Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – June 8, 2015
CEOCFO: Mr. Kramer, what is the idea behind WorkJam?
Mr. Kramer: WorkJam is the first Employee Relationship Management (ERM) platform geared specifically for hourly and contingent workers. Essentially, what WorkJam does is it allows for store and line managers within retail organizations, restaurants or any business within the service industry to holistically manage the employee and employer relationship throughout the lifecycle. That would include everything from to qualifying and hiring candidates, the onboarding of new employees, scheduling of shifts and engaging and evaluating employees. The problem is that along each one of these milestones within the lifecycle, there is a misalignment between the expectations between the employee and the employer and significant inefficiencies as a result of the lack of technology. The problem is causing massive value leakage and increased cost for business. This is a problem that we feel we have solved with a great solution.
CEOCFO: Why do you feel that this is a forgotten area, particularly with more and more people as hourly workers and part time these days?
Mr. Kramer: It has been a forgotten issue simply because of other priorities that exist within organizations. I come from the eCommerce business, which is the field that I was in for the last twenty years, and the focus of organizations was all around the consumer and upgrading eCommerce applications and omni-channel projects. I think that HR has had a lack of innovation simply because of other priorities within organizations. With rising hourly wages, a more competitive job market and new regulations being imposed by governments, it is no doubt that this is becoming a priority as organizations need to plan for decreased operating costs.
CEOCFO: Would you tell us about the system that you have developed?
Mr. Kramer: Today’s hourly work economy requires a new type of technology to address all aspects of the employee – employer relationship. We call it Employee Relationship Management (ERM).
The WorkJam Employee Relationship Platform empowers employers to streamlines scheduling, communication, training and recruiting for their hourly workforce.
The Platform simplifies and optimizes the management of a company’s hourly labor to unleash productivity and achieve major costs savings.
For example, if you speak to store and line managers, 67% are still managing their shift schedules by Excel Spreadsheets or by paper and pen. WorkJam automates the shift management and scheduling processes. It also empowers workers to control their schedule based on their availability and take actions with colleagues if they need to trade or cancel a shift.
Another example is ratings, reviews and rewards. On the recruitment side, employees and job seekers are able to earn badges based on their success. For example, if they are great at customer satisfaction they can earn a reward and a badge that then allows them to advance within the organization. This feature also allows hourly employees to build a resume and highlight their skill sets in a concrete way when looking for future jobs – something they traditionally have not been able to do. Badges and reviews also allow Employers to use this data as a scheduling driver to place the best people in the right shifts and to advance staff within the organization.
CEOCFO: What do you find when approaching companies about WorkJam?
Mr. Kramer: We have had tremendous feedback and excitement over the platform. It makes sense for organizations. They are aware of the pain that they are experiencing. They know that they need to make a change in this area. They understand how we can provide value. The only negative feedback has been around the fact that we are a young company. This is something that we have been able to overcome as a result of our backgrounds and experience in building significant software organizations in the past. We have also been building this application for a year and a half now and are launching with a mature, rich feature set. We have built the platform for companies large and small. It can scale and support the needs of both small and large enterprises, yet with low costs that everyone can afford.
CEOCFO: Where are you in the process of commercialization?
Mr. Kramer: WorkJam launched three weeks ago. We do have pilot customers that are large retailers. We are actively in the commercialization phase and continue to expand our sales team across the US and Canada. We have a fairly large pipeline of small and large organizations.
CEOCFO: What is involved in implementation?
Mr. Kramer: We have built this application in a way that requires very little implementation work. The average time to implement could be as little as a few hours for a small organization, but for a large organization it could be one to three weeks depending on the level of integration to their backend systems that they choose. We are coming from a background of eCommerce where implementations typically span from six months to two years. As a result, we decided to build the system with quick implementations in mind and in a way that allows us to focus more on the product rather than the pain of implementing complex IT projects.
CEOCFO: Do you see the ROI as being intuitive for people when they are looking at the system or do you need to explain all of the things that you are able to do and how it will save money?
Mr. Kramer: I think that it is very intuitive. Like any ROI, there are quantitative factors that are very clear and can be calculated, and then there are others that are more qualitative. From a pure ROI and cost savings perspective, organizations know the amount of money that they are spending on onboarding new employees. A recent study by Entrepreneur Magazine cited that even small organizations will spend up to 4,000 dollars per hourly employee based on recruiting, onboarding and working with them to make them productive. Furthermore, they also understand that understaffing leads to lost sales and overstaffing leads to organizational waste. Therefore, there is a very intuitive and very clear cut ROI based on costs that are known with organizations that are very easy for organizations to get their heads around. Certainly, there is a whole series of qualitative factors, nuances, and assumptions that go into play as well when we speak to organizations, such as the lost opportunities that come with having the wrong type of employee in a store or not being staffed enough as a result of last minute conciliations and trades that occur within organizations. Still, at its core the concept has been very intuitive, and it is easy to get people on board with this idea. It is a new application, but it is not a new problem that is difficult to get one’s head around.
CEOCFO: What has changed from your original concept as you were developing WorkJam?
Mr. Kramer: Good question. The model and the product has evolved significantly from the time that we first wrote our business plan. There are a couple of things to note. We figured out along the way that many organizations that have hourly workers and also run eCommerce operations have significant pains and inefficiencies in staffing of resources that are required in pack and ship of eCommerce or Omni-Channel orders, such as the web, call centers and mobile devices. There is a level of unpredictability that was happening within those areas of the business as a result of substantial growth. You read about online retail sales growing exponentially from one year to another, which lead to another issue from a shift management perspective and how to get the right people in the warehouse or in the store to be able to handle that demand. Therefore, one of the key things that we changed along the way was to build an Omni-Channel integration, what we call responsive scheduling. Based on actual demand signals that are happening from the various channels within an organization, we can generate an optimized, responsive schedule to be broadcasted out to employees based on sales happening within an organization. This is an area that has hurt margins; especially in industries like groceries that have very high cost logistical type of operations. Now retailers have an answer to this problem and no longer have to rely on outsourced third party services, such as Instacart, Shipt or Postmate. These services are part of the new on-demand economy that have been emerging, but they lack the totality that an end-to-end employee relationship platform like WorkJam can offer by giving the ownership of the customer experience back to the business itself.
CEOCFO: What have you learned from your previous ventures about what to do, as well as what not to do in launching a new concept?
Mr. Kramer: One of the lessons that we learned was not to grow too quickly. Keep the growth manageable, even if it means not taking every business that you are able to get. We have also learned that in this on demand economy, from the Software as a Service model, there is no need to have complicated implementations. They can be relatively short, thus significantly increasing the ROI for our customers. We have also learned something about using the idea of mobile first. Many companies will say that they are mobile first, but that is not the solution to every business problem. It is more of a trend or marketing play that many organizations are using. In our case, for example, mobile is hugely significant for employees and job seekers, but it is not the answer to solve every business problem from a technology perspective. Therefore, building a system that can be used on all different devices, including web browsers is very critical.
CEOCFO: Are you funded for your next steps or seeking partners or funding?
Mr. Kramer: We are privately funded. We are a group of individuals that founded a company that we sold to SAP. Therefore, from a seed round or a Series-A round, we are essentially self funded right now. However, at the right time we will bring on partners that can be strategic to us.
CEOCFO: What should be different a year from now for you?
Mr. Kramer: We are creating a technology segment in the industry. We believe that we are a first mover, so what could be different for us next year is that this segment could be very well understood by analysts and organizations where we have a good number of clients that are using our application. We could also have some great partnerships that emerge. Our channel strategy of partnering with complimentary organizations both from a service perspective, but also from a technology perspective, is a key part of our growth plan. I would expect to see that evolve quite significantly over the next twelve months.
CEOCFO: Put it all together for our readers. Why pay attention to WorkJam today?
Mr. Kramer: WorkJam can significantly reduce cost of operations within organizations. It can create significant efficiencies within the organization as well, at a door level. It can also significantly increase customer satisfaction, making sure that your candidates and the right type of culture within the organization. This issue is not only a business issue, but also a social issue, as there has been an increase in the number of hourly workers over the last three or four years. It has created certain social impacts that exist within the US and Canada, such as people being sleep deprived because they are working too many hourly jobs, or can’t get the number of hours they are promised, or are always on call. These problems can make it almost impossible to manage schoolwork, childcare or elder care. This in turn is beginning to create a legal issue that people need to pay attention to as well. There are state governments and city governments that have already started to pass laws around rights for hourly workers and you will absolutely need to use a technology like WorkJam in order to remain compliant and to make sure that you are treating your employees properly. At WorkJam we’re on a mission to help businesses improve the management of their workforce while simultaneously improving the lives of their hourly workers.
WorkJam is a win-win for employers and hourly workers – Businesses benefit by lowering recruitment costs, improving attrition rates, optimizing labor in relation to demand signals, and improving the customer experience with happier, more engaged employees. Hourly workers can control their work-life balance, maximize their earnings, develop skills, and advance their economic well-being.