talent, as well. So I think it's a vision that we've got. There's a lot of org change that has to happen, right? So we've got to work with procurement, we've got to work with parts of the business to help them realize that vision. But many of our more forward-thinking clients are all on board with that. We're working through that with them right now.
Joel: So in pure cockblock fashion, Chad sort of just totally destroyed my series of questions by interrupting all of them. So we failed to get to LinkedIn and some of the announcements out of them this week, particularly the ATS. Wondering what your take is on what LinkedIn's up to.
Adam: Yeah, I think Microsoft has been a huge help for LinkedIn to be able to help clarify their vision and get more integrated with the enterprise. It's going to be really interesting to see what they have. They're going to start with sort of the SMB market, as seemingly everyone does when they enter this space. And much like Google Hire, I think they create a ripple effect by doing that.
Adam: So you see all the startups that were playing in the SMB space and trying to be in that running away from them as fast as they can, trying to get into midmarket. You see midmarket trying to get into enterprise, and you've just go this massive log jam of companies in the middle that many of them won't survive, right? But I think LinkedIn has a real shot to take the data ... it's the largest data people in the world, right? ... take that data and make it work as an ATS. I think there's no reason why they can't succeed in doing that.
Chad: Don't you see a Trojan horse happening here, though? I'm going to ask it before Joel does because I know he's going to ask you this one. Trojan horse? No? Yes?
Adam: There's no secret that they want to be more involved in the enterprise, both LinkedIn and Microsoft. So I think a company like Microsoft buys an asset, like LinkedIn, sort of to be a Trojan horse in some ways, right? So absolutely.
Joel: So we talked about three companies that are pretty well known. And you listen to the show fairly regularly, I believe, Adam, as you should?
Adam: I do.
Joel: You see a lot of technologies and solutions out there. What are ones that we're not talking about that we should? Sort of the hidden gems out there.
Adam: Yeah, for sure. Chad has talked about a couple of those over the course of the show. Uncommon is certainly one that I think is uncommon, perhaps. But a super-interesting company ... Oh, I know, right? No more puns. None of that. But one that I think has an interesting background and has some good technology behind it and an interesting team behind them. Another company that most people won't know is Talentify, Orlando, Florida-based company, one that Cielo is heavily involved in, but helping to use its really interesting technology in a platform to get companies on hourly hiring. Another company that I like is actually Brazilian-based, called RocketMat, using some machine learning to test outcomes from-
Joel: I'm sorry, RocketMat?
Adam: "Mat" with a "T," yeah. RocketMat.
Joel: Just one "T," so it's not like a dude named Matt who has a rocket that is on the logo or anything. RocketMat. Okay.
Adam: RocketMat, yeah. In Sao Paulo, Brazil. Some interesting guys that have some technology that does some machine learning to help with matching and outcomes-based pieces. You can tell I like outcomes-based things. So been working with them some to do some interesting work.
Chad: Well, let's talk a little bit about Talentify, because you're talking about the high-volume side of the house, and you guys came out with ... months ago, probably six months, maybe even more ... I don't know if it was a case study or just a press release, but you had some pretty damn awesome numbers to share, and I'm sure at this point you have even better ones. So on the high-volume side, and even if it goes beyond that, what have you been able to do to be able to really focus on process and effectiveness of driving those types of outcomes, those hiring outcomes?
Adam: We came out with a new product last year we called "High Volume RPO." I know, super creative naming on our part, right? But our use case in that was to be able to serve companies that we hadn't been able to serve before, people that hire a lot of the same position that are oftentimes highly distributed, geographically. They don't have like 1,000 openings in one place. They've got one opening in 1,000 places. So technology is really best to serve that, and it's typically not to replace HR. It's to replace the hiring manager having to do it as part of their job and probably sucking at it. So to help those people make better decisions and to help them hire well.
Adam: So we've been working in this space for some time, and I've always tried to piece together certain parts of it. It was always quite difficult, so about a year and a half ago, we said, "You know what? We know how this should work. Let's build a platform that will actually do this right." So we did. There's probably three things that it does well. One of those is after Joel's heart, maybe, which is programmatic advertising and using media spend really well. Yeah, right? And being able to do that.
Adam: And the second one is having, of course, a mobile first platform, but one that's driven on mobile and text. If you think about people that hire for hourly jobs typically as our target market, they spend their time on their phone. Often, they don't even own computers. So it has to be on the phone, it has to have a high level of automation. And the third piece was being able to have some selection, thinking differently about selection. So as we looked at the idea of a phone interview, for many of the hourly roles that we have, it's kind of a waste of time. We found that it didn't add a lot of value in terms of the selection validity.
Chad: Wait, wait. Say that again. Say that again, because there are companies that are out there that just don't get this idea yet, from an effectiveness standpoint. So say that again, if you would.
Adam: I mean, Chad, from an IO standpoint, we've known for 40 years that an unstructured interview is not a particularly valid method of selection. And yet we just haven't, as an industry, thought of something better.
Chad: We keep fucking doing it, though.
Adam: Well, we absolutely do. Absolutely do. But when we broke that down, we looked at ... we didn't find selection validity, but we did find engagement validity to that phone screen. In a phone screen for an hourly worker, we thought this was valuable because we were screening them out or ... but where we were actually adding value was we were engaging that person, so they were more likely to give us good customer experience ratings or candidate experience ratings, they were more likely to show up to their interview if they were engaged by a person. Got to create that social contract like, "I don't want to disappoint Joel because I talked to him in this interview, so yeah, I'm going to this interview."
Adam: So we just kind of backed it out a little bit, and we replaced the actual phone interview with some quick assessments, so like a two-minute DISC assessment for frontline roles, like an EQ assessment for emotional intelligence, like a recorded phone call that's measured with the voice analysis. And then we put in some intentional human engagement, right? So we had people call and just check in on people to say, "Hey, I see you have an interview scheduled for tomorrow. We're really excited to see you. Let me tell you about why I love working here. Do you have any questions?" And right back up went those rates for engagement, right?
Adam: So just thinking differently about how we engage people instead of having this formal phone screen thing that we've done for ages, it was about a couple quick assessments and then some good engagement calls.
Chad: What about those engagement calls, though, real quick? Do you really need, and are you seeing with all your data, that you really need that engagement call from a human being? Or do you think that just a quick text that could be automated really just does the job anyway, and from an overhead standpoint, you don't have to pay somebody to be making calls?
Adam: Yeah. You know me, Chad. We did all the math on that, and we spent some time doing A/B testing where we sent texts. We sent texts to confirm, we sent texts to engage. At any point in the process, we sent tens of thousands of texts a month, mostly automated, some of them manual. But what we saw was when a person calls and engages, we saw a high enough decrease in the no-show rate for interviews that it was worth about 2.5x what we actually paid people to do it. So we took it out for some, and then we put it back in because it had positive ROI.
Joel: Adam, you guys cover pretty much the globe, but you guys cover just about every industry, from healthcare tech, technology, consumer stuff, manufacturing. Talk about the trends in each of those and how some of those are different.
Adam: Certainly, healthcare is one of our key industries, so from an RPO standpoint, we've got a significant part of our business in healthcare, number one in healthcare measured. From an RPO standpoint, that's an industry that is really interesting in that there is a structural labor shortage. Structural. There just aren't enough skilled nurses to work. So what I think we've seen there is companies having to get more creative about how we're going to do this.
Adam: We can't just fight in this bloody red battle for nurses with 10 years' experience forever, right? So we've got to just figure out how we can do some things differently, whether it's new graduate nurse programs to train them, whether it's bringing people in from sort of mature nursing markets, like the Philippines or Puerto Rico, whether it is labor pools where we can exchange and have nurse pools that share with some of our competitors, all those things that can get better solutions in that.
Chad: We keep hearing about all of the nice bright-and-shinies. We already talked about LinkedIn and Microsoft, and so on and so forth. But do you see Google Cloud Talent Solution ... which I think is a worse name than High Volume RPO, by the way. Google Cloud Talent-
Chad: Yeah, that's a bad URL. Do you see those enterprise products making an impact? Or is it just a lot of noise?
Adam: No, there's definitely an impact. We've seen a lot of the startups that were working on that problem, trying to do some essentially advanced keyword matching, essentially exit the market. So people that are trying to solve some of the same problems, I think they're all looking at Google being like, "Well, Google's in my space now, and it's time to punt." Even look at technology vendors that are thinking about how they're going to build matching, who they're going to partner with. Google's just the easy answer for a ton of them. So I think it's almost going to become the default. I don't know if that's good or bad that they're the default, but I surely see a lot of people using that and continuing to go down that path.
Chad: Got you. Joel and I talk about chatbots all the time, but we disagree in some cases.
Chad: Do you believe that chatbots are definitely going to be a part of long-term process and they're big for the market? Or do you just believe they're a waste of time?
Adam: I'm actually somewhere in between. Sorry to be that guy.
Adam: I actually think that the success of chatbots in talent acquisition is 100% tied to the success of chatbots in our consumer lives. So if the general population gets comfortable with chatbots for banking, for the services they use in their personal life, and there's a wide acceptance of chatbots and that's a way that people want to communicate, then I think it'll succeed in recruiting. I think today we're sort of in the early innings there where people are starting to use chatbots, recognize that they're chatbots, and some pushback and some acceptance. But ultimately, it's more about the process than it is about what it means to the medium.
Joel: I assume you'd say the same about virtual reality?
Chad: Oh, good God, no!
Adam: No, I ... There are a couple of super niche cases for virtual reality, but I actually don't really ever see that hitting mainstream.
Joel: No, but your comment about chatbots was, "If it hits mainstream, then I think X, Y, and Z." So what I'm saying is, if VR does become mainstream, is it a viable recruiting tool?
Adam: Yeah, certainly. The major problem with VR in recruitment is 6-axis VR is actually pretty cool and could be useful, but you've got to have all this equipment to do it. Otherwise, you're just strapping a phone to your face and walking around.
Joel: You say that it's like a bad thing. I'm doing it right now.
Adam: So as you get acceptance, it could work, but I actually don't see that being a huge part of our industry in the future.
Adam: I'm a fun-hater, I guess, huh?
Joel: Be that way.
Chad: Well, cool, man. I appreciate you taking the time. We obviously wanted to dive deep into tech. Is there something else, another question that's out there, that we didn't ask?
Joel: What didn't we ask you that we should have?
Adam: I think a couple things, trend-wise, are we're seeing a ton of new technology in diversity and inclusion that I think is interesting.
Adam: I think there's a lot of BS there, to be honest.
Chad: Yes. Yes, yes.
Adam: I think any technology today that has some element where they're not explicitly discriminating against an element, they're like, "Oh, this is a D&I tech," right? So just like we saw predictive analytics and big data and then AI, D&I is like the next buzzword that ends up on everybody's website. But there is some cool tech in that space. You've got Telvista, you've got Blendoor. There are some interesting tools that will help with that.
Adam: I think the other big trend that I'm seeing is what I call a second platform where, in the HR tech space, because ATSs have some feature gaps ... I'll leave it there ... people put in point solutions. You know, a couple years ago, you put in Avature for CRM, you put in Yello for campus, you put in Phenom for your website, you put in someone for referrals. And then those companies' clients have all asked them to start building each other's solutions, so there's a fairly big battle shaping up in that second platform space where a lot of those point solutions are now trying to be platforms on top of an ATS. There's going to be some pretty solid consolidation there in the next 12 to 24 months, I think. So I think that's the interesting one for me to watch, too.
Joel: Awesome. Hey, Adam, man, we know you're a busy guy. Thanks for coming to visit with us for a while. For those who don't know Cielo and want to learn more, where should they go?
Adam: Cielotalent.com is our spot. Yeah, we'd love to have a chat.
Chad: Excellent, dude.
Chad: We out!
Joel: We out!
Adam: Cool. Thanks, guys.
Announcer: This has been the Chad & Cheese Podcast. Subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts so you don't miss a single show. And be sure to check out our sponsors because they make it all possible. For more, visit chadcheese.com. Oh, yeah. You're welcome.