Podcast: Simply’s James Cooper-Jones on Recruiting, Process and Covid

Digital Recruiter

Transcript

Mark:

Welcome to PeopleTech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report. I’m Mark Feffer. Today, I’m talking to James Cooper-Jones, the CEO of Simply. Since they’re about improving the recruiting process, they pay a lot of attention to things like the Great Resignation and the attitude of the workforce. We’ll talk about those things, plus the choice of running a business through COVID on this edition of PeopleTech. Hey James, thanks for joining me. Could you tell me about Simply? What do you do?

James:

So Simply is a HR technology company, but we approach it with a people first philosophy. This is very important and core to our values for myself and my co-founder. So we have developed a technology that provides values-based recruitment in a digital form. Now, values-based recruitment is a proven method of recruitment to improve employee engagement and wellbeing, and really puts the individual and the person first. So with our university partners, we’ve digitized that into an easy to use applicant tracking software that allows you to use values-based recruitment easily and simply in the recruitment process.

Mark:

Here in North America, we’re going through the Great Resignation where people are quitting their jobs very quickly to find something better. Is that happening in Australia?

James:

Yeah, it is. We’re seeing that across the regions that we have a presence in here in Australia which is our home country and where Simply is from. But we have a presence in Asia, in Singapore and then also in the UK. We’re seeing it across the board, that this Great Resignation where people are resigning to, as you say, find something better is occurring across the world it seems.

Mark:

I’m going to come back to your company for a minute. You told me about what Simply does, Simple does. I’m sorry. Well, first, how does Simple do it? Secondly, what makes it so good in the marketplace?

James:

Yeah, it’s a good question. So what Simply does is really make it easy to access these wonderful ways to find the right personality type for the right role. So at Simply, we often say we’re developing HR technology for business managers and it’s by business managers. We’re former business managers. I’m a former CEO and senior manager of publicly traded companies. So I understood the challenge even before the Great Resignation of finding the right people. Had ventures that have gone very well and ventures that have not gone so well, and often that is the basis of that is finding the right people.

James:

So I knew that what I wanted to do was find that right personality type for that right role. Certainly aware of other tools that are around and a big believer in a lot of those tools. Psychometric testing and other psychology based tools that are available to help you find the right personality type for the right role. The trouble is, Mark, is that I found that those tools although effective are often are very time consuming and quite expensive. So hence Simply, and so the name was born. We wanted a simple method of delivering these tools and really democratize these methodologies and make them available for modern, very busy business manager. That’s what Simply has done.

James:

We’ve developed a methodology of values-based recruitment that is really simple and easy to use. You can use it as a standalone system or integrate it with your current HRM’s Workday or SAP SuccessFactors. But really made that used powerful technology to make it very simple for the manager. It generally takes 10 minutes or so to set up and for a candidate to apply. Our market research in developing this technology was that in the Great Resignation and we’re all fighting for an increasingly smaller talent pool. The candidate is in the driver’s seat.

James:

For a lot of the other systems out there that provide those psychology based methods to finding the right personality for the right role, candidates are now not completing them because they’re too complex. So we’ve made that element of our technology as well very easy, and again, only five to 10 minutes to apply. So that’s what we do is we provide that simple tool previously probably unavailable to managers into a really easy system hence the name Simply.

Mark:

How many users do you have?

James:

Sure. So we’ve launched here into the U.S. market in the last quarter. We’re rolling out there well. We have eight or so people using the system and we have a growing user base there in the U.S.

Mark:

It seems to me that the market up here is pretty crowded with companies like Simply or doing things like Simply is doing. How have you found the market?

James:

We’ve found the market really receptive. As mentioned, it’s still very early for Simply. We’ve just launched the product into the U.S. and so it’s great to on this launch now talk to you, but we found the market very receptive. I think the U.S. modern manager understands the trends of the increased digitization of the workplace. There is just an explosion of technology there in the workplace. I think that’s because of two reasons. I think we’re understanding how to get more out of our team using technology.

James:

So a recent study done by a think tank who included members such as Mercer and Deloitte found that employee engagement or a lack of employee engagement is costing U.S. businesses half a trillion dollars a year. So I think the modern manager is understanding that technology systems can be a tool to improve that employee engagement, not only making our employees happier, but also improving the bottom line of our businesses.

James:

But I think also, Mark, that we were talking earlier about the Great Resignation and one of the spinoffs of the Great Resignation is a remote workforce in some manner, or for most of us as managers may not mean that all of our team is working remote, but certainly some are and all working in a remote hybrid type arrangement. This is requiring more technology as well. So the interactions we previously had face to face, we’re now required to use Zoom as a verb, Microsoft Teams’ essential parts of our lives.

James:

So technology has where they weren’t previously pandemic, and so technology is taking a bigger role in our lives. I think the North American business manager is well regarded and highly respected around the world. I think that’s because they often see these trends and address them very quickly.

Mark:

Could you explain to me why engagement involves technology?

James:

Yeah, it’s a good point. I think there’s probably a couple of points there, Mark. I think one of the things I often talk about and we’re noticing with our research, university research partners in the UK is that what we’re finding is that an increasing part of the workforce is a younger generation. So where perhaps the older generation were introduced at some time during their workforce work life to technology and apps and iPhones and these other technologies, this generation coming up was born with them almost in their hand. So it’s a no brainer that technology is part of the workforce.

James:

So Gen Z’ers can increasingly represent higher proportions of our workforce, 20, 30, 40% of our workforce. So there’s a large chunk of the workforce that just has an expectation that technology is part of the answer to our day to day lives. But as I mentioned, those other trends around the remote workforce as a byproduct of the Great Resignation as we’ve got now the candidates have their hands in the relationship, the candidates are now driving the relationship. There’s a requirement for us as managers to accommodate to them to some degree, and in a restricted talent pool, we need to cast a wider net and find people that are living remotely.

James:

So technology has a part to play in that. But I think also we’re finding technology, some of the biggest companies in the U.S. and around the world are technology companies and they are because we can see that that increases efficiency and that tools to be able to help us engage with our employees at a regular basis and help the managers monitor productivity are on the rise to fit that trend for sure.

Mark:

I’m wondering if you find engagement more or less the same in the United States and Australia? Or are they both particularly different?

James:

It’s similar to the Great Resignation that we’re seeing a similar trend across the board. It seems to be that there were underlying trends prior to the pandemic and in a change of philosophy to how people view work, how employees, their worldview was changing around where work sits in their life. It seems to be, and this is in part fed by research by university partners in the UK, that the pandemic and the forced lockdowns has been a catalyst for people to review where work fits in their life.

James:

So where perhaps it was prior to the pandemic I live to work and people were on the hamster wheel and perhaps not understanding to some degree why the pandemic has triggered this underlying shift to go for many in the workforce, not all but many, to reassess where work sits in their lifestyle. That’s where we’re finding this increasing trend of finding of candidates only wanting to work somewhere that has purpose or values fit. They’re not willing to take a role now that doesn’t have values alignment and values are very important to them.

Mark:

Last question for you is speaking of the virus, how did COVID impact your business? It seems like you’d be in a really tenuous place, new company, other businesses cutting their spending and all that kind of thing. So what did it do to you and how’d you get through it?

James:

Yeah, it’s a really good question. I think there’s been no been in our recent memory where change is the only constant saying is more applicable than during the pandemic. So like many business managers, we’ve had to adapt and roll with the punches that COVID has delivered to us. I think we’ve got to be honest with ourselves and I’m always honest when I’m talking to business managers around the world, including North America, that it was challenging. There’s no two ways about it.

James:

I think it has been a challenging period for many of us, but we’ve adapted and we’re changed and we’re going strong. Like many businesses, we’ve had to adapt. The key changes we’ve made is that we have been able to adapt to the remote workforce. Most of our team members are remote. We use technology to achieve that. We use technology and, of course, Simply to recruit, but also once teams are on board, we use technology to do that. That was really forced upon us because of the pandemic, but it has actually turned out to be a great benefit to us.

James:

We can now move very quickly into new markets, including North America, but Australia is a beautiful place, but a long way from almost everywhere. So it’s allowed us to move into Europe and Asia, and now North America. So that’s exciting. But it’s also allowed us to access a talent pool. So that is around the world. So the brains trust around the product we’re delivering and also our business is again in all those regions, Asia, Europe, Australia, and now North America.

James:

So that’s what was originally seen as a pandemic concern with lockdowns and recruiting people locally has turned into a benefit because that’s helped us grow our business. We’ve got a wider world perspective on our product. We can see trends that may originate say in Asia or Europe, but then sweep across Australia and North America. But because of our remote work team, we’ve been able to see those trends coming and adapt. So I think that’s the lessons I’ve learned and certainly many more for me and the team to learn. But when I’m talking with business managers, that’s the thing that I often share notes on is that having a remote workforce and being able to tap into a wide section of perspective has been a great benefit to Simply.

Mark:

James Cooper-Jones. Thank you for being here today.

James:

Thank you, Mark. Thank you for having me.

Mark:

My guest today has been James Cooper-Jones, the CEO of Simply. This has been PeopleTech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report. We’re a publication of RecruitingDaily. We’re also a part of Evergreen Podcasts. To see all of their programs, visit www.evergreenpodcasts.com. 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.

Image: iStock

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