“Now, more than ever, everything a company does is part of the employee experience, and this is changing how recruitment should operate.”
Philip Alexander is a CEO and co-founder of Mentorial – the career development platform, as well as the Employee Experience and HR content curator for Startup Digest, based in London. In this interview, he shared his thoughts and advice on current trends in the recruitment and HR industry and how Mentorial is set to disrupt these sectors.
Philip, what is Mentorial and what do you do? How does your work with Startup Digest fit into that?
Mentorial is a career development platform which is designed to make HR work as well for people as it does for companies. Current talent systems focus on the company first, and usually have limited take-up by employees. This generates low data quantity and quality, meaning you can’t run complex models and analytics. By designing Mentorial for staff first, we are able to capture unique data and use this to drive insights for companies, such as skills maps, sentiment analysis and workforce planning. Our first product is a platform, driven by algorithms, to connect individual employees with the right people to speak to within their business, helping get information from where it is, to where it needs to be. We are also currently developing the second part of the platform, which is for career planning.
The Startup Digest on HR and Employee Experience started earlier this year in an effort to help startups and investors get information on best practices across the field. Some of this is from academic research, and we also include case studies, and articles about trends in the future of work.
How big is your team and when did you start your business?
We started Mentorial just under a year ago. There is a core team of us working on it, each with deep expertise in a particular area, from engineering to sales and marketing.
What are the main HR & engagement challenges of the companies you meet and/or work with?
The core challenge for most business is how to attract, develop and retain the best talent. On a more nuanced level, we see three key challenges:
- How do you create an individual experience at scale? Creating a personalised experience for one person in the company is relatively straightforward. As the company grows however, they need to learn how to scale this.
- How do you adapt to shifts in the workforce? With automation, new technologies and more fluid workforces, the decisions around which skills to build, buy, borrow or rent are getting harder.
- How can take advantage of the scale we have? As a company scales it has to reassess how it works, including its people, processes and technology. Once they are operating at a scale of a few thousand people, getting information from where it is, to where it needs to be is a real problem
From your experience, what is the best way for employers to understand what’s important to their people?
This varies by size, but this has to be a conversation between the employees and the company on an ongoing basis. Companies communicate with employees through their behaviours, e.g. how their colleagues act on a daily basis or the smell of the offices. Leaders, at all levels, should be able to see where this isn’t being fulfilled within the company. This could be picked up in 1:1’s with staff, or through great enabling technologies such as Culture Amp.
How has recruitment changed in the last few years with the rising tide of digital hiring?
Digitisation has amplified the trends that were already seen in the market. The most meaningful trend I have seen is that of blending HR with the wider business to create an ‘employee experience’. As an example, after seeing a show or film you didn’t like, would that encourage or discourage you to work there? If you had a bad experience with Uber, would you be more or less likely to work there? If you saw a company had glowing reviews on Glassdoor, and were promised certain things in the interview that weren’t true – would you share this with people you knew, and your dissatisfaction on social media? This could dramatically impact other people wanting to join that company. Now, more than ever, everything a company does is part of the employee experience, and this is changing how recruitment should operate.
In your opinion, what will be the main HR and recruitment trends in upcoming years for SMEs?
I think we are mid-cycle for some of the key trends: personalisation, adapting to a new workforce and changing technological foundations. As these develop I think the key trend will be the increasing role of data (both predictive and retrospective) to drive HR decisions.
What’s the most important piece of advice you can give to CEOs, HR managers or anyone else dealing with HR in a company of any size?
My best advice is that company strategy and talent are one and the same thing. The strategy sets the underlying logic and coherent action for a company, and talent is making sure you have the people to deliver this. One will not work without the other.
Philip Alexander is the CEO and co-founder of Mentorial and the editor of the Startup Digest on HR and Employee Experience. Previously, Philip worked as Head of Strategy, Talent and Operations for a VC-backed start-up, and as a strategy consultant for a major consultancy. He is also a Governor of two schools in Lambeth, and a mentor with a leading UK charity.
Follow Philip on Twitter.