Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Talentank Aims to Gauge a Company’s Culture like Never Before

By on August 5, 2016

SAN JUAN – Suppose you were looking for employment and a company calls for a job interview and things seem to go great, but a nagging voice in the back of your head tells you that perhaps this is not the right work environment, or that you would not be able to be on the same wavelength as that of your co-workers.

Likewise, imagine you were in charge of a company’s human resources department and are about to hire a new employee who looks perfect on paper. However, would this person interact effectively with fellow employees or would he or she become a potential source for conflict?

These questions basically boil down to the set of values, beliefs and vision that defines a given company; in other words, its culture. Despite it being a crucially important aspect of a company’s makeup—essentially constituting its genetic code—a company’s culture is often notoriously difficult to pin down.

The company’s Genoma software provides in-depth information about a company’s culture measured in distinct values and rendered in graphical form.

Such concerns are what partly drove a group of students from King Juan Carlos University in Madrid to form a startup dubbed Talentank that has since made the rounds in some of the most prestigious acceleration programs worldwide, among them Parallel18, based in San Juan.

The students—who formed under the tutelage of Bruno Aguilera Barchet, a law-history professor at the university—first sought to deliver a solution that would help coach graduates eager to obtain their dream jobs. “We were also aiming to improve the university itself through the tools that we were developing,” Rebecca Rico, one of the company’s eight co-founders and its chief security officer, told Caribbean Business. “However, we soon found that there was a more pressing issue we had to focus on.”

The issue, as it turned out, is that companies frequently have no idea about what their own culture consists of, or have mistaken perceptions of it. For instance, a company would describe itself as “flexible,” but when it came to operating hours and the possibility of working from different locations, the company’s culture was anything but.

Company culture is also frequently misunderstood, as Rico put it. “Companies have paid a lot of attention lately to the issue of engagement; namely, how to make work environments as pleasant and comfortable as possible,” she said. “I’ve seen examples of beer taps being installed at the premises and other perks. But engagement doesn’t necessarily address the underlying causes for potential conflict in the workplace. It’s like the tree analogy: It doesn’t matter how pretty the branches and leaves of the tree may seem, what really matters is what’s going on at the root level.”

With this in mind, the startup co-founders—which apart from Rico include Jorge Campos (CEO), Juan Martín (chief product officer), Ana Martínez (COO), Laura Gil (chief commercial officer), Javier Ramírez (CTO), Mateo Álvarez (CIO) and Rodrigo Ruiz (CFO) as well as Michel Maes (developer), all of them millennials ranging from 20 to 28 years old—came up with a high-tech method to measure a company’s culture to a nearly unprecedented degree.

Genoma: A culture extractor
The software is called Genoma, a so-called “culture extractor” that employs algorithms to gauge 44 different values, among them concepts such as warmth, obedience and analytical capacity. The product, which the company markets as a software-as-a-service offering, gathers its data via surveys that the company gives its employees as well as potential hires.

“The tool not only helps companies get a picture of its own culture, but it also helps them monitor the culture over time as more employees are hired and become part of the workforce,” Rico said. As a result, Talentank has already amassed an enviable list of clients that include IBM, Toyota, Coca-Cola and Deloitte.

This does not mean the team is ready to rest on its laurels, though. During their stay in Puerto Rico as part of the initial crop of startups participating under the Parallel18 program, most of the team members are living together under the same roof in a San Juan rental, mainly living off the program’s $40,000 grant and working 24/7 to continue developing their software, which is currently in a closed beta stage. The company intends to release an open beta version of the software by September, at the latest, after additional testing is carried out.

As for plans once the first stage of the Parallel18 program winds up its course by late August, Rico said the company wants to plant further roots on the island. “We love it here and plan to stay here indefinitely,” Rico said. “We’re in this for the long haul.”

The Talentank team includes, from left: Laura Gil, Rebecca Rico, Javier Ramírez, Rodrigo Ruiz, Mateo Alvarez, Juan Martín, Jorge Campos and Ana Martínez

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