Ben Siegel

Abode CEO & Co-Founder Ben Siegel

Ben SiegelCEO & Co-Founder

One big mistake employers make when hiring early-career talent is thinking the recruitment process ends once an offer is signed. Today’s guest, Ben Siegel, CEO of HR tech company Abode, understands the frustration of being abandoned after accepting a job offer. He’s committed to preventing this from happening to others.

Episode Transcript

Rob Stevenson 0:05
Welcome to talk down to me, a podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the front lines of modern recruitment.

Speaker 2 0:12
We actually want to understand the themes of someone’s life, we want to understand how they make decisions where they’re willing to take risks, and what it looks like when they

Rob Stevenson 0:21
fail, no holds barred completely off the cuff interviews with directors of recruitment VPs of global talent, CHR rows, and everyone in between.

Speaker 3 0:31
Once I went through the classes and the trainings and got the certifications through diversity and inclusion, I still felt like something was missing.

Speaker 4 0:39
Talent Acquisition. It’s a fantastic career, you are trusted by the organization, you get to work with the C suite and the security at the front desk and everybody in between and everybody knows you.

Rob Stevenson 0:52
I’m your host, Rob Stevenson, and you’re about to hear the best in the biz. talk down to me. Here with me today on the podcast is the founder over at a boat Ben Siegel. Ben, welcome to the show. How are you today?

Ben Siegel 1:05
I’m good. Thanks for having me.

Rob Stevenson 1:06
Yeah, pleased to have you. We’re are kicking off here on a Monday morning together. So thank you for making this one of the first things of your week.

Ben Siegel 1:13
absolutely happy to do it. Can’t imagine starting it off better.

Rob Stevenson 1:16
Maybe it’s not the first thing of your week. Did you get at it this morning, too?

Ben Siegel 1:20
Oh, yeah, I’m up. I’m up early. We live with two cats. So they’re ready to eat at 6am. So

Rob Stevenson 1:25
yeah, the cats that just like start prowling on you and waking you up at like 445 in the morning. And they’re like, Hey, I’m awake. So you should be too. Exactly. Gotcha. Well, cats aside, maybe they’ll make a little cameo. And if so then we’ll just say what do you think about that kitty. But anyway, listeners, the show will remember that I rarely bring on CEOs or founders of HR tech companies. So when I do it’s for a good reason. And that’s because I think you have a unique product and you focus on a unique kind of stage of the funnel, we’ll get to all that stuff. But first, I would just love to hear from you a little bit about your background. And what about your experience led you to see this need in the marketplace for about?

Speaker 5 2:01
Yeah, for sure. So I guess I’ll go back to the beginning, just for context. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia played competitive baseball my whole life. And so that took me to college in Memphis, Tennessee, where where I went to play ended up only playing for two years. And when I stopped, I started a company mowing lawns for for 25 bucks an hour with my roommate. And so that’s actually the beginning of this company. It’s the same legal corporation that we still run today. And honestly, I think a lot of the experience that I had running that is what led here, right? So before I started that company, I was an intern at a financial services firm in Atlanta, I had the experience of signing an internship offer and not hearing anything from my employer and showing up and we can get into all that. But when I got back to school, I started this lawn mowing company grew pretty quickly, it turned into homeowners saying hey, instead of hiring bad or 2000 of my my friends who were working for us as well to mow my lawn, can I hire them to do an internship for me this summer at my company. And so we did that for a little bit. And then COVID hit and we were just trying to figure out as recent grads and founder young entrepreneurs, whatever, how to just keep the company alive. And so we started this consulting firm that really helped big companies like PWC, Dick’s Sporting Goods, companies like that navigate COVID and tell college students, Hey, your internship or your job is now remote for the first time that we didn’t expect or it’s canceled. And that happened to and we were helping them communicate with them and in a way that would resonate and be meaningful and impactful for them. And that experience is kind of what led us to starting this this company, we learned from all of these big employers that we were working with that COVID really just accelerated this problem of hey, how do I communicate with 1000s of people who have signed my my internship or my offer to join my company post graduation or hundreds or whatever the number is COVID shined a light on on all the issues that existed there. And we learned that from them. And that’s why we started the boat back in almost two years ago now July of 2021.

Rob Stevenson 4:05
So it sounds like what was happening was people were hiring these college kids to mow their lawns or they were hiring your company to send out college because of their lawns. And what they were getting to know these lawn mowers and they’re like, seems like a sharp kid, I could bring them into my company for these other intern type roles. Is that correct?

Speaker 5 4:24
Exactly. And funny. Like that was always the goal of the company, after we learned that more people than just us wanted to do is like, Oh, this would be a really cool way for people to network and meet people in their community. We never really knew how to do that or or that it would actually happen. But that happened pretty quickly. Right? I mean, just kids from Rhodes College, to good school in Memphis Bandy. All these, you know, pretty reputable schools and kids were working hard and showing their work ethic and showing kind of a lot of the intangibles that you want from a young employee. And so I think people would would see that and say, Hey, and I’m sure this translates to the workplace. What do you do in the summer in Congress? He will kind of go from there.

Rob Stevenson 5:01
Yeah, there’s this belief that for someone to be a good intern, they need to be at a really good school and be involved in all these student programs. Or maybe this is just the belief I had as a as a college student applying to internships. But it sounds like really, people are showing up, they were doing a good job, they were on time, they were personable, they could do the work and get through a conversation with an adult, a serious, professional adult without vomiting on themselves. Like, you know what you could probably hack at doing whatever the entry level ability is, at our company, I wanted to hone in on that awareness of the lawn mowing company customers to connect this labor of mowing lawns to a more corporate position.

Ben Siegel 5:41
Yeah. And I think like, you know, a lot of the credit probably goes to the student, too, right? I would imagine that in a lot of these scenarios, the kids who were out there mowing lawns, were striking up the conversations themselves saying, hey, what, what do you do? Oh, I’m a business major, and accounting major, whatever it is, does your company hire interns in any way? They were kind of going out of their way and showing the initiative as well, which, which I’m sure is a lot of what what drove it?

Rob Stevenson 6:04
Yeah, it really is relationship based. You know, it’s not just the skills on a resume that makes someone good at or make someone available to get this early talent sort of position. Right?

Speaker 5 6:13
Yeah. Well, what’s interesting is, I think it actually is more of the skills and less of what you said, which is, you know, where they go to school, I think, you know, there’s a lot of companies who their their entire mission from their platform is to do this right handshake being the biggest in our space, the whole goal there is doesn’t matter where you go to school, if you have the skills and work hard, you can go work at Morgan Stanley, right? You don’t have to be at Harvard to do that anymore. And I think a lot of those skills and the intangible things is what kind of shine through when you’re watching people do manual labor as well.

Rob Stevenson 6:44
Gotcha. We’re the kind of roles that are Bose customers are hiring for the early stage.

Speaker 5 6:49
You know, it’s everything across the board, we have customers who run big sales programs for entry level hires, that they’ll use us, you know, to keep them kind of engaged and informed. We have software engineering, roles, marketing, finance, kind of you name it, anything that’s either an internship or, or an early career program. We’re working with the customers to keep their people warm and engaged and excited about about their roles.

Rob Stevenson 7:14
Gotcha. So we’re talking mostly about like Gen Z at this point, right? This is the generation of people who are entering the workforce. And I remember when I was first getting into the workforce, and I was seeing all these articles about who are millennials, who is this workforce? What do they care about? What how do they need to be managed and led, and I would kind of read those voyeuristically than just like cringe like, Oh, this is how they’re going to paint with broad strokes this entire generation. Now, here we are, and I’m on the other side of that, and I’m probably the one writing these blog posts. Let’s try and do what we saw failing in those blogs 10 years ago, what do you think is characteristic of Gen Z at the early stages of their career? And what do they care about?

Speaker 5 7:54
Yeah, it’s interesting. We did research the end of last year, we interviewed 5000 Gen Z job seekers and learn, basically, you can boil everything they want down into four main things, right? Transparency, connections, respect, and expectations. And when you look at how they interact throughout the entire recruiting funnel from super early, when you’re meeting them, you know, on campus or at events all the way through when they’re actually joining full time, post grad, everything they’re asking for stems from these things, right? They want to know who they’re working with. One, that’s a huge factor. They want to be friends with people they work with, and have that community, but they also want to have that line between work and in the rest of their life. And they want to know, like, what they’re getting themselves into, right? What can I actually expect when they show up to work at this company? Be honest with me, right? There’s so much on social media now, where if you as my employer are telling me one thing, I can go double check and see if that’s actually true pretty quickly and easily. Now. And a lot of that respect is the last thing I said respect is kind of what comes through through all of that, but it really comes down to who am I working with? What am I working on? And how do I actually grow at this company and continue to build my career, I don’t just want a job. I want to actually have a career and and know what I’m doing. And that’s what I value as a Gen Z job seeker.

Rob Stevenson 9:15
What about this perceived or actual difference in the Gen Z generation to previous ones, results in a different approach when it comes to hiring and onboarding?

Speaker 5 9:24
You know, it’s interesting, I think, to your point, right, everyone’s like, Oh, new generation, they’re so different, I think, as people they are and I am actually technically and probably the oldest Gen Z person. And so the iPhone came out when I when I was in maybe third grade or fourth grade. And so we’ve had different ways of communicating and getting information throughout our entire lives. And that’s kind of what we expect. But we also still want the same things in work that a lot of people want, right? Like one we want to make money. There’s a lot of things out there that say that Gen Z doesn’t care about money. It’s not true. Everybody cares about that and everyone’s got bills. it’s ridiculous that people talk about it. But I think the difference is not the only thing they care about. Right? They would sacrifice if they can, as long as they can pay their bills and live and have fun, they would sacrifice some of the extra money for some of the rest of the things you hear about, right with the a lot of like, the social stuff, diversity, everything else that comes along with working at a company, they value that as well. But I think the biggest difference between Gen Z versus everyone else is they’re not afraid to talk about it. Right? If they’re at work, and they see something and they’re not getting what they know, is good at work, they’ll tell you. And so a lot of employers will mistake that for Gen Z has a bad work ethic and all these things that you see online, but in reality, Gen Z is just not afraid to voice their opinions, they see millions of videos on Tiktok day in life at work, they know what going to work in a good environment looks like and if they’re not getting it, they know their worth, they know they can go somewhere else and get it there. So they’ll they’ll talk about it, they’ll bring it up, and they’re not afraid to kind of have those conversations with managers or whoever else, whoever else it is, you know, at the company.

Rob Stevenson 11:01
So when you look at your customers who are engaging well with these folks, what are they doing right?

Speaker 5 11:06
One, I think they’re just aware enough to say, Hey, we got to do something different here. First, they recognize, okay, that these are this is a different generation, they grew up with phones, like I said, they want information different way they’re, they’re willing to change in some way. I think that’s like the bass line of it. And then they just deliver those four things I talked about, right? They help them build community and build connections, at work. And throughout the recruiting process. They’re helping them meet other people who are joining with them, they’re helping them meet managers, mentors, like building actual connection, that at work, and they’re just being honest with them, right? Hey, here’s what the role is, here’s what the company is about, here’s where maybe the company should be doing a better job of certain things. And, and where we know that that we kind of lack and we want to bring people in like you to make this an even better company to work for. And that’s those trends. That’s the transparency. It’s the respect the expectations that people want. So like I said, you know, you go to a career fair, and companies will parade out every diverse employee they have, but then you go look on their website, and there’s nothing that talks about diversity, or you’ll look on LinkedIn, and there’s nothing there you can see like, Gen Z will call BS on a lot of things. And I think the employers that recognize that and get in front of it, and you’re just honest with what’s going on, you know, it goes a long way. And it builds a lot of trust, especially in a, in a world where they’re recruiting and hiring people. Virtually, it’s harder to build trust through a computer screen. So I think, you know, the honest and transparent you can be with these with these people, the better.

Rob Stevenson 12:36
Yeah, and it’s interesting that you don’t really need to reinvent the wheel every time a new generation comes into the process. I feel as though the recruiters out there listening to this who are more thoughtful in their approach are hearing this and they’re like, Yeah, I’ve always kind of done that. I’ve always tried to be transparent. I’ve always recognized that like, Hey, we’re committed to diversity, but look at our C suite isn’t very diverse. Yeah. Like, I know, here’s the plan to fix that. And so this is why it’s like, Look, don’t you don’t need to completely rethink things. Just because these kids are a little younger. Just feels like the thoughtful approach is the same. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, I guess is what I’m saying.

Speaker 5 13:10
Yeah, 100% I really do think the biggest difference here is we Gen Z grew up knowing that work is a two way street. I’m just as valuable to you as you are to me as the person who’s giving me my my paycheck. I think prior generations probably knew that. But it was very much like a hey, you’re lucky to have this job type of thing, right? Like, that’s what my parents and everyone else kind of grew up with is like, hey, go to college, get a job, you’re lucky that someone will, will hire you, you should be thankful, blah, blah, blah. And I think people are still very thankful to have the jobs that they do. But like I said earlier, you know, they they know their worth. So it’s not that they value different things. But if they’re not getting it, they’re gonna say something about it.

Rob Stevenson 13:50
Right, that makes sense. So what do you think companies have traditionally done wrong or done? Not at all, when it comes to identifying, engaging, figuring out how to bring people on at the early stages?

Speaker 5 14:01
I think the biggest thing that I see that goes wrong is they think that their job is done when someone signs our offer letter. And the biggest difference with early career talent, and everybody else is that generally speaking, you’re hiring early career talent very far in advance the traditional recruiting cycles in the fall, they’re not starting till next summer. Sometimes in certain industries. It’s even longer than that, just because that’s how it’s really the only way they can compete. And when someone signs an offer, that’s kind of when the the job just gets going. Right, you’re still recruiting those people you’re still having to do, you know, potentially even more work than you were to get them to that point, just because now they know, hey, I’ve got something I have a little bit of leverage. And now I can go probably do this again and get something else if I wanted to. Right? And so that’s where those four things that Gen Z really values, transparency, respect, community expectations, that’s where all of that really comes into play. As soon as I sign my offer, I want to know who else I’m wearing. Because I want to be able to get to know them, become friends with them understand even more about my job. And so when I’m not getting that, I start to go look elsewhere, right? I’m an anxious 20 year old, do I even still have this job? I haven’t heard from my employer. I saw my offer in October, I haven’t heard from them in four months did I even get hired? Those are the things that go through their their mind. And that’s what drives them to start looking. So a lot of it really is just like the consistent engagement and knowing the comfortability factor of knowing that this thing still exists. When companies don’t do that, or they do it very, they’re just going through the motions. That’s when I think a lot of the ghosting arena is or you know, all the things you hear about start to really happen kind of at scale.

Rob Stevenson 15:40
So in that example, where there’s like, a long time between an offer and a start date, you think the issue is that college students or whomever? And as time goes by, and they’re like, do I still have a job here? Like, are they not being heard from? Are they like emailing a recruiter and not getting anything back? Or is the team they’re meant to be working on? Not reaching out what happens to make them believe that this thing’s not real?

Speaker 5 16:00
I think it’s both. I’ve heard a lot of stories from students where they’ll send an email to someone asking got 100 questions, right? A lot of them have just the first job they’ve ever had. And it can be basic things of like, am I going to get a laptop? Or where should I live, things like that, that aren’t complicated, they’ll they’ll email and either won’t hear back or it’ll take weeks or a month to hear back on a question like that. And I’ve heard even worse stories where literally people will sign an offer in October and won’t hear anything from the company until April, one month before they’re supposed to start. That’s a long time, six months of watching your friends, get jobs and have other experiences. And when you don’t have a ton of context on how things generally work outside of being in school, and you just have your friend group and everyone else is doing something and you’re not a lot of questions start to pop up in your mind. Or, or even if it’s not questions, you just like, well, I could just why don’t I just go work with my friend at this company, they’re having a better experience anyway, I’ll just go do that. It’s very easy, especially when everything is happening virtually right. I don’t know, the recruiter, I’ve met them on Zoom, I have no loyalty to that person. And when there’s not a lot of reciprocation, or trust being being built, it’s very easy for me to say, hey, you know what, thanks. But I’m just gonna go do this instead. And that’s what happens as it happens a lot of time.

Rob Stevenson 17:16
Yeah, it’s good to remember the things that early talent doesn’t know. And that’s a generation agnostic thing. That thing is just typical of anyone who is entering the workforce for the first time. You mentioned a couple of examples like, Oh, am I gonna get a laptop? How do I relocate? How do I find an apartment there, it’s really not the company’s job to teach you how to get on Zillow, or Craigslist, or Facebook marketplace or whatever to find a place to live. But you kind of have to with those, like you’re there. They’re making all those decisions based on you and your role. So there’s a little bit of like, you need to be kind of an early career consultant for these people. And like, teach them a little bit about how to how to work how to like, oh, yeah, make sure you when you get here to when you relocate to the city, you need this public transit pass, we have this stipend for public transit, you’re going to need us to get into work, that kind of thing. Or here’s how parking works, or just stuff that a mid career talent person, something that someone who has a few years experience in the working world just knows from having done it before. But it makes you panic if you’re 20 and a half years old, and you’re like how am I don’t have a laptop, I’ve been using this, these loaner computers for my college or this, like I go to the library all the time to get my computer, I use my phone to edit documents, all these things that they don’t know. Yeah, exactly. What do you think are some other things that early talent really desperately needs to know that companies do a bad job of telling them?

Speaker 5 18:33
Well? That’s a good question. I think it’s a lot of what we’ve talked about, to be honest with you just like the basics of showing up to work and how to even do that. I think what they want, that they aren’t getting, and this is a little bit harder to provide is is a lot of the like, just skills and how do I get better as a XYZ employee? How can I start doing that before I even get there, like these kids want to be successful, they want to show up and impress you. They just don’t really know how to like ask those questions or do that necessarily, on their own. Some of them do. But generally speaking, I think they want to be kind of told, Hey, go do these things. This is going to help you, you know, come to day one very, very prepared to be a good employee here and be a good intern here. I think that’s when I see companies doing that. Those are the one on top of all the other things right with the community and kind of proactively answering all these questions. Those are the companies that do a very good job of minimizing reneges and turnover in the early career world.

Rob Stevenson 19:32
Yeah, that makes sense. I just thought one dress code is one. Yep. Telling people what are the expectations to wear when I was making hires? I was like, mid level in my career. I was interviewing early talent, and they come into the for the interview, and they’re like in a full suit and tie that looks terrible because they’ve had to borrow it for this interview. And then I show up and I’m in like a T shirt and jeans. And I wish that the recruiting coordinator or probably you know me in that case needs to be like look, just give them a couple of guidelines like they don’t have To be in a full suit, a shirt with a collar slacks about nice shoes, like it doesn’t need to be crazy. But these are things that you don’t know. And so what like, what do you do, if you don’t know, but show up in like the nicest outfit you can put together. And it’s like a little thing. But these are all parts of a company culture that you’re not telling someone, it just creates this discord from jump, and you can alleviate that if you put yourself in their ill fitting shoes a little bit, right?

Speaker 5 20:24
Yeah, I heard this the other day. I hadn’t even thought about this. But it’s kind of ridiculous that companies are having to do but I think there’s so little expectation being set on working hours, especially in certain industries, financial services being the biggest, where they’re literally getting calls from people’s parents, saying, Hey, why is Ben having to work 60 hours a week, and in March, he’s doing audit, right? It’s like, well, that’s busy season. And that’s how it goes. But it’s almost like you have to your point, setting his expectations for the talents, almost like now you have to start because Gen Z i guess is different. And they kind of were spoon fed certain things. Now you have to start setting expectations for the people around them, too, because they don’t know how to voice that to their parents or their girlfriend or boyfriend or whoever it might be which side start was like, pretty funny. But also a little ridiculous that companies are having to do that. Now.

Rob Stevenson 21:19
I bet that’s not that uncommon for early talent to be like mom calls to be like, what should they wear? When do they show up? How late are they have to come to work? They had to work during dinnertime, you know, they still live at home. And then they’re like strep in their room on their laptop all the time doing this job. Or I heard a story one time like data calls to be like, Why did you fire my child? What would you do in that position? If you were working at a company and someone’s parent emailed? You, I think I would probably not respond. And I would probably go to the actual person and be like, Look, I get it, your parents love you. But that’s completely inappropriate. You need to be the like, you’re the only person in your family who we coordinate this stuff with? Yeah,

Speaker 5 21:53
agreed, I would figure out a way to empower that person to have the conversation with their parents and explain their job and why they work in certain ways or why certain things have to happen. But yeah, at some point, you kind of have to draw the line and say, you know, this isn’t this isn’t school anymore. This is work and I hired your child to work for us. I didn’t hire you. My obligation is to your your kid. I think a lot of it is is just helping the the early career people have those conversations better. But but a lot of that too, is family dynamics and things that you just like, don’t need to be involved with as an employer.

Rob Stevenson 22:29
Right, right. I will amend my statement, I think I probably would respond to the email just to tell them that they are humiliating their child and making them look really unprofessional. I’m very petty over email. So that’s maybe just me.

Ben Siegel 22:42
Yeah, that’s probably the only response that that’s warranted.

Rob Stevenson 22:44
Right. Right. Well, then I swore I’d never do that. Would you just kind of share with me like at a high level? What happens when people recruiters use your use the tool? Like are they just receiving introductions? Or how does the how does the whole process work? Yeah,

Speaker 5 22:57
for sure. So we help companies engage and retain Gen Z talent from the time they sign their offer, until they’re 100% ramped up in their role as a full time employee. So that can be signing their offer as an intern, going through the whole internship program, converting to full time and then re onboarding, their that’s generally when when people are using our platform. And what we do is kind of everything we talked about, right? We help build community and we help set expectations and share engaging content so that people are excited and prepared to show up to work. And then for our customers tracking all of that, and, and using a lot of analytics to create what we call like a risk score. So we can tell the employer, hey, this group of people is at risk of churning because of all these different reasons and data points that we have. And that’s where you need to go spend your time to either get in front of it, or backfill those roles, because now you have more time to kind of deal with the situation than than before.

Rob Stevenson 23:53
Gotcha. Yeah, thanks for sharing that. That’s why I wanted to have you on too, is because you focus on this on this very specific part of the hiring process that I think is underserved in our industry a little bit. You mentioned, you kind of recommend content to serve up to help engage folks, what does that typically look like?

Speaker 5 24:08
Yeah, it’s kind of twofold. Like one is format. I think it’s it’s interesting when when a new customer joins us to see kind of how they’ve been sharing information, versus how a Gen Z person is used to receiving information, right? Generally, there’s these long form newsletters, they’re just very text heavy that nobody reads. And so a lot of it is splitting that out into like, Okay, what’s kind of the main goal here? And what’s the high level? And how do you just like make this enticing to, to read and then from a actual content perspective? Again, it’s a lot of what we talked about, right? Like housing guides, how to find a roommate parking dress code, like all these little things that are top of mind for people who are who are joining a new company. But honestly, the biggest piece of of why I think our platform has worked for for our customers is the community that that we build, right? Like we want to show up to work with people Who we have a connection with. And that’s the reason why we stick around or maybe are willing to work the extra hours during busy season. Right? So we know that we’re in it together, and we’re in it with these, these people. And so we focus a lot on the community side. Yeah.

Rob Stevenson 25:13
Got it. Well, then, before I let you go, I would love to just have you share some parting words of advice for the folks out there listening. If someone out there is struggling with the engagement or retention of the early stage talent, what is something that they can do to improve that short of of course, going to about and requesting a demo?

Speaker 5 25:31
I think the biggest thing is just build community, right? Like that’s the number one thing that this generation values, they want to know who they’re working with, not only from a peer perspective, but mentors, managers, the more people that you can get involved at the company who they will be working with and help them build a relationship before day one. That’s the number one thing that people can do to retain Gen Z.

Rob Stevenson 25:55
Love it, then this has been great chatting with you. Awesome advice and congrats on the success you’ve had thus far. I love hearing about your company, your product and your approach. So thanks for being here today.

Ben Siegel 26:04
Yeah, thanks for having me.

Rob Stevenson 26:08
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