Samar Birwadker is Cofounder & CEO of Good.Co, a career platform that helps people discover their strengths and culturally-fit workplaces. Some have called Samar a serial connector-of-the-dots, and he’s never denied it. Samar firmly believes that there is no such thing as a bad workplace or a bad employee, just a bad fit. A strategist gone rogue, Samar previously worked with AKQA & Landor, helping connect the brand, business, and consumer dots for clients such as Microsoft, HP, Yahoo!, and YouTube. When he’s not busy scheming interstellar domination, Samar can be found riding his motorcycle in the hills of SF or writing in the third person about himself.
Why does the world need a work revolution? (In other words: the way we’re working isn’t working. Why not?)
Research shows that 70% of Americans are unhappy at work — and in turn, this is costing American companies $450 billion to $550 billion a year. The current hiring model is broken because it is not taking into account personality and culture fit.
There are 40 million millennials in the workforce today, which are workers between the ages of 18 and 30. This demographic of workers is putting increasing importance on the “fit” and culture of the companies they work for, and are looking for greater meaning in the day-to-day careers. Candidates who fit into a team’s culture are three times more likely to succeed, and stay in a job for twice as long as their unhappy counterparts.
The truth is, finding a job or hiring the right candidate has become an increasingly painful and expensive process. Neither employees nor employers can afford to make mistakes that cost an average of $50k. In fact, time and cost to hire today is the highest it’s ever been and so is the churn rate among the current generation. Although the internet has made applying for jobs and sourcing candidates easier, it has also paralyzed the system with volume and glut. The old rules of keyword and skills-matching with multiple interviews of several candidates have only added to the convoluted nature of the process. Because of this, workers are being hired into companies that are doomed to make them miserable and nobody realizes it till a month later, when things hit the proverbial fan.
How are you or your organization reinventing work in some way (big or small)?
Primarily motivated by the need to find a solution for the immense social implications of workplace misfit, Good.Co is about creating happier, more productive workplaces — a solution that not only helps people but eventually impacts the economic bottom-line of companies. For too long, the job-matching process has been focused only on what the employer needs, specifically with regards to functional skills. Research shows that even the most skilled candidates will not thrive in an environment that is conducive to their style, approach, and motivations.
Good.Co’s bottom-up approach aims to fundamentally fix this problem by involving the “98%” in the process of self-discovery and workplace fit, allowing them to self-select ideal career paths and thus creating a more efficient hiring process for both sides. If we are creating happier workplaces that help the individual and the employer, both emotionally and economically, this is a productive and meaningful business that blurs the boundaries between communities, profits, and social good.
Good.Co’s approach is engaging, fun, and provocative by design — accelerating the need for both internal and external transparency in the workplace. After all, the world is becoming more transparent every day, and Good.Co is providing a framework and terminology to foster this in an objective, data-oriented manner that has far-reaching implications on how companies evolve, sustain and become successful.
Why do you do what you do?
The quantification and understanding of human capital is currently one of the least efficient in our economy. As the software and connected economy continue to transform the old world, the inevitable outcome will be global, efficient markets for human capital because creating future value depends more and more on people’s brains and talents. Good.Co is a step in that direction using influences of big data, quantified self and psychology, we are creating inherently valuable data assets on human capital and their work environments that are having a profound impact in redefining the nature of employment and value of workplace compatibility.
Before Good.co, I had a pivotal culture-fit experience. I had left a company that I enjoyed working at for greener pastures at a competitor that many would kill to work for, but it took me a mere 2 days to realize it was a complete cultural misfit for me. For six months, I tried to focus on the positives and to tough it out, while trying to figure out why nobody had figured out a way to stop this from happening. After all it’s a painful problem for both the employee AND employer and it inspired me to begin work on Good.Co. My team and I are all about creating happier, more productive workplaces — a solution that not only helps people discover their happy-place and as a result impacts the economic bottom-line of companies.
We realized that it was a two-sided problem and that to truly solve it from the bottom-up will require us to tackle it from both ends. And that’s why we decided to create a fair, user-driven framework that involves the “98%” in the job matching process. Good.Co is powered by the community as a way to build towards a transparent “culture graph” of talent and companies. This culture graph helps people identify their strengths and ideal career path from community-generated Fitscores while also allowing companies to identify their unique cultural footprint and own and enhance their true self. If we are creating happier workplaces, tackling both the emotional and economical problem, we hope to blur the boundaries between communities, profits, and social good.
What kind of art (any kind) do you like and why? Any recommendations we should know about?
I’m a bit of a modern and contemporary art junkie, specifically the works of mid-century modern designers like Eames, Dieter Rams, Henry Miller, and Frank Lloyd Wright. I’ll let you in on a local secret: If you find yourself in the Bay Area on the first Sunday of the month, I highly recommend taking a stroll through the Alameda Flea Market – those with a keen eye have got away with authentic mid-century antique furniture pieces for pennies on the dollar. My other passion is motorcycles and I have to admit that I’m smitten by mid-century European Cafe Racers from brands like Norton, Triumph, and Ducati, even though I don’t have much time these days to hit the hills. Perhaps my appeal for vintage minimalism is probably because of the contrasting colorful and rambunctious influences I grew up around in Bombay, India.
What is one specific thing your company does that makes your culture unique and/or different?
We are in the process of implementing “do weeks” every other month, where the whole team will go on a “workcation” to some other city in the US. These work weeks are meant to recreate the amazing TechStars experience that we had, where the team worked and lived in the same house for the entirety of the thirteen week program. The energy in that house during that time was simply incredible — it was the best team gelling experience and one of the most productive phases of the company.
What is one discipline/industry totally different from your own that has inspired you? How does it impact your work?
As you likely see in Good.Co — our team takes design and user experience quite seriously. Having spent a few years in advertising and design, we have seen recently that design can be a huge differentiator and now directly impacts the economic bottom-line. Empathizing with the user (consumer or enterprise) and focusing on fulfilling their functional and emotional needs is critical for success, particularly for a product with complex algorithms and technology in its guts. It just makes for a much more meaningful conversation.
What’s one tangible and concrete technique other organizations should use if they want to create a more human and/or meaningful place to work?
I think hiring managers in all organizations should back their hiring decisions and show more trust in their employees. By showing more confidence in your employees, the biggest asset of a business, you give them more ownership and allow them to find meaning in the work. It’s such a no-brainer but can sometimes be difficult to pull off.
What is one surprising thing we should know about you?
I stalk coffee-shops sometimes! I’ve had amazing luck meeting some of the most important people in my life at coffee shops — people who are now close friends, advisors to Good.Co, investors, and that pretty girl who I’m now married to!
What do you do for fun?
When you love what you do work feels like play. I’m one of the few who’s lucky enough to have that and our goal at Good.Co is to help people find what they love or fall in love with what they do.
How do you stay productive throughout your day?
Given that speed and flexibility is a startup’s biggest assets, my daily schedule is generally unpredictable and having too much process can actually end up being counter-productive. What I do try to do is carve out 2 hours every day as power-hours — no matter what time of day, those 2 hours are precious and must happen. It helps me get stuff done quickly without distractions and balance the urgent with the strategic.
Where in the world are you?
San Francisco, CA by way of Mumbai, India