Sourcing School by RecruitingDaily

Fostering a Welcoming Workplace using HR Technology with Aaron Rubens and Lauren Smith

October 27, 2023 Brian Fink, Ryan Leary, and Shally Steckerl
Sourcing School by RecruitingDaily
Fostering a Welcoming Workplace using HR Technology with Aaron Rubens and Lauren Smith
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ready to redefine your corporate relationships? We've just returned from HR Tech in Vegas and are eager to share our insights with you. We joined forces with two innovative guests, Aaron Rubens, CEO of Kudoboard, and Lauren Smith, the brains behind Refer, to explore how their groundbreaking products are reshaping the way we connect in the business world. Their insights into the importance of personal connections and community building were eye-opening to say the least, and the concept of giving back as a crucial part of relationship building was a game-changer.

Rubins and Smith also shed light on the current landscape of HR tech and the urgency for integration. They articulate how their products foster a more welcoming workplace and cultivate a sense of belonging. So tune in, and let's start redefining your corporate relationships together.

Special mini series recorded with Oleeo at HR Tech 2023 with hosts Ryan Leary, Brian Fink, and Shally Steckerl.


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Speaker 1:

Hey everybody, welcome to Recruiting Daily Sourcing School. We are brought to you live in person in HR Tech at Vegas. Wait, hold on. I mean in Vegas, at HR Tech. We are brought to you by Olio. Today I'm here with my co-host, ryan Leary. Ryan Leary, give it up to the good people, what's going on?

Speaker 2:

You are on a high right now. I'm saying oh yeah, so, ryan, it has been an energetic day.

Speaker 1:

We've met some new friends. We've kept up with some old friends. We're closing in on the end of day two, but as we're closed, Day one oh geez, okay. Day one. Okay, I'm here to keep you straight.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, parties are coming. Parties are coming tonight. Wnba. There are people going to WNBA.

Speaker 1:

And the chain smokers are in town.

Speaker 4:

Chain smokers are in town.

Speaker 2:

Chain smokers are in town.

Speaker 1:

I'm going to do the chain smokers thing.

Speaker 2:

Are you serious If you can get me tickets?

Speaker 1:

If Al is listening to this podcast. Ryan and I did not go to the chain smokers. We are not talking about your friend in Boulder and the back of their Range Rover. We are never, ever getting back together. Okay, alright. So those little Taylor Swift, a little chain smokers, mix up About, mix up and fix up. We have got with us not one, but two guests coming to us live here. We've got Aaron Rubins, who's the CEO of Kudo Board. Kudo Board is a product that I have used. I will stand behind this is not a paid endorsement. I use it when I was at Twitter. I thought it was an excellent way to recognize people for their anniversaries, for their birthdays, for meaningful opportunities in their career, for promotions. Aaron, welcome to the Big Show. I'm excited to meet you. I'm excited to meet the person who's behind a product that really influences and touches lives and makes relationships personal and personal in the corporate sphere. So, aaron, thank you for doing that. Now, number two, I'm going to jump from Aaron over to the lovely and talented Lauren Smith, who is at refer and is their founder, and she is in the business of relationships as well, making sure that those relationships are those that are such that, when somebody makes a referral or a recommendation for you to hire, that it carries with it a certain gravitas and reframes the conversation that we're having around employee referrals. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to the Big Show. Thank you Aaron, thank you Lauren. Let's rock and roll.

Speaker 2:

This is what day one does.

Speaker 4:

for it We've got to lean into the mic a little bit. End of the day.

Speaker 3:

Thanks so much for having us.

Speaker 4:

We're excited to be here.

Speaker 3:

I hope I can feed off of some of your energy. You're really amped for like four o'clock on day one.

Speaker 1:

Well, it's not really four o'clock, it's really seven o'clock because I'm east coast in the house. You know who needs some of my energy? The Atlanta Braves, because they are losing to Ryan's Philadelphia Phillies right now. One, two, seven, oh boy.

Speaker 3:

As a Yankees fan who's kind of out of it this season, I'm okay with that.

Speaker 2:

It is still seven to one.

Speaker 1:

It is still. Yeah, I got it on the big board.

Speaker 4:

Where are we at in this year? Is this it?

Speaker 2:

No, no because we gave the game up last night.

Speaker 1:

You didn't give the game up. Last night we fought really hard for that.

Speaker 2:

You can tell yourself that.

Speaker 1:

Okay, that's fine.

Speaker 2:

We have one more to go after. It will be over tomorrow.

Speaker 1:

We're going to five games. We're going to five games.

Speaker 2:

One, two, three. No, we're going to four.

Speaker 1:

We're going to five, all right. So, speaking of goings Goings, you all came to Vegas to have great conversations with individuals. What's the vibe like here on the floor? You talked about my energy level. What energy level, lauren, are you feeling from the good people on the floor?

Speaker 3:

What I see most of all is just so much like relief and excitement for people to be back together. One thing that I love about the HR space, hr Tech in particular, is that it's such a collaborative ecosystem and the number of people I've met who are like this is my 15th HR Tech. All my buddies are back together. Where are we going out? I'm like this is my first HR tech, but how do I? Become one of you? How do I become one of you guys? It seems to know everybody.

Speaker 2:

Just keep coming, yeah, just keep going there.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think that one of the things that you have to do with every community and Ryan has definitely taught me this is that it's not about what you take out from the community, it's about what you put into the community. The more you put into the community, the better it's going to be for everybody else who's involved. Actually, I think that's an interesting segue over to Kudo board. What are you guys thinking about this adventure that we're on in Vegas?

Speaker 4:

Yeah, you have a very Vegas hat on. We do have. It's blinking, it's flashing, it's very Vegas. No, it's been great. It's our first HR tech as well, and so just kind of taking it in and feeling it out. But it's been great, to Lauren's point, that you get these people that have been here year after year, so that, I think, really shows us it's an opportunity to kind of build these connections and relationships that span beyond just the single day.

Speaker 1:

OK, so I like that. And about connections feel free to connect with Aaron or Lauren on LinkedIn or your social media platform of choice. About connecting, how do you feel that each I mean you both are in different spaces and you affect the connection that people feel to their business or to their enterprise? Let's talk about connection for a second. How do you, aaron, make people feel connected to their business and to their coworkers?

Speaker 4:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

And Lauren, get ready, because this ain't funny.

Speaker 4:

That question's coming back for you. I'm Mike D I'm about to make money. So, in general, kudo Board is about bringing people together to celebrate special moments, and oftentimes it's, like you said before, birthdays, work anniversaries, things like that.

Speaker 1:

I loved it at Twitter. I loved it at Twitter.

Speaker 4:

But I'll mention, since this is a recruiting focused show, one of the things we're seeing a lot more of these days is teams basically putting together a Kudo Board and delivering it to applicants on their first day on the job or even before they get hired, to say hey, congrats on the offer, we hope you join us. But it's just trying to create that connection, because there's so much at the beginning of the process that feels more like paperwork, and to try to give some moment of realness from your hiring team who's bringing you on can kind of separate you from the crowd.

Speaker 1:

All right. And so for those of you who haven't used Kudo Board and I have, and I love it, and you are not paying me to say good things- about it.

Speaker 4:

I know this is great yeah.

Speaker 1:

Is it the thing about Kudo Board?

Speaker 2:

Nobody listens to the show. Nobody listens to the show I'm going to enjoy it, I'm going to just put it down, you're not getting any publicity.

Speaker 1:

So the thing that I like about it is that if I wanted to record a special message to share with a teammate about their accomplishment, or about the amount of hires that they may in the quarter, or about them onboarding into the organization, I can make a video. But if I don't want to make a video, I just want to post a GIF. I can post a GIF If I want to send a GIF to. With a T. I can send somebody a birthday gift through Kudo Board and that really takes. It's seamless, it's quick, it's easy and it speaks whatever the givers and the receivers love languages all in one.

Speaker 4:

Brian, I think we need you on our marketing team. This is yeah, I agree, you are correct.

Speaker 2:

When he gets ousted from McAfee. He's all in, All right, Lauren the question wait.

Speaker 1:

No, the question is to Lauren and then Ryan's got a question. Lauren talking about connection and community, how do referrals foster that community and that connection to a business?

Speaker 3:

Great question and it was funny. I was just going to comment before on what it's like being here and the connections I'm making, and so much about being at this event meeting people, meeting influencers in the industry, et cetera is sort of a meta parallel to my product, because our thesis at refer is that Great referrals can come from anywhere. Great software engineers no other great software engineers. You rely on your network for recommendations for every other thing. Why not your team? But the interesting part and this is someone is something with a finance and operations background is when I leave here and people ask me what the ROI is. How many customers did you sign up? I have no idea what the ROI is because I just made these connections and I know they're going to be valuable, but I don't quite know how, where, when, et cetera. And so the intent-focused part, the part of making connections for the sake of knowing there's mutual benefit and someday down the line there might be a moment to utilize that is so much clearer than a $12 cost per acquisition of a customer or something like that.

Speaker 1:

Okay, that's very Gary Vaynerchuk when he talks about what is the ROI of connection. Okay, that is a bad Gary.

Speaker 3:

Vaynerchuk impersonation.

Speaker 1:

That was pretty bad. It was pretty bad.

Speaker 2:

Ryan, you had a question. First off this smell of this popcorn.

Speaker 4:

let me just give it a oh, this popcorn is fantastic it smells so good, let's go over to Omaha Steak Omaha Steak is grilling steak over there. You mentioned that they have steak all the time.

Speaker 1:

Are they grilling steak? They are chilling and grilling. Yeah, no.

Speaker 3:

Omaha Steak is presenting at HR Tech.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, because they're an employee benefit.

Speaker 3:

Oh, I thought it was like steaks. I don't no, so Steak is the benefit.

Speaker 1:

But they had a little brochure yesterday about. So to Aaron's point about welcoming your new team member or gifting during the holidays and. I was like, oh, this totally makes sense, like 100% should be here, right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, well, there's a company like Hello Fresh is starting to get into HR Tech as a giving platform. Right, are they here?

Speaker 3:

No, but you've got Uber for Business here. You've got Amazon Books here. Everything touches the employees' spirits. We're all employees. Can we just?

Speaker 2:

say, Amazon Books has never had one person go to any of their booths any of the years I've seen them here.

Speaker 1:

Really.

Speaker 2:

I probably shouldn't talk bad about them. And now you have had your Amazon Prime revoked they let me return so much crap, the amount of stuff I returned. So kudos to Amazon Books.

Speaker 1:

I love, but I can understand how it's an employee benefit. Yeah, absolutely yeah, Because I go through three books a month and if you could economize that, like, Ali would prefer that. Okay, Ali, if you're listening, I know that I should get a library card. I love you. Okay, that's a sense of point. So, as we're talking about the benefit, though, of employee referrals and of a great product like Kudo Board, that's making people feel valued in the environment, there was a conversation that was having maybe 15, 20 minutes ago about employee experience. Right, how important is the employee experience and how different is it from the candidate experience? Are those disjoint?

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I mean I'd love to hear your answer on this too, lauren, because you're on the candidate side. But I think in a perfect world the candidate experience is a microcosm, a taste of the employee experience. So if it feels right, if it feels like it's a fit, then you only get more of it. Sure, ideal world. I think in the real world People have interview processes. They go through them, they try to present themselves in a certain way, and then you start the job and what happens happens. So that's why you're doing backdoor referrals. You're saying, hey, what does it actually like when I go there, what does this person actually like? And I'd love to know what companies do it well, where that candidate experience really feels like what it's to be at the company. But I think it's a challenge.

Speaker 1:

Lauren, what you got.

Speaker 3:

I would generally agree with it. A company's culture is their culture and the way they treat it externally is going to be pretty comparable to how they treat it internally. So I absolutely agree that candidate experience is a microcosm of the employee experience and I do think in this world of hiring where there's rapid turnover, people are changing jobs quickly. What referrals bring to the table is taking away the anonymity to bring any kind of connection to the company and create that tangible relationship where suddenly you care about the company you applied for. You didn't just do one click apply for the 50th time that day on a job board, and it's one thing that we've really seen with referrals, one of the differences that we're making. Well, ultimately, I want to work with anyone who hires. We've started with venture backed tech and in demand technical talent software engineers, data scientists, ai engineers in particular. Right now, like any other cold prospecting, get 40 emails a week from recruiters saying, hey, check out our company and their white noise. But when a friend says, hey, check this roll out and we're doing this out, really cool you're going to do it every single time, and so we see a 70% engagement rate with our referral.

Speaker 2:

So I'm curious on the referral side and I've never seen refer. I never saw the platform.

Speaker 1:

She would be happy to give you a demo. I don't even need to you can sign up yourself.

Speaker 3:

It's fully self service.

Speaker 1:

What.

Speaker 3:

We're building for anyone who's ever applied for a job, so that probably includes you.

Speaker 2:

That includes me. It's been a long time.

Speaker 1:

It's been a long time. Shouldn't have left y'all.

Speaker 2:

What are your thoughts on? If I'm an employee and I'm going to refer, what's it like then?

Speaker 1:

Me you're going to refer Brian.

Speaker 2:

No, like you, just like social.

Speaker 1:

Oh, social acquaintance.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you like, go through your LinkedIn connections and I'm going to refer these 50 people that really don't have a relationship. What are your thoughts on that?

Speaker 3:

It's a great question because our business model is entirely focused on validated personal connections. I don't want to name you.

Speaker 1:

What is a validated personal connection?

Speaker 3:

We verify the fact that the referer and the candidate that they're referring know each other in some capacity. We have them fill it out via self response. We take their LinkedIn histories and look for moments of overlap, be that similar universities or overlapping careers, et cetera. But more than that, before any referral is ever sent to any of our employee customers, we require a double opt in. People don't need more passive talent, they don't need more. Joe would be a great fit. Here's Joe's email. They need Joe to say yeah, I'm interested. So when a referral is made, first it goes to the candidate and it says hey, ryan, ryan referred you for a great new role. Check it out. If you're interested, check here. And it's only after that validated connection that we then send it on to the employer, which prevents the user from going on and filling out referrals for all 2000 of their LinkedIn connections that they don't know.

Speaker 2:

Which is similar to talent pair, but now talent pair is not a referral platform, it's a marketplace for recruiters and splits. You know things like that. But I can go in and I can refer 400 candidates and then I'm paid on the placement of that candidate. But that candidate is not active until they're vetted. They complete the form, they accept the invitation. So I actually have to talk with the candidate, I actually have to say, okay, here's the roles I want to submit you for. Then I can submit it vetted and that makes it a much better marketplace. So I like how you're vetted.

Speaker 3:

Glad to hear.

Speaker 1:

Awesome. All right, so that sounds really innovative from a double verify perspective, right? How'd you come up with that idea?

Speaker 3:

I mean, it's one of these things where you kind of sit up and when you hear about it you ask why doesn't it exist already? I mean, external referrals are not a new concept. You can take a scroll on LinkedIn and see tons of people asking for great candidates, or you can use the data that 40% of referrals today already come from external sources. I've given and received referrals dozens of times over for things far less meaningful than my team, and so it was sort of just a light bulb moment at dinner one day where someone's trying to find a really hard data scientist profile and says I'd give you $10,000 if you can find me this person. If you had $10,000, it would be cheap to find that person. I'll say our average bounty is not $10,000. We allow employers to set their ROI, but it's closer to $2,500.

Speaker 1:

Wow, okay, all right, and that's a. The $2,500 is the magic number that Lazlo Bach put forth in the book work rules, and that was what they were using at Google. Okay, I see that validated.

Speaker 3:

It's been exciting to see that people have followed. We use $2,500 in my modeling, before we even launched, as the standard referral bonus and we've seen actually it's closer to 3,000, the average bonus. So it's interesting to see that people are willing to pay the same for external as internal.

Speaker 1:

Interesting, interesting Question that I'd ask to Aaron is do you see that organizations that adopt a something as simple as saying thank you for your service, what's the? I know we said ROI was important, but it's not important, but it is important, but it is important. Aaron, what's the ROI in adopting something like Cudoboard, in creating a more hospitable environment for employees? Does it help with retention? Do you have data that proves that?

Speaker 4:

Yeah, it's a great question. You know, it's something that we have several large customers that we're working on studies for exactly that. I think right now there's a lot of qualitative evidence around hey, this person received this, they said it was really meaningful, that sort of thing. But to get a really good longitudinal study takes some time. The long story is, I think everyone sort of recognizes qualitative like hey, if I'm appreciated, it's a place where I want to be, and there's some broader studies that show that. So, like the number one reason people leave their job isn't their pay, it's that they don't feel recognized and appreciated by their team, things like that. But I think the thing that's harder to prove and that we're still working on is how do you prove that this type of appreciation in this context actually meets that bar versus someone after the fact saying oh, I didn't leave because of the money, I left because I wasn't appreciated. So there's some complexity around proving it. But I think that inherently everyone knows like, yeah, you know, when I'm miserable is when I start looking, when I start being more open, when a nice referral comes in, I'm like you know what I would be good for that other job. Let me look there. It's a question of like is your radar on or is your radar off? And, like we all know, our radar is off when we are happy and our radar for other opportunities definitely on when we're not.

Speaker 1:

About radar what's on your radar that you saw at HR Tech? That really you're like that's some shit. Besides whoa, I cursed All right, that's some shit, shame on you, I know, I know two times. Wait, hold on, we can beep it. We can beep it out. What is it that you've seen that makes you sit up and go?

Speaker 4:

wow, yeah, I wish this is. You know you work at the booth all day. I feel like I've had a great chance to meet with a lot of customers, but haven't really had a chance to go around and take it all in. Yet you know, as most folks that are here know, there's a ton around like general AI and how AI is going to do this.

Speaker 1:

Bingo, bingo card. We have general AI. We have general AI. It's that big right.

Speaker 4:

You know, I think the thing that is on my mind transparently is not so much that it's around so many companies I'm sort of again I said this is my first time here there are just so many technology, hr technology, platforms that it makes sense to me that companies are saying, hey, how do we consolidate, how do we take 10 and turn it into seven and turn it into five? And so that's a lot of what's on my mind is how do we make Kudo Ward play better? We've done a lot around integrations, automations, things like that, but that's really what I'm walking away with. It's probably not the boom craziest like HR, but it is the thing that I am thinking about a lot, which is like wow, this is a huge space with a ton out there, and unless we play nice with all these different folks, like eventually, no matter how great our product is in isolation, it will get lost because you'll say, hey, we got this other platform, it does these 10 other things, and if it does this 11th, then we'll just do that instead.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, but it goes back to what we started the conversation on, about creating connection, creating community, right. So how you play in the ecosystem. I think that's a really powerful takeaway, lauren. What do you got what? What Resil dazzled you.

Speaker 3:

I mean, I'd actually love to build on that topic. I think one of the interesting factors of HR tech having had so much innovation in just the last couple of years and, honestly, behind most departments within a company is that it's great that there are now so many solutions for different elements of whether it's talent management, talent acquisition, employee engagement, et cetera. But if you've got to go to 19 different screens to use them, you're never going to adopt them fully, you'll never going to realize their potential fully.

Speaker 1:

That's my dream 19 screens, and so we need into that integration like nobody.

Speaker 3:

for instance, in our case, when you ask me who my competitors are, in theory it's anybody who's related to sourcing, except nobody relies on one sourcing pipeline. Everybody is using multiple sourcing pipelines. So figuring how to work within and partner within the ecosystem, integrate with each other, support and co-market and amplify each other is the name of the game, and I love that everybody here is so open and excited about it.

Speaker 1:

Well, I'm glad that we could have amplified both your voices in the conversation. I'm excited about the future of employee referrals. I'm excited about the future of employee recognition. I think that community has been the underlying thread that has gone through this conversation. I'm going to let Ryan wrap this up, that's right. I'm going to let you do it.

Speaker 2:

You don't have to let me, I'm good man. Yeah, enjoy the conversation. I might be a little emotionally drained after your energy on this show.

Speaker 1:

Well, I wish the Phillies were a little emotionally drained as well. I want to give it up again, you can.

Speaker 3:

If you've got a fanatic, you just got to keep going. You've got a fanatic, you've got to keep going. I want to give it up.

Speaker 1:

I know, I know, I looked at it a minute ago. I want to give it up to Aaron. I want to give it up to Lauren. Thank you so much for stopping by Olio's booth here at HR Tech in Vegas. Thanks for partying with the team at Sourcing School. Olio, we love you. Thank you so much. Thanks so much, jackjeremy.

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