Beyond the Contingent Workforce: Delivering On Demand Talent

At the HRO Today Forum, Jason Kerr took the stage to present his vision for 21st Century Staffing

Jason Kerr, Founder and CTO Findly -TotalPicture Radio InterviewJason Kerr

Have you ever wondered who invented TXT messaging? Meet Jason Kerr.

With the widespread adoption of Web 2.0, communication once limited and restricted is now numerous and disperse. Millions of users have created digital identities and self organized into online communities, building a social map of their life. It is now more important than ever to understand key candidate demographics, determine where they congregate online, establish what their core interests are and deliver an employment brand that the right users will connect with.

Welcome to a special Talent Acquisition Channel Podcast and Vodcast (yes there's a video version of this interview - check the sidebar), recorded at the HRO Today Forum in Philadelphia. Mark Finn, CEO of TalentBox, discusses the future of work - and talent acquisition - with Jason Kerr, the Founder and CTO of Findly.

"Interview Transcript"

Jason Kerr - Mark Finn - HRO Today | TotalPicture Radio Vodcast Interview

TotalPicture Radio's exclusive coverage of the HRO Today Forum at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia is brought to you by TalentBox, the leading talent focused digital interview platform. Save time. Cut cost. Improve quality. Share and collaborate with others. Four big reasons to start using TalentBox for your next hire. Visit and get started with a free 45 day trial today. TalentBox, where talent meets opportunity.

Hi, this is Peter Clayton. Welcome to a special Talent Acquisition Channel Podcast and Vodcast. Yes, there's video version of this interview. You'll find the link on Jason Kerr's feature page on TotalPicture Radio. Our interview with Jason was recorded at the HRO Today Forum in Philadelphia. Mark Finn, CEO of TalentBox discusses the future of work and talent acquisition with Jason, the founder and chief technology officer of Findly.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Jason is a serial entrepreneur of leading edge technologies, challenger to the outdated accepted business practices and early adopter of new evolving business strategies. Jason has started, sold and IPO software companies spanning the aviation, cell phone and text messaging, human resources, video, voice messaging and most recently Jason is tackling the $100 billion recruitment industry. He has been issued a number of patents, including developing the original processes and products allowing the sending and receiving of messages to and from internet connected devices and mobile phones also known as text messaging.

And now here's Mark Finn and Jason Kerr. Enjoy.

Mark: Hi this is Mark Finn here at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia at HRO Today. I'm here with Jason Kerr, the founder and CTO at Findly. Jason how are you finding the conference so far?

Jason: I've been here for 45 minutes so that 45 minutes has been pretty good.

Mark: Straight in from New Zealand eh?

Jason: Yeah I got in on the early burner so a little tired but glad to be here.

Mark: How many coffees so far?

Jason: Only six. It was a single shot.

Mark: Those six coffees definitely set you up well for this session you presented earlier today. It was a fantastic session.

Jason: Thank you.

Mark: One of the things I was picking up that you were talking about was on demand talent and what does that mean in the future.

Jason: On demand talent is this notion that if we are able to find people and if we are able to capture them and keep them engaged that's good, but if we are able to get them closer through that engagement to the point where we can hire them faster more on demand, that's really where it's at. So on demand talent is all about capturing people who like us, who are interested in us, engaging them in a conversation such that they remain interested in and through that conversation, collecting pieces of information about them that enable us to hire the right people faster; that becomes an on demand situation.

Mark: What would be the first point of call when you are looking for an on demand talent in your line? Where should you go to first to try and access this on demand talent?

Jason: Well you can't access on demand talent. You build on demand talent. It's this thing that takes time and care and feeding. It's like growing a plant or a child or whatever. The notion of on demand is you can't be on demand. I mean on demand in today's world where we'll just post a job and someone applies to it. That's on demand talent in today's world.

In tomorrow's world on demand talent is I have people already who are warm and interested to me and I've done things or provided information, we know things about them such that when we ask them to apply we already have a good view of the outcome and on demand swings two ways. If I'm a company can I push a button and hire someone who is going to perform better on the job that would be on demand?

From a jobseeker it's the same equation; can I get notified of a job that I will have a better chance of getting should I apply and I'll perform better at it if I got it? That would on demand from a jobseeker's view. We're bringing those two on demand views together is what we're trying to do.

Mark: Right, and you see those close people that have provided strong referrals in the past as ambassadors of the company and they need to be thought about in that context as well.

Jason: I think what we're referring to there is that there are people inside your company, the employees who are also assets that you can leverage in this situation. Everyone's got an employee referral program, but how do I apply an on demand situation from employee referral, and the way that we're looking at doing that is to take the performance of the people that you refer and giving those employees in our business the first opportunity to refer others because they have a better outcome. They're people that are more on demand. They perform better.

Mark: How do you see, obviously there's a big rise in the contingent and the freelance workforce and everyone, people out there are trying to understand how they can tap into that contingent and freelance workforce but also how to structure around their existing employees and full time employees as well? How do you see on demand talent fitting in with the contingent workforce?

Jason: If you just take the word on demand talent it's pretty clear that this notion of on demand is going to extend into contingent and if you took a community of people that you are able to build, engage and collect credentials from them such that they're more on demand, the next logical step for those people is to become fully contingent. If you were to say to a company kind of a Maslow's Hierarchy of who you'd go after, you're going to go after the people who are interested in me, are highly credentialed, have got some indication of how they'll perform, I'm going to talk to those people first. To the people that are interested in me that know people in my company who have referred people in the past that work well, down to people that interested in me; the next step down is going to be why wouldn't I go to the alumni who's worked for me before on a contingent basis.

I think on demand is going to bleed from people I know inside my own community, to people that perhaps I know or other companies like me know in a contingent community. I think those two things are going to bleed over time.

Mark: One of the speakers yesterday said that work is a thing not a place and given that you can work from anywhere now for some jobs, not for all jobs, it does open up the talent pool, the potential pool of candidates particularly in a contingent case that you can build a community around or engage with. How do you see the globalization and interconnectivity of all this playing out?

Jason: I think it already happens; it just doesn't happen in a structured way. Guys like Manpower have started trying to structure it and they've got details in their offices on paper unfortunately about past performance and that's just going to change rapidly much like Uber has changed the landscape of booking a limousine or a taxi. I think it's not going to be evolution. It's going to be revolution that changes the next piece around contingent. We have some ideas on what that may be.

I think the interesting comment of work as a thing and not a place, I kind of debate if work is even a thing. It's a big part of your life. Your life is not a thing. Life's a journey and I think what's going to happen is as more people understand that they can control a bigger part of their life through contingent and that more opportunity in the new economy is able to be outsourced/offshore/in home contingent type work, you're going to find a lot of people changing the way that they view work from things and places to part of their life and contingent gives them the ability to do that.

Mark: How far down that road do you think we are now say versus five years' time? How rapid do you think the acceleration of the contingent workforce will be?

Jason: I think there are two probably things that are going to start there. The baby boomers retiring is one big issue. There's another issue that we don't train people for some of the trades anymore that really were kind of the early contingent plumbers, electricians, etc. And there's going to be a problem there, and I think those kind of gaps are going to give rise to people who don't go the traditional route to get there.

In my day I started out as an electrician. I got an apprenticeship and I crawled under houses and dark holes and sewers and all that kind of jazz and you had to go through that route. But I think there's a skill gap in the market starts to create, it's going to get people directly to become contingent because the tools are going to make such that that they can connect with people and opportunities, and opportunities they never had before.

Mark: You talked about acquiring, engaging and filtering talent as three steps sort of parts of on demand talent. I'm going to zoom in on the filtering side of things. Given that we can access so many candidates and so many opportunities, given the interconnected world that we're working in, what technology or skills or platforms do you think people need to assess the contingent workforce on that filtering part of it?

Jason: That's really interesting because a traditionalist would say we need to psychometric graph measurement, we need 360 history of performance, we need all this kind of stuff, and there's a couple of pieces about measurement. Do you read books? Do you read Kindle books?

Mark: I've read a couple, one or two.

Jason: I read like five books a week and I get them on Kindle, so I get them from Amazon and it's become clear to me that my measurement for trusting what a good book is is really is it's above 4 stars by more than 400 people and I think when you come down to some skills or some jobs or some opportunities kind of a very simplistic social score from employers that have used that talent in the past for outcomes.

Mark: Can say a lot.

Jason: It actually says enough because a lot of the things that we need I need the job done and do I really need all this other stuff? Not really. I just need it done. So I think what's going to happen is you're going to find democratization of the way we measure people and especially as you globalize skill the only way to measure on a consistent standard democratize it to some very basic level.

Mark: So with digital interviews or video interviews for example, there's platforms out there that allow them to be saved in the cloud and then the employing workforce can then collaborate around that selection and assessment process. What are your thoughts on the adoption of those types of platforms?

Jason: I'm in two minds to be honest. I understand the attraction of video interview. I don't need to fly there; I can see the person, how they react, how they interact. So I'm in two minds because what the video interview doesn't do for me is select that person out of 500,000 and I've got to spend time and energy. I mean it's a great qualifier the last two or three that I'm interested in but as a filtering credentialing technology to make me that choice in the first place, I don't think it's going to play a part.

Mark: Right. It needs to be part of other tools in the selection assessment process. It's not a standalone thing that's going to get you there. It has to be part of a broader platform.

Jason: I think there are features and there are tools and then there are solutions and a lot of features and a lot of tools create a solution. I think what everyone tries to do is over feature over talk solutions. I think the reality is talent is going to drive what the solution becomes and I think it's going to be simpler than everyone thinks it is.

Mark: Jason, you had a slide today that talked about a really successful example of a client of yours using on demand talent. I was hoping you could just share a few of those results with us.

Jason: Yeah that was a... I don't want to say an anomaly but it was a great outcome. We hope to be repeating that outcome with many more clients but this was a very large retail client. They've got a community of about 9 million other people and they have a traditional seasonal hiring issue. You have 30,000 to 40,000 people every year. They start in typically August to November of shelf stacking, December etc., and it's usually a long and quite expensive process which requires a lot of advertising and mass filtering.

So we said to them why don't we try and test this notion of on demand in this very simplistic way which is can we ask our community to help us and the community, if they are truly on demand will step up to the plate. So the outcome was that we put together a very, very simplistic game using some social mechanics and we asked the community to help. We said we're hiring 30,000 people, I think it was; do you know anyone who would like a seasonal job or if you'd like one yourself come and apply, play this game and have a little bit of fun.

The community really stepped up. About 1.6 million people actually did something to help other people and to help the company by sharing and talking and applying and we generated about 120,000 brand new candidates for the company that I've never seen before. We also generated about 3 quarters of a million applies from the community itself. We filled those. There was a lot of things we did as well. There was a lot of social sharing and stuff that happened about 10,000 likes on Facebook in two weeks for the company which was more than the company had itself. So it was kind of interesting.

But the reality was in 14 or 15 days I think it was, this community got together, did what we asked them to do and a lot of people did it for other people's benefit which is really encouraging and we were able to place 30,000 hires through that activity and of course there's no cost there.

Mark: I really just want to emphasize there the use of the word of community. I think that is sort of a new word that is entering in the lexicon of recruitment here.

Jason: Yeah and I think it's overused to be honest. I think most people right now have what's called a network. It's not really a community and even in our sphere. We're getting towards a community, we're kind of there...

Mark: So what's the difference between a community and a network?

Jason: A community goes to a coffee shop and hangs out and talks together, between each other and unless your candidates in this place that you're building are talking to each other and sharing things it's not a community. It's just a network of people. So right now most things are networks. We're moving from network to true community and when you can build a true community they do things like we asked our network to do which is can you communicate with each other and help and we're not there yet totally but I think that's the road of building community.

Mark: Right. So just to clarify an example would be like a concentric circle where communities' in the middle and the networks' the next one out and communities part of the network but it's a much tighter and closer part of that network.

Jason: Yeah a probably more stark example is this. Your ATS has people in it. Is it a community or a network? It's just a thing full of people that have done something similar. Facebook is a community. There's people who talk with each other and the people in your network are the people you talk to. So I think that's the difference. Right now most people that are building talent communities, they're really just databases. Until you can network those people together and build a community...

Mark: An engagement.

Jason: There you go, and I think that engagement you can't be the sole motivator or instigator of engagement. The community needs to start engaging itself.

Mark: Sure. How did the client react to this great success story?

Jason: Obviously pretty happy about that.

Mark: Fantastic.

Jason: Just got to repeat it next year.

Mark: Right, right or increase it. Thanks for stopping in and having a chat with us here today. Again another exciting day of presentations.

Jason: I'm going to go Independence Hall and see where the Liberty Bell was crafted and the constitution was signed, so it should be a good day.

Mark: And hopefully you can get some sleep some time soon.

Jason: Ah that's overrated.

Mark: Thanks.

Jason: Cheers.

Thank you for tuning in to TotalPicture Radio's exclusive coverage from the HRO Today Forum at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania brought to you by TalentBox, the leading talent focused digital interview platform. Recruiters and hiring managers can use TalentBox to shortlist the best candidates for any type of role. All online, simple to use, interviews can include video-based questions, text based questions or multi-choice questions and can be fully customized to whatever role you're looking to fill. Visit TalentBox on the web at and sign up today for a free 45 day trial. We think you'll get the picture. Also, keep an eye out for new TalentBox videos and podcast interviews on TotalPicture Radio Thanks for tuning in.

Jason is a serial entrepreneur of leading edge technologies; challenger to outdated / accepted business practices and early-adopter of new / evolving business strategies. Jason has started, sold and IPO'd software companies spanning the aviation, cellular phone / TXT messaging, human resources, video / voice messaging, and most recently is tackling the $100 Billion recruitment industry. He has been issued a number of Patents, including developing the original processes and products allowing the sending and receiving of messages to and from Internet connected devices and mobile phones (TXT Messaging).

According to Jason, Findly has built "a revolutionary automated talent platform that acquires, manages, screens and engages only warm candidates, so companies can instantly hire the right talent.

Jason has recently moved back to New Zealand from La Jolla, CA and currently lives on Waiheke, a small island 20 miles from downtown Auckland in New Zealand, with his wife Nicky and two young children.

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