Kayla Michele
Co-Founder & President PeduL Follow

Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 281. Today we’ll be talking to Kayla from PeduL about the use case or business case for why her customers choose PeduL.

PeduL’s mission is to assure that all students have equal access to academic and professional opportunities – regardless of where they go to school or who they know.

Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think. Thanks, William.

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Show length: 28 minutes

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Announcer (00:02):

Welcome to Recruiting Daily’s Use Case podcast. A show dedicated to the storytelling that happens or should happen when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better. As we speak with the brightest minds and recruitment in HR tech. That’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.

 

Tincup (00:24):

Let’s jump in this. William Tincup, and you’re listening to the Use Case podcast. Today we have Kayla on from PeduL, and we’ll be talking about the business case or use case for why her clients pick PeduL. So why don’t we just jump right into it. Kayla, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and PeduL?

 

Kayla Michelle (00:43):

Yes, absolutely. So my name is Kayla Michele. I’m one of the co-founders and the COO of PeduL, and we are a brilliant bridge between the corporate world and the communities that they struggle to reach the most. And the way we’re doing that right now is through a diversity recruiting marketplace that enables our employer partners to leverage some of our kind of secret weapons as tools to attract, engage, and then ultimately recruit and retain really competitive, diverse talent.

(01:18)
So the two kind of secret weapons that we’ve been leveraging is a combination of really unique, made for social media, made for Gen Z, employer branding content, and then also scholarships. So specifically for the scholarships, every talent manager knows out there that the EOC would come for all of us, if any of us put up a job posting on a LinkedIn or Indeed or a ZipRecruiter and said, “We’re looking for,” let’s say a data analyst. And the only people whose applications I’m accepting are people who identify as Black women, for example. So what we do is-

 

Tincup (01:56):

Oddly enough, which is exactly what we would like to do in some cases but-

 

Kayla Michelle (02:00):

Right, exactly.

 

Tincup (02:00):

… I could see where that would be misused and also historically be misused. But yeah, I get it.

 

Kayla Michelle (02:06):

Absolutely. Yeah. So that’s why we kind of took the approach of saying, “Hey, we know you can’t do that, but here’s a way you can get around that is partnering with PeduL to create a scholarship that’s branded to your company for that exact kind of candidate you’re looking to get in front of. Let’s specify a major, let’s specify a graduation year, depending on if you’re looking for a full-time employee or not. Let’s specify what skill sets you need. And that actually gives us the agency to go out and source a really competitive pipeline of talent for you, and we can actually deliver the resumes, deliver you the candidates, unlike any other scholarship program out there.”

 

Tincup (02:46):

So I love this on so many levels. One is, again, it’s from phrases from years, talent pools or talent communities, et cetera. It’s a better way of thinking, especially the harder to find talent or marginalized talent, if you want to say something like that. But it gives people, it gives sources and recruiters a way to go kind of fish in different ponds. So how do they interface with the marketplace?

 

Kayla Michelle (03:16):

Yeah. So we’re still a young scrappy startup. So we’ve just now migrated onto the actual marketplace itself for our corporate partners. We used to just be as easy as possible for our partners in terms of just sending over a SIP file with resumes. And that was the easiest way for them to integrate it into their ATSs because if anybody is in the tech world, you all know that it is not easy to integrate Workday and Greenhouse and all these other platforms.

(03:44)
Yeah, I mean, you could sign up on PeduL.com to speak with one of our representatives to get a better understanding of what your DI goals are, what kind of succession planning might be available, what kind of career mobility opportunities are available at your company to see if… Not that we’re a right fit per se, but if what you’re doing from a diversity perspective has the right intentions, because we are very selective about who we work with from that regard. ‘Cause we want to make sure we’re not sending our students into a burning fire.

(04:13)
We want to make sure we’re sending them into an environment where they can grow and they feel challenged and they feel like they can actually attain mentorship and championship that’s required to be really successful and not just land a job but really start a meaningful career.

 

Tincup (04:26):

Does the community members, behind the firewall I guess, or behind the wall, do they talk with one another? Is there a way for them to… ‘Cause I know y’all are selective, which is great by the way, but is there a way for them to communicate with each other or… I’m thinking about Glassdoor of course, but I’m thinking more even like what The Muse, Fairygodboss does for women, where behind the wall, they actually talk about companies and leaders and hiring managers and all kinds of stuff to where they’re the inside scoop.

(05:04)
So I guess the question is, is there today or do you see it in the future a way for the community members to communicate with one another?

 

Kayla Michelle (05:12):

Absolutely. Yeah. So we’re slowly working on a strategy for our talent partners, specifically on the platform to engage with each other and connect horizontally and network horizontally. But right now our students can. So we have students from Alabama and Florida connecting just based off of some of the data that we’re getting on the platform around what their interests are, what the skill sets are and how they could create businesses themselves and organizations themselves.

(05:40)
So there’s a lot of networking happening and kind of in a social media regard for our students on this site. But we’re definitely thinking about how to create this infrastructure for even our talent partners to start networking. But that’s such a good point that you made. ‘Cause I think that’s something that we’ve been focusing on so much over the last year or so is just really thinking about how… We’re closing this network gap. ‘Cause everybody likes to say that, “Lack of diversity comes down to a lack of pipeline,” but that’s not really the case. It’s just the lack of access to a certain network.

(06:14)
So closing that gap and making sure that we’re getting people connected to the right people and then connecting them to meaningful careers in a really intentional way at this really pivotal point of their lives, I think will really be the difference between a student coming out of PeduL and coming out of another platform and feeling like they really have ownership over being able to enjoy some of these economic freedoms that our parents once did when they graduated college, or even benefiting from wealth generation. So that’s definitely in our plans.

 

Tincup (06:46):

I mean, we’ve talked about early stage talent. Do you foresee now or future this a marketplace for all levels of talent?

 

Kayla Michelle (06:54):

Absolutely. Yeah. So we’re just focusing, going deep, not wide on our niche, diverse, Gen Z, early millennials or late stage millennials in that case on the platform. But yes, we definitely see this eventually expanding as our community grows. We have over 3.5 million students right now who span across 1800 universities across the country. Not just predominantly white institutions, but also the HBCUs, the Hispanic institutions, the tribal colleges, but also with this kind of keen awareness that when talent managers try to go after Black candidates, for example, only 90% of African Americans that are enrolled in degree earning programs in this country actually don’t attend HBCUs. So how do we get more students?

(07:39)
But as our students are growing and they’re getting into these careers and they’re matriculating through their careers, we’re going to stick with them. We’re going to continue having them come back to the platform for new opportunities. And then eventually we’ll be able to place them into mid-level management and hopefully some senior roles and executive roles as we grow.

 

Tincup (07:56):

Dumb question alert, are you leveraging fraternities and sororities just for some of the talent? I’m thinking specifically about some of the schools, probably not HBCUs, but some of the sororities or fraternities that might be all African American.

 

Kayla Michelle (08:16):

Yeah, absolutely. So we probably have a representation of a little over 200 minority serving organizations on our platform that include the Divine Nine, for example, the Black Frats and Sororities. So yeah, we’re definitely leveraging what we can, but what we found to be really successful for our sourcing process is actually not going to where everyone else is going.

(08:39)
So we have a lot of partners who said, “Before working with PeduL, all I could do was reach out to that local frat at an HBCU that’s closest to one of our offices or going to career service centers.” And we said, “Well, a lot of those guys, they’re under-resourced, understaffed [inaudible 00:08:57] dated. And so instead of going to them, why don’t we go to the people who are engaging with these students day in and day out and actually can attest to their work ethic at this stage of their lives?”

(09:06)
So we’ve developed this huge network of over 10,000 faculty members, from professors to athletic coaches who actually nominate most of our students onto our platform. So we’re getting students directly with the people who are working with them day in and day out.

 

Tincup (09:21):

Oh, I love that. I love that on so many different levels. So I know that you said that y’all kind of qualify people on the front end, qualify companies on the front, maybe students as well. I want to make sure I get that right. On the qualifying, the companies are making sure that the companies… I guess there’s two things. One is that companies aren’t just basically saying they’re interested in DNI, let’s say, and maybe they truly are, but maybe they’re a little bit later in their journey or early in their journey, I should say. And maybe it doesn’t look great. So how do you…

(10:04)
I think you and I have talked about this before, but it’s like… We’ve talked about DNI for a long time, so it’s not a new concept, but it does feel different the last five years where there’s actually DNI leaders and budget and programs, which again, it’s nice to actually see budget and action actually behind some of the words. But I still can’t see who’s doing it really well and personally and I can’t tell what’s hype versus what’s real.

 

Kayla Michelle (10:37):

[inaudible 00:10:40].

 

Tincup (10:39):

So first of all, what do y’all look for? When you look at a company, what’s the litmus test that y’all take them through?

 

Kayla Michelle (10:49):

Yeah. So we’ve actually created our own rubric. And it’s not necessarily to say that you have to check every box of our [inaudible 00:10:58] to be a partner, but there are some key indicators, like who’s sitting on your board? How much representation do you have on your board of people who are not cisgender, heterosexual white men? How many people are in existing leadership positions?

(11:15)
And we have a very keen awareness of the fact that in order for us to truly diversify and make sure that corporate America looks like real America one day, it’s going to be about investing in entry level and then developing and training them up so that they’re prepared to be in those executive positions. Because how many people were like in my dad’s position to have, quite frankly to say it honestly, come out the hood, go to college because his dad worked as a longshoreman and saved up all his money to make sure he could go to college.

(11:46)
And then from there, be able to navigate and excel through his corporate career where now he’s sitting as an executive at a major Fortune 1000 company and he is now trying to get poached. Basically, these other are trying to poach him because that’s really where the pipeline issue is for that executive level and above, because the opportunities just weren’t there, or the lack of access wasn’t there. The initiative behind DEI wasn’t [inaudible 00:12:17] during his era. So really, it’s going to come down to investing in that entry level.

(12:22)
So yeah, we’re just kind of looking at where they’re at right now, and then also, who are the champions within the company, especially who are sitting in the talent acquisition seats. Are there people who are willing to get really humble and say, hey, here was my experience? I had one guy that I was talking to the other day at a company, a major commercial real estate firm, and he said, “Hey, I know my firm doesn’t look the way I would want it to look.” But you’d be surprised that when we hire these recruiters, they look at the company as it is now and assume those are the kinds of resumes we want. So that’s the people that we keep getting and we’re hiring out these recruiters. So these are the candidates we’re getting.

(13:02)
But we do have an intention, and this was an experience that I had that made me really reflect on why we needed to be more intentional with our DEI efforts. I’m walking down the street a couple months after the news of George Floyd comes out. And I have my dog and I’m walking down Central Park and it’s late night. And I realize one moment that I’m probably not going to get stopped by a cop for any reason, because I’m a white man and even if I do, I got friends I can call. And that was kind of his aha moment of, “Oh my gosh, my lived experience is different than other people and maybe I need to be cognizant of that when I’m bringing new people into the company.”

(13:40)
And so I love to hear stories like that from people who are in positions of power who do come from those homogenous groups, because that gives me an inclination that there’s an awareness and there’s a consciousness around the issue and that there is some intent. It really just comes down to where is your heart and how do I unveil the humans behind the brand, which is exactly why we put so much emphasis into content. ‘Cause DEI comes down to exposure. It comes down to not being able to be excited or energized about what you don’t know exists or what you don’t know is possible for you.

(14:12)
So getting behind those stories to people of leadership and showcasing that to our students and making sure that we actually can get that story out of people. That’s a really good indicator for whether or not we want to work with a company.

 

Tincup (14:24):

So one of the things I love, especially on a content strategy is what you just said, is highlighting differences, highlighting and awareness and highlighting similarities. How much dialogue do you get right now with both candidates and with recruiters around skills? It seems like you can’t walk 30 minutes without hearing somebody talk about skills and skills gaps, skills analysis skills, this skills that, or skills-based hiring. So I just want to make sure.

(14:53)
Because I think most people who’ll be listening to this will understand, “Okay, this could be a go-to for my sourcing team, for my recruiting team to actually back up some of the initiatives that’s come out of the executive team out of DNI. Okay, well this sounds perfect. Great.” And at one point, you and I both know that they’re going to say, “This is great, now I have access to talent that I didn’t have access to before. Great.” Do they have the skill path? Not just do they have the skills now, this is early stage talent, do they have the skills? Do they have kind of a potentiality to develop the skills, et cetera?

(15:30)
What are you learning from both sides? What are you learning about skills?

 

Kayla Michelle (15:34):

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think something that I’ve noticed that more and more talent professionals are realizing is these outdated metrics of what makes a good candidate like GPA or the prestige of the college that you went to are all really archaic indicators for what makes someone a great candidate. These are all outdated, often discriminatory bias that shields a lot of people from opportunities that were reserved for the few. And I could tell you right now that one of my best employees did not have any work experience beyond working at a McDonald’s. But you know how we found her, we went into a McDonald’s one day when we were at the Forbes 30 Under 30 conference, and this was before we actually just got named on the Forbes 30 Under 30 this year, but this was before we got named on there.

(16:31)
And we walked into a McDonald’s at the time, and she was just so beautifully spirited and she was just so cheery and she was so welcoming, and we were like, “No, if a girl like this could take advantage of an opportunity that other people would find mundane, other people would just see it as this is just another job to clock in and clock out, and I don’t have to bring my full self to this position because it’s not my forever job. If this girl could do this, I wonder how great she would be with some of our sales opportunities or with some of the social media content that we’re creating.” And she has now been on our team for about three years, helping us push out content for both our employer partners and for students. And she’s got equity in the company now. She’s gotten a raise two times.

(17:21)
And those are the things that we look for. I think skills-based hiring at the end of the day, kind of eliminates the need for pattern matching. It eliminates that bias that someone can be reduced to a piece of paper with accolades and these arbitrary achievements that have little application in the real world. So I’m seeing more talent professionals look at it. But then you also have some others that have noticed that those old archaic measures were used to get into their role. So why shouldn’t they continue to use those metrics to get these new kids in, right?

 

Tincup (17:53):

Yeah. It worked for me, why wouldn’t it work for you?

 

Kayla Michelle (17:54):

Right.

 

Tincup (17:54):

Yeah, no.

 

Kayla Michelle (17:54):

Exactly.

 

Tincup (17:57):

I hear that too. Do you find that either on the recruiting side or the candidate side, do you find some dialogue around compensation? Is this-

 

Kayla Michelle (18:06):

Yeah. Yes. Specifically for Gen Z, I think there is a lot of leeway for compensation as long as there are value-aligned opportunities at the company.

 

Tincup (18:20):

I’ve heard that. Yeah. That’s cool.

 

Kayla Michelle (18:22):

Yeah. We actually did a survey last month with over a thousand students just to see how are they feeling coming out of college, going into the workforce, especially coming out of COVID and what their opportunities are and how they feel the world of DEI is. And one of the things that we learn and a trend that we’re learning is that compensation and benefits, although great, come almost last place to whether or not the company is doing good in the world.

(18:56)
It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s a pencil company or a hedge fund, are they putting out that positive externality into the world? And then are they standing behind the words that they’re putting out into these press releases? That seems to be a huge value to our students that we’re seeing that are going into the workforce.

 

Tincup (19:15):

I could see that. Again, it’s one of those things, especially in certain communities, if you’ve been overlooked for so long and then all of a sudden people now show up and they seem to care, that’s great. I mean, first of all, it’s better than never. Got it.

 

Kayla Michelle (19:33):

Absolutely.

 

Tincup (19:33):

But it also kind of also be a little angry.

 

Kayla Michelle (19:36):

Yeah.

 

Tincup (19:36):

I’d have to really think about it, but I’m not sure how I’d really like that. I mean, unless you’re doing really substantive work and I can see it, and again, you’re doing good, but you’re going to do good by the community. You’re doing good by following your values, articulating your values, et cetera. Again, probably a dumb question, but it’s something that’s come up over the last couple months around Gen Z in particular, and their desire to go to the office, which I don’t know how I feel about this. But basically the way that it’s been framed up for me is like, okay, I’m squarely Gen X. If someone offered me a job at an office, there’s no way I’d take it. Okay, so that’s me.

(20:22)
I’ve had a career where I’ve been to the office and all that other stuff, but a lot of people have put that in the frame of, “Hey, remember when you got out of college, you wanted to go meet people, you wanted to be around people, you wanted to go to ball games, you wanted to go to this, that, the other.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I’m not sure that’s…” I’m not sure I buy that, but you’re on the front lines, so what do you say?

 

Kayla Michelle (20:43):

Yeah. That was also another part of our survey, and our students are saying that the one thing that they really value when it comes to that is kind of a balance, a flexibility. So do they have the option to work from home on those days they don’t feel like getting out of bed and they’d rather just work on the computer and be off camera for meetings? But do they also have the opportunity to connect with their managers, connect with leadership, network horizontally?

(21:16)
So we are seeing that there is this need for this innate human connection, this face-to-face connection, but opportunities for online work because of the flexibility that it allows them. I think most Gen Zers know the laptop lifestyle is kind of BS, right? Who’s really taking their laptop to the beach? No one does that, right?

 

Tincup (21:37):

Right.

 

Kayla Michelle (21:39):

But at the end of the day, it’s about the flexibility and is an option.

 

Tincup (21:42):

That gels with what my niece is of in that generation. Well, she works for Deloitte, she works three days in the office and she can pick the three days, and she’s in Brooklyn. And so literally, it depends on that week. Does she want to work this, that and the other? But she loves it because it gives her a little bit of social interaction and it gives her massive flexibility to get the job done, which is the most important.

 

Kayla Michelle (22:06):

Exactly.

 

Tincup (22:07):

Okay. Thank you for answering that. Two last things. One is is when people are buying PeduL maybe for the first time, obviously, or their prospects, what are the questions? What should they be asking you in order to buy? They’ve never bought this before, they don’t know what it is. They saw the demo, great, they’re in love with it, but now what? What should they be asking you?

 

Kayla Michelle (22:29):

Yeah. So I would ask me, “Why do you use scholarships?” That’s for one. I’ll ask these questions briefly. But why do you use scholarships would be one. The reason we use it in simple is because scholarships historically are discriminatory. And that not to say all discrimination is bad. I got into Rutgers University and was a hair away from a full academic ride. So I filled in the gaps with these obscure scholarship opportunities that were solely made for Black girls who play golf in the Northeast. You have scholarships for Italian boys who cook or left handed these. You [inaudible 00:23:03] scholarship for it.

(23:05)
All we did was leverage what we knew to help employers stop making the excuse as to why they find diverse talent. I would also ask me, “How important is the content?” I would say, Extremely.” I’ve had clients who come to me and decide to opt out of the content, and those who decided to take advantage of it in full force and get their ERG members involved and get leadership involved. And I see a stark difference in numbers of applications that are coming from the candidates that they want based on how much emphasis they’re putting on the content that we’re creating.

(23:40)
And I think that really just comes down to Gen Z having this keen awareness that social media levels the playing field. Now, anyone with an internet connection can prepare for opportunities and be just as qualified for these roles as their counterpart who got into Harvard. And if they’re able to look at the company from the lens of who are the humans behind the brand, because we know that all of the people that make these machines run are so much bigger than the logos that they represent.

(24:12)
So how do we get to that story? How do we show what progression looks like in career for these individuals? How do we show what the experience is like for people of color or women or whatever the case may be? As is right now in that industry, in that organization, what is it like from their words? Why do you care about diversity post George Floyd? Why did you not talk about this pre 2020? Why did you not give this a real budget pre 2020? Those are the kinds of things that students want to hear, and I think allows them to give companies a little bit of grace and not feel pissed off, like you said.

 

Tincup (24:48):

Right. And it’s also the transparency, but the brutal honesty. Maybe that woke them up, maybe me too, love is love, Black Lives Matter, and obviously George Floyd. Maybe just all the culmination of things kind of shook them to their core. And it’s like, that’s okay. I mean, is it perfect? No, there’s 400 years that we could have kind of been ahead of this curve. Okay, fair enough. We’re here now. I’d have to really think about it, but I would, I’d rather them tell that story and tell the truth and be transparent. Like, “Hey, listen, we were just basically building widgets and not really thinking much about it and all that.”

 

Kayla Michelle (25:33):

Exactly.

 

Tincup (25:33):

And the pandemic made us actually reflect on, we need to do business differently. Again, not perfect, but I would love to hear that answer. As a candidate, I’d love to hear that answer, at least that transparency.

 

Kayla Michelle (25:45):

Absolutely.

 

Tincup (25:46):

All right. Our last question is your most recent or your favorite customer story without naming names, without naming a brand or a company or things like that.

 

Kayla Michelle (25:56):

Yes. My favorite story. Oh, yes. Okay. I’m going to name the students name because, yeah, I love her. So she came to our platform for a scholarship at a major tech company that if you think of the top two, it’s probably one of them. And we said, “Sierra, based on your data and what we’re able to deduce about you and your personality and your skill sets, I actually think you would be perfect for this opportunity over here at this commercial real estate firm that you’ve never heard of, multi-billion dollar firm that has no name brand recognition.”

(26:34)
And when she actually went through that internship program, she said that it was the first time that she had felt seen and validated. And that shook me to my core. I think that is just a testament to the kind of intention that we put behind the matches that we’re making and the fact that we’re not just trying to land these kids in jobs. We want to make sure that they’re starting off meaningful careers. So yeah, that’s just kind of one of my favorite experiences is somebody coming [inaudible 00:27:06].

 

Tincup (27:06):

Oh, I just had shivers. If every company could do that, that is absolutely amazing.

 

Kayla Michelle (27:12):

Isn’t it?

 

Tincup (27:13):

Kayla, this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for your time, your energy, and I love what you’ve built.

 

Kayla Michelle (27:19):

Thank you so much, Will, for having me and helping us share our story. It’s all about just making sure that we are bringing people up as we climb. So I appreciate you for amplifying what we do. Thank you.

 

Tincup (27:31):

A hundred percent. Thanks to everyone listening to the Use Case podcast. Until next time.

 

Announcer (27:37):

You’ve been listening to Recruiting Daily’s Use Case podcast. Be sure to subscribe on your favorite platform and hit us recruitingdaily.com.

The Use Case Podcast

Authors
William Tincup

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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