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Live from UNLEASH America in Las Vegas, James Appleton, director of talent acquisition at Harri, joins Chad & Cheese for a conversation about the other side of the coin … ya' know, life through the eyes of a practitioner dealing with an onslaught of solutions looking to make recruiting more tolerable. That’s because prior to Harri, James was head of recruitment for a variety of companies, which means he knows what he’s talking about. And now he’s on the other side, pitching to employers where he used to toss opportunities to job seekers. I know, it’s confusing, but it’ll make sense after you listen.


UNLEASH America:

Chad & Cheese:

Intro: 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 and Cheese podcast.

Joel: We are live at Unleash America. This is the morning after hangover edition of the podcast. I'm your co-host, Joel Cheesman, joined as always, Chad Sowash. And today, we welcome James Appleton to the show. James is Director of Talent acquisition at HARRI and has an interesting story.

Chad: Harri?

Joel: Harri, H-A-R-R-I.

Chad: Yes.

Joel: It's no regular Tom, Dick, or Harry.

Chad: No.

Joel: It's a different kind of Harri.

Chad: Yeah, this is more of a millennial Harri, I think.


Joel: James, save us with your English accent and make us sound smarter.

Chad: Please.

Joel: How are you doing?

James Appleton: I'm very good, guys. I'm very good. I'll give it a go on that.

Joel: Excellent. So listeners don't know who you are, interesting story. Give us who James is.

James Appleton: Okay. So I've done a couple of different things. So, obviously, as you get from my accent, UK-based. So, originally, I worked for a big 45,000 people company in the UK that's focused on pubs and restaurants, in operations there as an area manager, that sort of thing. Ended up getting into talent acquisition, and led talent acquisition for the company. So bringing in that was my first introduction to Harri. Eventually brought Harri into the company.

Joel: How many open reqs at one time are we talking about, this 45,000 person company?

James Appleton: Open reqs, we're in the thousands.

Joel: Oh, yeah, thousands. Alright.

James Appleton: So yeah. Yeah.

Joel: Little bit high frequency.

James Appleton: Little bit. It's high volume. It's high volume. So that, loved it. But I had an itch to scratch, so I left that after a number of years and went and started my own pub restaurant in London. So owned, operated that.

Joel: What was it called? Like the Salty Lion or the... They always have interesting names. What was your spot?

James Appleton: There was no dog and duck. There was no badger. There was no... There were no crazy names. It was called Chalk Pit.

Joel: Chalk?

Chad: Chalk?

James Appleton: Chalk Pit.

Chad: Chalk Pit.

Joel: Like, chalk, write chalk?

James Appleton: As in you write. Chalk. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Joel: Okay. So dig deeper into this. Chalk Pit.

Chad: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

James Appleton: So myself and my founder Tom, so one of my best mates, Tom, we started this together. He ran a craft beer merchants at the time. So between us, we put it together, and Chalk Pit was the road that linked where we grew up. It was Chalk Pit Lane.

Joel: Ahh.

Chad: Ahh.

James Appleton: So there's no crazy deep story there but...

Chad: That's the second road reference we've had in, because Cherry, Bennett's Cherry Lane.

Joel: New Cherry.

Chad: Or whatever.

Joel: New Cherry.

James Appleton: Yeah.

Joel: Cherry Lane. Yes. Interesting. Interesting.

Chad: Yes. So Roads. Roads.

Joel: What's your favorite English beer?

James Appleton: Oh, my favorite English beer. My favorite English beer is probably, if I'm drinking something every day, Thornbridge Tzara is probably the best craft lager that you can buy in the UK.

Joel: Do you know that one, Chad?

Chad: I do not.

Joel: I've never heard of that one.

Chad: Gonna have to try it.

Joel: Is it regularly available or do I have to dig for that?

James Appleton: You'd have to dig a bit. You'd have to go to the right pubs or the right places.

Joel: Give me one that's easily accessible.

James Appleton: Easily accessible. You're probably going with Carling.


James Appleton: Which is up there with Stella.

Joel: Okay. 1664 is a good one.

James Appleton: Pretty much.

Joel: Okay. Alright. Alright. Let's get to work. Now, you're on the side that everyone that we typically talk to wants to be in front of. Talk about your experience as a buyer. [chuckle] I don't think people appreciate the clutter, the sales calls, the confusion. Talk about just that from your perspective, because I don't think a lot of vendors appreciate what a buyer goes through.

James Appleton: And to be honest, my perspective kind of completely changed. So, because I had that side that I'll talk to, now I lead the product side at Harri, so sitting on both sides of those fence is, is quite eye-opening. So when I was buying is quite bewildering. And the way I liken it to people is if you bought a house once in your life and that was it, and you had very limited information to do it, that's what it's like being a buyer for a massive company.

Chad: That's scary as shit by the way.

James Appleton: But it's where you got loads of money, right?

Chad: Yeah.

James Appleton: So you're a big company, you got loads of money, so to torture the house analogy. People are coming to you and they're wanting to sell you everything right? And they show you all sorts of houses, and it is quite bewildering. I remember when we looked, we looked seriously at 25 different vendors, and it took a huge amount of time.

Chad: Wow.

James Appleton: Yeah. To get that down then to a shorter list and do it.

Chad: How long did that take?

James Appleton: Oh, months. It was months.

Chad: Over a year.

James Appleton: Yeah. And you go through all the crap processes of RFPs and things which are useless in many ways, of how you go through that.

Joel: How vital were like review sites or your network and maybe, "Hey, have you guys used this?" How important was that?

James Appleton: Hugely. Because same for most things in life, that word of mouth, getting recommendations from people of what was out there and people you'd worked with before, people you'd trust people, people you know in the industry to give you a recommendation will mean that you'll at least look at them. You'll open that door. Then you've obviously got the big ones, you've heard of, and that sort of stuff. The hard ones are knowing whether you're willing to take a punt on your shortlist on someone that's a little bit different. But it's that kind of thing where you're shown houses by a realtor and you're shown four houses and they go, the kind of mystery house, we think you might want to have a look at this. Right? Of how'd you get those into your mix, you know? Yeah.

Joel: And some houses you can rent for a while, some houses you have to buy, others are lease to own. So there are different levels of commitment that you have to make. Not all houses are created different.

Chad: Yeah. And it's hard to pilot a system that big.

James Appleton: Well, that's the problem. And realistically, you can't.

Chad: Yeah.

James Appleton: Because the change management piece. At that sort of scale at 1700 locations, 45,000 employees, you cannot really pilot. The organization won't accept it, and that change management, because they expect you to try and they expect you to get it right. The operators expect you to get it right first time. So that's hard to do. And when you're bringing it in and you are speaking to people, you go through that process and that discovery piece, the discovery piece, both sides have sat on that fence, that's where it lose or wins, right?

Chad: Yeah.

Joel: Yeah.

James Appleton: The discovery piece you'll go through... And again, back to this house analogy, sometimes you will speak to someone and you'll say, "I don't own a car." And they show you a house with a garage. And it's like, "Well, that's not helpful to me." Okay.

Joel: That's garage for our American listeners.


James Appleton: It's a garage. You can translate it for me. Thank you. And so, that should be out of your process. Right? But the biggest thing I see now and I saw then was discovery. So, you get a lot of people on the buyer side. A lot of my friends who are still buyers who get annoyed, they get a bit pissed off at going through a discovery process. Show me, I want to get to that point.

Chad: Yeah.

James Appleton: But if you haven't done that, if you haven't done it properly, then you're never gonna get the right thing. Right. And I...

Chad: It's called due diligence kids.

James Appleton: Yeah, exactly.

Chad: Jesus.


Joel: But that's work Chad. Don't make me work for God's sakes.

Chad: It is work. But it's work up upfront that you're not gonna have to do for years. Okay, so let's talk about Harri, because you guys, obviously you're focused in a niche area.

Joel: What is it?

Chad: Hospitality. Hospitality, right? What do you actually do different? Because there are a lot of high volume systems that are out there that could say that, "Hey, we work for anything." But you guys specifically pinpointed in that area.

Joel: Yeah.

Chad: So talk about that.

James Appleton: We zero in. So Harri is HCM for the frontline. We're employee experience led but with a real vertical focus. And for us, that is hospitality at the moment. So we go really, really deep in terms of how we meet the needs for hospitality right across the platform. So, whether that's TA that I look after, whether that's workforce management and getting into all the fair work week or all that sort of stuff that the compliance piece that people really want, we will do, and we increasingly branch into retail and healthcare. But if people will take us as we are now, we will go deeper and deeper into those over time. But for us, we are very very focused on hospitality.

Chad: Well, and you also started out almost like a social network, right?

James Appleton: Yes. Yes.

Chad: So, it's like LinkedIn for the hospitality side of the house, which is an amazing... So it's a great go-to market, I believe because you guys own the database, right? Because, I mean, you're actually creating this LinkedIn with an applicant tracking system, onboarding everything that's like wrapped around it. So therefore, what we're used to for years back in the job board days is like, "Wait a minute, that's my candidates in my applicant tracking system." Well, no, you're buying us because of the entire ecosystem. How has that been different and/or an obstacle for some companies because they're used to my candidate, my candidate, my candidate. Right? That's an entirely different change for them. So, talk about that.

James Appleton: Well, firstly, I couldn't really say it better myself, but in terms of how you described it there, it is LinkedIn...

Joel: Only that it was in an American accent, is the only thing wrong, that's what you gave there.

James Appleton: Yeah, smooth is American accent there it was.


Chad: I'll send you my invoice, don't worry.

Joel: Smooth.

James Appleton: That's fine.


Joel: Smooth.

James Appleton: So, for us it is exactly that. It's LinkedIn for hospitality. That's kind of how we look at it. We've got 10 million people who are on that. So, one million in New York for example. So that is obviously...

Chad: Holy shit! One million in New York.

James Appleton: It's a lot of people.

Chad: Alone.

James Appleton: Yeah. So when people come into that, it's the thing we get asked the most, everyone wants to have their cake and eat it. Right? I want access to everyone. But I don't want anyone to have access to my people.

Chad: Oh yeah, yeah. Yeah.

James Appleton: So we put in a privacy shield for people in that sense. So, there are candidates that come to that client and they will be privacy protected so only they can see them. If people are coming generally into our pool or into a client that hasn't got that, then they can go into that broader pool. So we kind of bridge that piece. But for us, it comes into a big bit that I'm passionate about and that we're developing at the moment, increasingly is talent pooling, of where we want to take that. So one of the frustrations I used to have as an operator and used to have when I was leading TA is actually, we would spend huge amounts of money on recruitment marketing and it just goes in the bin.

Chad: Yes.

James Appleton: We spend money and we lose those candidates.

Chad: Well, it's not just losing the candidates. You're buying them over and over and over. It's the same goddamn people. And you're spending money for the same people.

James Appleton: Yeah. Exactly.

Chad: Yeah.

James Appleton: So for us at the moment, we are developing very deep auto tagging to put all of those candidates, caption them in the system but in a very deep targeted way with a lot of filtering.

Chad: Yeah.

James Appleton: If you can do that and then use our CRM so you can keep those candidates warm but also use it for employees as well. There's that bridge between, very big on that bridge between TA and L&D. How do you pull that piece in so that you keep... Because the biggest problem, the biggest driver that we've got within our industry is people leaving, obviously it's that churn...

Chad: Churn. Yeah. Churn.

James Appleton: That you're constantly getting. How do you keep those people? And it's actually by engaging them and showing them, recommending jobs to them. So one of the things we can take that to the nth degree and what we're building at the moment is you come, you spent once. You spent your money wherever you spend it, whether it's Indeed, whether it's wherever you've spent all and/or wasted your money and it's gone out and you bring those people in and then if you keep them... If you can keep them, you can tag them. And then what we can do is with our AI algorithm, so it's open, we'll match those people in, be able to say then, and this is what we're building towards at the moment.

Chad: Yes.

James Appleton: So is be able to invite them directly to interview. That's the flattering piece. If you can say to someone, "We've got these five people who have matched, we've got 500,000 people in our talent pool. These five people have matched and we want to invite you directly to interview." That's the piece.

Chad: I think the most compelling piece for me is that you guys are so focused and disciplined in one specific area, that you can really understand how matching works because you are focused on just that one area. Unlike, like you had said, like Indeed who is everything and... Tries to be everything to everybody and they suck at matching and they suck at quality. So therefore, it's the difference between that generative versus domain specific knowledge.

James Appleton: It's exactly that. And being able to be really focused. And personally for me, the knowledge that I've got, what I've done before, and when I speak to our clients, and we'll do some kind of consultancy for some of our big clients, whether that's KFC, whether that's Radisson, whether... Whoever that is. And actually it's bringing that piece because it is focused, because of how we're doing it.

Chad: Right.

James Appleton: And it's getting to that point. If you can spend your money once and you can spend it wisely, but the difference where I want to us to be able to flip people to is spending above the line. Recruitment marketing is not done like marketing. It's done by this 1, 1, 1. If you imagine you were doing that and you were spending money to market one burger sale, it's insane to think of it, like that point of view. If you were whoever and you're trying to sell that one burger and you were putting dollars behind selling one burger, it makes 0 cent. You should be going above the line. So where we'll be leading towards is the ability to apply to a talent pool. I wanna put myself in there and it flips it round. So if I'm the employer, my message to the candidate is, let me find you a job, let me become your recruitment agent because you put yourself in the talent pool for my organization because you like it, you might not be ready yet. You can fill different stuff out. We can match you, and then we can use the recommendation algorithm to invite you to interview. That's the dream.

Chad: There you go.

James Appleton: And then you spend your dollars above the line.

Chad: Yeah.

Joel: You had me at cheeseburgers. Why does this show always go to food even when we're not even trying.


Chad: And it's lunchtime. Jesus.

Joel: Yeah. Let's talk about competitive landscape for a second. You mentioned Indeed, when I hear, your LinkedIn tag, I think of Jobcase saying, "We're LinkedIn for everyone who's not on LinkedIn." So there's some confusion there, which you've seen as a buyer, kind of differentiate the competitive landscape and where you guys fit in it.

James Appleton: For us in terms of who we might see ourselves against, it might be iSIMS, it might be Paradox and those places, for different reasons. We have... Very similar from a Paradox point of view and Olivia, we have Carrie, and what we can do there, and lots similarities with different people. Where we bring it together is that focus that, that focus of what we can do and how we can bring it all together around hospitality and the depth that we can go into. And particularly around, what we're saying there, with the talent pooling that will increasingly is, but will increasingly become a real, real key part for us.

Joel: Have you guys talked to Prince Harry about being a pitchman for the company?


James Appleton: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's in talks at the moment.

Joel: Yeah. He might be discounted.

Chad: We're trying to get his name changed officially to Prince Harry with an I.

James Appleton: Yeah, with an I.

Joel: That'd be even better.

James Appleton: But it's difficult. Charles has just vetoed it. But at the moment, we've got the coronation coming up, so if I get a late invite.

Chad: Go through Meghan, she'll get shit done.

James Appleton: She will get shit done. She will.

Joel: I love it. That is James Appleton everybody. James, for our listeners that want to know more about you or connect with the company, where would you send them?

James Appleton: To connect with me, find me on LinkedIn, reach out to me, but otherwise either me or to and we will come right to you.

Joel: Did somebody say cheeseburgers? It's lunchtime, Chad.

Chad: Yes.

Joel: Another one in the can, we out.

Chad: We out.

Outro: Wow. Look at you. You made it through an entire episode of the Chad and Cheese podcast. Or maybe you cheated and fast forwarded to the end. Either way, there's no doubt you wish you had that time back. Valuable time you could have used to buy a nutritious meal at Taco Bell. Enjoy a pour of your favorite whiskey. Or just watch big booty Latinas and bug fights on TikTok. No, you hung out with these two chuckleheads instead. Now, go take a shower and wash off all the guilt, but save some soap, because you'll be back. Like an awful train wreck, you can't look away. And like Chad's favorite Western, you can't quit them either. We out.


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