Empowering Employees to Increase Engagement: An Interview with David Karandish of Jane.ai


“A company that is early to adopt new technologies that empower employees is a company that will see attraction and retention rates improve, as well as employee engagement.”

Interview with David Karandish, Founder and CEO of Jane.ai on using the latest technologies to empower employees with instant access to company knowledge to increase both Employee Engagement and Employee Net Promoter Score. Also learn how best to build a business case to bring about change.

How have you seen the HR leadership’s attitude toward HRTech – the use of technology to enable, scale and optimize HR business outcomes – evolve?

As with so many departments in other areas of the enterprise, I think HR execs have been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of systems and applications their organizations have to interact with to attract, hire, manage and retain their employee base. Training on these systems is expensive, not to mention the cost of rolling off of or onto new systems. New offerings in areas like compliance, diversity and inclusion, and employee engagement pop up every day. I think leaders are looking for systems that will free up their teams to focus on nurturing talent and building stronger organizations and cultures. We all want to get our heads out of software and into real problem-solving. It feels like we’re just now reaching a place where the systems are starting to play better together, and leaders are energized by the possibilities.

The future of work – both the workplace and workforce – is upon us, and HR managers find it increasingly difficult to compete. What are the essential technology tools that they need to compete in this digital world?

Those entering the workforce have dramatically different expectations than just a few years ago, not just expectations of their employers and supervisors; they also have different expectations around technology. This is the generation raised on Snapchat and Netflix. Managers need to find tools that empower their employees to communicate effectively with each other and share information in meaningful – and instantaneous – ways. With the sheer volume of data being created and collected every day – even every hour – it’s more critical than ever to find ways to mitigate the noise. That’s going to mean more real-time collaboration tools like Slack vs. email, cloud drive tools like Google Drive vs. the less flexible storage systems of the past, and chatbots that allow team members to get critical, timely business intel without having to interrupt their colleagues.

Information gathering and sharing – especially in enterprise size organizations – is always a challenge and, like you say, leads to millions of lost people hours and impacts productivity. Why is HR a stakeholder in changing this?

If an HR leader is tasked with developing a transparent information sharing strategy, where should they begin? What should be the key elements and milestones in finally leading up to an intelligent chatbot like Jane.ai being able to answer all queries?

The best place to start is with the teams who are fielding questions today; if there’s a helpdesk function in the organization, they will have metrics on what issues are creating the most inbound inquiries. It may be technical questions around specific HRIS or CRM tools; it may be around Benefits; it may be around performance management. No matter what, it should be relatively easy to determine what information can be moved to a level-zero support tool like Jane. We counsel many clients to start by giving Jane information on HR policies and procedures and going from there, and that’s something we can get up and running in a matter of days. And one of the great things about a tool like Jane is how quickly you’ll start to understand where teams have the most inquiries. One of our university clients has said, “What excites me the most about Jane is not only her answering questions from our staff, but she is uncovering all of the areas we didn’t know people had questions.”

What are the practical challenges that would come up in the implementation of a solution like Jane.ai?

I think we’ve done a good job of anticipating any such challenges and mitigating them. A lot of our work has been focused on eliminating the barriers to entry that often come with implementing a new technology within a company. Jane connects to around 40 different applications and you can talk to her on your website, your intranet, Slack, you name it. We can get your company up and running with Jane quickly and painlessly.

Let’s talk about onboarding. We know that a strategic approach to onboarding at senior levels can really impact retention and productivity. What opportunities are large enterprises missing with onboarding today?

Well, we’re aware that on average, the cost of an employee leaving equals approximately 50% of their salary. In the case of a senior executive or C-Suite individual, that cost can reach up to 200% of their salary. One of the biggest pain points of onboarding is getting new recruits aligned with the organization, which isn’t only an informational issue, but a cultural one. An AI like Jane can take care of loads of information required during the onboarding phase, freeing up HR staff to really connect with their new workers. It is also a frictionless way for new talent to ask questions they may not be comfortable asking a colleague yet. Everything from “what is our domestic partner insurance coverage policy?” to “where are the coffee filters in the 3rd-floor kitchen?”

How can HR leaders of mid to large size companies build a business case for investing in technology to execute HR strategies? What are your top tips to them for collaborating with functional leaders for the best outcomes?

We’ve seen clients build 4 really successful business cases for implementing a tool like Jane, which can address multiple pain points simultaneously:

  1. On the talent acquisition and onboarding front, there’s clear ROI to be achieved by implementing chatbots to respond to level 0 support and also proactively push training materials to new staffers as well as checklists to managers as they bring on new talent. So much of this is manual today and can be streamlined while reducing the burden on the humans in the loop and improving the experience for all parties.
  2. There’s the operational expense reduction of moving repeated HR and corporate policy questions like “how do I submit an expense report” and “how do I move an employee from one manager to another in Workday” from human labor to machine labor. And the very real ancillary benefit of reallocating talented HR professionals back to doing what they do best: connecting with people to build better teams.
  3. Then there’s the gained productivity of empowering team members to get answers to all of their questions instantaneously, without having to distract a colleague or spend hours searching hopelessly through outdated document repositories. Today, 35% of a knowledge worker’s time each day is spent looking for information. We’ve all been in that place where you need one piece of information – a cost center, a hire date, a job code – to push an important item through. How much time and productivity are lost as these items add up on an individual level and then aggregate level? 
  4. Which leads to the 4th, and possibly most critical business case for a tool like Jane: eNPS (Employee Net Promoter Score). A company that is early to adopt new technologies that empower employees is a company that will see attraction and retention rates improve, as well as employee engagement. The generation entering the workforce now may be the most demanding yet when it comes to their expectations of the organizations they support each day. Taking proactive technology measures will reap significant benefits as those entry-level employees progress to managers and leaders.


Each business case may involve a different group of stakeholders:

What is the impact you are seeing, in practice, of technologies such as Mobile, AI, blockchain, and machine learning – on HR practices, especially at the executive and board levels? What technologies and trends are your tracking in the space as we head into 2020?

HRT: That was such an eye-opening talk! Thank you for that in-depth conversation on how empowering people with instant access to knowledge can even help increase Employee Engagement and Employee Net Promoter Score, David. We hope to speak with you again, soon!

About David Karandish:

David Karandish is the Founder and CEO of Jane.ai, an enterprise artificial intelligence company focused on making all company intelligence accessible in the simplest possible way. Before founding Jane.ai, David was the CEO of Answers Corporation. He co-founded the parent company of Answers in 2006 and sold the company to a private equity firm in 2014 for north of $900m. David holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a second major in entrepreneurship from Washington University in St. Louis. He lives in St. Louis with his wife, Erin, and four kids.

About Jane.ai:

Jane.ai is an artificial intelligence platform that empowers employees to access their company’s intelligence in the simplest way possible — through a conversational interface. Jane makes company information accessible by integrating with apps, mining intel from docs, and learning tribal knowledge. This gives employees instant access to the information they need, in moments instead of hours. Jane.ai was founded in St. Louis, Missouri in 2017 by serial entrepreneurs David Karandish and Chris Sims, and is backed by a network of Midwest investors. Jane.ai’s current clients include Washington University in St. Louis, USA Mortgage, and Ameren, among others. More information can be found at www.jane.ai.

Source: https://www.hrtechnologist.com/interviews/digital-transformation/david-karandish-interview-empowering-employees-increase-engagement/

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