Storytelling about PeopleCaddie with Tim Rowley
Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 112. This week we have storytelling about PeopleCaddie with Tim Rowley. During this episode, Tim and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing PeopleCaddie.
Tim is an expert in all things high tech and talent. His passion for bringing employers and employees to the same marketplace to aggressively leverage technology and match the right contractor to the right employer really comes through during the podcast.
Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.
Show length: 27 minutes
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Ladies and gentlemen. This is William Tincup, and you are listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today we have Tim on from PeopleCaddie. We’re going to be learning all about his firm. So, Tim, why don’t we do introductions first? Introduce both yourself and PeopleCaddie.
Great, William. Well, first of all, thanks. Thanks for having me. I’m excited about this opportunity to talk to you today. I will first start with myself. I am the chief technology officer and also the COO of PeopleCaddie. I’m originally from a little town in Virginia, but at a very early age, I fell in love with high technology and entrepreneurship. That love of technology actually led me to MIT where I did my undergraduate degree, and subsequently, my passion for entrepreneurship and startups led me to Silicon Valley where I did my MBA at Stanford.
Note for the audience, two really easy schools to get into, just FYI.
Yes, you have to be a really smart and/or an extremely good athlete.
Well, congratulations because no, kidding aside, those are fantastic schools. So, congratulations. Not easy. Couldn’t have been easy to get into.
Thank you, thank you. Lots of hard work, but I’m lucky to have been accepted.
So, PeopleCaddie, let’s start with kind of the basics of PeopleCaddie and bring the audience into understanding why’d you create PeopleCaddie, like what was the unmet need or the problem that y’all wanted to solve?
Sure. So, PeopleCaddie is a digital talent marketplace or a talent cloud. Some of the listeners may be familiar with companies like Fiverr, which is a large publicly traded marketplace for freelancers, or Upwork which is a similar freelance marketplace. What we saw was an opportunity to potentially disrupt the traditional staffing industry. The industry is very, very large. It’s highly fragmented but dominated by a handful of large companies that were not very technology forward. And what we saw was an Uber-esque opportunity to disrupt this space in the same way that Uber used technology to disrupt the traditional taxi cab industry.
Right. Well, first of all, great observation on all fronts, and staffing firms aren’t going to fix this themselves. So, you really needed an outsource force to innovate. And so, let’s go into some of kind of how people use it, how the users use PeopleCaddie, and then also how companies use PeopleCaddie.
Sure. So, again, PeopleCaddie is employing a marketplace. So, what we’re ultimately trying to do is to bring employers and employees to the same marketplace and really leverage technology aggressively to match the right contractor up with the right employer need, right, or right job description. If you think about the traditional model, it’s highly, highly labor-intensive that you literally have armies of recruiters fighting against each other in this war for talent. So, if you are a contractor and you signed up with Robert Half or Kelly or Adecco, really, you’re at their mercy. You have to sit back and wait for them to give you a call in order for you to even be aware of opportunities that exist. And more often than not, that call does not come.
Within the PeopleCaddie model, it’s this technology-driven. As opportunities come into the marketplace we utilize smart algorithms to match those opportunities up with candidates that are in the database, and those candidates are notified instantly through the PeopleCaddie mobile app. So, you’re not sitting back and waiting for a recruiter to contact you. Once you download and install the mobile app, you are proactively notified about every opportunity that matches your criteria.
Right? So, what I love about this is, is especially… We’ll put the COVID aside for just a moment, this is a way of looking at talent in a different way. It’s basically looking at talent and saying, “Listen, we don’t have to look at the kind of the old model of full-time, part-time, seasonal work. We can look at people that do gigs and more projects.” Just like you mentioned Fiverr and Upwork, and some of those predecessors before them, you look at projects and you say to yourself, “Well, we have this thing. Let’s just say it’s a website. We have to have a launch. We have a website that needs to be launched. Well, we obviously have internal people, but we can hire an agency. We could outsource that in a different way, or we could hire someone to then come in and manage that, or even do the work, et cetera.”
And so, they come in, they do the job, and whether or not they do another job… I love, first of all, on one level, I love that you’re reframing work in a way that kind of makes more sense, especially now, but also, especially for I think people under 40 as well. I won’t just stay there because I think everyone’s rethinking work, but I’ve noticed that with my kids, they don’t say the words historically associated with HR. So, career and job, any of these words that I’m kind of accustomed to. They’re like gigs. They say gigs, like, “Oh, that’s a cool gig,” or, “I’d do that gig, but after I go do that gig, I’ll do this other gig.” It’s like they don’t think of it in that way so if we still think of it that way, we’re going to miss that talent.
Yeah. No, we talk about the future of work and that has a lot of different connotations. When you think about it from the perspective of the employee, the fundamental relationship between a company and an employee has certainly changed over time. In the past, you could go to a blue-chip employer, get immediately into their pension plan, you could work there for 25, 30 years, and you were all set. There are very, very few employers now that even offer a defined benefit pension plan. They’ve all shifted to the 401ks, which put a lot of the risk onto the shoulders of the employee. And when you look at these from the side of the employees, again, they are looking at their careers very, very differently. They think about these gigs. They think about doing interesting and exciting things. They aren’t necessarily looking for somebody that they can work for, for 30 or 40 years.
Mm-hmm affirmative). So, the types of skills, because one of the other things I picked up in what you’re saying is people are identifying, so you self-identify your skills and maybe even the gigs that you’re looking for and things like that. And so, it’s matching, there’s algorithms running on the back ends, little bit AI, little machine learning, I’m assuming. And so, it’s matching people up based on the things that they say that they either want and desire and are good at, et cetera. And you’re a technologist so you’re the perfect person to ask because I’ve always struggled with this. So, take Python as a skill. How do I know the breadth and depth of someone’s Python knowledge when I want them to do a gig, and they want to do the gig, and I want to do the gig, but I don’t know how adept they are at Python. We could pick any language, actually. Point is how to do y’all assess, test? Do you just kind of trust the individual? Is it based on ratings? How do you know that they’re good at what they say they’re good at?
Yeah. No, you’ve touched on one of the reasons why PeopleCaddie truly exists. If you are moving into an era where you’re going to be more gigcentric, when you look at someone’s resume and you see that they’ve had a bunch of short-term assignments, you really don’t know the why behind… Why they’ve had all of those short-term assignments. In one case, it could be that the person never stuck after being there for two or three months. They got fired from all of those assignments. You can look at an identical resume, and now that was somebody who performed incredibly well, but it was just short-term assignments. They just did one after enough. Right?
So, what we’ve done is we tried to perfect a system that will enable us to ascertain who’s good and who’s bad within that sort of environment. So, the first element is really a self-assessment where that contractor is not simply telling us what skills they have. They’re also telling us or self-asserting their level of proficiency in each one of the skill areas. Okay? The next thing we’ll do is we will have a recruiter that will review that contractor’s profile, his or her resume, and have a conversation with this individual to pressure test those associates, right, to see whether or not it really rings true to this recruiter who also is very skilled in that particular art. Okay?
Now the third thing we’d like to do is we try to have a meaningful conversation or dialogue with that contractor’s previous employers to hire managers. And one of the challenges with references, performance ratings is that there’s the legal risk associated with companies providing them, and that’s really taken the teeth out of references. A lot of companies, all they’ll do now is just confirm whether or not the person was an employee. They won’t say anything positive or negative about that employee’s performance.
Well, legally they can’t. So there’s that.
Yes. So, one of the things that we required of all of our contractors within the PeopleCaddie network is that they indemnify the employers against any legal action associated with any performance rates that they provide. So, that indemnification has enabled us to get references from employers-
Oh, that’s nice.
… where they would not be comfortable providing that information otherwise. And then the last piece of it is the testing and the interviews directly with the employer as well.
I like that because this is how you manage quality. This is ultimately what’s important to people that are hiring is they want to make sure that they make a good bet. Anything you can do to reduce the risk of them making the wrong bet then helps. So, there’s a couple things, questions that spin off of this. One is what we’ve learned during COVID and how that’s informed what you’re doing with PeopleCaddie, how has it made things better, how has it created new challenges, et cetera. What’s the intersection between what we’ve learned from COVID and PeopleCaddie?
Sure. And prior to COVID, at PeopleCaddie we aggressively focused on onsite staffing needs. So, 95-plus percent of the roles we filled were for onsite opportunities where the employer wanted an employee to come and sit down at a desk in their office and to be co-located with the team for on average, at least five or six months. With the onset of COVID, that shifted, and it shifted very quickly to virtually all of our employers seeking remote resources. And to your point, with those resources now stating remote, I think it really forced them to focus even more aggressively on quality upfront because they knew they weren’t going to be there to look over someone’s shoulder to make sure that they were doing what they were supposed to do.
You know, it’s interesting, Tim. I’m not sure we ever needed to look over their shoulder. A hundred years ago, I ran a web development firm. I can tell you, I didn’t know any of the skills that the guys and gals had that actually to produce the websites that we built for people. So, standing over their shoulder, I’m not sure what that would’ve done with me or for me. It was outcome-based. Like, “Hey, we’ve told the client the deadline is this. We’ve told them that the quality is going to be this.” I was managing towards outcomes. I wonder what we’ve learned as managers about talent, in terms of do you have to have that gal or that guy in the cubicle next to you. Did you ever? But because of COVID, we are all forced to kind of rethink that, and do we need to now go back into the office? Is that going to give us something that we didn’t already have?
Sure. And I do think operating within the COVID environment forced us to really challenge some of those historical notions, right?
In some cases, even misconceptions about what will lead to the most productive workforce, but what we are seeing here over the last few weeks is an alarming shift back towards pre-COVID norms.
I would go further, and this is me speaking for myself is really bad behaviors from the perspective of we want people…I’ve got a bunch of friends, they’re being forced to go back to the office after Labor Day and forced… First of all the word forced. Hard-stop, forced. Asked, given flexibility if I want it. Yeah, okay cool. Forced? It’s almost like we didn’t learn the lesson that we were supposed to learn while we were given the chance. Let me ask you because you hear the phrase democratizing of work, and there’s parts of that that I love. There’s really basically this there’s a level playing field, but I want to get your take on how PeopleCaddie kind of sees the initiatives that HR and recruiting has on diversity inclusion and kind of a leveling playing field based on skills because y’all are right there at the crosshairs of seeing that either work or not work. What’s your take on leveling the playing field, if you will, or making it more equal and fair for people to get gigs?
Yeah. We’ve done quite a bit within the PeopleCaddie marketplace to address that specific issue. For example, we all know that historically there’s been a sizeable discrepancy in pay between men and women, and also a discrepancy in pay with people of color, minorities as well.
Sure, of course.
So, with every job that goes into the PeopleCaddie platform, the pay rate range for that job is shared. It’s published upfront.
Oh, I love that. I love that.
And what the contractors have an opportunity to do is to bid for that job anywhere within that pay range.
Right. Right. Well, what I love about that is it doesn’t leave it in the hands of some negotiation. It’s you understand this is the gig, this is what it pays. And so, if I hadn’t thought well enough of my own skills, or I wasn’t a good negotiator, let’s just say it, something like that, then I would’ve gotten less just because of that. I also think that there’s another reason that some of those pay and equity, it is probably many reasons that pay inequities exist, but some of it is, and still is this way, is that recruiters and hiring managers see underpaying someone as a win in terms of budget. So, if the software engineers that are doing the gig on average are being paid 380, and Sally comes in the door and says, “I want the job.” We were like, “Sally’s competent.” All of those things have been worked out, but Sally’s only asking for 340, well, we’ve historically looked at that as a $40,000 win.
Which it isn’t a win. It’s actually a loss because Sally should be being paid equitably to whatever her peers are being paid. And I love the fact that you’re kind of forcing that conversation. Not forcing, you’re making it transparent which is going to help people to get past those inequities. So, I love that. Let me ask you as people demo PeopleCaddie, what do they fall in love with?
They absolutely fall in love with the efficiency of the platform and also the transparency. And I’ll give you a couple of examples of each. On the efficiency side, just think about how much effort in the traditional model goes into coordinating an interview.
Right. It’s typically the hiring manager communicating availability via phone or email to the agency, the agency then having to turn around and pick up the phone and call the candidate, find out the candidate’s availability. So, you have this kind of highly inefficient middleman that just makes it more challenging. But then our model, the hiring managers can put directly into the system two or three times that they’re available those times, instantly sent to the contractor’s mobile app, the contractor just clicks on the most desirable time for him or her, and the interview is confirmed within a matter, in some cases of seconds, as opposed to all of those phone calls having to go back and forth.
We talked about the pay rate being completely transparent. If somebody bids $50 for an assignment, if they get selected, they know they’re going to receive $50 per hour for that assignment. The offer goes out at that same rate. So, you don’t have any negotiating on the back end. They may think less efficient items. Then in terms of extending offers, our hire managers can just click on a button to say they want to hire someone. That offer goes immediately to that contractor’s mobile app. And just by clicking a button, the contractor can accept that offer to start the onboarding process. So, that speaks to the enhanced efficiency.
So, the other piece of it is transparency, and I think there’s been a galling lack of transparency in the staffing and recruiting industry, historically. You have clients or companies that have a contractor out working for them. They are paying, let’s say, a hundred bucks an hour for that person, and they don’t know exactly how much that contractor is being paid because the agency hasn’t disclosed that to them. And then when they find out that the contractor’s only being paid $30 an hour but they are paying this agency a hundred dollars an hour for that person’s time, they’re upset.
Mm-hmm affirmative). As well they should be.
And conversely, the contractor is upset.
That’s right. That’s right. Wait a minute. I’m being paid $20 an hour. You’re making $30 an hour. You’re making $10 for doing what? Where’s the value add? It’s always been a flaw in the staffing model, quite frankly. It’s what value do you really… I got in trouble years ago because I called staffing firms… What’s the difference between a staffing firm and essentially human trafficking which, of course, is extreme. I mean, I was just making a joke.
That’s a tad bit harsh.
It’s a bit harsh. It is a bit harsh. I was really kind of looking at it and thinking to myself, “You know what?” I mean, when it comes right down to it, it’s what value do you add as a staffing firm, and y’all have really tackled that head on and said to yourself, “We’re going to add a bunch of transparency in here, and we’re going to allow people to connect one-to-one.” You don’t need the staffing agency. Now, of course, there might be a legitimate reason where you want an RPO or a staffing agency. That’s cool. Do that. But if you don’t feel like you need to, there’s a way to work with folks one-on-one just like Uber and drivers, and consumers and drivers. I want to go to the mall. I don’t have to go and do anything other than hit an app, tell them where I want to go, and they come pick me up, and it’s a done deal.
Tim, I could talk to you for hours. I really, really, I can’t tell you how much I love what y’all are doing and how you’re disrupting and innovating something that I’ve wanted to be disrupted and innovated for a long time. So, thank you from all of us for doing what you do, and also just thanks for coming on the podcast.
Well, William, I certainly appreciate the opportunity to talk to you
And thanks for everyone for listening to the Use Case podcast. Until next time.
The Use Case Podcast
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.
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