HRchat host Bill Banham recently got a chance to catch up with Joshua Karam, Co-Founder at Hyr, former TV host, HR pro and much more..
Ahead of the podcast release, read the edited transcription:
Bill Banham: Welcome to another episode of HRchat. I’m your host, Bill Banham. Today we are joined by Joshua Karam. Josh is co-founder at Toronto and New York-based Hyr, a mobile platform, which uses AI to connect traditional companies like restaurants and bars with independent labor to fill hourly paid shift work. Josh, welcome to HRchat.
Thanks for having me, Bill, much appreciated.
Bill Banham: Josh, tell us a bit about yourself. Let’s start by looking at your career history up to joining Hyr.
Joshua Karam: Well, it’s been quite a history. Through and through I am an HR enthusiast, having spent the last 15 years in the space. The first decade, or so, was working in the Toronto market within the hospitality world, more specifically within hotels, as a HR leader. That’s really where I started my career. I started in Toronto as a young HR Coordinator fresh out of Ottawa University with an honors degree in HR and a decade later I was the HR director for the Western Harbor Capitols, as well the president of the Hospitality Human Resources Professional Association in Toronto.
It was really the perfect start for an HR career, giving me just a level of experience and insight into the world of Human Resources that, I just feel blessed for, helped set me up for success after the hospitality world when I ventured out and I was operating my own HR firm for a number of years across Canada, Synchronize HR. Really working with major clients like Root, and Guy Service Business Aviation, and other … Helping them, from an HR perspective, with everything from leadership development programs to team building exercising to (the) recruitment of top quality HR talent that would really help get their businesses from good to great. I was loving life as the founding director of Synchronize HR.
Then, Hyr came along and we had an idea of how we could reshape the way that businesses think about hourly paycheck workers. In late 2015, came together with a great co-founding team and we’ve been building Hyr ever since. Look forward to sharing those details with you.
Bill Banham: That’s a good lead in. Please tell me a bit about Hyr. What does it do?
Joshua Karam: Ultimately, going back to what I mentioned just a moment ago, we started Hyr with this idea of … Working in the hotel space for many years and also doing HR support for, I mentioned Root, so you’re talking retail, where there’s this need for contingent labor, hourly paycheck workers. We really wanted businesses to think differently about how they handle that contingent workforce. It was for a couple of reasons. One, because you’ve got this significant shift in the way that young, aspirational individuals want to work. They want to work differently today, than they did in the past. At the same time, you got businesses that are struggling because there is a ever shallowing labor pool and it’s just happening, not just in Toronto but all across North America. And at the same time, just layer on top of that, is the fact that businesses are struggling because there’s legislative changes that are happening, that are impacting the way that they can schedule this contingent labor. With that, we’ve built a fully mobile platform that lets businesses fill hourly paid shifts on demand and do so with independent contractors.
At the same time, you (have) businesses that are struggling because there is a ever-shallowing labor pool and it’s just happening, not just in Toronto but all across North America. And at the same time, just layer on top of that, is the fact that businesses are struggling because there are legislative changes that are happening, that are impacting the way that they can schedule this contingent labor. With that, we’ve built a fully mobile platform that lets businesses fill hourly paid shifts on demand and do so with independent contractors.
It’s really built with the ease and efficiency of Uber in mind, but instead of a passenger needing a driver, it’s a business that needs a bartender tonight or a retailer that needs a stock clerk. It’s really meant to be a win-win for both parties, meaning businesses need to make a little extra money or fill a shift because somebody’s no showed or called off or there’s a spike in business. On the flip side, you’ve got workers that already have a full-time or part-time job, but want to earn just a little extra income this week because they need or want to do a little more with that money.
Bill Banham: Talk to me a bit about the technology behind Hyr. Does it for example, I’m thinking Uber here, have some option where you can rate that staff member you’ve brought in to cover that shift?
Joshua Karam: Great question, Bill. Definitely one that we looked at when we started building Hyr. Fortunately, just from a tech perspective, we really have a phenomenal tech team behind us. One of our founding members, Tom Bollich, was one of the founding team members and a Studio CTO at Zynga, the social gaming giant that changed social gaming on Facebook, created Farmville and Texas Hold ’em Poker. He really had the great mind to help build out our ideas and what the HR world is going to want. One of those being ratings. We have a fully transparent rating system. It’s not only businesses being able to rate the talent that comes in on a shift by shift basis. But we actually allow the talent to rate the businesses at the end of their shift on management and teamwork.
As business rate talent, they rate them on everything from punctuality to performance, but also on credibility. So, if you, as an individual are saying that you are a bartender at a senior level, from an experience perspective, and you arrive and you struggle to pour a rum and coke, for example, you’re going to be held accountable for that. That rating is going to follow you throughout your entire working life within the platform. We’re really driving social trust within Hyr.
Bill Banham: Okay, thank you. Tell me, does Hyr store that data somewhere, does it maybe make it available … are there any API’s, any feeds going through to companies like GlassDoor? Because it sounds, potentially, like you could get some great findings from trends connected with particular industries, and their specific chains, and the interactions that go between temporary staff and permanent.
Joshua Karam: Yeah. You’re definitely on the track. From our perspective, we believe that … The last question was really about the technology behind Hyr and this is definitely a great follow-up question. What can we do with that data? How can that data support all the parties involved moving forward. It goes without saying that, in time as we continue to evolve and grow, we’re still very young in our journey, but as we continue to evolve and grow it’s about ensuring that that data can be used in other areas. We really look at the data as being able to be used in a different way. You’ve got this swath of talent that is very much under-represented.
They’re precarious workers in many ways, you could say. They struggle with their financial aspirations, as a result. One of the ways we look to use the data is actually to support that group of individuals with everything from earnings to savings to borrowing, when it comes to financials. If you can imagine a platform where, not only are you earning income, but one of the other key components that we have within Hyr in our tech, is we actually give a form of benefits to the workers on the system that are now portable for their entire working life.
That fits outside of an employer-employee relationship. It’s benefits that those workers owe to themselves that they can allocate the funds in the benefit account to whatever matters most to them, whether that’s personal savings, whether that’s health and dental, or whether that’s vacation time. Having all the data around a worker’s earning history, you mentioned reviews, so their earning potential based on their performance history we can also look in the future at doing loans and micro-loans through the platform. So, it really becomes a strong, economic platform that’s part of the financial aspirations of, really, an under-represented workforce.
Bill Banham: I think, now, that it’s possible to run a business from your mobile phone. I don’t think it was necessarily fully accessible and available to everybody up to a couple of years ago, maybe. You had some good iPhones out there, but nothing else, really, was competing very well, everybody wanted iPhones. How do you think, in the last couple of years, things have changed and now, how has mobile technology impacted recruitment?
Joshua Karam: It goes without saying that it is … I believe that mobile devices are really the gateway to recruitment. I remember reading this great article that found that 58% of communication within the candidate to a business was happening through mobile devices and that was in comparison to, I think it was, 21%, which was through your corporate website. I mean, that’s almost three times as much. Think about what we’ve built with Hyr. We’ve actually built a fully mobile platform, we’re not even web-based. Of course, we have a web-site and whatnot. But, the entire process of connecting the two parties in this relationship happens through the mobile phone.
There’s so much to be said about the optimization of the potential candidate and really, I guess, putting forward your best foot when it comes, also, to your employer brand, through a mobile device and it’s the time that you have with the people that you ultimately want working with your business. I mean, is it time with them sitting at a computer, or is it time with them looking on their mobile device as they’re waiting on the TTC or going from point A to point B.
Bill Banham: Tell me a little bit more about your role at Hyr. What does an average work week look like for you? What are those one, two, or three things which you love doing the most?
Joshua Karam: An average work week is … Average is definitely the wrong word. We like to say our work week is eat, sleep, and conquer. And one of those more than the others. Truly, we’re a startup company, we’ve been in operation now just over a year. But it is a strong grind, and we’re loving every minute of it. Very fortunately, we’re a very well-rounded team. Myself, having an HR background is key. I mentioned Tom already. We’re also, as a third co-founder, we have Erika Mozes, who is a lobbyist by trade, a public affairs specialist. You can imagine, having an HR person, a tech person, and a public affairs person as your trio of co-founders really makes it a well-rounded team to help bring Hyr to market.
What that means for me, in terms of my role, really, I focus on, operationally, how can we position hire operationally to be successful? What does that mean? It means, I’m building out a team, I am helping to manage, logistically, what are we doing, every single day, that helps get us where we need to be the next day, the next week, and the next month. A startup like this is all about where you’re going to be 12 months from now, if you’re ever going to be around. 90% of startups fail for a reason, because they don’t execute plausibly. If you’re really serious about what keeps me busy every day, it’s supporting our team on the operational side of things. Also, giving HR a voice, consistently, in everything that we do. Because really at the core of what we’re doing, is getting to businesses and getting to HR professionals to help them think differently about how they handle that talent, that contingent workforce, and being an HR person certainly gives me a leg-up in those conversations with them.
Bill Banham: As an entrepreneur, what would you say to somebody who came to you and said, “Hey, Josh. I’ve got this great idea for a business. I’ve been in a full time role for company X for the last 15 years but I’m thinking about making the leap.” What would be your advice to them?
Joshua Karam: How long do we have? I would have a lot of things to say to that person. In the spirit of full disclosure, ever since operating Synchronize HR and now Hyr, I get that question a lot from prospective entrepreneurs that want to step out of the corporate workplace. My advice to them isn’t really so much advice, it’s more so a question. The question is, “How badly do you want it?” Because to bring it to life, it involves sacrifice, it involves working 25 hours a day, 8 days a week, and you really need to give it your all. If you’re going to be a successful entrepreneur, it means working at it full time. Unfortunately, that sometimes means other sacrifices in the way. Whether that is giving up some of your regular habits that you might look to as being things that are super fun and enjoyable. It’s really .. more about a question and I think that if there’s one piece of advice that I’d give, it’s, “You have more in the tank than you think you do.” Because it is going to be a grind and you will be exhausted at certain points and you just have to figure out how to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move forward to get to that next day.
I love that conversation and always open to having it with prospective entrepreneurs because I was there once. It’s definitely a big leap forward.
Bill Banham: You and I met recently at DisruptHR Toronto. Tell me a little bit about your experiences there. Which sections did you enjoy? Apart from meeting myself and Tim Baker (laughs), who else were wonderful that you loved meeting?
Joshua Karam: It was definitely … I think, meeting you and Tim was just great and obviously helped get us to this conversation, so thank you. My motivation with DisruptHR is simple. I have been an HR enthusiast for years, but I have also seen that change is needed in the space. The way we used to do things, as HR professionals, isn’t always going to be successful. In fact, I think more times than not, it’s not going to be successful in the future. The reason why I wanted to attend DisruptHR Toronto and why I have attended other DisruptHR events is because I want to be part of that change and I want to help support the other HR professionals and enthusiasts, like me, that want to drive forward that change. That’s really what DisruptHR is all about. The whole environment there, and I think Tim certainly did a great job kicking off the whole night and just making it very motivational for everybody that was in the room.
Definitely some great speakers and great topics. I think the one that stands out for me is actually an individual I connected with in the past, in his past working life, and that was Rob Catalano and it’s all about rating performance management reviews as zero. I think it was just such a great presentation about how we really, as HR professionals, need to rethink the performance review process and what he and his team are doing to help change our thought process on that.
Bill Banham: Rob Catalano is one of the nicest men in HR.
Joshua Karam: Yeah. He truly is. He definitely is phenomenal.
Bill Banham: He’s an inspiring chap like yourself.
Joshua Karam: Thank you.
Bill Banham: You’re welcome. We’re going to be wrapping up fairly shortly. But before we do, how can our listeners learn a bit more about you?
Joshua Karam: Thank you for that. I think there (are) two channels. First would be, feel free to check me out on LinkedIn, Joshua Karam. Honestly, I would say to those that are listening, if you’d like any insight into what we’re doing or if you just, going back to the conversation, “Hey, listen, I’m a young individual who wants to start something and would love to have a conversation about that.” Feel free to reach out to me. I’m happy to have those conversations. As well, we’re online at www.hyr.work H Y R.work. Feel free to reach out to us that way as well, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Banham: Okay, thank you very much.
Joshua Karam: My pleasure, thank you.
Bill Banham: You’ve been a great guest today, I’d love to get you back on again. I think we could do another whole episode about hiring and the technology behind it. Until next time, on that. But thank you very much for listening today and until the next episode, I’ve been your host, Bill Banham, and this has been HRchat.