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Exit Interview by Patrick Donegan – Newsletter #10

By: Patrick Donegan

For some time, I’ve been looking for one “source” that curates modern takes on HR Tech, perspectives from the people who build it, and its impact on enterprise — something that’s tailor-made by professionals for decision-makers.

I never found it — so I decided to build it.

Every week, I’ll be sharing fresh insights on tech platforms, design, data, and the future of work — straight to your inbox.

My Thoughts

With the vaccine rollout accelerating, more and more companies are planning to return to the office. 💼🏢 For many, this can also be an opportunity to make some fundamental changes. If things have been bad since March 2020, it’s probably not just a question of office space. 🤔 Has COVID exposed underlying issues with your operations or with employee experience? Is it time to update legacy technologies? Furniture can be rearranged — you might not even need it at all. Your products and services are what matter. Figure out how to make a difference where it counts. 💪💡🏆

Tech Innovation at Work

Bill Gates has a plan for addressing climate change. How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, published by Knopf, comes out on February 16. It’s not cheerful reading, but Gates talks about innovative solutions in the works. 🌍🔥🏄 One example is CGIAR, the world’s largest agricultural research group. Here’s a snippet: “Thanks to CGIAR’s efforts, new types of rice that can tolerate drought are spreading rapidly in India, where climate change is causing more dry spells during the rainy season. They’ve also developed a type of rice—cleverly nicknamed ‘scuba’ rice—that can survive underwater for two weeks.”🌾💧 In addition to changing what is farmed, CGIAR is also changing how farmers tackle problems: “Its scientists have also created a smartphone app that allows farmers to use the camera on their phones to identify specific pests and diseases attacking cassava, an important cash crop in Africa. It’s also created programs for using drones and ground sensors to help farmers determine how much water and fertilizer their crops need.”

Volkswagen is using Microsoft’s cloud to develop their own self-driving software. 🚗👨‍💻💡 In 2018, VW signed a deal that will connect its cars to Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service — this new deal means that the software developed will also use the same cloud to connect and update new features on cars. The natural comparison seems to be with smartphones — AI-enabled cars will be able to receive new features every week, hopefully making driving safer and a better experience. 

Photo:  Erin Scott/Reuters

New CEO Jane Fraser has her work cut out for her making changes at Citigroup. 🏦💪📈 The bank is still profitable, but it’s made some very public mistakes. These include a $400 billion fine, failing to catch money launderers and educate customers about lower rate mortgages, and accidentally wiring $900 million to the wrong people earlier this year. As head of the bank’s Latin America business, Fraser steered the bank through economic crises in Venezuela and Argentina and helped clean up its Mexican subsidiary. 🌟⚖️ As CEO, she’ll continue the bank’s investment in new technologies and the opportunities they open up — for instance, bringing poorer Americans into the banking system with new products and expanding digital payments.

The Changing Workplace

This is a point about imposter syndrome that needs to be made. Seminars on coping with imposter syndrome are everywhere — but few of them acknowledge the context around it. 🙅🤔 We often talk about it as a problem of women needing to build confidence. But often, imposter syndrome simply describes what is a natural response to a hostile work environment. This informative piece by Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey points out:  “The answer to overcoming imposter syndrome is not to fix individuals but to create an environment that fosters a variety of leadership styles and in which diverse racial, ethnic, and gender identities are seen as just as professional as the current model.” 🔥💪

The pandemic has accelerated HR trends, and there have been a lot of articles about how to move forward after COVID. If you’re finding it hard to keep track, here’s a good summary of the takeaways from 2020. ✅💯 According to the Zoom blog, the three pillars for businesses moving forward are talent, transformation, and trust: “empower talent to be productive from anywhere, reimagine legacy processes as transformed services, and provide the secure, safe, and private means to collaborate with confidence.” 👏😎 It’s hard to argue with any of this, but again — it’s all in the execution. 

The service industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, but not everyone has been impacted equally. 90% of Black restaurant employees reported that their tips declined by half or more since the health crisis began, and Black workers are more likely to be retaliated against with lower tips for enforcing COVID safety measures. 😡😷 Something to think about is how HR technology can help make pay structures more equitable. This may be something investment in data transformation can help tackle. 🤔📉 Analytics and monitoring can make pay equity more transparent and help employers intervene when necessary. 

All About Data

I gave my take on GameStop two weeks ago, and movies and books on the topic are already in the works. But what does this mean for the majority of investors? 📈👨‍💻✊ Enter SurveyMonkey. According to their new poll:

  • 75% say they have not purchased GameStop or similar stocks and have no interest in ever participating in community-driven trading events.
  • 39% believe that investing events like GameStop create opportunities for non-professional investors to earn wealth — even if they’re not willing to have a go themselves.
  •  53% say their investing activity has increased in the last 12 months.

Here’s also a fascinating breakdown of how they’re investing:

Graph: SurveyMonkey

In case you missed it, there were some interesting takeaways from Accenture’s 2019 Consumer Pulse Survey. With e-commerce growing rapidly, the stakes of data collection — and what brands do with the data they collect — are higher than ever. 🛍️📱 Brands must personalize UX, but they must also be careful not to abuse customer data. After all, mindful data collection is itself part of a better consumer experience. 🙌💃 Here are a few highlights: 

  • 76% of consumers say they are uncomfortable with data collection via microphone or voice assistant.
  • 30% of consumers said a brand had gotten “too personal” — and 69% of these consumers would stop doing business with a brand or reconsider their relationship to the brand because of this.
  • 51% consumers left a retailer/branded website because of poor personalization — 51% of these consumers think invasive ads are on the rise.
  • 93% of consumers agree it’s important that every interaction they have with a brand is excellent, whenever or wherever they happen in the decision to purchase from a brand or retailer.

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Patrick Donegan

Managing Director

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