Three years ago, Klaudia Bachinger was a documentary filmmaker – and very much fascinated by peoples stories. She was working on two projects that prompted her transition to found WisR, a job platform out of Vienna, Austria that connects retirees and experienced workers to open roles at hiring companies.
One was a documentary on the future of work and the question of how the world will be working, who will be working and what kind of jobs will be available once automation becomes the norm. The other was on the so-called “silver society” and an actually quite young demographic – Baby Boomers – that’s perceived as old. It blatantly highlighted the urgent to rethink age in our societies.
At the very same time, Bachinger was caring for her grandmother – a proud woman who seemed to be loosing her zest for life due to social isolation and lack of appreciation for her competencies since she’d retired.
The combo of personal consternation and demographic research sparked a thought. Why can’t there be a knowledge exchange and job platform for young retirees?
And so you have it – WisR. We sat down with Bachinger to talk more about her company and her story.
What should companies know about employing older or retired adults? Why should this be of higher consideration when thinking about filling out your ranks?
First of all, we know that every second retiree in Germany, Switzerland and Austria wants to actively keep working beyond the official retirement age. Their motivations are social inclusion and community, sharing their accumulated knowledge and experience, and, depending on the social system, additional income to their pension money.
Secondly, the masses of baby boomers retiring have a huge impact on 12 out of 15 biggest economies in the world, such as Germany, Canada, South Korea or Mexico. That leaves us with a global workforce crisis in 2030. Even with automation, this huge lack of labor can only be filled by including more women, more migrants and more people over 60.
This is why demographic diversity is so necessary, and we’re slowly seeing companies in Germany and Austria starting to rethink recruiting strategies, which once looked like “a young, Caucasian, university graduate”. The same goes for new work concepts, such as job sharing between a young mother and a retired adult.
As for the target group itself, there are many arguments and competencies that are convincing more and more companies to hire people beyond retirement age. As age increases, emotional intelligence, people management skills, critical thinking, service orientation and negotiation skills increase too. Our ‘young silvers’ are extremely good in sales, customer service, consulting and training or business development.
In addition, we develop and discover new jobs with companies that nobody thought would be suitable for older workers: UX and software testing for the older target group, conversation designers for chatbots, a human assistant for self-service machines, content monitoring for social networks and content-based tech, blogging and proofreading, or data processing and labelling for AI companies.
Wisr won startup of the year last year at 4GameChangers. What do you think got you there?
First thing, I have a great complementary founding team, which was really hard to find. I believe this to be the most crucial step when it comes to starting a business. Carina is our numbers crunchers, she’s very thorough when it comes to financial planning and legal issues. Martin – the ‘wisest’ at age 45 – is our IT genius and knows all the dangers that one can face in product development and building a tech team. And I often act as the visionary, focusing on creative solutions, UX design and understanding peoples motivation.
When I had found my team, we applied for grants and incubator programs, where we learned a ton and got our first 100,000€ to build an MVP. We also focused heavily on customer development interviews with all stakeholders, retirees and companies to understand the real pain points and the jobs we help them get done. And then, for the pitch, I guess we just did our homework!
There have been a lot of developments in HRTech in the past several years, from the use of AI, to blind resume processing, to internal cultural assessment. What do you feel have been the most innovative and positive moves in the space?
Unfortunately, so far nobody has found a good way to match candidates with companies – not even Google Cloud Jobs API. I believe this is due to the fact that we’re still using standardised CVs that will tell you nothing about the person and whether he or she fits into your company culture – the personality profile you’re looking for. So what I really like are ideas to reverse recruiting, and video-supported recruiting, as well as gamification approaches in HR.
We know the world of being for-profit, for-good. What are some of the challenges you’ve found with growing a business in the social impact space?
For someone coming from the creative space, it was completely new to me that it’s either, or – either for-profit, or for-positive impact. I refuse to separate business from sustainability and social impact.
On the contrary, I feel the more profit you make the more impact you have – and the other way around. Yes, there might be some mainstream investors and VCs that don’t understand that they go together, but it’s really mostly a matter of not understanding the future of work space in general.
If you know our world is transforming, that talents and customers – from Millennials to Baby Boomers – are looking for purpose-driven companies and sustainable products, you simply cannot build a business without a positive impact on the environment and society we live in.
Tell us about the tech scene in Austria.
Even though Austria has been leading innovation in technology for decades and brought up some so-called “hidden champions”, there’s still a lot to do when we talk about gender in tech. Only 8% of young tech companies are lead by a female founder. It’s really a shame and Carina (my co-founder) and I try to be as visible and inspiring as possible in our roles as CEO and CFO. And slowly, we see more and more male business leaders and investors encouraging and mentoring young women. There are financial benefits and special grants for women-lead companies from the city of Vienna and since 2017 there is even a female founder accelerator program. But I would definitely love to see more women going into the tech scene.
As a company founded by two women in Europe, how has the process of starting and growing WisR gone for you? Who’s doing great work in this space, and what else do you feel needs to be done?
Honestly, for us it was actually an advantage because we got a lot of support in the community and attention by the media for just being two women in tech. At the beginning, I always felt like I was a token woman, but in the end you just have to take what you get and loose your pride!
There are many great initiatives and supporters in the space: the Impact Hub Vienna, the Female Founders Association, the Awards for Female Investors, the Vienna University of Economics and Business, the Lemmings Program (Incubator for chatbots and AI), ELEVATE by TheVentury (Accelerator for conversational interfaces), and the Vienna Business Agency with their public grants.
What needs to be done? We need to foster entrepreneurship in schools and create stronger women’s networks in the business, finance and tech space, and most importantly show more female role models.