HRExaminer Radio Executive Conversations Badge Podcast Logo

HRx Radio – Executive Conversations: On Friday mornings, John Sumser interviews key executives from around the industry. The conversation covers what makes the executive tick and what makes their company great.

HRx Radio – Executive Conversations

Guest: Damon Gage President North America, Head Of Sales, Vervoe
Episode: 326
Air Date: May 24, 2019




Important: Our transcripts at HRExaminer are AI-powered (and fairly accurate) but there are still instances where the robots get confused and make errors. Please expect some inaccuracies as you read through the text of this conversation. Thank you for your understanding.

Full Transcript with timecode

00:00:14:08 – 00:00:25:09
Hey, good morning and welcome HRExaminer’s Executive Conversations . I’m your host Jon Sumser and today we’re going to be talking with Damon Gage from Vervoe.

00:00:25:09 – 00:00:26:10
Damon how are you?

00:00:26:10 – 00:00:29:21
Good morning John. I’m well, thanks for having me on this morning.

00:00:29:25 – 00:00:32:24
Would you take a moment and introduce yourself?

00:00:32:24 – 00:01:09:12
Sure John. Happy to do so. Interestingly enough I don’t have an extremely long history in the HR and create space but I was introduced to our co-founders at Vervoe, Omer Molad and David Weinberg by one of our board directors and immediately fell in love with their passion about the space and specifically the excitement around the problem that they’re solving within the market space. My career specifically John has been working with teams to better realize ways of utilizing technology and simply doing that for the understanding of data.

00:01:09:14 – 00:01:25:09
Now with Vervoe and able to really focus that passion around. The hiring process and then more importantly working diligently to better understand the diversity and inclusion, diversity and inclusion challenges that are within the space. So you’re starting about

00:01:27:03 – 00:01:33:04
Crosstalk: So you’re a surfer, I am, and I live in northern California on the coast in the Half Moon Bay Area actually.

00:01:33:12 – 00:01:35:05
So how often do you get out and surf?

00:01:35:18 – 00:01:36:29
Not nearly enough John.

00:01:37:01 – 00:01:39:00
I mean you know it’s

00:01:40:29 – 00:01:48:02
not nearly enough. But I do try to get out a few days a week with no weekends maybe very early morning you know

00:01:48:08 – 00:01:52:15
Yeah, not nearly enough. A few days a week seems to be

00:01:53:02 – 00:01:55:24
non overlapping circles in a venn diagram

00:01:57:11 – 00:02:01:25
that sounds pretty good. So, you put a wet suit on and go out and look like Shark food!

00:02:03:02 – 00:02:11:02
I do, wetsuit, booties, gloves you name it you know. You know the Northern California coast and it’s a little chilly in our water.

00:02:11:12 – 00:02:27:00
It is a little chilly, so I don’t think there are a lot of surfers running American HR tech companies. It’s a unique class that you’re setting. You think surfing has something to teach your management about this process?

00:02:28:00 – 00:03:00:25
That is an interesting question. There is, there’s certainly a peacefulness that comes along the surface which is why I love it allows me to get away from all the noise that we hear on a daily basis and allows me to kind of focus in really kind of my get away. If anything I think you know in particular what we face on a daily basis is just a lot of noise all around us and an ever increasing data market. So maybe it’s just the idea of being able to another peace and quiet and focus in on what it is for all of us.

00:03:01:24 – 00:03:07:08
So how did you how does it seem and what does it do.

00:03:07:09 – 00:03:43:13
Great great question and Vevo means the real you and really mean understanding who you are and Vevo specifically what it does is it really an intelligent platform that will allow you to evaluate candidates or applicants on the job skills and then we automatically recommend top scores to hiring managers and recruiters. So the candidates can actually prove their skills in the platform John through real life scenarios and then we use a guy on the back in two separate or those candidates based solely on how they perform.

00:03:43:13 – 00:04:03:26
We don’t look at gender race age education background what’s going on the platform one hundred percent based on performance. Our goal was to eliminate the need for resumé screening can often lead to biases in hiring and our goal is to really give everyone an equal opportunity to showcase their skills.

00:04:03:27 – 00:04:09:28
That’s an interesting thing. So you show how broad is the library of skills to search

00:04:10:27 – 00:04:46:09
Very broad. We have. And we focus just on application we focus on the knowledge worker. Obviously a computer and an internet connection is going to be critical here but very broad. We have one hundred thousand plus questions that are in our library have thousands of pre created assessments but obviously the key here is going to be contextually depend then based on the specific role that you’re hiring or hiring for a graphic designer at a Fortune 500 company is a very different role than hiring for a graphic designer at a series a startup.

00:04:46:16 – 00:04:54:00
And we work very hard with our A.I. machine learning to help identify the right questions for our folks that are working.

00:04:54:29 – 00:05:15:18
So that’s a that’s a broad space. One of the things that’s happening is in the world that you operate. New skills are emerging every minute. You know that the the front end of the evolution of work is moving very very rapidly. So how do you stay on top of that.

00:05:15:18 – 00:05:46:09
Great question. So we actually have a group of a team if you will over 300 on the street variety of different industry folks who contribute to our library on an ongoing basis. These folks are continually writing questions and creating new what we call talent trials or assessment along the way John and adding additional questions to the database and really to your point of the daily activity that happens that library is continuing to grow.

00:05:46:21 – 00:06:07:29
And as you know and I’ve pointed out that there are new roles and new ideas and new concepts and new skills that are required every day. So it really is an ongoing ongoing event and we work very closely with our data science team to incorporate that and to make sure that there’s quality that’s coming in with those questions as well.

00:06:08:10 – 00:06:50:23
That’s a fascinating process. So 300 people having new questions to the question database or on a daily basis if I’m a customer and I want to understand how something is evolving how do I do that. Right because you’ve got this you’ve got this really interesting mechanism for continuing to assess the evolution of work as that happens. So now you’re I am I’m a manager of a local soda bubble and I want to understand how the knowledge worked in my organization is changing and what the do skills are how do I look at what you’ve done which would clearly show me and do that.

00:06:50:24 – 00:06:52:02
Oh yeah.

00:06:52:03 – 00:07:01:22
So we an interesting question. We actually have a team of IO sites on staff that we work very closely with. When

00:07:01:22 – 00:07:31:22
When you come to Vevo or are looking to be able to assess and we do expect that you would understand the particular attributes that you’re looking for. We’re not at consulting firm. In other words we’re not going to tell you what you need for a specific role. What we can or what attributes you need for that role at your organization what we can do is help you understand that and we can set you up our site team to help create something that is bespoke or your goal that you’re looking to identify.

00:07:31:23 – 00:07:58:26
So but we as an assessment platform we certainly can help you develop those questions that are specific to that role and we can certainly talk you through what you’re looking for and make suggestions about what we can marketplace. But again just to kind of separate those two pieces we’re not going to tell you what your role is and what you need. We do expect you to come to the table with both understanding of that role and help us to develop those assessments. Boy that makes sense.

00:07:59:11 – 00:08:01:10
So how does all this

00:08:02:27 – 00:08:04:02
great questions.

00:08:04:03 – 00:09:07:12
We do use a I extensively and I mentioned how we we use it on a map the great assessments but I really never really cool aspect of it is how we continually learn from our customers and we create models that mimic some of our customer prep for example of you have and that doesn’t go back that example around a designer you have a think can it’s complete things that an assessment I think that’s in two different companies for will actually rank those 10 that’s definitely time we do learn from the employer as well obviously as the behaviors that folks are actually the performance of the applicant on the job we learn from those employer preferences and apply that the grading models for each of our employers to continually learning a system every employer ends up with their own quote unquote custom models which are continuously evolving as they continue to grade their candidates coming through the platform will learn from their practices as well.

00:09:07:15 – 00:09:38:29
Again that graphic designer at a series at a Fortune 500 company versus a graphic designer to a startup you’re going to grade those very differently and the the I will work from those and understand on the backside of that and just an aspect here because this question often comes up as well how do you avoid employer bias. Well another cool used for the ACT tool is that the the NL models are constantly checking for biases that could be introduced by humans.

00:09:38:29 – 00:09:56:24
This is an area where our data science and data science team and developers put a ton of effort in to and from what I understand. And again I’m not the technical brains here are biased action models are very powerful and obviously based on a I am machine learning so.

00:09:57:05 – 00:10:05:11
So without diving too far into the technology. If your system notices a bias what happens.

00:10:06:20 – 00:10:48:02
Yes. Good question because we stay away from the bias data. What we’re trying to do is analyze of the let’s say the 100 and maybe a better way to talk about this is talking about what we do analyze specifically how we analyze the data what data we analyze and then how we take the preferences into account. So Vevo analyzed the way all Canada perform tasks to detect mastery of those skills. Bravo detect patterns between that kind of behavior and grades given to compare both candidates by hiring managers and then from what data we analyze and what data we don’t analyze.

00:10:48:02 – 00:11:19:12
I think this gets to the basics of the question we analyzed it responses e.g. text or video transcripts are analyzed and how well they respond. We don’t look at facial recognition without any types of behaviors in the video we only look at the transcripts and we also look at the speed the engagement the intensity and we never analyzed personal data. So I mentioned the age gender race background education none of that comes into play and then that third piece to the preferences.

00:11:19:12 – 00:11:33:02
So when you grade candidate responses we do learn from your preferences and take that into account when calculating integrate. So and then again the anti bias detection methodologies come into play really.

00:11:33:06 – 00:12:05:18
And that is that your assumptions on Well let me ask you a little bit more deeply. So what you just said if I were to summarize correct me if I’m wrong but if I were to summarize what you just said is when we see a place for bias could occur we don’t look there and that’s how that’s how we manage bias. But what I’m interested in the destruction thing and it seems to me the bias is really really hard to get away from.

00:12:05:18 – 00:12:33:08
And there may be multiple categories. Those. This still legal there’s bias that should be illegal and there’s bias it’s necessary and important and so I bet you’re really talking about the kinds of bias that are either illegal or should be illegal and you’re not talking about the kinds of bias that give a company its point of view.

00:12:34:25 – 00:12:43:17
The bias problems are illegal. Absolutely. Of I almost blame the biased about that coming the supply side of it.

00:12:44:10 – 00:13:19:00
Well so every company is a point of view on the market right. And bias is just bias is just another word point of view. It’s it’s nothing other than point of view. And so and so what makes a company coherent is this point of view that the evolution of which point of view and so. So when you generalize about bias and you and you say that you’re trying to detect bias and eliminated or mitigated or notice a manage the biases of a broad category.

00:13:19:04 – 00:13:52:11
The fact that company X work involves a whole bunch of meetings and inside of those meetings by a variety of things happened then Company Y A meeting is the opposite of work right. Those are two biases that may fit a very critical thinker somebody who wants to accomplish without a lot of oversight this is not going to be happy in the meeting happy operation. Right. And so the bias is not only necessary.

00:13:52:13 – 00:14:23:15
It’s important. And and what you want is to curtail bias that Skip it’s the equal equal access to opportunity for all people. And that’s a very narrow subset. If there are if there are a hundred and eighty or 90 different categories of unconscious bias gender and sexual orientation and ethnic bias are below 5 percent.

00:14:23:22 – 00:14:33:00
Right. So the question is the question is thinking about bias in a larger more productive way than just avoiding litigation.

00:14:33:26 – 00:14:52:18
One hundred percent now and I think you the piece that you’re talking about is is the prevalence misunderstanding how what you’re going to look for to your point in an individual your preferences around what those people what they actually have to do is to you’re looking for an in a candidate are.

00:14:52:19 – 00:15:25:02
So I think you’re right and our focus is on because we do learn from those from the preferences what we’re all I mean I think that anything you’re talking about but at the end of the day the illegal biases is certainly something that is the larger focus. And to your point looking at points of data that would be in any way shape or form an illegal approach or would lead to unfair hiring practices in any manner as we understand it would be something we would try to avoid.

00:15:25:11 – 00:15:27:22
Absolutely right. So it does

00:15:29:13 – 00:15:34:04
provide guarantees that by the illegal bias is eliminated

00:15:36:00 – 00:16:14:01
what we look at is contextually and then when we’re talking about a specific role the skills that you are looking to hire or are and because we actually create bespoke talent trials or assessment those questions have to be rolled and then and we will certainly look to you to help us to understand using the hiring manager to help us understand. The requirements of the role to ensure that those questions are relevant and ensure that we’re making creating the assessments that are appropriate for the specific role as you look.

00:16:15:02 – 00:16:17:25
So what are the big questions are answered.

00:16:18:24 – 00:16:51:07
We’re trying to help companies figure out who to hire based on their actual performance trying to do that free of bias John and do that at any scale. And more specifically how do you test for certain roles and skills helping you to create a talent trial that is specific to the role you’re looking to hire for. What is the proper way to solve the challenge of having too many applicants to filter and making sure you give everyone an equal opportunity to show their skills.

00:16:51:09 – 00:17:08:28
How do you make hiring decisions with competence and understanding whether or not this person has the right skills for the role and at the end of the day how do you build a diverse team and try to do everything within your power to remove bias negative bias from the process. That’s certainly the goal.

00:17:08:28 – 00:17:18:20
Do you have a view of how much of success is dependent on skills. Homelessness much is dependent on some other service factors

00:17:20:11 – 00:17:23:00
absolutely I have a view on that.

00:17:23:00 – 00:17:54:21
Well there are many other factors obviously that come into play. But when it comes to performance we believe that. Guilds play a very large role in being able to perform a job well in particular in the hiring process being able to understand whether or not. And we all know this but on a resumé I could be anybody I want to be. I can put anything I want on a resume and I can actually probably be anybody I want to be for about an hour long and an interview and come across.

00:17:55:04 – 00:18:27:13
So really understanding whether or not an individual has the skills is a another tool arrow in the quiver if you will to understanding whether or not they’ll be a good fit for a particular role Cassation. So yes we do believe that skills have a significant impact though in the hiring process and specifically it’s a great indicator of whether or not somebody has the capabilities to perform well certainly not to define their personality but do they have the attributes and skills that are better going to fit that role.

00:18:27:17 – 00:18:30:09
So what are the big ethical issues that you see.

00:18:31:08 – 00:19:06:08
Yeah I think we kind of test on them but I think the three probably that I would call out today that we see the most in the marketplace and what we fear the most about are obviously getting the bias and hiring. It’s the the lack of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and then really giving everyone an equal opportunity to be able to showcase their skills and reviewing a stack of resumes and not the way to do that. So you know I just recently saw a job posting whose very first thought on the list of required skills and experience was bachelor’s degree from a top university.

00:19:06:10 – 00:19:38:08
This is just one example of this to hear but not an uncommon selection criteria. That said there are multiple studies out and John your mother is better or better than I call it the fact that education was one of the top items reviewed by recruiters and hiring managers and are scanning a resume and you know this but there’s a number of reasons why this tends to be a really bad habit. And at the end of the day you often missed out on obviously some very amazing talent because you’re limiting your view and you end up perpetuating these systemic biases because colleges inherently favor the affluent.

00:19:38:09 – 00:20:11:07
Moved to the lack of diversity and inclusion piece. I think companies are not necessarily reaching their greatest potential. We know that there’s many studies that show there’s just statistically significant relationship between diversity and innovation outcomes and that take you’re the most diverse companies are typically the most innovative companies with above average diversity seen in a number of studies tend to have a higher innovation revenues and higher end of the market. So you know certainly in broader and wider they’re limiting their ability.

00:20:11:07 – 00:20:44:22
And then last but not least is the opportunity for everyone to showcase their skills meaning most assessments in the marketplace today are defined as it to charge by a candidate who run the platform and at Vevo we specifically have designed our pricing model to not be focused on the candidate meaning you can put one hundred thousand ten thousand canister. We don’t target based on that we only look at the number of hires that you do because we do want you to give everyone an equal opportunity. We really want you to hire based on merit and not background.

00:20:44:23 – 00:20:49:13
And so it’s really about giving everyone in that equal opportunity within the hiring process.

00:20:50:27 – 00:20:57:07
How would you describe the fundamental difference between Provo and everybody else.

00:20:57:08 – 00:21:53:12
You know the mission of making hiring about merit and not background is something that resonates through our organization and is something that we really live to to provide and when I say that it’s from the top down. No I’ve shared this with me before not that I’m alive. Our CEO has a unique story and kind of background about how we got that and what really is and I think this is what makes us different. And David are our other founder had a similar story but Amare was grown up in Tel Aviv Israel went to the best high schools in Tel Aviv went into the military and was promoted to a man their military got out worked at number of startups and tell and dual citizenship and decided he wanted to move to Australia after all that experience and after going there he asked him out one hundred residents and with a name like oh mama long and no formal university training or background.

00:21:53:16 – 00:22:12:17
He received exactly zero responses and that was something that very much so stuck with him. As you can imagine he did have an overachiever that he is went back and got a finance degree and went to lot of regional impact in the workplace and end up running a number a large financial organisation and a large group in a financial organization.

00:22:12:21 – 00:23:08:06
And one of the things that consistently stood out to him was that even as he was hiring for himself the people that often were the best performers did not look the best on paper. So it was something that really he wanted to try and figure out David. And he got together and was how can we figure out a way to identify someone who has the skills they may not look great on paper they may not have a formal training or education background but they have done the work to understand the role and I really think that that at the end of the day is as a focus of the organization and something that we all believe very deeply in is what differentiates us that is what we are really focusing on and really has not only our mission but our goal is to provide everyone with an equal opportunity and allow companies to hire based on and identify candidates who have the right skills for the role who may not look the best.

00:23:08:09 – 00:23:14:05
The whole diamond in the rough. I think what really differentiates how we’re approaching the market.

00:23:15:00 – 00:23:23:04
Fantastic. So thanks for taking the time to do this morning Damoin, and would you take the moment and reintroduce yourself and tell people how to get a hold of you.

00:23:23:18 – 00:23:57:02
Yeah absolutely. And thank you for having me John. I really appreciate you bringing me on this morning again. Damon Gage and I’m the president of North America for Vervoe. My email address is Damon, d-a-m-o-n at Vervoe, V-E-R-V-O-E dot com and I’ll even give out my cell phone number so people can reach out if they need to. (925) 408-0278. And I’d love to hear feedback, I’d love to get questions, and anything anybody else has to share.

00:23:57:02 – 00:23:58:18
So, again John thank you very much for the time.

00:23:58:27 – 00:24:21:03
Yeah, thanks so much for doing this Damon. You’ve been listening to HRExaminer’s Executive Conversations. We’ve been talking with Damon Gage from Vervoe, dot com, a skills assessment company. It’s been wonderful talking to you this morning. Thanks again Damon and thanks everybody for tuning in. We will see you back here same time next week.

00:24:21:07 – 00:24:21:24
Bye bye now.