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Exit Interview by Patrick Donegan – Newsletter #14

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

President Biden expects all adults to be eligible for the vaccine by May 1st, and vaccine supply seems to be on track to reach this goal. 💪 🔥 This is welcome news to everyone — but especially to companies with concrete plans to return to the office. However, it remains to be seen whether we will see a large-scale return to in-person work. As I have been proposing, companies should think about whether team productivity and morale have actually suffered from switching to remote work. If business is thriving and your employees are happy, what does having a physical office actually contribute? If companies are set on returning, they should think about how to make office space a true asset instead of a mandatory setup. 

Tech Innovation at Work

Because of Covid, many airlines have had to shift their primary revenue source from passenger flights to cargo flights. But the pandemic has had another effect: accelerated developments in flight technology. Reliable Robotics Corp is working on autonomous flights with the ultimate goal of filling the sky with pilotless planes transporting cargo and passengers. 🤖 🛩️☁️ According to federal and commercial data, pilot error accounts for more than 70% of fatal accidents. ⚠️ 🤔 Reliable’s hope is that computers can react more quickly and safely than people in an emergency. Before they roll this out of course, Reliable and like-minded startups will have to prove to the FAA that the technology is safe. They’ve currently raised $30 million and will focus on conducting autonomous tests. 

ServiceNow is embracing no-code capabilities. 💪⚒️🌟 They have plans to develop a new area called Creator WorkFlows that will help workers develop workflows without coding. In these new environments, users can use templates and drag and drop options to build workflows that make sense for them. Since more teams are working remotely, it stands to reason that new workplace software should cater to the needs of everyone, not just developers. 👨‍💻🏡 Chief innovation officer Dave Wright had this to say: “Because people haven’t had the same support networks and are distributed, you need to be able to produce software that has a consumer grade feel to it. And if you could get that in place, then you can get people to use the system. If you get people to use the system, then you start to get better employee productivity and employee engagement.”

Many big tech companies are working on AR technologies, and it seems like there’s growing clarity and cohesion over what they’re imagining for consumers. 📱😎 Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview with The Information that “there are going to be all these awesome use cases that come from this….rather than calling someone or having a video chat, you just kind of snap your fingers and teleport, and you’re sitting there and they’re on their couch and it feels like you’re there together.” According to Zuckerberg, by 2030, people will “teleport” via smart glasses, allowing for a fully in-person digital experience.  🔮🙌 Zuckerberg plans to release a pair of smart glasses in partnership with Ray-Ban later this year. 👓 🌍 It won’t be this advanced, but Facebook is clearly investing in AR for the long haul.  

Photo: Facebook / Oculus Quest 2

Target is opening 17 mini Apple shops in its stores this month — with plans to expand. 🎯🍎 The move is an attempt to make the sales floor more experiential, and it will include videos and displays that drive engagement. Target chief growth officer Christina Hennington says: “When we have something that is uniquely compelling and different, whether it’s in the assortment, how the experience is brought together or service — which is a big component of what we are talking about with the Apple experience — it draws our guests in, which then drives traffic, and of course sales over time.”🛍️📱📈 Target has tried other “shop in shop” arrangements, notably with Disney and Levi’s — and they plan to open hundreds of scaled-down Ulta Beauty stores with curated selections and trained makeup and skincare experts.

The Changing Workplace

Chipotle will now link executive compensation to environmental and diversity goals. Starting this year, 10% of Chipotle executive incentives will be tied to their progress achieving ESG and diversity goals. 🌯🌲🌍 Currently, the company plans to publish its carbon footprint, accounting for all its emissions along the supply chain, this year. 😮 ✅ It’s also developed a training academy with courses on conflict resolution and other skills that aims to help more employees climb the corporate ladder.  

Investing in technology is more important than ever, but in their eagerness to spend, companies are also wasting a lot of money. Worldwide IT spending is up 6% from last year, but companies are spending too much migrating to cloud because they don’t think about what it entails. 🙈 💰 Building instead of buying off-the-shelf options (or vice versa), poor communication, and a general misunderstanding who their customers are all contribute to enormous waste. Another source of waste is maintaining outdated systems long after they’ve become a drain on resources. 👎📉 Vivek Kundra,  COO at Sprinklr – a customer-experience software company – puts it well: “Companies need to ensure that they understand what their own concrete business goals are before moving forward with any software implementation. They should work with the vendor to understand how the technology will support their business goals.” 📣 Below is the breakdown in software spending: 

Graph: WSJ.com

Gallup met with 150 chief human resources officers of large companies — and here’s what they’re watching for in 2021. 📆 ✊ Some of this is expected, but notable findings include: 

  • Mission and purpose are driving high employee engagement
  • Unprecedented levels of communication and transparency are increasing trust, morale, and productivity
  • Productivity metrics are still broken and many doubt whether we should be focusing on productivity measures at all
  •  Finally, the 2020 state-of-emergency mindset is unlikely to be sustainable in 2021 

All About Data

In case you missed it — here is the the “Women in the Workplace” Report from Lean In and McKinsey. The big stat, unfortunately, is that 1 in 4 women are considering downshifting in their careers or leaving the workforce.

Other findings of note include: 

  • 54% of senior level women report feeling exhausted
  • Mothers are more likely than fathers to scale back or leave work because of Covid-19 
  • Black women are less likely to feel supported at work during Covid-19 

Here is the breakdown of the current corporate pipeline by gender: 

Airbnb released the results of their survey on travel in 2021. They anticipate that travel will be more personal, with mass tourism unlikely to return at scale this year. Here are some key stats to note: 

  • Travel for pleasure is the “out-of-home” activity Americans have missed the most. 
  • 41% say that traveling to connect with family and friends has become much more important to them. 
  • 54% of Americans surveyed are expecting to travel, or have already booked a trip, in 2021. 
  • Affordability is top of mind for 54% of respondents — and almost 3 in 5 Americans earning less than $50k a year say they are planning to travel this year. 
  • 2 in 5 Americans are able to work or study from home at least some of the time, and 35% of respondents expect it will become common to travel to new destinations and work remotely. 
  • Sustainability is also a key factor. 56% of those under the age of 50 say they are “much more” or “somewhat more” likely to use a platform that offers the ability to search for alternative energy and green accommodations.

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Patrick Donegan

Managing Director

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