Barend Raaff is CEO of Harver. He brings nearly 20 years of experience in digital innovation to his role of CEO at Harver, the AI-powered HR technology company that replaces the resume and radically transforms the way companies connect and match talent to jobs. Shortly after starting his career at World Online, Europe’s largest ISP, Barend started his own digital agency, DNBMedia/Studio C. Working at the crossroad of digital innovation and business innovation, Barend supported large enterprises like ABN AMRO, Randstad and Shell undergoing digital transformation. To enable fast execution of digital strategies, he also founded Gapstars, a people-first outsource company in Sri Lanka. Prior to Harver, Barend was co-founder of Kominski, an online strategy, concept, development and marketing agency, headquartered in Amsterdam.
How did you get into the industry?
I was a partner at a digital innovation company when a friend became CEO of a large call center. She was confronted with the reality of huge employee turnover. People where hired by the hundreds, but they left or got fired within months. When diving into the reasons for this attrition, we found out that the hiring decision was based on wrong information with no ability to predict success. Applicants decided to apply without truly understanding the job, while managers hired people based solely on a resume. Unfortunately, a resume is not capable of demonstrating how someone might deal with clients.
Any emerging industry trends?
The recruitment and HR industry is changing rapidly. For too long, HR professionals have considered technology to be the opposite of being ‘ human driven.’ Now the industry sees that using the latest technology simply supports them in making better human decisions. This creates huge opportunities for start-ups that can disrupt or improve a part of the employees journey.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
The HR industry is discovering the power of data. Where other divisions, such as marketing and finance, have long used data technology to improve their work, HR is now catching up by using technology to keep up with a more dynamic labor market. The world is moving from lifetime jobs to a gig economy, with new jobs being invented every day. How can you recruit a ‘growth hacker’ or manage a flexible workforce that is booked per minute? New technology is the solution that will enable HR to adapt.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
The original idea was founded when we were looking at ways to make better hiring decisions. We wanted to empower both applicant and hiring manager by offering them decision support. This is still the core of our business, but we do it at a larger scale. By improving the predictive models and the candidate experience we improve hiring decisions every day. We are also creating a platform for smaller companies, so they can also benefit from the power of data. Our goal is to enable any organization or individual to make the best hiring and application decision.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
At the end of this year we will release a ‘Do it Yourself’ platform for small- to mid-sized enterprises. The idea is that anybody can use the same technology as Netflix or Booking to make hiring decisions.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
Our product is at the core of our company. By building a premium product we were able to convince the market they should start hiring in a new data-driven way. We also work with our clients to share their success, which helps our own growth.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
For a company that wants to drive innovation in a traditional industry, getting started is always the hardest. How do you convince the first clients to rely on your solution? It took a lot of time and energy to get the first set of clients, but when the results started rolling in we quickly gained traction. The first year was probably the hardest, but also lot of fun.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
Organizations using Harver hire better people, period. They do this faster and in a more fun way for their applicants. The ideal experience for our clients is exactly what they get - a smarter, more efficient and more successful hiring process, and the ideal workforce for their needs.
How do you motivate others?
Motivation is the result of knowing that what you do matters. A way to accomplish this is to make sure the team is aligned toward the bigger picture and the bigger purpose of the company. If your employees understand where you are heading, it is easier to recognize why the things they work on are important. Furthermore, there must be trust and safety. Your employees and colleagues should be empowered to make decisions in their field of expertise and feel comfortable to speak up. I don’t believe in ‘command & control’ management, only a fully motivated team can operate a fast growing scale-up.
Career advice to those in your industry?
Be open for innovation! The world is changing, and the speed of change is increasing. The way we worked ten years ago probably doesn’t work today, and it absolutely won’t work five years from now. Sometimes it feels comfortable to keep things the way they are, but it is impossible to have expect this level of comfort if you are responsible for the talent that is driving the future of your organization.