Focusing on the Candidate Experience in Today’s Job Market – Futurum Tech Webcast Interview Series
by Shelly Kramer | October 27, 2021

In this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast, Interview Series, I’m joined by Benoit Hardy-Vallee, AVP, Talent Experience Strategy at Phenom and his colleague Ajay Patel, Vice President, Global Head of Join at Straumann Group for a conversation about the importance of focusing on the candidate experience as well as employee experience in today’s job market.

We are seeing people leave jobs in droves, millions still looking for work, and employers reporting acute labor shortages. Coupled with changes in how and where people work, this is all adding up to be a job market like we’ve never seen before. So where do employers go from here? Is there a secret recipe they need to follow to fill their open roles and retain employees?

That’s exactly what we explored in this conversation. Together, with my extremely knowledgeable guests, we dove into the world of talent experience management and the new approaches businesses can take to make sure candidates find the right jobs, employees are able to grow in their current positions, recruiters are productive, and management meets their goals.

Some Background on Phenom

Phenom is a global HR Tech company with a decade of experience using technology to connect every interaction across the talent experience spectrum. Their Talent Experience Management platform easily connects with SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting which is used by thousands of companies across the globe.

Talent Experience Management is Critical For Organizations

Talent experience, which covers candidate experience, employee experience and the HR experience, has never been more important than it is today. Our conversation covered how the pandemic has shifted how businesses recruit and retain employees. businesses have shifted in the last year to respond to the changes caused by the pandemic. Benoit and Ajay shared why focusing on the holistic talent experience can have a big impact across the organization.

Our discussion also covered the following:

  • The impact the pandemic and “The Great Resignation” are having on talent retention
  • The roadblocks customers experience when trying to improve their candidate experience
  • The companies that can benefit most from Talent Experience Management
  • New developments that are on the horizon for Phenom

If your organization is looking to improve the full talent experience, be sure to check out Phenom’s Talent Experience Management platform, available now on SAP Store. Also be sure to check out our full conversation, I promise it’s one you don’t want to miss.

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Disclaimer: The Futurum Tech Webcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this webcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors and we do not ask that you treat us as such.

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Shelly Kramer: Hello and welcome to this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast Interview Series. I’m your host, Shelly Kramer and today we are going to have a conversation about focusing on the candidate experience in today’s job market, which is actually no small challenge. And I’m joined by some very brilliant folks that I’m looking forward to introducing you to, one of which is Dr. Benoit Hardy-Vallée:. He is with Phenom, and his colleague, Ajay Patel, who is with Straumann Group.

Our conversation to today is going to be about, as I said, the importance of focusing on the candidate experience and really talking a little bit in depth about the challenges that organizations have when it comes to talent recruitment, talent management, all of the things that are involved in that and some of the ways that technology solutions can help bridge those challenges.

So without further ado, let me introduce you to my guests and I’m going to have you start Benoit by just telling us a little bit about yourself.

Dr. Benoit Hardy-Vallée: Sure. Pleasure meeting you all. I like to say that I started my career actually working in a restaurant. To me, it has been the best training in terms of multitasking, having the kitchen behind you, the customer in front of you, managing both, colleagues. It was like a laboratory for the modern workplace. I did that many years throughout my college, high school and all that and then I decided I wanted to do something very complicated. Got a PhD in philosophy, was great to have deep thoughts about unemployment, which at some point led me to actually consider, well, what should I do with my life?

And then ended up in consulting in various roles around consulting and always around HR, because I’ve always been fascinated by the psychology, technology and the interplay of these different field together. So that led me now to work with Phenom with client, where I help design the strategy and see how we can use AI and technology to improve engagement, attraction and different HR objectives.

Shelly Kramer: That’s so interesting. I have spent 30 years as a brand strategist, and so I wear multiple hats. I’m a brand strategist, I’m a tech analyst, but I’m fascinated by human behavior and I always have been. And so a lot of what you were saying really resonated with me because nerdy people like us who sit around and think about human behavior, human experiences, what they are today, how to make them better, I think those things are really fascinating.

Dr. Benoit Hardy-Vallée: Yeah. There’s so much research in the last 20, 30 years. You look at behavioral economics, cognitive science, AI. So it’s a very interdisciplinary field that now is starting to have an impact on management and human resource. So it’s a great time to be in this business really.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. An important part as we’ll get into further in our conversation, we’ve seen some sort of transition in the workplace over the course of the last couple of years and I think employers need to shift their thinking considerably. With that, I’m going to toss it to you, Ajay. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Ajay Patel: Sure. Thanks for the introduction. My name is Ajay Patel, I am currently the VP Head of Talent Acquisition. We call it, Join, the Join in our organization. In my current role, I’m responsible for everything related to recruiting, onboarding, workforce planning and employer brand. And we’ll come back to that I’m sure through the course of this conversation, but I actually started my career in a completely different field like many candidates. And in the modern world we’re in, I think people choose a degree, an educational path, but actually may choose something very different as they venture into the real world.

I actually started life as an astrophysicist and I didn’t make it into NASA, so I looked for another path. I wandered into recruiting, helping candidates from an agency’s perspective find their first jobs, primarily in the pharmaceutical and medical device sector. I had the opportunity to move in-house, do consulting work. And after many years of recruiting, I now find myself in a HR leadership role working for Straumann Group.

I think what’s consistent in candidate experiences is that or in the modern science of what candidates we believe they want is they really want to make an impact. They want to find information quickly. They want additional experience, the consumer grade experience that really delights them, but also gives them the feeling of the culture or the organization they’re going to be entering into.

In my current work, I’m trying to engineer that with tech, with brand, with all the things I described before. So yeah, happy to be part of this call and share some of my knowledge.

Shelly Kramer: Very fascinating. And I think that one of the things to me that’s fascinating, I have four daughters, I have two who are grown and gone, and then I have 15-year-old twins who are sophomores in high school. And one of the things that I’m trying to make sure they understand is that what you think you want to do and spend your life doing when you’re in those later years of high school, and then when you go to university, sometimes those things change dramatically.

I thought I wanted to be a trial attorney and I ended up going into advertising because a recruiter found what she thought would be a perfect job for me. Then here I am, all these years later using my communication skills in a different way than I ever intended. So I think that that life journey and the fact that all of us have had very different life journeys is pretty fascinating.

We are going to talk a little bit, the last two years we’ve been navigating a global pandemic, it has certainly not been easy. We’ve seen people leave jobs in droves, in some instances those were layoffs, in some instances, those were people realized when a pandemic hit and some of work shifted to working from home, sometimes people couldn’t do that. Sometimes people realized they hated their jobs and wanted to find another opportunity, there’s so many reasons.

So we’re dealing with a shift in the workplace brought on by a pandemic. We have a shift in how people work and where people work, and this is really like a job market like we’ve never seen before. And so I know that one of the challenges for employers is really trying to figure out, where do we go from here? How do we manage this? Is there a secret recipe that we need to follow to find and recruit talent?

And that’s one of the things that we’re going to be talking about in this conversation, really how businesses can, make sure candidates find the right jobs and make sure that employees are able to grow in their current positions. And I think that that’s actually another challenge that we see that’s been amplified by the pandemic. I think people have realized that, one of you said this, I think maybe it was you Benoit, but people want work to be meaningful. They want to grow. And so I think as employers finding those opportunities for them in career development is really important.

Let’s talk a little bit about what you are seeing with regard to these dramatic shifts in the job market. Benoit, what are you seeing?

Dr. Benoit Hardy-Vallée: I would say that across industries, there seem to be a common pattern now that people are looking to hire that they don’t necessarily find the talent that they want. As you said, it’s a completely different market. It’s a candidate market like I think none of us have ever seen before and employees have different expectations. They are getting really impatient, you need to hire fast, you need to provide them something meaningful, values, a path for their future. And if you can’t make your value visible upfront quickly, they move to the next one.

Gone are the days where you could use, what I call the martial art parodic. In all of these old art movies, if you really want to go into that dojo and get trained by this specialist, you have to earn it. You have to wait 24 hours in the rain outside. And if you’re lucky, maybe they will take you. Well, nowadays, they’re just going to move to the next dojo, so we turn the table and now everybody’s figuring out how can I be faster? How can I be more visible?

Even just on search engine, if you’re not visible, if you’re not easy to find, that’s it, you’re gone. So that’s creating a lot of distress and organization are using every tool that they can find from the brand to AI, to sourcing, sometime using recruiters, RPOs to try to shortcut that because for some organization, it’s their lifeblood. If you don’t have enough people, you can’t design products, you can’t sell them, you can’t service customer, so some people are getting really stressed.

Shelly Kramer: It is a very stressful time, and I think that part of what we’re seeing, I think about my own personal experiences, I think about… I’m married to a guy who is generally speaking, used to being on the… He’s in sales, used to being on the road 80% of the time. And after being home and working from home and doing a lot of those virtually over the course of the last couple of years, I’ve seen a reset in his mind of his norm.

And he likes being home and around the kids and able to take them to sporting events, so where people… I’m hearing… I have a friend who is a CMO at a global ad agency and one of the things that they talked about as their senior executives were reevaluating our shift to hybrid and how we come back to the office, if we come back to the office. And one of the things that they learned from their employees during the pandemic is that this group of young parents for the first time in their work lives got the opportunity to take their children to school and drop them off, and then pick them up after school.

Which seems like a small thing, but as a woman, who’s in charge of handling those things, that’s a few minutes every day, but it’s much different to be able to do that your kids than it is to drop your kids before school care at 7:30, so that you can hurry up and get to your eight o’clock meeting, and then not being able to pick them up until after school care. But my point in bringing that up is that I think what we’ve seen is a reset in expectations from employees.

And to your point, people are very quick to move on if the opportunity that you are serving up for them doesn’t meet what it is that fulfills them and allows them the flexibility to do what it is they think is important. What about you, Ajay? What have you seen in the market over the course of the last couple of years, in the last couple of months? What kind of changes have you seen?

Ajay Patel: Definitely the last year has been an unusual year, but kind of an accelerator year for some of the general principles that we all assume are the right things to do in HR practices. And then we got forced into some of these things by having to have employees work remotely, or consider a talent that might need to move country or different locations, but leave them physically where they are, but have them doing a new type of job in a new environment. So I think we’ve had to move faster.

I think the way that I perceive this is that we’re in a rapidly changing world anyway. Every company will talk about digitalization or moving to more, having more of a customer-centric mindset. These are buzzwords or catch phrases that every company talks about. But what we found is in this new digital online world, where we were forced very quickly in the last couple of years, companies have had to catch up and employee expectations and candidate expectations have also changed very dramatically in the last 12 months.

We see people leaving companies at a larger scale in some markets, particularly the U.S. and UK and some other markets as well. But the expectations even we hear rhetoric about. One of the first questions that candidates are asking us is, do you allow to work remotely? How many days a week do I need to be in the office? And for some trades and internal functions where you need to be in the office to do manufacturing work, because we have a site where that work needs to be done.

But the same questions are coming up from very different populations that you wouldn’t necessarily expect more flexibility that we might have expected before. So we need to rethink how work can be done in this new future of work that is very much a reality, much faster than we expected. So yeah, it’s a nice new challenge for HR to tackle.

Shelly Kramer: It’s a challenge for HR, it’s really a challenge for business leaders as well. I think that we’ve all probably seen over the course of the last 18 months or so headlines about senior executives insisting that return to the office as soon as possible is critically important because our work can’t be done outside the office. There are executives with that mindset and there are executives with the, “We are shifting to fully remote and trust our employees. We know that productivity isn’t a problem.”

So it’s really an interesting… So it’s not just HR leaders, I think it’s leadership at all love and we really are sort of in the midst of the great relearning about what the future of work is, and also thinking about what it will be too.

Dr. Benoit Hardy-Vallée: And I think that will highlight the importance of trust. I think for many years, the technology was there, it was possible to do that. We just didn’t have that. Leaders weren’t comfortable, managers would rather have their employees close by. And now that we realize, you know what, it’s doable even in complicated situations, so now it’s proving the point. But employees will also have to be earning that trust. So I guess it’s going to be a new economy of trust, learning how to manage remotely, maybe less focused about preenteism, people having to be at certain time in the office.

And maybe the next step will be also starting to think about asynchronous work, because if we all work from home, but we have to be in the same time zone from 9:00 to 5:00, we’re still repeating the same thing.

Shelly Kramer: We are.

Dr. Benoit Hardy-Vallée: … which in some business could make sense, don’t get me wrong. But there’s some businesses, if you think about software development where there’s a lot of deep work that is involved, and for that deep work, you would rather work at different time. And then again, as a father of two, not four but two, so I can still understand the logic. I do enjoy some time working late at night or really early in the morning to do my deep work before taking care of the kids. And building this flexibility in my life makes it very engaging because it’s not just my job and my life, it’s my life as a whole and work is a part of it, and my children understand that. So it’s rebuilding this new work, but we need to have trust from both ends.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely. I think I walked away from my computer at 10 o’clock last night. But a lot of it is, it’s a balancing, it is, I leave at 3:00 in the afternoon to go pick up my kids from school and then I run them to sports practice at five o’clock, and then I pick them up at 7:00. And so the work gets done, it just doesn’t always get done in that one block of time that we’re used to. Although I will say that my team and I have an advantage because we have been virtual here at Futurum for… Probably all of us have been virtual for about 20 years, so we are kind of experts at managing that.

I want to talk a little bit about something that we see in the headlines a lot and it’s called The Great Resignation. And a lot of different things I think are driving that, whether things we’ve touched on in conversation in terms of people are looking for more opportunities, more money, greater flexibility, jobs they actually love, and sometimes people weren’t engaged in those kind of jobs. So all of these things are contributing to a massive loss of talent in the job market. Ajay, how are companies responding with talent retention initiatives?

Ajay Patel: I think talent retention and the great skills gap play a big part in a lot of what could be an answer. I think it is going to be very unique for every company as well. I can talk maybe for Straumann Group. We currently are going through a stage of expansion, so we just need more people, but also a very different type of skillset that we require as an organization, and we’re digitalizing everything. We’re focusing much more on consumer experiences for me in HR, the consumer is an employee or a candidate.

But these are skills that we don’t have at scale today, and I think most companies are going after this digitalization experience. So there is a significant shortage of digital talent in every aspect of HR, procurement, marketing, sales-

Shelly Kramer: Everything, everywhere.

Ajay Patel: I think that’s causing a big shortage of those skills and we can’t make people overnight. Those people might want… And you can train people and develop people. So I think some of the work we are doing is trying to reeducate our organization about what’s in their control in terms of what career path they can move forward to. I think what we’re also hearing from candidates as to why they choose to leave or why they choose to come is maybe current employers are not giving them opportunities for internal development and growth or what was written on the tin of the employer brand wasn’t as authentic when they actually landed in the company.

And those growth and development opportunities, the impact of the work that people are doing, the experience that they feel that they want to have isn’t necessarily offered. And there is that common phrase that people don’t leave companies, people leave managers. But it’s really the experience that somebody has when they’re interacting with a manager as a leader or an organization that people fall out of love with and maybe look for other opportunities.

I think this is a wake up call for a lot of companies that the index of what’s important for people to make decisions as to whether to stay or go is now very more towards soft factors in many functions. Not necessarily across the board, but certainly in some critical functions, I think there’s a different proposition. And I also think that people are also looking for… There’s a lot of rhetoric in society about people having to re-skill rapidly just to stay relevant even in their own function, but also learn across functions as well to stay relevant and move up the organization.

There was a time in our organization where a salesperson, sales rep became a sales manager, became a territory manager, became a regional manager and maybe one day became a CEO of a region or a country. That’s not the path that we encourage anymore. So people looking for those more diverse growth opportunities, and unless organizations really change moving up the vertical and give opportunities to learn across horizontally, we’re going to lose people, and just because they can get those opportunities elsewhere.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, I think that what have you done for me lately mindset is something that employers really need to understand. The employees today hold… I feel like employees today pretty much hold all the cards, so transforming our workplace culture, transforming… Building a place where people actually… I know this sounds kind of goofy, but I get up every single day excited about what it is I do and who it is I get to do it with. And of course there are tasks along the way that are onerous and, “Ah, another meeting,” or whatever.

But I truly do feel grateful that I love what I do and hopefully you two do as well. But I think that that is something really important to realize, is that it’s not just the three of us who are looking for that. Everybody’s looking for that. And as employers and as HR pros, and as learning management teams and that sort of thing, I think understanding the importance of building a culture of continuous learning, and embracing change and innovation, and building a culture of trust. I think all of those things are part of the foundation of successful organizations today.

Dr. Benoit Hardy-Vallée: And people have a full year of reflection, sometimes as far as you don’t travel, you don’t commute, so you start to look in the abyss and think about what I want to do with my life. So I think it triggers a lot of reflection, at the same time, it’s also a year and a half where many people were stuck in their career because you don’t know how it will evolve, so you don’t start looking around. So when you start getting out of that, it’s like confinement, after that, you need to go outside, get some fresh air, see what else you can do.

So now people are starting to shop and then you realize that there’s an advantage as a candidate, so you can start shopping around. I think not that it was predictable, but I will say that I run hundreds and hundreds of employee engagement, surveys and programs, and every time growth, development, career pathing or career development in general, it’s always one of the top or one of the top two drivers of engagement. If you feel like you can progress one day, one way, it drives you into working. But if you lose that faith, you start checking out and working somewhere else.

Shelly Kramer: I think some of this is a little bit generational and I hate to generalize on any topic, and I hate to stereotype generations, but I do think that the oldest Millennials are turning 40 and we’ve got Gen Z coming up. These are groups of digital natives and they’re used to multitasking, they’re used to rapidly learning new things. They’re used to being immersed in technology and digital experiences, and those kinds of things. And I think part of… They’re also used to, something that I think is important as part of this equation is hyper personalized experiences.

And I know that that’s part of our conversations today, is that HR technology solutions can help serve up those hyper personalized experiences and they matter a lot. So talk with us a little bit about that if you would. Either one of you.

Ajay Patel: Yeah, sure. Let me kick off and Benoit is more the expert, I would say. But this early from… In a Straumann Group perspective. We’re a traditional organization and we’re growing very rapidly, so in our circumstance, we’re an organization that is tipping over just into becoming a midsize organization. A medical device organization’s growing quite rapidly, we’re very successful so far, but the expectations of HR have typically been as long as people get paid and they’re happy, and we’re not getting sued, and we are treating people generally quite well, that’s HR and we’ve rapidly changing this.

Now, we’ve hired different HR leaders, we are re-coaching managers and leaders to take more accountability for how their teams are performing. We have high performing team sessions. So the mindset of how our organization culturally is progressing is very different to what it was a few years ago. The mindset of our leadership in terms of what their accountabilities are, in terms of developing people, how people should be recognized, how they’re rewarded, that is all changing, aligns to this more millennial kind of generation that you described in this generational shift, as well. And it’s not to say that older folks are excluded, I think everybody, I’m older, and so-

Shelly Kramer: I’m older, I want those things.

Ajay Patel: But I also… Exactly. I want exactly those things, I want to make an impact. And how that is positioned, how does it encouraged is super important to individuals. And when we start thinking about this personalization layer, there’s a lot of investment that we are making into a seamless employee experience. So what you look at as a candidate experience when you see an employer brand in a website or on a careers website, what is spoken about in the keywords, in the imagery should be called authentic, and the same as the experience, when you land as an employee. There shouldn’t be a jarring difference.

The survey that you fill in for engagement survey should reflect where we’re positioning ourselves and the values and the morals of the company. And in that personalization layer, if we can bring using technology, kind of everybody has their own dream, everybody has their own purpose, where it connects with our company purpose, that’s when magic happens. But really it’s about helping people understand what they want to do, what their ambitions are, and how there’s a joint benefit for a period of time.

Maybe we only have a relationship as employed for three years, maybe five, maybe 10, but where there’s shared game, we have a relationship. When it doesn’t work so much anymore, it’s okay, go off, discover new things, learn something, but maybe even come back as an alumni and then rekindle that relationship and continue that growth journey. That’s I think what we’re trying to create in organizations now, which is quite different from the traditional HR systems that we set of before, which was much more operational, people should get paid, we shouldn’t get sued and we’re fine.

Now, it’s about employee experience, candidate experience, and living a relationship together that’s beneficial for everybody. Benoit.

Dr. Benoit Hardy-Vallée: Yes.

Shelly Kramer: That trust is such a big part of the equation. An analogy that popped into my head when you were talking about that was, have you ever encountered someone by way of social media channels? Maybe you connect with them on LinkedIn or you connect with them on Twitter and you expect them to look a certain way and then you actually meet them in-person, and you realize that the profile picture they’re using is 10 years old and they look like… And you feel tricked, you feel like…

It’s not a good foot forward, and so I think that what you’re saying is what you say this environment that we’re hoping that you’ll accept a position and join our organization, and what it actually is when it shows up, they need to be the same. Benoit?

Dr. Benoit Hardy-Vallée: Yeah, you need to deliver on that experience, but it also applied for us when we think about it, it’s the whole ecosystem. Whether you are a recruiter or a manager, an employee or a candidate, or even an alumni or silver medalist, the people who didn’t get hired, but you stay in contact with, everybody used technologies that has built in hyper-personalization. We don’t even call it personalization because we take it for granted. Of course, Netflix will recommend movies I like and Spotify will recommend music I like.
It’s not perfect, it’s not 100%, but more or less, it helps me find content that I find interesting. Well, now, we expect the same things for a lot of HR system, as a candidate-

Shelly Kramer: We do.

Dr. Benoit Hardy-Vallée: … what kind of job am I fit for? As an employee, where can I take my career? As a recruiter, what kind of candidate would be a good fit for the job I’m recruiting? And then if I’m a hiring manager, in all that talent pool that I’m looking at, who would be a good fit? Again, it’s the bringing what used to be only made through human ways. The personalization used to be that experience, when you go to your restaurant, the waitress know you. “Hey, how are you, Ajay. Glad to see you. Here’s your favorite coffee or tea”.

It was a customer experience, but now we generalize that across every experience. And you look at every HR function and now everybody’s mapping the talent lifecycle from being attracted, to convert, to progressing, to even leaving the organization. How can you make it about the individual? And the KPIs reflect that. A lot of people are incentive on NPS score, on retention, not just on typical productivity metrics.

Shelly Kramer: All very salient points. I’m thinking now about roadblocks along the way, and what kind of roadblocks, Benoit are your customers seeing as they work to improve the candidate experience and fill open roles in their organizations? What are the hurdles they have to jump over?

Dr. Benoit Hardy-Vallée: I would say a common one is that we have a big system to manage all of our HR experience, but then we have another one, another one, another one, and then as a candidate, you’re bound between different systems. And also let’s face it, there’s a lot of career side that seem to be neglected from a branding or marketing perspective, or at least they look good, but then the experience of applying feels a bit convoluted. Again, I’m buying, and according to my wife, way too many things on Amazon with 1-Click buy.

It’s easy, it’s simple, it gets delivered to my… It’s fantastic, costly, but fantastic. But then you have to go on a career side and upload your resume and then fill everything. People just turn off and say, “No, no thank you.”

Shelly Kramer: And along the way you’re just thinking, “I’m so irritated, there has to be a better way. I’m so irritated.

Dr. Benoit Hardy-Vallée: There has to be a way.

Shelly Kramer: Is this what it’s going to be like working for this organization? Because I’m out.”

Dr. Benoit Hardy-Vallée: Exactly. It’s the first time you’re creating an impression in their mind, so that’s a big roadblock. Technology can fix that, it’s not the only thing. Technology is not the miracle, you also want to have an attractive proposition. Some organization may have neglected that for many years. And then even if you have a good process, if you are left in some kind of dark hole, you don’t hear from recruiters, it’s another challenge for customer experience.

And there was a lot of talks in the press in the last few weeks, you have also systems that discount candidate based on very simple rules. If you have a six-month gap in your resume, you’re taken out of the process. Which is so unfair for so many reason, but you think right. So there’s a matching problem sometimes, but also an access problem.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely. What are your thoughts on that topic, Ajay?

Ajay Patel: Sure. In terms of roadblocks to getting to this beautiful future, I guess, I think we’re coming from a world where a lot of HR or employee or candidate experiences were very analog and very traditional in mindset. The process was designed to manage the process and get people through and look at the CVs or resumes, and process people. That was what the system was designed for. And now we’re moving into new generation, where we do value experience a lot more.

In some cases, the folks who are in that system haven’t yet changed their mindset, so I think there’s people. I think there’s processes that sometimes get in the way, and then there’s the eternal balance between globalization and localization. And there’s often the right answer in the middle, but finding that balance is often quite tricky for larger organizations that are trying to battle with… It wouldn’t be great if everybody have the same experience. This is it and this is it, we’re done. One brand, one set of keywords, one experience, we’re done.

Then of course, there’s a local situation in this market, and maybe this doesn’t work for that function and finding the tolerance between the right globalization strategy, the right localization, maybe the old phrase of glocalization needs to come into play. What’s that right balance in between to get people engaged and conceptually thinking about the people in the process, whether they’re candidates or employees? The personas of the 80% because it is pretty hard to serve everybody.

But how can we really think of the 80% of people that are using this most and how can we serve their needs to make the most impact for the things that matter most to us? I think that often is a huge roadblock because there’s so many people with so many different priorities aligning around one vision, that can be quite difficult for bigger organizations certainly.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely. I often think too that when I encounter situations, I find myself saying, “Whoever it was that designed this journey that I’m on has never actually walked this path as a customer.” When you’re filling out forms or when you’re doing something and you’re thinking, “Oh my gosh, this is crazy, the processes that I have to go through.” It’s such a simple thing for people who are charged with developing those systems, and those processes, and those forms, and everything else to actually take them, go through that process themselves. But I think sometimes in many instances, people forget about that and I think that’s an important part of the solution.

Ajay Patel: Maybe it could add to this topic that I think companies are catching on at the same time. And you see a lot of trendy, new job titles, employee experience managers, and employee brand leads, and transformation leads that are leading us in a new employee experience altogether. I think companies are catching on and starting to value these things a lot more. They don’t sometimes know how to do everything in one go and I think we’re in a few transformation years where the tech is evolving and emerging. Some is good, some is not as connected as we would hope to other tech, pieces of tech that make a seamless experience across multiple platforms.

But give a few more years, I really feel that this is really going places. We’re in the seed stage, I would say at the moment, where it’s starting to develop and something solid is starting to form. But it’ll be really interesting to see what materializes in the next few years-

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, I agree.

Ajay Patel: … and we’re still in the early stages.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, I agree. I think it’s very exciting. And one thing that we’ve talked about, we haven’t specifically identified as part of the biggest challenge here is just silos throughout the organization. And breaking down those silos and having it be an interconnected experience, I think is one of the big keys here. Talking about technology solution, Benoit, I’d love to hear a little bit from you about Phenom’s Talent Experience Management, TMX solution? And why a technology, an HR tech solution like this is so valuable for companies today.

Dr. Benoit Hardy-Vallée: For many years, technology, I think did a great job at managing the process and maybe consciously or not was drawing analogies from supply chain management. You take thing from one place, you move that to another place. People are not widget or things or objects, so they have an experience and feeling and all that. So now technology has been evolving, as I mentioned, consumer day-to-day technology get to a stage where it’s almost intuitive and transparent.

Phenom applied the same logic to what we call a Talent Experience Management, and really it’s looking at all of those interconnected experiences. The hiring manager and the recruiter on the demand side or the backend, if you will, because they will be needing talent, they will be funneling, filtering, selecting who will work on the organization. So they need speed, they need automation, they need scale.

On the supply side or the front-end, then you have those candidates. Whether they are internal, external, potential candidate, past candidates, alumni and so on, they are looking for the right job within their own organization, within another organization. And for us, it’s four sides of the same coin, if you want. So we build a technology with the recognition that all of these different roles are after the same thing, getting people into the right role, which is again, an access issues, a matching issue, and an experience issue.

So we build a platform that sit on top of the rest of the technology stack to really manage the experience, because process-wise, I think we’re covered. We have way more process than we need, but what about the experience? And it’s important nowadays, because as we mentioned, people of shop for good experience, people are difficult. And a good experience, it’s personalized, it’s intuitive, it’s fast, it’s convenient, and it’s authentic.

And if you can create all that with technology, but also with your own soul, with your brand as a company, then you can really create interesting experience for everyone. That’s what we’re about them.

Shelly Kramer: I think that it sounds pretty awesome. Ajay, do you have anything to add there in terms of your experience using talent management, using Phenom people’s TMX solution?

Ajay Patel: I do, yeah. Sure. I think we are… It is actually not my first time buying the Phenom platform, so I’ve done this in other organizations as well, but now we’re bringing this to Straumann Group as we speak, so we went live very recently. But I think in the decision process for this kind of technology where there’s Phenom or another platform, I think it starts with a business need. And the business need that we had was really, we are not moving enough of our in internal talents around our organization fast enough.

We are not developing the skills that we require for the future to stay relevant as an organization, and people are telling us that they also want to develop more, to have more career opportunities, to relearn and grow in different directions. And of course around all of this, if we can automate more and get people those hyper-personalized experiences, then we’re on a winner as well. So the platform selection was kind of secondary. It was more about what is the outcomes we want for a business and what do we want to give to our employees to retain them, and make them feel valued and allow them to grow?

When we put that all together into the big stirring pot, I guess, we then started to look for the tech solutions that could enable these and provide that personalization. That’s where Phenom in this instance was a good choice. For us at our stage of growth, we need to understand our current skills portfolio in our organization and also understand, how do we spot where we have gaps and where do we have to rely probably on developing people at scale by providing learning experiences to bridge skills gaps, but also maybe where we have to look externally for additional talents as well.

Shelly Kramer: Fantastic.

Ajay Patel: And that’s where the tech is really enabling us do this at scale, which manually would be next to impossible to do. Across all the functions, and countries, and languages, the tech is really enabling processes, but also self-service from the employee base as well. So that’s, what’s really been the winner for us.

Shelly Kramer: How many employees do you have at Straumann Group?

Ajay Patel: We’re probably about 8,000 at the moment, but we hope that we might be about 15,000 by 2025. So for us, this is very rapid growth, and so-

Shelly Kramer: And so would you say that a solution like the Phenom’s TMX solution is foundational in letting you… That’s a lot of growth, that’s almost doubling your company’s size.

Ajay Patel: It could be.

Shelly Kramer: So is it having a solution of this nature in place that you feel like is going to enable you to embrace that growth path that you’re focused on?

Ajay Patel: Absolutely. So the remit of my role. Actually, HR in our organization is structured to be very, very focused on the employee experience. So I’m the head of Join, which sounds like an unusual title, but the Join label comes with recruiting, onboarding, workforce planning, and a bunch of… Employee branding as well. My interest is very much on the candidate experience to ensure that what we present to people is authentic and transparent. And as people enter into the organization through the onboarding process, the experience is what we give in the front end is what you experience in the second stage, as well.

My colleague’s a head of Grow, who’s responsible for traditionally learning and development, and talent management. We have a head of contribute, but the whole system is really centered on the candidates and employee experience, and how we can really prioritize what matters to us most in our next stage of evolution as an organization.

Shelly Kramer: Sounds really exciting. I want to go to work at Straumann Group. Oh, wait, I own this company that would be problematic. Are there, Benoit, any kind of… Are there some companies who benefit more from using a solution like TMX?

Dr. Benoit Hardy-Vallée: What I’ve seen is that company benefit differently, so even in the midst of the pandemics, I’m looking at our hospitality clients. Obviously, very difficult years for them, but they used the opportunity to build their war chest. It was the industry that built the more leads or prospect, if you will. It’s the assembling profiles in the database that are not necessarily applicant, but you nurture, you grow them, you pull them. So they build an enormous war chest of potential talent so that when they start reopening, they can pick within their database.

But then you have other organization who will use it because, in retail, it’s all about speed. These are not jobs that require terribly complicated skills. It’s more about, is it close to my home? How much is the pay, what’s the schedule, what’s the commute look like? So you have to create that sort of very pragmatic experience for those frontline worker. And then you have the holy grail, the tech talent, the Java, the Python developers, that everybody’s chasing. They need the more sophisticated tech savvy experience. So we found that our clients find different way of using it to achieve their goals.

Shelly Kramer: So there’s not any one industry or industry vertical or anything like that that you serve with this kind of solution, it’s kind of across the board and organizations of all different sizes?

Dr. Benoit Hardy-Vallée: Yeah, I would say, we have organization with a few 100, not a lot, I would say. We have what? 10% of the Fortune 500, but it’s variable scales really.

Shelly Kramer: Okay, that sounds great. I’d like to wrap up our conversation with just touching base a little bit, Benoit on your Talent Experience Management solution and any new features or developments that you are particularly excited about that we can be on the lookout for?

Dr. Benoit Hardy-Vallée: Yeah. With the recent years and I think if you look at the market, there’s a lot of consolidation. People are trying to minimize the number of systems that they have, which mean for us, making sure that we offer different capabilities. We’ve been adding a lot more automation, like fully-automated interview scheduling. You need to reschedule, do you send an email, natural language understanding bot that will then take care of that, so you have an AI assistant.

We’ve been adding a lot of video because it’s well, the Zoom era of you… But often video can be asynchronous. I don’t need to be live for a video. I can record my answer to your question, and as a recruiter, you can watch them later. More AI and of course, diversity and inclusion. They will be a lot more developing coming in the next few months, but we’re trying to… We’re talking about behavioral economics, this idea of nudging people.

So in the system, in the platform, we’re going to have playbooks component that will help organization better manage their diversity, set diversity goals when they recruit, for example. So this is what’s cooking, basically.

Shelly Kramer: Oh, that’s really exciting. We haven’t mentioned this before and I want to make sure that our viewers and our listeners know that if you like what you’re hearing about Phenom’s Talent Experience Management solution and want to explore more about that, you can find more information about that in the SAP Store. I know that you’ve long been a valued SAP partner, Benoit and I will make sure to include a link to the SAP Store so that you can get more information.

I will also include links to Ajay’s LinkedIn profile and Benoit’s LinkedIn profile so that if you’d like to be connected with us, we invite you to reach out and do that. I’ll speak for all three of us and I know that we’d love to get to know better. And any closing comments? Ajay, you’ve been such a great participant in this conversation. I really, really enjoyed your insights.

Ajay Patel: No, I can only add to what Benoit’s been saying. I think as a customer of Phenom, it’s been incredible to bring quite cutting edge technology to employee base and a candidate base, who come back with really excited feedback about some of the features. And the ability, our ability to really enhance that product in quite fast timescales to say, “Hey, it, wouldn’t it be great if we could do this,” and off go’s a development engineer that really does it.

But I think the biggest thing for us is, in designing a solution, be really clear on who is your target persona that you’re trying to enhance the life of. Whether that’s candidates and do better marketing and engagement with, whether it’s an employee where you’re trying to give them career pathing options, really understanding your persona of who you are trying to impact is super important.

We can’t be everything to everybody, but if we can target some folks, that’s what I would say is where the magic can happen, when there’s focus and prioritization.

Shelly Kramer: That’s not the first time that you’ve said that, where the magic happens, then I really like that. I think that my key takeaway, and I hope that our audience’s key takeaway from this conversation is that that’s really what HR tech solutions are all about. It’s making magic happen. It’s putting people first, whether you are talking about candidates that you’re in the process of trying to recruit, whether you’re talking about employees who you want to provide a fulfilling workplace, a fulfilling career opportunities, opportunities for growth, and that kind of thing.

Or Management and HR professionals and making their jobs more enjoyable, more fulfilling, more effective and efficient. I think all of that, it’s just all about doing good things with people at the center of that equation and that’s where the magic happens.

Ajay Patel: Absolutely.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. Well, gentlemen, thank you so much for joining me today. This has been a fantastic conversation and I look forward to doing again sometimes soon.

Ajay Patel: Fabulous. Thank you very much.

Dr. Benoit Hardy-Vallée: Pleasure.


About the Author

Shelly Kramer is a Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, she has worked alongside some of the world’s largest brands to embrace disruption and spur innovation, understand and address the realities of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of digital transformation. She brings 20 years' experience as a brand strategist to her work at Futurum, and has deep experience helping global companies with marketing challenges, GTM strategies, messaging development, and driving strategy and digital transformation for B2B brands across multiple verticals. Shelly's coverage areas include Collaboration/CX/SaaS, platforms, ESG, and Cybersecurity, as well as topics and trends related to the Future of Work, the transformation of the workplace and how people and technology are driving that transformation. A transplanted New Yorker, she has learned to love life in the Midwest, and has firsthand experience that some of the most innovative minds and most successful companies in the world also happen to live in “flyover country.”