In the first of our episodes of ECI’s podcast, Building Successful Businesses, with Janette Martin, CEO of Talos360, we discuss the importance of people, product and vision, and her steps to creating successful HR tech businesses.
Listen to Episode 4.1:
Available on Apple Podcasts:
Fiona: Welcome to ECI’s podcast, “Building Successful Businesses,” where we chat to business leaders about the building blocks of their success and the lessons they’ve learned on the way. I am Fiona Moore and following their listing in the Northern Tech Awards Top Tech 100 List, today I’m joined by Janette Martin, CEO of Talos360, the intelligent technology platform that helps companies hire and retain the best talent, something very pertinent to lots of businesses. Janette, thanks so much for joining me today.
Janette: Thank you so much for having me.
Fiona: So, Janette, you’ve been operating in and around the world of business software solutions and HR tech your whole career, starting at Sage and including IRIS Software Group. So, in that time, no doubt you’ve picked up a lot on how to grow tech companies. Tell me, what is the key to building a successful HR tech business?
Janette: The key things for me, if I were to pick my top three, would be people, product, and vision. I think if I look at joining Talos360, one of the first things I did was put in place my senior leadership team, people who can share your vision, share your values, and that you enjoy working with. That they can inspire others across the business is so important. You know, I couldn’t achieve anything without my incredible leadership team around me, and we in turn can’t do anything without the amazing talent across the business. So, I really do think it all starts with people, with the culture that you create, and with the vision that you have. And if you can get that right, I honestly believe you can achieve great things.
The next thing is really understanding your market and what’s going on, what are the real challenges that businesses are facing, and what are their real pain points? Then ensuring that you have the right solutions and that you know what problems you’re solving. How we think about our product proposition and how we tell our story of how we help. We do that through brand, through content, through thought leadership, and again, ultimately our people. That, and an aligned vision and knowing what you’re aiming for, where you’re going, how you want to get there, and that everybody feels a part of that, are just some of the key things that I focus on, that I think are important.
Fiona: And you mentioned there making sure you can solve the right problems for businesses. You joined Talos360 a year after the pandemic started. That’s quite a big change. So, how has COVID impacted the HR tech space?
Janette: It had a really big impact. I think so many people reevaluated what was important to them during COVID – what they wanted from a role and what was important to them. It changed employee expectations. The employee became more demanding, whether that was switching to find a new role or what they wanted from their current employer to stay. I think attracting a good candidate has always been challenging, and now we understand there’s more to it than just selecting someone. You know, it’s having the right employee value proposition and the right onboarding experience, and that all starts from the job offer.
We did a report where we surveyed over 1000 employees last year, the great renegotiation report. What we got back from that was 71% of candidates said that salary was their main reason for looking for another job. Fifty-seven percent said that rising living costs were one of the main reasons for looking. Fifty-eight percent said travel costs had become a primary factor. So, many things changed following COVID on what employees were looking for, employers needed to respond to that.
Fiona: It felt like there was a sort of great reset in terms of what the employee wanted from their work. Because of those expectations increasing, there was a point, I think particularly last summer, where actually it was really quite difficult to fill quite a lot of jobs, particularly around the tech space. I know that Talos360 helps with employee engagement. It’s something that we think about a lot at ECI in our portfolio. We see that strong employee engagement directly correlates with strong growth. Do you think companies now post-COVID are doing enough around employee engagement? And if not, what is it that’s stopping them?
Janette: I think many companies could be doing a lot more around employee engagement. You know, keeping your best people comes down to understanding what’s important. I mentioned that vision that everyone can get behind, but also understanding how their role matters, how it counts, and what part they play. We need to know all of the individual elements that matter to our employees. You know, one size doesn’t fit all now. You have to understand how you can respond to every person in your organisation. Attracting the right talent, and having the right values and culture fit so that they stay in your business is one thing, but employee engagement is about how you onboard them, how you nurture that talent, and understand what’s important to them, never take that for granted. Without making engagement a priority, you’ll be forever stuck in that needing to re-recruit, which is costly, time-consuming, and just slows your business down.
Fiona: And because there isn’t one size fits all and each employee might have very different needs, in a big company that’s quite difficult for an HR team and, well, the whole leadership team to do individual needs on mass. How do you see companies doing a good job solving that?
Janette: You have got to have the right tools to be able to ask the right questions. You know, so many organisations ask the questions but then they don’t know what to do with the answers that they get back. And you have to be able to put a strategy in place that enables you to address so many of the themes that come through from the answers that you get from your people. I’ve seen so many organisations focus on benefits, and they spend a fortune on benefits, and nobody uses those benefits, and therefore, it doesn’t help anybody. You know, whether it’s development opportunities, whether it is benefits, whether it’s the culture or employee activities, there will be themes that come through, and then it’s knowing how to respond to that and put the right things in place so that you can have something that’s there for everyone.
Fiona: I think sometimes those things can be quite distracting, whereas like you mentioned, something that employees really want is to know their purpose in the company, and what role they play. Those things actually are more complicated so sometimes can get neglected.
Janette: I think communication is really important. I think if you’ve got an approachable culture – surveys are only one thing – but if you are constantly talking to your people and you have the right leadership team in place so that’s getting talked about in management meetings and in the right forums, then you’ll always be connected to your people and you’ll always know what’s important. We focus a lot on communication. We do so much by email these days, don’t we? It doesn’t have that personal touch, so much of that has been lost. So, we have a fortnightly, we call it a tribe meeting, and we try and do all of our communications in person. We do it in the office so people can come in and, you know, have breakfast with us or they could be on Teams at their desk or on Teams from home, you know, however they want to connect. But we talk to our people and we share what’s going on. They hear it from us rather than volumes of emails that they hopefully might read or might not. So, I think communication is really important as well.
Fiona: Janette Martin there talking about how people, product, and vision are integral to successful HR tech businesses – and all businesses – as employee engagement and communication become more important than ever. In the next episode, we discuss what her career in tech taught her about the CEO role.
Listen to the next episode here: