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Revving to a HireRoad with Kristen Boyle



In this episode of HR's Most Dangerous Podcast, co-hosts Chad and Joel are joined by Kristen Boyle, the vibrant VP of Marketing at HireRoad. Recorded live on day two of the Transform conference in Las Vegas, the episode dives deep into Kristen's recent career move, the new HireRoad brand and strategic direction, and her insights on the evolving HR technology landscape.


Highlights:

- Kristen introduces herself, sharing her six-week tenure at HireRoad and her rich history in HR tech with companies like Amazon and Indeed.

- Formerly known as Ascendre, this Australian ATS has recently been rebranded as HireRoad, aiming to make a mark in the HR tech arena with new leadership and innovative products like People Insight by HireRoad.

- Kristen discusses the challenges and strategies in rebranding and marketing in a competitive industry, emphasizing understanding diverse customer bases and leveraging partnerships.

- The conversation turns to the role of AI and data analytics in HR, where Kristen elaborates on HireRoad's capabilities in people analytics and predictive analytics, and how these tools aid in succession planning and talent retention.


PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION


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: Oh, yeah. We are live at Transform in Las Vegas day two. Day two and it feels like Day 10.


Kristen Boyle: We survived.


Chad: Rough.


Joel: This is Frank Sinatra's favorite podcast, AKA, The Chad and Cheese Podcast. I'm your co-host, Joel

Cheeseman. Joined as always, the blue man to my group, Chad Sowash...


[overlapping conversation]


Joel: Is in the house, as we welcome Kristen Boyle, VP of Marketing at HireRoad.


Chad: HireRoad.


Joel: Aren't we a bunch of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed individuals this morning?


Kristen Boyle: Have we all had our coffee yet?


Chad: Yes.


Joel: No, I have not.


Chad: I've had some, but I need more.


Kristen Boyle: Caffeinated, motivated, ready to go. Thank you guys for having me.


Joel: No worries, no worries. Kris, a lot of our listeners don't know who you are. Give us a Twitter bio about you and a little bit about the company.


Kristen Boyle: Yeah. Quick personal brand here. So I have been at HireRoad for about six weeks. Pretty new. Previously I was at Panda Logic before that, at Amazon advertising at Indeed. So...


Joel: Indeed The Death Star.


Kristen Boyle: The Death Star.


Joel: How long were you there?


Kristen Boyle: He who shall not be named? I was there for five years.


Joel: Okay.


Kristen Boyle: I was in my foray into HR, tech got me hooked.


Joel: That seems about like the ceiling for most people. Five years is about...


Kristen Boyle: Yeah, I'd say so.


Joel: The norm.


Kristen Boyle: Saw a lot of things. It was...


Joel: Got it. Got it. And you reside where?


Kristen Boyle: I am in New Jersey.


Joel: New Jersey. Okay.


Chad: New Jersey. Okay. So, HireRoad. Never heard of it. What's going on here?


Kristen Boyle: That's where, that's what I'm here to fix.


Chad: Thank God, you're there.


Kristen Boyle: I know.


Joel: How does a company like that nab a talent like you?


Kristen Boyle: Well, I appreciate that they have kind of revamped all of their leadership team. HireRoad has been around rebranded from Ascendre, which is an Australian ATS.


Joel: A government, ATS apparently.


Kristen Boyle: A Government ATS.


Joel: How exciting is that? Not just an ATS, but an Australian ATS and a government ATS.


[overlapping conversation]


Kristen Boyle: Yeah. Right. Things I didn't, think I'd be learning about the Australian government and.


Joel: Things you'll never hear again in your life.


Kristen Boyle: Right. But so HireRoad has a bunch of other products, most notably a People Insight by HireRoad, which is People Analytics also comes from another acquisition, but they rebranded to HireRoad about two years ago, a new CEO and new leadership team started in the last six months. Really strong HR, tech, talent and expertise. So it's really a good time to be here. It's good marketing challenge to come in and try to clean up our brand identity a bit. And that's why I'm here today.


Joel: Yeah there are a lot of marketing folks that listen to the show. Maybe starting in the industry. Their

bosses said, you gotta listen to Chad and Cheese if you wanna know what's going on.


Kristen Boyle: That's, You're not wrong.


Joel: They're listening to you now. What kind of tips would you give a newbie in the industry to find success, particularly with a brand that's new and hopefully growing?


Kristen Boyle: It's a really good question. I'll, let you know, when I think...


Joel: Haven't quite cracked that nut yet.


Kristen Boyle: No. I mean, I, it's been I think a good first few weeks of just ramping up. I think you get to know your audience. I'm talking to a lot of customers from all of our different products, trying to find the commonalities I was saying earlier, yeah. You've got your Australian government and then you've got your HR ops in the us right. It's a different audience. So trying to just understand who your audiences are and how to best connect with them.


Joel: But to go from Indeed where everyone returns your call, everyone knows who you are.


Kristen Boyle: True.


Joel: To this has to be a challenge. How do you get over that?


Kristen Boyle: That's a really good point. And I think that's where, I mean, HR Tech is all about partnerships and who you know, and I think that's, events like Transform are a great opportunity. We're trying to introduce a lot of partnerships, not just tech partnerships, but referrals, resellers, all of that is gonna go a long way for HireRoad, which they haven't really had that yet.


Chad: Yeah. So Ascendre has been around since 1997.


Kristen Boyle: That's right.


Chad: So there's a lot of baggage, but you got a new game or a new name. So talk about that a little bit. I think that would be pretty exhilarating to be able to come in. You've got an organization that's been around for a while, so obviously they're successful, right?


Kristen Boyle: That's right.


Chad: And you're trying to change the face. What do... I mean? What was the reason for the rebrand? Help us out.


Kristen Boyle: Yeah. I mean, so we are owned by a private equity firm, and there's of course challenges that come with that, with branding and kind of consistency across the different entities that we have. HireRoad, I think, in the time we're leaning into the recruitment to the ATS products that we have, there's the play on HR HireRoad, but all decisions made before I joined, I will say. But as Ascendre has a really solid brand awareness in Australia, and we're not selling to outside of Australia to Ascendre. So that brand, as far as I'm concerned, is pretty solid. And we're continuing to build up the Ascendre brand in Australia.


Chad: Gotcha, okay.


Kristen Boyle: But HireRoad, it's a clean slate, and we are figuring out who we wanna be as a brand. We're leaning into our people analytics product, which is incredibly impressive. That's a lot of white space there that we're excited about. But yeah, it's sort of handling these two brands, these two different sets of solutions to different audiences. And how to connect the dots. So I'm still figuring that all out.


Chad: So one is focused on the public sector, the other one's gonna be focused on the private sector. That's... I mean, that's gonna be a huge difference in marketing and messaging. And do they understand that? Do

they get that?


Kristen Boyle: Yeah, I would say so. And again, we're still building out. Ascendre has had the blessing of not having... Not needing a ton of marketing to be successful over the last 20 years. The Australian government from, as I'm learning quickly, is a lot about referrals. And...


Chad: It's a money machine too.


Kristen Boyle: Yes, it is. And we're doing quite well in the referral space. We have a lot of happy customers, which leads to more new customers. So that doesn't mean that there's not opportunity for some good marketing. And Ascendre does sell to some out non-government audiences in Australia as well. So I think there's opportunity there and to introduce people analytics to those Australian customers. So, that's where there'll be more marketing in the coming months in Australia. But right now we're really leaning into our existing customers and keeping them happy.

Chad: Smart.


Joel: As a marketing person and an Australian aficionado, how do we bring Foster's beer back to what it was in the 80s in the US?


Chad: Which, everybody on the podcast in Australia is like, nobody drinks Fosters.


Joel: I had a Bloomin' Onion for breakfast, by the way. It's a great hangover cure. Okay, for real questions. Now, you talked about data. You said it's impressive. What's some new data points that has caught your eye that might appeal to our audience?


Kristen Boyle: Yeah, so I think with people analytics, it's like everyone knows it's important. You've got your different HR tech systems. I've been in the talent acquisition side of things. You've got your ATS data. You know, some good insights, cost per hire, time to hire. It's amazing what you can do when you can connect the dots across all of your different tech systems. And succession planning, I think is one that's maybe in a post COVID reality, but cross industries, we are seeing so many of our customers interested in succession planning, talent retention, internal mobility, right? To kind of go against the great resignation that we have seen.


Joel: How do we tie in analytics to succession plans? How does that work?

Kristen Boyle: I think it's a combination, you're identifying who your top talent is through performance data, but it's not just... You don't just stop there, right? It's what are they doing? How are they engaged? Let's look at employee engagement data. Let's look at learning and development data to see if they're getting the training and the upskilling that they need. Let's look at our turnover trends and how that's trending with our HRIS data. By, gender, by our DEI audiences, by team. What trends, how can we proactively identify some issues with turnover and get ahead of it and to prevent and kind of foster succession planning.


Chad: So we've talked about everything thus far, especially the data piece. One thing you haven't said AI.

Kristen Boyle: I'm jaded. I've been at an AI company. As Chad knows, I was saying it's refreshing to have a conversation without AI, but of course it's ever present.


Joel: Oh yeah.


Kristen Boyle: We are... Again, I think our product is, we have a new chief product officer who just came in. Really exciting roadmap of AI to come. We already recently rolled out like unstructured data analysis. So looking at data like exit survey data, right? Just hundreds of interviews. And it's more than just sentiment analysis, which for exit interviews are gonna be predominantly negative. But it's how are we kind of distilling the key insights from all of that unstructured data through AI. And then of course, some of the more exciting parts when it comes to people analytics, like predictive analytics. And generating insights from all of the analytics that we have. So all of that is coming, but I think we still have some really great data transformation through just machine learning. I think it's kind of ever present in all technology. And we very much have that with people insight.


Chad: Yeah. Well, I mean, with, you've been around since 1997. Large language models love data. The secret sauce of any AI platform is data.


Kristen Boyle: That's right.


Chad: I mean, you've got nothing but data. I mean, obviously you've got tech stacks and whatnot, but for me, that would be incredibly exciting. Now, I understand it's gonna be more Australian data. It's not, outside of that, but at least you can start setting up models. Is that something that's pretty exciting? Because, I mean, yes, AI's not forefront in the conversation yet, but it's gonna be.


Kristen Boyle: It is. And I think, I mean it, that AI story's gonna look a little different across our ATS products versus people analytics. I think the focus is for AI and people analytics where yes, we can very much connect our current products to our people insight, but it's really about our customer's data. And so that's where we're working with our customers to get every single data set that they have that they can continue feeding us. So that to your point, we can continue with the machine learning and building and collecting those insights. And we have historical data through people insights. So we're sort of focused on that. I don't know if we're pulling in our, the Australian government data into that quite yet, but it is an opportunity.


Joel: You, we talked about the promotion side, the succession side. I want to go to the dark side of that and talk about layoffs and getting rid of people. For lack of a better phrase. Obviously people use the data to see the under performers or the low performers. Are we at a point where laying people off through AI and not having those hard conversations.


Chad: Here we go.


Joel: Do you see that coming? 'cause I do.


Chad: The Amazon model.


Joel: Laying people off.


Kristen Boyle: No comment.


Joel: Laying people off is really hard. And during the pandemic, it was convenient to have Zoom calls where people were laid off or text messages. And it seems like that could be easily automated and that discomfort could go away. You're shaking your head like, no, but why not?


Kristen Boyle: I choose to be more optimistic than that. I think AI can help.


Chad: Thank you.


Kristen Boyle: Right. You have to be. I think AI can certainly help facilitate getting to the layoffs, right? It's uncovering skills gaps, uncovering the performance trends helping kind of the rankings or whatever you might be using for your AI, to kind of identify the lower performers. I don't know if I see AI getting us to a point where press a button and a robot's delivering the message for you.


Chad: Well, we saw how that worked at Amazon, right? The optics for it, number one. And then number two, from a brand standpoint, well, in that case, you've got customer brand, right? Consumer brand, and then you have the employer brand. And it killed both of those.


Kristen Boyle: Right. And you've already gotta watch yourself with unhappy people that you're laying off. You wanna protect yourself as a company. I think the company should tread lightly there, I think to watch out from a legal perspective.


Joel: Well, how about the female who put some hard questions to the HR folks about why am I getting fired? You know, 90 days into this...


Chad: On TikTok.


Joel: I've gotten all good reviews... Yes, on TikTok.


Kristen Boyle: Exactly.


Joel: So you risk that. Curious, so it seems like the data would be a very good way to start seeing cracks in the pavement for employees, so you don't get to the point of no return.


Kristen Boyle: Exactly.


Joel: Like you can start seeing things in the data and analyzing that with AI to say like, we need to target Chad because he's falling down and we need to save him before he falls down. Do you see that with your product and your customers?


Kristen Boyle: Yeah, I think we are literally seeing with people analytics, it's like what some kind of trends, some issues that might go uncovered if you're looking at them in a silo, when you can actually connect the dots and, whether it's there's Chad or it's this particular audience in our company, again, if it's certain functions or certain managers or certain demographics are suffering and we're seeing trends there, let's get ahead of it. Let's put HR practices in place to stop gap, right? And not just kind of looking at data in a silo. You might not see that full picture. So we really are... We see a lot of our customers looking at the full picture. It's us saying, it's like the... It's like going to Mayo Clinic, getting the full body scan that you can't really see in an individual doctor's appointment, if you will. So.


Chad: Well, and you've got L&D, right? You've, so you've got learning development. Not to mention, I would assume, that would be amazing for coaching. This is all focused in that area. So being able to connect those dots to ensure that first and foremost, you're focusing on making sure that person gets more productive and you can retain them. Hopefully they are more productive and you can retain them. Because Lord knows it is expensive as hell to be able to not off-board somebody, but then go find somebody else and then onboard.


Kristen Boyle: Exactly. The cost is incredible. And I think, we have customers using our learning product, and it's one thing for HR to be like, yep, we rolled out our L&D check that box, we're good. But then we go back to them, all right, is it working? Well, I don't know, people are taking our courses sort of, right? So, all right, let's look at the bigger picture. Let's tie it back to some other performance data. So engagement data. So yeah, it's sort of looking at the bigger picture. But I think that's the beauty of the people analytics is just connecting the dots.


Joel: The experience I've had with analytics and people who use them is you have kind of two sets of users. One is like, give me the 30,000 foot view, give me the big picture. And then you have the geeks that are like, give me the spreadsheet, give me... Give it all to me now. How do you balance that as a product?


Kristen Boyle: Yeah, it's a great question. And I will say, I don't think we are at the one model stage where we're ready to kind of geek out and give you all of the raw data, behind the scenes coding to kind of enable analysts. That's not our end goal. We want to be accessible, right? We want an HR professional, whether you're an HR analyst or not, we don't want you to have to work too hard.


Kristen Boyle: We actually, so people Insight was built on consultancy. So we have a team of analysts who are, it's like, what are your business goals? How can we customize our data sets, our visualizations? What is the executive dashboard that you need that you need to share with your leadership? Okay, let's get that together. So it's very simple.


Joel: So you customize a dashboard.


Kristen Boyle: Yeah.


Joel: Which is just a snapshot. If people want to get deeper, that's their thing. But your goal is if the CEO wants to log in and see, he's gonna see his stuff, head of HR is gonna see their stuff.


Kristen Boyle: We've got customized dashboards, we also have the detailed reporting, right? So it's a series of visualizations, but yeah. Executive dashboard is the first thing you see when you log in. Now, if you as the user wanna go in and filter by team, by any data cut that you want, you can do that.


Joel: And you have consultants to help with that.


Kristen Boyle: And I think that's big because I think what we see, or what we're hearing from customers is that a lot of these people, they're not data experts. So if you tweak one thing with your data in Workday, is that gonna now screw up everything else from all the chart course it that you've built.


Joel: Of course it's. Of course it's.


Kristen Boyle: Right. And it's like...


Joel: It's workday.


Kristen Boyle: And so that's where we have great, a great team of analysts who are like, oh yeah, we've done that before. We got you. We know what to do. So that you don't have to kind of troubleshoot. It kind of just makes it easier. So, we really... We're the people's people analytics.


Joel: I think it's always been the obstacle to make sense of the data. The data's pretty much for structured data's always been there, And you can lay it in front of them, but it doesn't... For most people, it doesn't make sense, right? So you've gotta make sense of the data. That sounds like what you guys are really focusing on doing.


Kristen Boyle: Exactly. And I think, we're not there to... And that's where I think the predictive analytics, there's a lot of opportunities to kind of further how much we can just hand over to you. There's no work involved. But I think it's also, we can... We incorporate benchmarking data. We incorporate trend data so that we're making it really easy for you to understand what you're looking at and what does good look like? What does underperforming look like? But we're also... I think that's where our team of analysts comes in. But then it is partnering with customers say like, all right, what are you gonna do about it? Like, what changes are you going to make? And I think it's really empowering to HR to be able to make those... Come to the table with those suggestions.


Joel: Incredibly competitive space.


Kristen Boyle: Just a bit. Yeah.


Joel: Talk about the competitive landscape, how you guys are different and how you sort of get that message to the customers.


Chad: Like against the Visier, right? Because Visier is like the monolith right now for.


Kristen Boyle: They are the monolith. I will say, and this is again, six weeks in, I would say compared to Visier, we are 90% of the value for 25% of the price.


Joel: That's good.


Kristen Boyle: Yeah, right.


Chad: You must be in marketing.


Kristen Boyle: I know, I mean, I'm not, I haven't got clearance for that on our website yet, but I'm saying it to you guys. We are fast and affordable, and we are, I think when talking to companies of all sizes who are taking their first step into people analytics, we started with Zendesk when they were a 1000 people, and now they've grown to six x that. And we've been able... Before they had a people analytics hire. They used us, we partnered with KPMG who said, we are gonna use you guys until we build it in house ourselves seven years later.


Chad: And then they...


Joel: Why?


Kristen Boyle: It's still happening. So it takes a lot to invest. And if you're investing in a Visier, well, upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars potentially months of implementation, we kind of pride ourselves on get us the data. You'll see value in five days. We're up and running in five days and we integrate with everybody and we're very affordable. So that in and of itself, to me is like a no-brainer.


Chad: Joel, you know what I'm hearing? Knocking on the door of the United States.


Joel: Opportunities, knocking.


Chad: The United States, what you guys really haven't really tried to engage and or invade, right? That's, as

well as we do, that's not easy.


Joel: Ain't easy.


Chad: That is not easy. So what's the focus on go to market? Is it gonna be partnerships? Is it gonna be trying to go after those big brands? What are you guys gonna try to do?


Kristen Boyle: Yeah, so I think we are kind of narrowing our focus on who we're going after compared to say, programmatic where there's, or recruitment in general, right? There's certain industries that have different strategies, different approaches that you have a more narrow target audience. I think people analytics can be relevant to everyone. We're really looking at smaller customers, smaller companies who are growing. Who are getting into this space, who have multiple point solutions in their tech stack and need to connect the dots. So that's where we're going after. I think partnerships are huge opportunities.


Kristen Boyle: We're partnering with even like HR consultants who are like, all right, we use your data and then we go and fix the problems that you've identified in your people insights. So, I think partnerships is to me, the name of the game.


Kristen Boyle: I'm here to kind of help with the brand awareness. How are we going to get in with the right groups? I think, I'm still trying to figure out with ATSs, getting in an ATS marketplace, I think there's a huge opportunity there. Just because we sell AT... I think there's historical, it's like, well you have an ATS so you're a competitor. But people analytics, again, by partnering and integrating with anybody, we're kind of a natural partner for any ATS. So I think there's big opportunities we're looking at this year.


Joel: So we should be expecting the Super Bowl ad next year, is that what you're saying?


Kristen Boyle: After Indeed and Amazon, I'm taking myself out of the Super Bowl.


Joel: You're all over the big boys.


Joel: I'm now a watcher and a fan. I'd like to not be stressed out the day of the Super Bowl.


Joel: You like the feisty small company like the Rocky Balboa coming into America.


Kristen Boyle: That's right.


Joel: Making things happen.


Kristen Boyle: Exactly.


Joel: That is Kristen Boyle, everybody from HireRoad. Kristen, for our listeners who wanna know more about the company or connect with you, where do you send them?


Kristen Boyle: Yes. Reach out on LinkedIn, Kristen Boyle, and, higherroad.com. Pretty straightforward. We would love to connect and thank you guys for having me. It's been really great.


Chad: Thanks for coming.


Kristen Boyle: Let's all get some more coffee.


Joel: Someone pass the coffee. Another one is in the can Chad, we out.


Chad: We out.


Outro: Thank you for listening to, what's it called, the podcast, the Chad, the Cheese. Brilliant. They talk about recruiting, they talk about technology, but most of all, they talk about nothing. Just a lot of shout outs to people you don't even know. And yet you listening, it's incredible. And not one word about cheese. Not one cheddar, blue nacho, Pepper, Jack Swiss. So many cheeses and not one word. So weird. Any who. Be sure to subscribe today on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. That way you won't miss an episode. And while you're at it, visit www.chadcheese.com. Just don't expect to find any recipes for grilled cheese is so weird. We out.

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