Podcast: BeyondHQ and Real-Time Planning for the Distributed Workforce

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Mark: Welcome to PeopleTech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report. I’m Mark Feffer.

Today, I talk with Madhu Chamarty, the CEO and Co-Founder of BeyondHQ. Their platform is designed to streamline the process of building and scaling distributed teams. Given all the talk we hear about the changing workforce, they see things from a unique angle. We’ll talk about what they see on this edition of PeopleTech.

Madhu, welcome. Thanks for being here. To start, could you tell me about BeyondHQ? What is it you do and who do you do it for?

Madhu: Absolutely, happy to do so. So we are basically a decision support tool or a scenario planning tool to help companies plan a more geographically distributed footprint. And what that means specifically is we work most often with HR leaders and real estate teams, and increasingly other departments as well at the organizations. We help them essentially evaluate the right markets and the right data to base their decisions for putting X number of people remote in a particular area of the country or world, or “Let’s open up a new office in Atlanta,” or “Let’s actually open up a [inaudible 00:01:33] in Chicago, instead of continuing to scale in San Francisco.”

So as companies get more into the idea of hybrid work and need to get more of a data-driven insight into why, where, and how they should scale their sort of people and real estate footprint, we are aiming to be a insights product that helps them make their decisions in a very data-driven way, leveraging talent data, leveraging cost data, leveraging other location-specific metrics like diversity, or travel, or cost of living, or what have you.

Mark: Now, you talk about real estate and working on that aspect of the decision, and buildings come to mind, roads come to mind, and what have you. Could you talk about the workforce aspect of it? What kind of data are you looking at when considering the workforce, and could you step me through sort of the analysis process?

Madhu: Yep, absolutely. So a couple of framing points, just to kind of understand the product, right? So you can think of BeyondHQ, to hyper-simplify our product, I will say, think of us as sort of Zillow meets Glassdoor, where you’ve got location-specific insights on talent availability. For example, how many backend software engineers with Python are in Atlanta, and what are they roughly getting paid, and who are the top employers of these software engineers in Atlanta, and what is the demographic breakdown of this talent pool? Those are just some examples of talent data that a company has access to.

So from a process standpoint, as you mentioned, the product essentially enables you to first state your goals with regards to how many people you’re looking to hire, what type of occupations you’re looking for. For instance, “I want 30 engineers, and 20 salespeople, and 30 accountants, and 50 sales managers or customer service managers. What are my options?” Then once you type that into the product, then we present to you, for instance, in the United States, all 384 metro areas at your disposal.

So now you have a very sophisticated evaluation and refinement process where you say, “I want certain population characteristics, I want certain demographic characteristics. I want not too small of a talent pool, such that I don’t have to start looking for competing with talent or looking for another market six months down the road. Show me markets that have at least 10,000 engineers in that city,” or “Show me markets that are not bigger than two million people. I don’t want to be in a big city,” or “Show me markets that have all the criteria of what Detroit, or Atlanta, or Chicago,” any one market, “I want to benchmark against markets I’m familiar with,” et cetera.

And then the product in real time, puts you in the driver’s seat and gives you the data-driven rationale to say, “Here’s exactly why I now understand Atlanta inches over Toronto,” or “San Francisco is actually not as good as Charlotte for my talent needs.” And then eventually, you narrow down your list of top five or 10 cities, for instance, and then you can further rank them by saying, “Okay, of all of the cities in America, these are the seven that catch my attention for this particular exercise of 50 engineers and 50 salespeople. Got it.”

Now, further refine them in terms of what’s the top city, what’s the top three, what’s the top five in these seven cities? Then you go into how many engineers are in city one, versus city two, versus city three? What is the relative cost savings you get in each market? What is the cost of one-year footprint versus five-year footprint in that market? And then what level of weight do you want to apply to talent versus cost, so you can say, “You know what? This is a very important team for me, so I’m going to emphasize talent more than I’m going to emphasize cost. Now update the ranking for me,” versus you could do the other way around, “I’m very cost sensitive. So please hyper-emphasize in the final ranking the cost qualifications of a market, over the talent qualifications of a market,” and then the ranking changes accordingly.

So that’s roughly speaking, starting with your needs of head count, head count type, and even real estate, if you wanted X amount of square footage, all the way down to very sophisticated sort of user-driven comparison and refinement, finally leading you to an actual decision, versus drowning you in a sea of data, “Here’s why I’m picking Atlanta, Charlotte, and Chicago, or Toronto, Vancouver, and San Francisco.” And we’re starting to grow worldwide in the coming weeks and months. So that’s roughly the process.

Mark: Now, you’re in a, I think unique position, because you obviously talk to a lot of businesses who are, for whatever reason, evaluating different aspects of their business, and their location and their markets. How has the pandemic’s fallout impacted employers and their decision about workforce and facilities and all of that, especially given the fact that everyone’s talking about hybrid now, when it seems like the decision making has changed? Can you talk about that?

Madhu: Yeah, absolutely. Great question, Mark. So it helps to kind of zoom out and look at what’s been happening pre-pandemic as well, to truly understand what the pandemic has done. If you look pre-pandemic, the last five years or so, perhaps even the last 10 years, in certain knowledge worker industries like insurance, or finance, or tech, or what have you, there’s been a steady growth in focus on remote work, and there’ve been policies put in place. It hasn’t reached the kind of the prime mindshare as it has now, but it’s certainly been building up.

And what the pandemic has done, and this is a common narrative we’re hearing from companies, is it has sort of, for lack of a better way to describe it, it has accelerated the consideration of remote work, among other trends, with companies that have already been thinking about it. And for the companies that never really thought about it, for instance, we are talking to a 100,000 employee insurance giant headquartered in Europe and in the US, and they mentioned they had a global HR and real estate, meaning real estate rolls into HR in that company, and they mentioned, “For the first time in the history of our organization, we’ve got directives from the C-suite that we now need to think about a hub and spoke model. We can’t just have everybody sitting in one city where we’re in today.”

So for the companies like that, which is the majority of the companies in America, or globally, pre-pandemic, it has sort of awoken this need to drastically revisit their footprint. What does it mean to have an office? What does it mean to have people that are remote? What does it mean to enable more flexibility for employees to be able to come in sometimes, and not come in sometimes? What does it mean to allow them to travel and work? So a lot of fundamental definitions of workforce culture, and experience, and recruitment, and real estate budget spend are all being reevaluated, and as you can imagine, different companies have different sets of values and culture that they’re trying to propagate and preserve.

So broadly speaking, hybrid work is kind of spurring all kinds of changes in the HR, real estate, and finance spectrum, depending on the company size and the vertical, you’ll see different implications of this change. So that’s probably how I would tend to think about what’s happening. It’s this kind of, they’re being forced to think about it, for companies that have not, and the companies that have been, it’s giving them more fuel to say, “Yes, we should really consider a more distributed footprint. We should think about flexible work. We should think about hybrid work,” et cetera.

Mark: Have you noticed any particular change in the attitude and the behavior of the workforce itself?

Madhu: Yeah, that’s an excellent question. We think about oftentimes, for our kind of internal planning and observation of the market, we think about this in terms of the employee perspective and the employer perspective. Right? And so, some of the stuff I just mentioned is the employer perspective. On the employee perspective, I think, again, really, the answer varies depending on what industry you’re talking about. We all are reading about how in the service industry, for instance, the fast food restaurant industry, there’s a lot of people that have been laid off, arguably sometimes prematurely, and arguably with good cause in other cases, and they’re hesitant to go back to work because the conditions were already difficult for them in terms of minimum wage and working conditions, and the pandemic seems to have served as a wake-up call for them to say, “Is this what I really want to return to?” So that’s one trend that’s talked about from an employee sentiment. And so, all these fast food restaurants and these fast casual dining establishments are struggling to restaff, and they’re trying to be as creative as they can to win people back.

But if you look at the knowledge worker industry, I think the biggest change is this sense of a greater empowerment for the employee, where they can actually have more of a say on how work gets done and where work gets done, challenging a lot of assumptions that you need to be within four walls to be productive. And I think what we’re seeing from companies is it’s a spectrum of companies that are starting to come to terms with that greater choice and the greater empowerment that the employees would want. And some companies are embracing it actively, some companies are sort of struggling with digesting that, because that has not been the case historically. The employer told you where you come, and you go there, right? You’re seeing examples of that on Wall Street, where the banks are requiring that you come back to the office.

So, but that’s a spectrum of reactions, but fundamentally, the common thread that connects all of them, regardless of industry, is this greater sense of empowerment, that “I would like more flexibility. I would like better conditions to do what I do.”

Mark: So do you think if you net it out, has the pandemic been good for your business? Are employers looking at these problems in a different way, looking to use tools more? Where’s that all come out?

Madhu: Yeah, absolutely. Like every business, we had to sort of take a step back to understand the implications of what was happening last year, right? So I remember when I wrote the thesis document to start the company just over two years ago, that the punchline was, “The future of work is distributed.” That was the idea, and what has happened in the first half of the pandemic is a shock. Just everybody paused, nobody’s doing anything, right? Just processing the shock. And the second half of last year is when we realized that this is actually driving a huge tailwind for us.

For one, among all of the reasons. I’ll tell you one reason, which is historically, where people work, and “Where do I want to hire?” Let’s call these location decisions for workforce and for real estate, which are the number one and number two sources of burn for any company. Between head count and real estate, you’re looking at 70 to 80% of companies burn in many cases. So historically, these location decisions were relatively infrequent because you opened up a giant office, and everybody came there. If you lived in another city, you moved to that city to work, for the most part, right? They were high CapEx, low-frequency decisions.

The pandemic has really made companies realize that location decisions are going to be much lower CapEx, and much higher frequency. So what used to be a point in time thinking of like, “Oh, maybe we need to open an office,” or “We’re going to make head count decisions in the annual budgeting process,” is now becoming a more continuous need as workforce shifts around, and as pockets of talent emerge, or as business conditions change around the country, this has been a need that’s been building up. And so, more companies are now thinking, “In order to be competitive, in order to be increasing our retention, we need to think about workforce planning and location strategy for the organization, whether it’s physical location or virtual location, in a much more agile, continuous manner.”

And we solve exactly that need for not just the HR real estate orgs, but the company as a whole can now collaboratively, constantly stay abreast of the changing landscape for talent, cost, and location, and make decisions accordingly. And the digitized offering that we’re providing is just a reflection of the need of the market, especially after the pandemic. So more and more, HR leaders, and real estate leaders, and finance leaders as well are starting to realize, “We need to change how we do this planning. We need to recognize that this is the new way forward, and BeyondHQ is part of what’s sort of helping us embrace that change.” And so, slightly long answer to your question of is it helping us, but I just wanted to give you context on how we’re coming into play as a result of the pandemic, even more so.

Mark: No, that’s great. Thank you, and thank you very much. Really, really great to meet you, and I appreciate your coming in today.

Madhu: Thank you very much. Thank you for the opportunity.

Mark: My guest today has been Madhu Chamarty, CEO and Co-Founder of BeyondHQ, and this has been PeopleTech, a podcast of the HCM Technology Report. We’re a publication of RecruitingDaily.

PeopleTech is part of Evergreen Podcasts. To see all of their programs, visit www.evergreenpodcasts.com.

And to keep up with HR technology, visit the HCM Technology Report every day. We’re the most trusted source of news in the HR tech industry. Find us at www.hcmtechnologyreport.com. I’m Mark Feffer.

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