Monday 24 October 2016

Recruitment, but smarter

Brendan Kavanagh tells Sean Gallagher how a revolutionary new app aims to change the world for employers

Published 16/10/2016 | 02:30

Brendan Kavanagh of Hiup and Olive Media with Sean Gallagher. Photo: David Conachy
Brendan Kavanagh of Hiup and Olive Media with Sean Gallagher. Photo: David Conachy

From the way we learn to the way we communicate, technology is redefining life as we know it. In business too, entire industries are being disrupted and reshaped. And it appears that no sector is safe. This week I met up with serial entrepreneur Brendan Kavanagh, whose company is about to become the next big disruptor, this time in the recruitment and training sector.

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Set up in 2015, as an extension of Olive Media (his existing company), Hiup is a revolutionary app that allows jobseekers, employers and training organisations connect with each other. With 360 staff and offices in nine separate locations across Ireland, the UK, Europe, Middle East, Australia and the US, the company is already taking the recruitment market by storm.

"We aim to do for recruitment what Ryanair has done for air travel and Tinder has done for dating," explains Brendan, when I meet up with him in his headquarters in Dublin's Red Cow Business Park. ''By downloading our free Hiup app and uploading their details and qualifications, a jobseeker can create their own virtual CV and immediately begin to receive notifications about jobs that match their specific skills and experience.

''We are not only providing a platform for employers and recruiters to find the skilled candidates they require, but also enabling jobseekers to upskill themselves through taking accredited online courses which will directly enhance their employability," he adds.

The company's target market is global with their focus being on highly regulated sectors, where there is a strong requirement for compliance and skills training such as health and safety, customer care or manual handling. Key sectors include manufacturing, construction, hospitality, health care, supply chain management, retail and customer service.

The idea for both the Olive Media and Hiup app came through Brendan's own experience. Born in Carlow, but having grown up in Dun Laoghaire, he knew from an early age that he wanted to be in business for himself.

At 14, he began working part-time in a local petrol station and in Dunnes Stores until his age was discovered and he had to leave. After school, he got a job with Dockrells home providers on Dublin's George's Street, where he spent the next three years progressing from apprentice sales assistant, to sales assistant and eventually department manager. A long, established business, it was here he got his first real grounding in the importance of good customer service.

His next role was with Pump Services Ltd where his father had worked for more than 20 years. There he sold a range of fuel pumps, tanks and tech to the forecourt sector. In 1990, he took the courageous step of buying the company through a management buyout. He was only 24. He succeeded in growing the business, before eventually selling it to a large US company.

Having tasted success, he went on to start three other companies, in the same space, all of which he sold to PLCs. However, by 2006, he had decided it was time to exit the oil and gas sector and began to look around for his next venture.

"Given that the recession was coming, I wanted something that was a need-to-have rather than a nice-to-have," explains Brendan. "In my previous businesses, in order to be compliant, I had been obliged to invest heavily in health and safety courses for my staff. However, I was never fully satisfied with the quality of the training being delivered. So in 2006, I set up Olive Safety - and along with close friend and now COO Kevin Doyle - we began offering quality health and safety courses," he adds.

The following year, the company landed a major contract that was to set them on their way - to supply all of the health and safety training to the staff of An Post. With that under their belt, they went on to win a further contract with the DAA, and before long, had grown the company to become a significant player in the health and safety space.

"Once we were well established, we began moving our training from the classroom to online, something that brought greater efficiencies for us and also meant an 80pc saving in downtime for employers," explains Brendan.

The game-changing moment for the company came when Tesco asked them to develop a health and safety training app for use by their network of approved sub-contractors, such as electricians, maintenance and cleaners, across Ireland and the UK - 250,000 in all. Once developed, this platform was then rolled out to a host of other customers including Solas, Pfizer, Pepsi, Sainsbury's, Lidl and Dunnes Stores.

To help create their own bespoke videos and digital content, they hired their own team of experienced video producers, scriptwriters, cameramen, coders, graphic designers and animators.

''From there we diversified into offering training on everything, from induction and on-boarding for new recruits, to sales and technical training," he adds.

In 2015, having trained thousands of individual workers through his online platform, Brendan had a lightbulb moment.

"I realised that the traditional recruitment model was broken and needed to be turned on its head," explains Brendan. "It made little sense to have jobseekers chasing jobs for which they may or may not be suitably qualified.

''Why could we not have the employers chase those job seekers who had the exact skills and qualifications they were looking for?

"We then got to work on creating an online CV for each user, complete with their own virtual wallet, where they could hold all their relevant qualifications and certification.

"Next we integrated recruitment into our Hiup app by enabling employers and recruiters to send notifications to jobseekers about jobs that matched their particular skill set," explains Brendan.

One aspect that is appealing to a growing number of employers is that they will no longer be subjected to any fees relating to recruitment, while for recruitment companies, they will now have a one-stop solution to post jobs, screen and recruit skilled workers through an intuitive single platform - eliminating the time spent sifting through hundreds of CVs that don't match their specific job specifications.

For training providers, colleges and universities, the Hiup platform enables them to increase their reach by delivering training courses to jobseekers anywhere in the world.

With a team of 150 digital developers based in India and Nepal, Brendan is proud of his team.

"I'm really proud of the way they get out of bed every morning knowing that they are helping to change the world of recruitment for the better," he insists.

With their team and their technology now in place, the company is set for rapid growth, particularly throughout Europe, North America, Australia and Asia with turnover expected to grow to €9m this year alone.

As we leave, Brendan shows me a picture of him at Mount Everest base camp.

"It's where I first came across the Nepalese people and their great work ethic," he says.

Moved by the lack of access to education for most children there, he helps support initiatives to help children get to college.

At home, he has also set up the Olive Foundation, which helps raise money for causes that have touched his own life, such as cystic fibrosis.

Full of energy and enthusiasm, I leave my meeting with Brendan impressed by how much one person can effect change in the world.

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