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Is UpMo LinkedIn for the Enterprise?

From TLNT Transform, Peter Clayton interviews Rob Garcia, VP of Product at UpMo

 
Rob Garcia, VP of Product at UpMoRob Garcia

UpMo, is a Silicon Valley startup that has devised a "social talent engine": a cloud-based internal mobility plus social collaboration platform that, (according to UpMo), "allows employees to network inside the organization while helping them find and be found for opportunities, enabling HR & managers to hire from within to keep people engaged."

Joining us for a Innovation Channel Podcast on TotalPicture Radio is Rob Garcia VP of product for UpMo, He is responsible for the vision, roadmap, user experience and interaction design of UpMo's suite of products.

"We believe the future of HR and talent acquisition lie in empowering employees through social professional networking and collaboration around career management. And that's what we're up to at UpMo."   

Rob Garcia Biography

Rob drives the product strategy and execution at UpMo. He is responsible for the vision, roadmap, user experience and interaction design of UpMo's suite of products. Rob has been creating innovative eCommerce, financial, and consumer oriented web products for more than 12 years, delivering outstanding web experiences for companies like Lending Club, Cisco, Road Runner Sports, Knight Ridder Digital, Smith & Hawken, Breville and Teamwork Athletic Apparel. His work has been awarded numerous prizes such as several Webby Awards, W3 Award, WebAwards, OMMA Award, Interactive Media Award and Harvard Business Review's Breakthrough Ideas. Rob is also a leading voice in the startup community, blogging, tweeting, mentoring and speaking passionately about disruptive innovation. Rob holds a Computer Science degree and an M.B.A. in Entrepreneurship from Babson College.

Rob Garcia TotalPicture Radio Interview Transcript

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Coming up this month, sponsorship opportunities for the Human Capital Management Summit in Boston, Massachusetts, March 14th and 15th and ERE Expo 2012 Spring returns to San Diego, California, March 28-30th.

Hi, this is Peter Clayton. Welcome to a special Innovation Channel podcast here on TotalPicture Radio, recorded at the TLNT Transform Conference in Austin, Texas.

Joining us today is Rob Garcia. He's a Silicon Valley product executive who has helped dozens of Fortune 500 companies and startups to find and execute digital product strategies to introduce and gain adoption rapidly with disruptive innovation propositions. Recently, Rob joined UpMo to drive its product strategy and execution. In his role as VP of product for UpMo, he is responsible for the vision, roadmap, user experience and interaction design of UpMo's suite of products.

Rob, thanks for joining us today.

Rob: Thanks, Peter.

Peter: Tell us about UpMo. What does your organization do?

Rob: UpMo is a social - we call it a social talent platform. What it does is basically an enterprise professional network that allows people to interact with each other, make connections, find opportunities within the organization and drive their careers forward.

Peter: So it's an internal LinkedIn.

Rob: Yeah. We've been called the LinkedIn for the enterprise a couple of times before, but it's much more than that. It allows you to path your career forward. So think about LinkedIn as a way for you to showcase what you've done, what you've accomplished. What UpMo allows you to do is to broadcast what you are also interested in doing, your aspirations, your dreams, what kind of teams and projects you want to work on, and allow people to find you within the organization, tap you on the shoulder and say, "Hey, are you interested in doing this kind of stuff? Come and work with us."

Peter: According to your product literature, "UpMo is creating transparency where previously there hasn't been much. Most HR systems have historically cut employee information confidential effectively preventing managers from seeing who within the company might be a good fit for a new opening." So how are you kicking and dragging HR departments into opening up the communal?

Rob: Well we're definitely not kicking them and dragging them to do this. What we are doing though is partnering with them to allow this transparency to happen in a natural and social way within the organizations.

One of the things that we do is take these jobs that are available; think about how people look for projects and jobs in the organization today. There is an internal website postings of all the jobs that are available. As a user, as an employee, think about the amount of energy and effort that it takes for me to actually put my résumé in the hat, like everybody else is doing. That job is also available for, and open to everybody outside, right? Companies are trying to hire talent from outside of the organization and now I'm competing with everybody else. But wait a second, I've been in this company for three, four, five years; I've been loyal to the company, I've been developing my skills. It does take a lot of energy and is a big barrier for HR to actually to find that talent within the organization which translates into attrition.

So believe me, HR, we're not dragging them. They love this transparency, they love the fact that they have a visibility into their talent marketplace they didn't have before.

Peter: Your company ran some pilots last summer, is that correct?

Rob: That's correct. UpMo has been around for about almost 3 years now, but the first two years it was a consumer product and they did a ton - and I say 'they' because I wasn't with the company at that time - but they did tons of research and development, they tested it with consumers and it was primarily a project management tool for managing my career; the kinds of things that I want to do, a list of what should I accomplish in order to find Job X that I'm interested in doing.

What we learned through that experience though is that for an employee or for a person to manage their careers; it has to be done in a social and a collaborative way. I can't do it in a silo; I have to do it with my manager. I have to find out who has done this before. A lot of crowd intelligence is involved in that.

We took all that knowledge and we realized the need that was within the enterprise to tap in to these different trends to expose these opportunities to people in the company and drive them forward.

What we did is we took all that technology, between July and December of last year we basically had pilot customers, well-known brands in Silicon Valley and across the country. These clients, these customers, helped us shape and finalize and fine tune the features of the product, make it usable, make it very viral within the organization. Because at the end of the day, we want a product that's used, not like all the other HR technology that has very little penetration in the marketplace or in the employee base. We just launched it in January. I'm very excited to be a part of the Transform event as well, making it our debut.

Peter: How do you get employees to take the time to fill in all of this information about themselves in UpMo? What is the incentive and what kind of adoption rate have you experienced through your pilot programs and through some of your early customers for this product?

Rob: That's a great question and it's a question that everybody is trying to answer - all the HR technology companies are trying to figure out how to get the products adopted by the employees.

I think it comes down to what's in it for me as an employee and part of the organization, why should I do this? There's a myriad of different systems that I should look at. For employees to jump into an HR system just because HR wants to have my skills and my résumé; it's not going to cut it, that's not enough. But if you enable the employees to interact with each other, to find each other, to look at opportunities in different ways, to create projects and say, "Hey, I need somebody to help me with social media marketing. If anybody is interested, raise your hand and I'll find you." So allow people to organize themselves around these opportunities, it stops being an HR system and starts becoming an employee-centric, self-organized platform that allows people to make these connections.

It also helps that some people present us as the LinkedIn for the enterprise. A couple of our customers when they did this roll out and they said, "This is how we're going to find you in the organization and this is how we want you to establish your relationships and your connections" that also helps because there's a set precedent of how to do professional networking outside through LinkedIn, through social networking. It's very intuitive, very natural.

It's the same way that people keep their LinkedIn profiles updated. We all do it. Why? Because there's an opportunity, there is a chance that somebody might be looking for somebody like me and by me having the latest and the best foot forward, I'll be the best candidate they will probably look at.

Peter: Your career is not your job and I think it behooves anyone today to make a conscious effort to make sure the things like your LinkedIn profile are updated because you are responsible for your own career and your own advancement.

Rob: That's absolutely right. If you look at what's happening, Peter, social media tends to be overhyped. But there's one thing that social media has done that is different from any of the trend that we've seen in the past, which is to allow the individual to showcase themselves in a way they were not able to do before. Now it's about me, it's about my brand, how do I fit within the organization, how do I fit within the world of what I'm trying to accomplish, what do I bring forward that is unique, exciting, interesting and it can be utilized in different settings. That transforms the way we speak about ourselves but it also opens opportunities about what else could I be doing, what other options are out there that I haven't thought about? It's exciting.

Peter: I think one challenge that you have with UpMo is as we all know, you're targeting your product towards larger companies of over 4,000 employees. Immediately, we're talking about organizations that have ERP systems, that usually have an ATS system (Taleo, Connexa); how does your product integrate with the database systems that these organizations already have?

Rob: That's a great question. A couple of things; first, we're not replacing systems that exist. Those are core HR systems where no way, shape or form, coming in and saying this is a replacement for any of those systems. What we do though, this is technology, we all have APIs. We do have already integrations with Taleo and Success Factors and several others that our customers are asking us to accomplish for them.

The reality is that information will not live in one place. HR's trend and ideal of one vendor fits all is unrealistic. It's not going to happen because it serves different purposes. So what we truly believe is by us integrating with these systems, we allow to create a truly employee-centric application that shares all the information that it needs to, to make sure that the opportunities are presented and then people are doing what they really care and want to do with their careers.

Peter: Is this a SaaS product, is it software?

Rob: Yeah. It is cloud based and it's very, very simple.

Peter: Tell us some of success stories here, Rob. I think with anything like this, if you get the CEO's attention and the CEO says, "Yeah, this is fabulous. We really want to do this..." then you're good, man. But if it's some VP who says, "Wow, this is really cool. I want to make sure everybody in our organization uses it..." then the chances of success aren't all that great because so much of this stuff is driven by the C-suite.

Rob: It depends on the size of the organization as well. You mentioned earlier that we're targeting companies 4,000 people and above. Interestingly enough, that was our theory. We thought that was the size of the company that would need something like UpMo to find people who are falling through the cracks, people who are not engaged, people who are not excited about coming to work, they lost their way, they don't see opportunities within the company, and that comprises anywhere between 20% to even high numbers like 70, 80% of the organization. HR has pretty good polls on the high potential, high performing, top management. They have pretty good polls through performance reviews and all those processes by the low performing employees. But in the middle, it gets lost.

You did mention 4,000 or above, that's your target, that's hard unless you get the CEO. In reality, as soon as we launched - and this was a pleasant surprise - our first ten calls were from smaller companies... 1500, 300, here at Transform HR conference, most of the people who have come by, anywhere between 300 employees to 2000, 3000 employees.

One of our wild success stories from our pilot phase was a small group within a bigger company; I think about 80,000 employee company but the department that we went after or that decided to test and pilot this, was only 2,000 employees. We got 40% penetration within the first 10 weeks. So it tells you how viral it goes within the organization. Because as I said earlier, as soon as you tell them, "This is how we're going to find you, and this is how we're going to make sure that we understand what you care about..." it turns the tables around to make the employee the center of the attention as opposed to HR being the top down.

Do we need the CEO? Yes, but we don't, because at the end of the day - and not in all cases -the line of business manager who has the pain, the pain of attrition, the pain of lack of engagement, will be enough buy in for a smaller group within the organization to actually adopt and enjoy the benefits of UpMo.

Peter: When you look at Gerry Crispin's, Source of Hire survey just recently came out, year after year, consistently the source of hires 30% and above in most organizations are internal, right?

Rob: Correct.

Peter: How do you go about identifying and finding those people internally that are a great fit for this new role that you now have? Conversely, I think most people going into organizations today, if they're smart, they don't want to stay in the same job for the next 15 years. They want to grow, they want to develop their skills and find and explore new avenues that they may be interested in.

Rob: You're absolutely right and I think that's what's changing is growth and skill development, and career... those things mean different things to different people. It's not the upward mobility which is funny, because that's kind of a little bit of where our name comes from, but it's not the ladder mobility that people think about, or used to think about before. That's the utopia ideal that has been engrained into our brains but the new generations are not thinking about it that way. They think about what else can I be doing to improve myself to help the company to grow skills, to be more useful to the organization, to myself.

It doesn't have to be a promotion up. It could be my skills and my competencies and the type of stuff that I do can be reused and reutilized in a different way, in a different department, in a different office or in a completely different role. That's what people care about is exposing those options you haven't thought of, what else can help me get to my dream role other than a promotion?

Peter: I'm assuming the user experience of UpMo is very intuitive and you don't require any kind of training or anything for someone to start using this.

Rob: That's the whole goal and that's the idea behind enabling mobility within the enterprise, using very intuitive interaction design which is right now, we'll jump on social networks everyday and we know how to use it. There's no training, there's no video how to use it, there's no class that I have to go dictated by HR or somebody else in how to use it. It's very intuitive, very easy to jump in.

Look at Pinterest, out of nowhere.

Peter: Out of nowhere.

Rob: Out of nowhere. In a couple months, boom! It's a mainstream. Even today, it has been mentioned a couple of times by some of our speakers. That's the kind of application we have built. It's very simple, very easy to use, very engaging. It's about me, the employee; it's not an HR system.

Peter: So you refer to this as a social talent engine, and I guess that's a pretty accurate description of what this really does.

Rob: Yeah, and I think those two years that the team was working on this, it's really paying off. Because what we built is an engine - it's a recommendation engine that understands my skills, my competencies, my interactions with other people, it starts seeing the trends of other peoples résumés, it starts mapping that towards me. I can compare myself to other people's careers and makes those recommendations based on that information.

It's a really fascinating technology that breaks away from the standard and the typical thing that we see out there today, which is a keyword search. Here I'm collaborating with other people; it's telling me what other people have done. It tells me who I should be connecting with. It surfaces jobs that I never thought of even applying for or considering. Just because the system knows that I have the skills based on the interactions that I have in the system, interactions that I have with other people.

Peter: Who started UpMo and what was the vision?

Rob: UpMo was started by Promise Phelon, she's our CEO and founder. The vision initially, as I said earlier, it was to help people manage their careers and drive it forward.

Peter: What's her background?

Rob: She comes from years of enterprise consulting as well as helping organizations transform the way they work and market themselves.

Peter: Rob, is there anything that we haven't discussed that you'd like to share with our audience?

Rob: No. Thanks for having me. This is a great opportunity for us to showcase and talk about some of the interesting stuff we're up to.

Peter: Great. Rob Garcia is the VP of product for UpMo and you'll find him at upmo.com.

Rob: Also @robgarciasj on Twitter.

Peter: Thank you so much.

Rob: Thank you, Peter.

You'll find our interview with Rob in the Innovation Channel of TotalPicture Radio. Visit our site for a complete transcript of our podcast with Rob and while there, please sign up for our newsletter. Follow me on Twitter @peterclayton and join our growing TotalPicture Radio Facebook community. Connect with us on LinkedIn on our Recruiting With Social Media Group.

Thanks for listening.

Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.

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