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HRExaminer Radio

Guest: Andrew Gadomski, Founder of Aspen Advisors
Episode: 106
Air Date: August 7, 2015



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Andrew Gadomski is the Founder of Aspen Advisors. Aspen designs data rich solutions for large scale recruiting organizations that provide talent analytics, benchmarking insights, and increased recruiter efficiency.

After a diverse and successful career in staffing and branding that included leadership roles at Honeywell and Banister International, Andrew founded Aspen Advisors.

Aspen typically works with one of three kinds of organizations. They work with large scale, global enterprises within the EU, Asia Pac, and Australia, as well as North America. They create business efficiencies for global HR outsourcing and Recruiting Process Outsourcers (RPO) and their clients. And they work with business intelligence organizations who are trying to understand the business metrics impacting HR.

In addition, Andrew is an adjunct professor at NYU, where he and his team have created curriculum that enables people to use online tools to advance their careers, teach undergraduates and graduate students how recruiters find talent, and how to effectively navigate the world of hiring and recruiting.

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Begin transcript

John Sumser:            Good morning, and welcome to the HRExaminer radio show. I’m your host, John Sumser, and we’re coming to you from beautiful downtown Occidental, California, a little Swiss village in the mountains overlooking the ocean in western Sonoma County. Today we’re going to be talking with Andrew Gadomski, who’s the founder and chief adviser of Aspen Advisors. Andrew is a compelling figure who emerged in the recruiting universe in the last decade or so, and has built himself an astonishing business and reputation in relatively short time. We’re going to let him tell you what he’s up to, and poke a little bit at the business that he’s building.

Andrew, how are you?

Andrew Gadomski:  I’m well, John. Thanks for having me on the show. Hello, all HRExaminer listeners, I’m excited to be here.

John Sumser:            Why don’t you introduce yourself? Tell us about Andrew Gadomski.

Andrew Gadomski:  Sure. Greetings from the other side of the United States. As John tends to look at the Pacific, I tend to look at the Atlantic Ocean. I’m located here in southern New Jersey, not far from Marvin Gardens and Ventnor Avenue from your Monopoly board. I live just south of Atlantic City with my wife of 15 years and my daughter, who’s three years old, and enjoy the summers here. My team, who is obviously part of my family at Aspen, this is a great group of people who I work with on a day-in, day-out basis. We help our client organizations really take a look at how they do recruiting and how they use the data inside their business, both from the business side as well as the HR side, to create new activity, to drive more performance, and manage their teams more effectively. Most of our clients are very large-scale organizations, usually tens of thousands of people, and they’re usually doing in excess of 15,000 hires a year. That’s our specialization. We do that work for Global 100 and Global 1,000 organizations, but we also do a lot of that work for human resource outsourcing providers who service those organizations.

That’s who we are. It’s an interesting little boutique business that I’ve been fortunate to run for the better part of ten years, and I’m having a great time.

John Sumser:            I listened to you tell me what you do, and I’m still not clear what you do. Give me an example.

Andrew Gadomski:  I’ll give you two. Let’s say we’re working with a large-scale corporation that is … a bank, or maybe they’re a manufacturer. They’ll have us come in and work with their CHRO and their heads of talent, and typically what they’re asking us to do is to redesign the overall recruiting processes that they have, from scratch in many cases, or they’re asking us to just improve them. Part of our methodology is that we’ll connect all the different data systems that they’re using for recruiting in HR to help them understand, “This is how you’re going to actually get better. We’re going to actually put in new processes, and we’re going to watch the data actually change.” We give them all kinds of visibility with reports and metrics and so on, but that’s really so they can actually see themselves getting better. Reducing time, increasing quality, increasing satisfaction, and we can do that at all levels of their business globally, from a central location.

It’s an unusual set of tools that we’ll use, John, to do that, and it’s an unusual business case. Most organizations we deal with are well established, and they typically do a pretty good job. They’re asking us to do an even better one. That’s a very consultative approach, and we use the data as really a resource in order to do our job effectively. That’s one example, and that carries a good portion of our revenue stream.

The other example I’d give you is we do similar work to that, but we do it for outsourcing providers in the marketplace. These are your HRO, RPO, your human resource outsourcing, your recruit process outsourcing, or business process outsourcing organizations. We’ll do similar work for them. It’s usually more data centric, where they’re asking us to blend together 30, 40, 50 different systems that they have access to, so they’re managing multiple ATS’s, CRM technologies, and HRIS technologies. We’ll pull all that data together for them so they can see it centrally, so they can manage their teams. They tend to own the process re-engineering themselves; we’re giving them the data ability in order to see it, and then we advise them on large-scale enterprise initiatives that they want to do for themselves. They’ll take that data work and they’ll take that system … They tend to white-label our solutions as their own, John. We partner with them, and they’ll make their talent analytics part of their differentiation, and we’re powering their talent analytics.

Does that help?

John Sumser:            A little bit. Let me try telling you what I heard you say. I believe that what you just said is that your clients, and this is probably the case of most people who are exercising some sort of a large-scale recruiting operation, have a great big data flow, but they don’t know how to understand what’s inside of that data flow, and that what you and your company do are capture that data, reconfigure it, and display it to your clients so that they can use the data as a tool for navigation in a forward direction, which you can’t if it’s just a [inaudible 00:07:15] data. You come in, you take the data, you make sense out of the data, and you use it as a mirror to help your clients get where they need to go. Is that right?

Andrew Gadomski:  Pretty good, John. Yeah. That’s true, because the data’s flowing inside our platform on a daily basis and being revealed to them on a daily basis. As the data flows in, it’s being revealed to them in a way that’s very actionable. We don’t do a moment in time, where, “Let’s take a look at your data, and then tell you what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and then go away.” It’s an ongoing flow of information that gets revealed to them on their phones, with alerts, with digests, with dashboards, with presentations, on an automated basis. They can have an operating system on management structure based on data, and based on proof. That’s our value.

John Sumser:            Right, so the deal is you give people real-time feedback about performance across the function, and to some sort of an individual level, is that fair?

Andrew Gadomski:  Exactly. That goes across a number of different solutions. We’ve got a customer, as an example, it’s a large-scale organization, and they do real-time satisfaction for both candidates, hiring managers, and then their recruiters, and it’s embedded throughout their ATS, CRM, social media platforms, where on a daily basis they’re collecting that data and it’s automatically being distributed to certain people in the organization to tell them how they’re doing on satisfaction, whether it’s by function or by region, or by function and region, or by recruiter. It’s constantly being managed very similar, and then produces net promotion scores very similarly to how we track customer satisfaction in the world of the consumer. It’s the same model, it’s just done in recruiting.

John Sumser:            [inaudible 00:09:29]. You are helping people who are drowning in data make sense out of the data, that’s [crosstalk 00:09:36].

Andrew Gadomski:  You got it.

John Sumser:            [crosstalk 00:09:37] great thing. Did you grow up in … south of Atlantic City? Is that home?

Andrew Gadomski:  No, I grew up … I’ve been a Phillies fan for a long, long time, because I grew up on the other side of Philadelphia Phillies country. I grew up north of Philadelphia, in the town of Bethlehem, home of Bethlehem Steel and steel country, so that’s home.

John Sumser:            Got it. As a young boy in a steel town, I can’t imagine that this was your dream. How did you get here?

Andrew Gadomski:  You know what? I started as an engineer. My father and my uncle, they were both engineers. We grew up in an engineering company. I was a science geek, and used computers when I was really young, and I’m 40, John, so I’m eight, nine years old using the first Lisa’s and stuff like that. Way back when, doing stuff on BASIC and LOGO and stuff. I grew up with technology, and I ended up going and starting in engineering as a [chem-mi 00:10:50]. Loved it, but didn’t want to do it, so I moved towards technology. I was working in internet technology very young, did webcasting in 1997, doing all kinds of weird distance education learning using online technology, and really got a flavor for it. Oddly enough, I was working in branding at a tech company, and didn’t like the work that much. Met with a couple of what were called headhunters then, because I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to find a new job. I was employed, but I didn’t know what to do.

One of them said, “You know engineering, you know how to sell, you know how to market; why don’t you become a recruiter?” I said, “Okay.” I took a job at a retained executive search firm. They threw the phone book at me and said, “Go call up a bunch of general managers and heads of supply chain, and start making relationships.” That was the beginning of my start in recruiting, and it didn’t take me long to figure out then that there’s not a lot of technology used in recruiting, HR is going to get barraged with technology, there’s a real business here if I want it to help companies understand how to use data, how to use technology to manage themselves. That was back right around 9-11, where I came up with that idea, and then worked my career in such a way so I could actually build this business [inaudible 00:12:38].

John Sumser:            Wow, that’s pretty amazing. That’s a lot of foresight. What’s a day like for you as an engineer turned recruiter turned technology vendor?

Andrew Gadomski:  On any given day, we have a number of companies that are accessing the platform, so we have a software technology and … You have the part of your day that’s managing product development associated with the advancement of a software product. I have a team of people who are constantly developing new ideas, and we’re looking at, okay, how do we make that into a widget, what’s the business value for that, and okay, let’s turn that into an actual product, and we’ll productize those features that fit [inaudible 00:13:27]. I have that as part of my day.

Then I have the consulting part of my day, where we have companies with ongoing projects that are … In some cases, they’re redesigning their recruiting program globally, or if they’re a RPO or a HRO organization, maybe we’re working with two or three or four of their downstream companies to help them understand talent analytics. We’re managing those projects for them, and we’re interfacing with the clients on a regular basis, based on projects plans that my team execute. That usually takes up about 70% of my day between both, and managing that and working with my team.

The other 30% of the day is talking. It’s talking to leaders, and it’s talking to thought leaders in the market, and talking to new technologists, and talking to people who were inventing, and understanding where the market is going. I’d say usually three, four, to six times a week, I just have a conversation with the business leader about, “What do you need? What’s going on? What do you see?” Or I talk with the CEO of ATS organization and say, “Tell me about your development. Where are you moving, and why are you moving that way?” Today is a good example of that. I have those kinds of meetings set up today and tomorrow, or today and Monday, and it’s pretty normal.

John Sumser:            You’re talking to the heads of ATS companies and the data producers. What’s changing? What’s happening there?

Andrew Gadomski:  Well, they tend to talk to us because they want to understand what our clients want from a talent analytics perspective. They want to know what they need, and it seems that there’s a lot of discussion around being able to … I think there’s a CRM and an ATS natural integration going on. You’re seeing a lot of bolt-on’s between an ATS and a CRM, or the ability for the two to speak, and those providers are genuinely interested in making sure that their technology can serve as a conduit for a head of HR or a head of talent to see the entire talent acquisition process in front of them, from sourcing all the way to hire. We have conversations, so those conversations tend to be around, “How can we integrate more data? How can we help our customers see more? Are we moving in the direction where we should be developing our own CRM architecture, or should we be bolting on a CRM architecture?”

I think there’s a lot of conversation, John, around assessment the same way, where there’s a lot of third party assessment and there’s a natural conversation around, “Can we get that assessment to live and breathe inside the ATS technology, and can we make it seamless for our customers to pick an assessment tool, but then make sure that they’re still using our tools to manage the day-to-day?” Overall, system integration is, I think, a pretty … I don’t want to say it’s a hot topic; it’s a constant topic, but I’ll admit, John, I’m not seeing a lot of, “Oh, wow, that’s so amazing! No one’s ever done that.” I think we’re all following each other a little bit there.

John Sumser:            That’s interesting. I hear you saying underneath all that that your road map is going to include … You’ve done data integration and visibility, and you’re starting to think about delivering functionality. Is that right?

Andrew Gadomski:  Mm-hmm.

John Sumser:            If you’re starting to think about functionality, what are the kinds of functionality that we should expect to see from you guys?

Andrew Gadomski:  From us, we’re really starting to branch two different ways. One is beyond the hire, so the amount of performance management data and actual business operations data that we’re starting to get from our customers to try to say, “These people are performing, or the people that we hired are performing in certain ways, and/or as expected” is increasing. That data has become more stable, and that data can be supply chain data or customer service data, or finance data, or marketing data. We’re starting to see that come in to our platform, and starting to have actual business outcome linkage between what HR does and how does it impact the business. We’re starting to drive a lot more visibility around that, and our bridge right now is really by helping people understand, at first, what are the skills that people have who are performing that work? We’ve got new products that help us map an entire organization and see within … See 100,000 people on the screen, understand their skills, understand how long they’ve been there, but now we can start understanding their general impact and their general performance visibly. It’s not easy to do, but that’s what we’re attempting to do. We’re trying to make it easy to understand where the hot spots are in terms of performance and business outcome.

I think the other direction that we’re moving in is getting very focused on financials, and understanding costs and ROI as an actual package of talent acquisition, and saying, “You know exactly how you’re spending, where you’re spending. What’s the ROI, what’s the risk, and what’s the reward?” We’ve done an okay job, I think, as an industry in trying to understand cost, but it’s a lot easier when we’re getting information from the general ledger. We’re getting the actual financials of the business at the call center level. There’s so much more visibility you can add to a talent acquisition organization when you can see what all the hiring managers are actually spending money on in terms of time and materials and expense.

I don’t want to say it’s exciting, John, but it’s got a lot of teeth. Having real visibility of the cost structure is always a good thing.

John Sumser:            Well, it’s an interesting thing. It’s always been my opinion that in recruiting in specific, cost matters extraordinarily in a down cycle, and it’s not particularly significant in an up cycle. The hardest thing that I’ve seen over the years in getting cost into the conversation about recruiting, and specifically about the hiring process in specific, is that cost doesn’t always mean the same thing.

Andrew Gadomski:  Right.

John Sumser:            Right, and it’s very deceptive, because it always comes in dollars and cents, and you can always divide numbers, get calculations; but if you need a developer in a hurry to make a deadline on a real contract, with real margin for your real company, it may not actually matter how much it costs to get them.

Andrew Gadomski:  Right.

John Sumser:            Right? The value that is unleashed when you have them is beyond calculation, and the value that is lost when you don’t have them is beyond calculation. The idea that the administrators who help hiring managers staff their departments, that an acute look at what those administrators do and how their expenses are incurred, is a narrow cast view of the value of hiring. Don’t you think?

Andrew Gadomski:  Well, it is, and the reason why it’s not the first thing we’ve looked at is because we need to have a better understanding first of the operational models and the outputs, the business outcomes and the outputs, and then satisfaction as well. Cost by itself has value, understanding that, but understanding this business, how well it’s received, the service level it provides, then the cost structure it has, and then the consistency that it delivers, when those things are packaged together it’s a lot more insightful. We can say, “Oh, your business model produces these products and services downstream, and here’s how they’re received, here’s how they’re rated, and here are your overall results. Here’s how many candidates you’ve got, and here’s how many interviews you’re producing. By the way, we’ve got a cost structure that helps us understand what your ROI is, and where you can potentially mitigate change, or mitigate your risk.”

Now, where cost really becomes fun is actually not tracking what you spent, it’s when you do simulations. It’s when you say, “We’re going to build here. We’re going to buy another business. We’re going to think about bringing on another thousand people through an acquisition. The question is, how do we staff for it, where do we staff for it, how have we done it in the past, and can you tell us what our exposure is in terms of cost and in terms of ROI?” That’s where this stuff gets more exciting, John. It’s not looking at what you spent, it’s looking at what you could spend. The other stuff is just kind of fun. “Okay, we saved some money here, we avoided some agency work, I get that.” This is more about large-scale businesses making decisions on, “Do we hire people, or do we use contingent labor? Do we use outsource providers to do this work? Do we acquire a business?” That’s where cost has a lot more meat on the bone.

John Sumser:            That’s great. You’re a technology company, and my guess is that like most technology companies, part of growth is the exploration of the technology that it actually takes to execute your platform. Talk about what you’ve learned there, and how that’s going.

Andrew Gadomski:  We’re a [stack 00:24:25] technology company. What that ends up meaning is I don’t have what I would call a ton of developers who are sitting there banging on code and doing application experiments. What we’re looking at is all of our data that we get are already resident in third party systems, so no one uses our tool as a system of record. The data that comes to us is always either structured in rows and columns, or it’s unstructured, where it’s usually in a document or it’s in wide text, or something like that. As we look to advance our technologies, we’re always looking at it from a use case perspective. What do we think that the business is going to need?

For example, we’re spending a lot more time right now working with technologists that are focused on resume analytics, studying unstructured data or unstructured text, whether it’s in a resume or it’s in a LinkedIn profile, or it’s in the actual work product on a server, and evaluating and grading and scoring that data such that, “Oh, we scanned our data sets, and here’s somebody who could be a controller for the business, just based on the work that they’re doing, or the employee profile that they had,” really without any kind of Boolean search or any kind of semantic engine. Just actual unstructured data algorithm analysis. That’s the kind of stuff that we’ll look at. We’ll know that unstructured data algorithms exist, we’ll look to see how to integrate those, and then find a business use case for them. That’s usually how we develop our technology.

John Sumser:            That’s cool. Talk about your team. That means that you have to have a pretty agile team, who are capable of leaping between new application packages as they come along. Where do you find people –

Andrew Gadomski:  Yeah. Well, we’re fortunate that I’ve got different development teams that want to partner with us, and then invest their time and effort. A lot of what we do is we have more joint venture arrangements with development teams. I’ve got a development team in Westchester, New York, and they’re primarily focused on satisfaction and unstructured data, and work with that group. They’re constantly developing new ideas. We help them recruit as we need to, and we’ll drive people into their business. We do the same thing for another development team that we’ve got outside of Indianapolis, and they’re growing. They tend to focus primarily on the structured data that we look at, the rows and columns. They’re constantly looking for junior SQL development, or SQL development, or they’re looking for people who can go ahead and handle large calculation structures.

I think what we end up doing, John, is we’re fortunate that the entire team is remote, number one. People tend to work out executive offices, or they work out of their homes, which gives a tremendous amount of flexibility. We use project management to make it where our deadlines are based on the week, rather than the day, so people can work whenever they want to work. We’ve got people with … they’ve got families, or they work part time, or they split their time, or they work on weekends. I think part of our ability to attract talent for development resources is that we’re wildly flexible, and we say, “Look, have fun. Here’s an idea, go play with it. If that only means you’re going to play with it for 20 hours a week, okay, we’ll hook you up with another person who’s going to work 20 hours a week. We’re going to go ahead and push up when we’re going to release that product another four weeks, because we have a part time crew working on it.”

I think part of what’s interesting, John, is that I don’t have the pressures of having a venture-backed organization. If we want to develop a product, it’s going to be on a time line that works for us, not works on the time line for a bunch of investors who are hammering us to grow at a certain rate. We’re a little bit more cautious about our product development, and that means that I can be more deliberate with how I invest time and resource and development with my dashing team, to do what they need to do for themselves. That’s great, it’s an interesting culture that way.

John Sumser:            Fantastic. We have easily exhausted our time together today, it’s been great having you here. What do you want to make sure a listener remembers?

Andrew Gadomski:  This stuff around using data and trying to make it actionable isn’t easy. It’s not. It takes diligence, and it takes time, and it takes real expertise. If you can do it in the spreadsheet, then it deserves to be there. If it’s hard to do in a spreadsheet, then you probably need experts. That’s what we’re here to do. I hope people realize that the work that we’re doing is important, and it impacts tens of thousands of people every day, and we’re really excited about the way that we’re able to use data to make people’s employment and lives better. I hope more people come on the bandwagon and start doing the same.

John Sumser:            That’s great. Andrew, please reintroduce yourself, and tell people how they can get a hold of you.

Andrew Gadomski:  Sure. It’s Andrew Gadomski, and best way to go to us is, it’s for the website. Our offices are in New York, and we’ve got people throughout the United States and globally. You can call me anytime at the office, and that’s 877-aspen50, or you can email me at

John Sumser:            Thanks so much, Andrew Gadomski, founder and chief advisor of Aspen Advisors. If you are in the recruiting business in a large organization and you want to make sense out of your data, Andrew is one of the folks you should be in touch with. Thanks again for listening in. You’ve been tuned in to the HRExaminer radio show. I’m your host, John Sumser, and have a great day. Thanks again, Andrew.

Andrew Gadomski:  Thanks, everybody. Bye, John.

End transcript

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