The tech talent crunch in Southeast Asia has been discussed before, but are we looking at the right things. Is it a supply and demand issue, or a lack of the proper infrastructure to build a viable pool of talent?

One HR startup believes that at least part of the issue stems from the fact there’s a lot of guesswork involved in determining a salary. HR managers and business departments don’t have the right data to make competitive or realistic offers, which can undervalue staff or ‘spoil the market’ by overpaying for talent.

TalentX has been building an AI platform that current uses around 10,000 data points collected from their talent pool. Using these data points, brands are recommended the optimal salary that meets their budget and will secure tech talents quickly. This helps the jobseekers as well, by providing them with a free tool to better understand their value in the market.

We spoke to TalentX COO and co-founder, Chia Yei about the platform and his journey as an entrepreneur.

Paul Endacott GRIT tech talent crunch

We speak to Paul Endacott from GRIT about his entrepreneurial journey

This former professional esports competitors has a long track record in HR and has brought that experience to TalentX to build a platform to solve the ‘last-mile’ issue in the tech talent crunch in the region.

When you can’t find Chia Yei in the office, he’s playing sports like badminton, basketball, football or tennis. Here’s what he had to share.

Sell us your company/service in 300 words? 

We are a tech talent ecosystem that removes guesswork when transacting tech jobs for new hires and our product aligns expectations between employer and employee with artificial intelligence (A.I.).

TalentX employer dashboard

My co-founder and I were both from the HR world and we saw that innovation was happening in many tech spaces in HR, except in the last mile, i.e., the offer proposal stage. We realised that hiring managers, HR leaders, recruiters, and candidates were not on an equal playing field when it came to salary information. During salary negotiations, there is no evidence-based approach for either side to offer a salary figure and this leads to many gaps in pay expectations. 

With empowerment in mind, we wanted to create an AI-powered system that was designed by HR, for HR. We set out to create a system that would provide decision makers and candidates the tools they need to make informed salary decisions. It starts with our candidates who graciously join our system and share meaningful information with us — not just their CVs. We leverage AI to understand the intrinsic decision making process of candidates when considering new job offers based on rounds of simulations and in turn, employers understand potential new hires better. 

The employers who use our system receive not only holistic candidate data, but also data about the market in general. From salary data to skills that are in demand based on jobs, recruiters are better equipped with relevant data to quickly make confident hiring decisions in the competitive tech talent marketplace. 

In this way, we improve the recruiting experience across the board: candidates have clear salary expectations and shorter negotiation periods, recruiters receive relevant data at their fingertips on the system, and hiring manager decisions are backed with transparent data that is unbiased. 

What is stopping you from having the largest company in the world? 

Honestly when thinking about this question I was a little stumped. We don’t have a comparison for our company because we’re operating in a new territory and hence we can only look internally to measure our company’s success. 

We are focusing on creating value for our community, our customers, and ourselves. We don’t want to grow for the sake of it, but to have meaningful growth that impacts the way we work and the way our customers interact with us. By providing value upfront, we’re able to attract and keep our users and the same goes for our staff. 

If there was one big challenge to overcome as a company, it would be education. Our customers are set in their ways and our method to solve the last mile problem is progressive. Just like the adoption of ride hailing and food delivery, we are at the precipice of widespread adoption, we just need a little push to get people on board to introduce tech solutions to HR problems. 

If you could change one thing about the tech industry in Southeast Asia, what would it be?  

Broadly, we want to close the pay disparity in the tech industry. Right now, companies are still paying talents according to their last-drawn salaries or with outdated salary survey information. With real-time information we can pay according to real-time salaries and candidates earn based on their objective talents and value to the company. 

The parameters of a candidate’s values can be adjusted accordingly by companies for example: years of experience, skillset, or soft skills. Additionally, companies are better able to control their budget when hiring new employees if they have more objective information at their fingertips and unbiased A.I. that recommends a compensation package. 

There is an obvious power disparity between employers who usually hold all the information and it’s on the part of the candidates to impress them — though the reverse can also be true in the current rush for companies to digitise. In this ecosystem, we’re striving to democratise data and I believe everybody wins when we’re on a level playing field. 

Name one person in the region, who is making a difference in Technology? 

To accelerate technological advancement in HR in the first place, talents are undoubtedly one of the most important pillars. Collectively, once talents begin to adopt innovations in HR, we’ll be able to change the industry as a whole. 

As for an individual, I believe Adrian Tan is making a big change. He’s one of the top global influencers in HR Tech, he writes extensively about HR tech on his blog, and produces a weekly podcast, the Future of Work, where he interviews guests who are enabling the future of work.

Through the rich and regular content on HR tech produced by him, he is making a huge difference in Technology by accelerating HR innovation and enabling organizations to be ready for the future of work.

What would you want people to remember you for, 100 years from now? 

My passion is in HR and I owe my career to the chances I’ve received in this space. Naturally, I want to see HR functions in companies accelerate their innovation over the years and I hope our product can meet that need. In 100 years I hope HR and its functions are empowered with data and AI to make better hiring decisions and that the experience for hiring managers, recruiters and candidates is improved greatly. 

The recruitment process can be impersonal and the job hunting experience for candidates is not ideal. Many are rejected without knowing the reasons and oftentimes they have no bargaining power. The same can be said about HR staff and recruiters as well; data like required skills for certain positions are not readily available, reasons why candidates reject offers are not properly referenced, and most importantly, there’s no solid database for salary to refer to when deciding the salary of candidates. 

If I’m able to improve this process through our products, that will be enough for me, at least for now.