Resetting the Assessment Table With Jason Putnam of Plum
On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks with Jason Putnam of Plum about resetting the assessment table, and what exactly that means in today’s landscape. Assessments have been a point of contention for quite a while; they are sometimes too difficult and other times not exactly right for the role its filling. So what’s the answer, then?
Plum uses psychometric assessments for talent acquisition and talent management, including succession planning and leadership development. The platform’s assessments are bespoke to each company, job, and hiring manager.
Putnam believes that most tech companies in the space are solving the wrong problem and solving it the wrong way. He explains that companies raise a lot of money, build technology, and sell products that aren’t even built yet, which can lead to a disconnect between the product and the customer.
Listening Time: 25 minutes
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Exceptional executive level sales, acquisition, BD and marketing leader focused on scale. With success in recruiting, hiring and training top talent within the online and SaaS community. Adept at designing and implementing the correct sales and marketing engine for any organization by focusing on the people, product and processes. Excellent leadership skills and expert on team dynamics. Measurable success with online and SaaS solutions with both transactional and enterprise sales. Dynamic speaker and presenter.
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Resetting The Assessment Table With Jason Putnam of Plum
William Tincup: is William Tincup and you’re listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today we have Jason on From Plum, and our topic today is resetting the assessment table. But we also have some things that we wanna talk about cuz we were both at Unleash last week or the week before. I can’t remember right now.
They’re all boring together, but we were both together a bunch and got to talk. Let’s just do introductions first. Jason, would you do us a favor and introduce yourself and plumb?
Jason Putnam: I would love to my thanks for having me, William. My name is Jason Putnam. I am the Chief [00:01:00] Revenue Officer at Plum.
I’ve been in this space for a very long time. Been with Plum at about a for about a year and a half now. Loving it, changing the way we view the world and hopefully companies view the world. So we use psychometric assessments to really dive into the data that you need on your talent, whether that is on the front end for talent acquisition.
Or on the backend for talent management, including like succession planning, leadership development, all the things that somebody who runs talent management would like to do.
William Tincup: And you’ve gotten some good press lately. So tell us a little bit about that. Yeah, I think the, was it the Wall Street Journal?
The New York Times? I get confus sometimes. Yeah, it’s okay.
Jason Putnam: New York Times. Maybe a month ago we were on the cover of the Sunday business section, which was fantastic. Wow. And then actually this week we were listed in an article. That I’m very excited about that you we’re breaking it to you here, William.
Oh and oh. First of all, I wanna thank you actually for something else because you did an intro to somebody, I won’t mention the name, that we’re efforting an interview with a very large financial [00:02:00] newspaper. Sure. But we were listed in the World Economic Form article that came out. We didn’t even know about it.
We weren’t. To, nobody reached out for an interview and the title of the article is Five Leaders on How to Implement Racial and Ethnic Equality in the Corporate Space. And they were talking about products that could help accomplish that and Plum was one of those products. So that is very exciting
William Tincup: for us.
Wow, that is fantastic. Fantastic in several ways, right? Yes. A. Because normally they don’t mention the software company. Normally they’ll mention in general okay, you should use these types of assessments. But then they don’t say is it company A or B, or a C or whatever?
So B personally mentioned, especially with something as prestigious, as a forum is fantastic. So there’s that Now. You said something in pre-show that we’re just gonna start with, we’re gonna get to the resay, the assessment table. But you, you mentioned to me that you know everyone’s, when they, you walk the floor just like I did, you talk to practitioners just like I did.
That people are approaching assessments the wrong way. They’re approach the [00:03:00] problem the wrong way. And so let’s just dig in there, like, how do you see the world right now, especially coming back from, unleashed and seeing kinda all of the, there was a lot of great energy there quite frankly.
But what did you see and how does it gel with what you’re looking at the world at right now? And
Jason Putnam: I think they’re, both of the things you mentioned are intimately tied together. So the world has shifted and you have all these companies, and it’s not just assessments. Most tech companies in our space, and I won’t mention names, are both solving the wrong problem, I think, and also solving it the wrong way.
So you go out and you raise a whole bunch of money, you build a lot of technology. Your sales team is selling to the calendar for a product that’s not even built yet, or enhancements that aren’t even built yet, and you’re so beholden to the companies that you’re selling to that. You’re doing everything to make the company happy and to give the company what they want, which is ultimately data on their people, whether it’s in talent acquisition, talent management, or anything.
And it’s all about the company. But the world has greatly shifted. When you and I grew up, [00:04:00] we used to hear, Hey, it’s not personal, it’s business that’s changed. It’s changed, it’s now, it’s not business, it’s personal and the world has completely been flipped on its head. And those companies who still wanna.
Command in control and say, do it cuz we told you to do it. And the 65 year old white c e o in the office who says you’re gonna do it my way. Like companies are selling to that person and to those companies the way they want to be sold. As opposed to pushing back and pushing hard and realizing that if you don’t have a solution that’s for the human first you’re gonna fail.
Cuz adoption is ultimately what it’s about. From a human perspective. And the reason I say that is the companies, all they really want is data. And they want data either on their talent that’s coming in or they want data on the talent that they already have. And as I walked that floor, I was shocked. The highest engagement rate I heard from anyone.
This is not an assessment company engagement, meaning employees who are doing something that ultimately will be data that boils up to the corporation that wants to [00:05:00] use it. The highest engagement I heard was 34%. Which means 60%, over 60% of your talent, whether it’s internal, external, usually it’s internal, you don’t have data on, and their definition of engagement was that person has logged in one time in 12 months.
William Tincup: That’s a low barrier.
Jason Putnam: It’s a very low barrier. So now you’ve built your whole go to market, your whole product. On making the C corporation happy, but really all they want is data. And yet you haven’t found the right way to get the data. And also, if you wanna put the human first, that data’s not portable.
So if you, again, not naming companies, if you’re using the tool and that tool says whether it’s hard skills, soft skills, assessments, whatever, give us all your data for Coca-Cola. If you leave and go to Pepsi, guess what you have to do as that human start all over again. It’s insane to me. People have
William Tincup: talked about portability.
For a wall, right? That they’d be ba basically create the what would be an employee file that’s transferrable. It’s used at, let’s say, [00:06:00] Proctor and Gamble for the time that our Proctor and Gamble. And then it’s just moves with them in some way, shape, or form. I think people thought blockchain was going to be some way of doing this.
Initially I don’t think anybody carried that ball over the finish line. But I believe that’s how people thought of it, is okay, you’re an employee. Your talent, we’ll just say you’re a talent and those things that make you talent go with you elsewhere, wherever you are at the current time.
And, but wherever you go. Have you seen anybody, I know you, you’ve been staring at the same stuff I have. Have you seen anybody do anything with portability?
Jason Putnam: I have, and it’s actually a, an example that everybody knows and it’s LinkedIn. So LinkedIn approached the problem, not psychometrically like we do, but they approached it, like, when I fill out my LinkedIn profile and I go work at another company, either as a, an applicant or an employee, you have access to that. So I’m able to take that in a portable way about, about my career. Plums approaching it slightly differently, but the use case is still there and the.
The problem really is [00:07:00] twofold. It’s the command and control of the company. Do what I say I need to do what I tell you to do. And also the companies who realize when they built their product they thought they were selling to a company that had control. But the, and that was true in pre pandemic, but now there’s this equilibrium shift that I haven’t really seen since.
The internet change manufacturing in the supply chain world, but it’s the exact same problem. Now, you don’t have the control as a corporation. You used to have, if I, I live in Austin, if I wanted to work for Dell, I had to move to Austin. That doesn’t exist anymore and right.
Companies are still acting like they have that power and they don’t. But the companies that are understanding this kind of human first, human-centric. My people are my intellectual property companies Mandy Life and Whirlpool City, Synesis happen to be our customers, so we’re a lot more involved with them, but they’re crushing other people out there.
They’re crushing other companies. And
William Tincup: now how are they approaching the kind of the human or talent centric? Are they just, again learning a new model is obviously hard. Getting out of the command and [00:08:00] control and it almost takes some generations for us to kinda get rid of some of that stuff.
But they’ve obviously shifted the mindset and they’re adopting new technology, but it’s not just mindset. They’re also looking at the world differently and saying, we need to be. As you said, human-centric or talent centric. You need to we, everything revolves around this person, this talent
Jason Putnam: and so and understanding that they don’t belong to you.
Yeah. Yeah. So what I, the other thing when I was walking around Unleash is some of the words that were in the booth were very telling, understanding your talent. It’s not your talent, it’s talent, but the talent is actually the person’s talent. You’re renting it or borrowing it. And that mindset has never existed. It’s always been true, but you as the human couldn’t actually do anything about it. For the most part. You couldn’t go change and leave, this company and go work for another company that was in California. It was just the change cost was just too much. But now it’s really easy to do.
And what they’re seeing is, oh, if I [00:09:00] keep people and I treat people right, and I allow people to flourish, and I c and this linear nature of a job, it used to be, You start as an S C R, you go to a salesperson. I’m a sales manager, like people are moving around all the time. And you can look at all the millennial stats and all that, but it’s not just millennials that people want to progress in their career and most of them want to progress in their career at the current company that they’re at.
As long as they like, as long as they like the company and the people. But corporations are not set up that way. And like I mentioned, some of the, I won’t mention the company name there. There’s one of our customers. They’re going through a multi-billion dollar. HR transformation. When’s the last time you heard of a company spending billions of dollars to transform hr?
It’s viewed as a cost center. They’re viewing it as a profit center, right? Tom’s playing a very small piece in that multi-billion dollar, I wish it was larger, multi-billion dollar part of that, but we’re gonna provide this underlying data on the psychometric side to look at their entire talent and make sure that if somebody’s not flourishing in their job, where else [00:10:00] can they put that person will, they will flourish.
And as they’re bringing people in to be able to look at it from. Succession and leadership potential, where if you think about leadership, there’s tons of leadership assessments, tons of leadership approach out there. But if you’re not already viewed as a leader or you haven’t shown leadership behavior, nobody’s gonna identify you as a future leader, which is why it’s broken.
So if you can have some data, we do this in our leadership potential product where you can look at your entire company and see who has that innate ability to be a leader in the future. You can now go as deep in your organization as you want and start identifying those who may be your c e o 20 years from now.
And what ends up happening is even a, as a new hire, you bring in a 22 year old kid, put ’em into him or her into a banking job, but also realize they’re in the upper 10% of leadership potential. Put ’em on a leadership track. Now that person’s not gonna leave your company. And the retention is what people are messing around.
It’s quantifiable. HR has always been viewed as a cost center. Now when you have [00:11:00] companies, and this is now a boardroom problem, used to never be a boardroom problem. And I think that’s really what shifted post pandemic when you have companies who can’t hit sales targets cuz they can’t hire salespeople fast enough or the right ones.
When you have restaurants that can’t open or you have bank branches that can’t open, this is now an issue of we’re costing our business money. And it is. It is no longer this. Nice to have problem. So what I have seen at Plum specifically, and this is hopefully a testament to how the industry is changing, a lot of assessments are sold out there and products are sold out there of what it does not why it does it.
And at best they’re getting to, let’s say, a VP level of TA or tm by the third call with Plum. Many times the c e O was on the call with us. And these are, 5,000 plus employee companies. Some of ’em are Fortune 500 companies, and the c e O is on that call because he or she realizes that they have this big boulder, it’s called talent and it’s not working, and it’s costing 19 billion a year in turnover.
I need to solve this problem or [00:12:00] is going to drastically affect my fiduciary responsibility to the business. Whereas they used to view HR just oh, you all love people. That’s why you got in hr. That’s nice, but I need to make money. Those two worlds are now coming together today. So I gotta ask
William Tincup: you back up cuz when you say psychometrics, some folks do not know what that means.
So what’s a primer of sorts? But really not on all of psyched, the way that plum views psychometrics because I, when I hear psychometrics, I always think of, I don’t know why, but I always think about dna. Like the DNA of talent in your company and then also not under understanding what you have what is there, I guess is a better way of phrasing that.
And also the pre-hire part of it. Once you understand what is there, you can then assess what needs to be there. But that’s what it triggers for me. That’s what, when you say psychometrics, that’s what goes on in my brain. But again, everybody listening is gonna be hearing something different. So how do y’all, how do y’all view psychometrics when you [00:13:00] were to teach it or when you teach it to folks, how do you teach it?
Jason Putnam: Yeah, lemme take a step back cuz I am not an io so nor will I pretend to be an io, but we talk to customers every day. So think about 1, 1, 1 big step before that. If you’re trying to find a location on a globe, you need two things. You need longitude and latitude. The longitude has traditionally been in our industry.
Hard skills. Do you know Excel? How much do you know itself? Java, right? Psychometric data is the latitude of that. And if you can connect, if you can pinpoint the two of them. Then you’re going to be significantly more likely to find a person who’s gonna outperform others and be happy, fulfilled, and thrive in that
William Tincup: role.
So give us some examples of what those are. Like psychometrics and, because I think when people hear hard skills, they think of breadth and depth. Like you said, you do know Excel.
Jason Putnam: Okay. That, yeah. So a great example would be innovation or teamwork or adaptation. A salesperson is not a salesperson, is a salesperson, or a developer is not a developer.
Historically, what companies have done is they’ve used legacy assessments, which the science is all great. We [00:14:00] are going to test the human through an assessment. And there are different ways to test the human through the assessment to figure out who they are, what are those raw natural talents and innate abilities that they have that make them special, and what are the things that are a little more draining for them that are not their go-to swings that they’re gonna do every day.
And then the key is how do you match that? And it has to be job relevant for those talents and those traits, and I’ll call ’em instead of KPIs, those key behavioral indicators for that job at that time in that company. So the science is really good. It tends to be four times more predictive or accurate of predicting success on a job or inner role than hard skills or a resume.
It’s easy to test. Some people want to do a two minute assessment. Some people wanna do a four day assessment, and then you have to match it to the job at that particular time. So the way we think of that is, my, my top three talents for plum are embracing diversity, which means I care about people.
Number two is innovations. We’ll just use those two as an example. I am hardwired that way. I am not gonna wake up tomorrow not caring about [00:15:00] people or go waking up tomorrow going, I don’t wanna find an innovative way to approach something. My wife is very low in innovation, so when I come home with my dry cleaning, I rearrange my closet and it drives her crazy.
She’s just put it away. So if I’m gonna match somebody into a roll, yes, it’s important. That they have some of the hard skills in that role, dependent on the role, but it’s much more predictive and much more important that the behaviors that they’re gonna have to do in the role every single day are those behaviors that are come innate and natural to them.
That when they close their laptop at the end of the day or however they leave their job, they’re gonna high five their friend or their significant other saying, I had a great day. So if I have a day like this where I’m talking to you and doing a whole lot of planning and innovation, I have an awesome day.
If I spend the entire day on Excel, I have a bad day. And it’s how do you align that to make sure the fit is right and we need to start, all of our customers start with the psychometric side first. They start with those innate talents that are relevant to the job, and then they layer on the hard skills after.
So it’s really re-imagining your [00:16:00] talent pipeline and who you’re looking at first and who you’re bubbling to the top, and ultimately who gets to the structured interview. So
William Tincup: hard skills seem to me again, not an IO psychologist. They seem to be trainable. Like you can learn, you can learn excel if one wants to, they can’t.
Do y’all see behaviors as the same way?
Jason Putnam: Hundred percent. Okay. Yeah, a hundred percent. I it. So here’s just a story. I have somebody on my team who’s their lowest of their 10 talents. And by, by the way, underneath our 10 talents are all the things people would’ve heard of in the old IO world of competencies.
We just make it real easy so we can map every person to every job, and everyone understands the language because people don’t understand what intellectual disposition is, right? Like we’re trying to bury that so you can understand. Understand the things, but this person’s really low in execution.
He’s never go, his go-to swing is never gonna be execution. It doesn’t mean he can’t execute, right? But if he spent all day executing, he’s gonna have a bad day. And if he spent six months doing the same thing over and over again [00:17:00] all day, he’s gonna burn out and leave that job. I have somebody else in my team execution’s their number one thing.
What he has said to me is, just gimme the same thing to do every day. And when I leave, I’m gonna be excited that I’m d done this assembly line work. And as subtle as that sounds, that’s how people outperform. Other people in that world, almost anything else can be trained.
William Tincup: Thank you for clarifying that.
Cause I think some people, especially in the personality world, not the behavioral world, but the personality world, believe that your personality is set and it doesn’t change. And I think sometimes people apply that to behaviors, not just personality. Yeah.
Jason Putnam: Yeah, it’s very fair. You can build coping mechanisms, right?
So I am very low in teamwork. Most people who know me would not agree with that. But if you gave me the choice, if I had 30 minutes this afternoon to go to a happy hour with my team, or spend 30 minutes knocking out my to-do list, innately, I am going to want to knock out my to-do list versus going to a happy hour, right?
If somebody’s very high in teamwork, they’ll be like, I can get to my list tomorrow. [00:18:00] But I have built coping mechanisms, especially as an executive to say, I’ve gotta force myself to do teamwork. I have put it on my calendar every day. Reach out, do this, do that. If teamwork came naturally to me, I wouldn’t even have to put it on my calendar.
I would just do it. So the outcomes can change, meaning we could learn coping mechanisms around those talents. But who you wake up every day is who you are. And a lot of the science points too, once you’re about 22, Who you are is who you are. That doesn’t mean I can’t learn, excel or learn any language.
You’ll learn to drive a forklift. That’s all true.
William Tincup: So there’s a couple things. When you talked about the predictive and the stats of four times better than like a resume or LinkedIn or whatever, I, it got me to think about how practitioners have been, both HR and recruiting, have been buying assessments for a long time.
But I fear that they’ve been buying them incorrectly. I don’t have any empirical data on this. This is just me believing that it’s being done incorrectly. First of all, what do you see? Cuz now you’re in the [00:19:00] thick of it, but if someone was new to buying assessments, what are the questions that they should
Jason Putnam: be asking?
It’s a great question, William. I’m gonna give those people a pass. I don’t think they were buying them incorrectly. I don’t think they had a choice. I, yeah. So the science, if you think of this, two different sides of the spectrum, the science is incredibly accurate and incredibly predictive of success on a job that has proven science unrelated to plum.
It goes back since World War ii, like they can prove it. The problem is scalability. So number one, most pe most people hate taking assessments. So if you don’t have a great customer or user experience, people don’t want to take it. And then they tend to be very siloed. So if I applied for a sales job, I take one assessment.
If I apply for a different job, I take a different one. Once I get in, if there’s a separate leadership assessment, there’s all these different assessments and I get nothing in return, right? So like for me, the, as the user, as the human, the user experience is bad. But the science is great. It’s incredibly predictive.
The hard part in this [00:20:00] industry is cool. I got William to take this assessment, but what do I match it to? And historically, forever you needed either a, a. An IO in-house or a team of iOS in-house, which are incredibly expensive. Or you would go out and buy tech enabled, none of ’em are really tech companies.
And you’d bring in a group of iOS as externals and they would sit down with eight or 10 or 20 people and they would ask a whole bunch of questions and they would try to figure out what do I match that job too? And on average, that takes 140 hours of consulting just to figure out the match for one job.
And so what ends up happening is they could only buy it that way, and because it’s time consuming and expensive, what ends up happening is those assessments or the people who are given those assessments or the roles are relegated to very high level strategic executive positions or high volume. If I’m gonna put 140 hours in, I better be able to hire.
200 people to this particular role. That is actually what Plum has changed and why Plum has scaled so [00:21:00] significantly is we’ve replaced the need for the outsider inside consultants that 140 hours and we built it in technology and it’s only eight minutes. So now you can apply and have that same universal language globally in almost 20 languages on every single human and every job.
So you now have that universal data set for all of your talent. So if I am somebody on the outside who’s gonna ask, traditionally what people ask is price or how long does it take? Or how stable is this data? Or when do I have to go do it again? Now it the question I would ask is what are all the possibilities I can do with this data once I have it done?
William Tincup: It’s interesting because in, in HR Tech last year, saw all the background check companies moved to more of a monitoring model. So not just pre-hire, but getting into monitoring employees after the hire. But even on the pre-hire stuff, all of the publics, all the, all of ’em have moved to a model of co credit reports [00:22:00] where you get a copy of your report.
So before, historically you would do a background screen here. You’d give, the company permission to do a background check on you, but you would never, you’d never get a copy of it. Like it would just go off and they’d have the data and you would know what was going on. And I see that comes the way that you’re talking about this is like the employees gotta get something out of this.
Like the background checks. Companies have realized this that okay. The company needs to get their data. Yes, of course, that’s fine. But the candidate in this case, they need to get that data too. It’s important for them to get the and to understand what’s there as well. And it looks, seems to me like you’re applying some of the same things to assessments
Jason Putnam: as well.
100%. And we’ve done it since the beginning. And that’s what’s critical as a candidate. It’s a black hole with all assessments. So what we do now is you take the assessment as soon as you’re done. You immediately get your own plum profile. And as a candidate, we give you your top three talents. We give [00:23:00] you work preferences, we provide you interview questions.
We tell you all the things that make you exceptional, but also it’s very usable in, in whether you get this job or not. And you’ll see by the minute, people are posting that on LinkedIn, thanking the employer for giving them the opportunity to have their plum profile. So that’s what we talk about from a user experience as a candidate.
That’s what you get as an employee, or once you’re hired as that candidate, we unlock a full talent guide. And what you get, think of it as a development guide. So you get all your 10 talents. We give you ways to talk to your manager. We give your manager ways to talk to you. We give you full kind of developmental coaching.
Hey, maybe you are low in teamwork. Here’s some things you can do. Here’s some TED Talks. It’s not necessarily an L M S, but it’s, think of it like a GPS to your l m s and that’s the value is If you’re not giving somebody something in return, they’re not gonna want to do it. And then ultimately, if you’re the, if you’re the corporation and you want the data and you’re beating people over the head to use this thing, they’re just not gonna do it.
And it’s such a good point, you brought up our completion rate. Is the [00:24:00] highest in the industry and it’s a 20 to 25 minute assessment. It’s not a two minute assessment. And we’re checking based on the big five personality. We’re checking fluid intelligence and we’re checking, kinda think of it like eq more scientific.
So we’re testing a lot of things and yet all the feedback we get from the humans is great. 92% of them would recommend others to take it. 89% of employees, meaning people who use Plum, and we get 40,000 people who take it a month say it’s very valuable and they wanna use it in their career coaching. And all these stats that we get are, they get value, so they’re gonna keep using it.
And if they keep using it, the employer’s gonna get all the data they need on their people
William Tincup: jobs. Mike walks off stage. Jason, this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for coming on the
Jason Putnam: show. Always, man, I appreciate you so much. It was so good seeing you last week. Face to face,
William Tincup: vice versa, and thanks for everyone listening until next time. [00:25:00]
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.