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Exit Interview by Patrick Donegan – Newsletter #26

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

An important part of being data-driven is being curious. SVP Marketing at Hubspot Kieran Flanagan recently broke down on Twitter how Pinterest grew rapidly through experimentation. 👨‍🔬🔭📱 Companies often think about digital experimentation that doesn’t lead to clear, predictable wins as “failures” or an unnecessary expense. But for companies looking to scale, especially in industries where there’s no more low-hanging fruit, experimentation is key. Run tests – lots of them – at scale. If your company is not running new experiments and scaling them with your business, you’re sacrificing your competitive edge.

Tech Innovation at Work

Another nod to the new normal — Salesforce is working on software designed to help businesses return to the physical office after the pandemic. 🚙☕📆 Jo-ann Olsovsky, who leads Salesforce’s internal information technology department, said she expects most companies in post-Covid markets to adopt a hybrid approach to the workplace. Salesforce’s back-to-work apps include a scheduling app that lets workers choose weekly shift preferences, a wellness-assessment app that provides a daily check-in to monitor workers’ health and assess approvals to enter the office building, and a contact tracing and mapping features. 📱💊🤔 Like other Covid-response technology, the test will be how well it integrates with existing HR software to provide comprehensive insights. 

Sweetgreen Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer Nathaniel Ru spoke to the Wall Street Journal about how the company is reimagining fast food for Gen Z. 🍅🍃 As a step in that direction, the company has already snagged Naomi Osaka as its brand ambassador. 🎾🔥 They’ve also created the Sweetlife Festival, invested in collaborations with famous chefs, and made a series of TikTok recipe videos. 📱👨‍🍳 On consumer data from their new Sweetgreen app, Ru had this to say: “We look at everything from dietary preferences and history of orders to what you normally get. What we want to do in the future is personalize your digital ordering experience on the Sweetgreen app. If you don’t like meat and are gluten-intolerant, we want to make sure they don’t show up on your app. We look up to Spotify where they’ve done a really great job with Discover Weekly. We’d love to do the same with food. We’re just in the nascent stages.”


Tesla may be going into the nostalgic dining business. 🚗🌲 Elon Musk tweeted in January about putting “an old school drive-in, roller skates & rock restaurant” at Superchargers in Los Angeles, and shared more ideas in subsequent tweets. Electrek reported in March 2018 that Tesla had indeed applied for permits for a restaurant and charging station in Santa Monica. 🍔🏄 The plan didn’t appear to go anywhere for a few years, but then in April of this year, Musk insisted it was still on the cards, in a tweet responding to a complaint about long lines at charging stations.

Eyewear brand Warby Parker is on track to open 35 new stores this year. Co-founders and co-CEOs Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa note that the brand had been hit hard when the pandemic first broke. 🛍️👓📊 But the company has seen growth in e-commerce and recovery for in-store sales. Blumenthal says: “Roughly 75% of our customers that transact in stores have shopped with us online. They’re not just going to our website or our app to look up a store address or hours of operation, they’re actually shopping and choosing which frames they want to look at when they visit the store in person or when they go to the store for an eye exam.”🔥💪💅 On when the company plans to go public, Gilboa had this to say: “Currently, we have plenty of cash on the balance sheet, and so we’ll continue to think about strategic decisions and strategic financing decisions going forward, but it’s really all with sustainable growth in mind. We would view going public as a financing event or a liquidity event, but there’s not any timing catalysts that we’re thinking about.” 


The Changing Workplace

We hear a lot about the “war for talent,” but not about how data-driven approaches could be key to tackling the challenge. 📈✊🔍 Here’s a good take on how you can incorporate data to improve your hiring and promotion practices. Some insights include: 

  • Look internally. Internal hires, on average, receive higher performance reviews and cost less than their external counterparts, but 60% of hiring managers suggest internal recruiting could be improved by better identifying skills in existing employees.
  • Organizations abound with both new unfilled positions and old positions that may have lost significance in a virtual environment. Using people analytics, you can identify employees whose roles have been most affected and find ways to reposition or promote them. 
  • People analytics can tell us a lot about how an organization truly operates, but the picture of a company’s resources is often obscured by a rigid and outdated org chart. But by looking at the whole puzzle, companies can start to understand the pieces they have, the pieces they need, and how they fit together. What informal networks are at play that contribute to individual, departmental, and company-wide performance? How can the company identify and nurture the “movers and shakers” and ensure they are not overlooked, or worse, inadvertently lost? 
  • Analytics can also drive better talent management, illuminate ways forward for diversity and inclusion and lead to a more balanced workforce.  

Apple employees have written an internal letter opposing a new policy that would require them to return to the office three days a week starting in early September. The letter, sent Friday afternoon, states: “We would like to take the opportunity to communicate a growing concern among our colleagues that Apple’s remote/location-flexible work policy, and the communication around it, have already forced some of our colleagues to quit. Without the inclusivity that flexibility brings, many of us feel we have to choose between either a combination of our families, our well-being, and being empowered to do our best work, or being a part of Apple.” Here’s what the letter demands from the tech giant: 

  • “We are formally requesting that Apple considers remote and location-flexible work decisions to be as autonomous for a team to decide as are hiring decisions.”
  • “We are formally requesting a company-wide recurring short survey with a clearly structured and transparent communication feedback process at the company-wide level, organization-wide level, and team-wide level, covering topics listed below.” 🔍✊
  • “We are formally requesting a question about employee churn due to remote work be added to exit interviews.”
  • “We are formally requesting a transparent, clear plan of action to accommodate disabilities via onsite, offsite, remote, hybrid, or otherwise location-flexible work.” 👨‍💻✈️
  • “We are formally requesting insight into the environmental impact of returning to onsite in-person work, and how permanent remote-and-location-flexibility could offset that impact.”

SmartRecruiters just announced the official launch of the inaugural Internal Recruiting Awards (or “The IRAs”). The initiative will celebrate and recognize  employers and organizations committed to excellence in internal mobility. 🏆👨‍💼🍾 The deadline for submissions is Friday, June 11. Nominations are open to any employer, regardless of industry, size, or market presence. Entries will be reviewed by a panel of objective, independent industry experts and talent leaders for program innovation, utilization of emerging and existing technology, employee outcomes, and the role of internal recruiting in helping employers achieve Hiring Success. All winners will be officially announced on June 24. For more information and to submit a nomination, visit the 2021 Internal Recruitment Awards website.

All About Data

Wondering what in-house litigation teams worry about? According to a survey of 400 legal and compliance professionals conducted by global law firm Baker McKenzie, more than 45% of legal executives say they are most concerned about risk associated with cybersecurity and environmental issues. 💼🌳👩‍💻 Additionally, their survey found: 

  • 70% of in-house professionals say that they choose not to identify potential litigation risk for fear of higher costs for their organization.
  • Cybersecurity is the greatest litigation risk for 48% of global organizations. This is particularly important in the UK (62%) and the TMT [Tech, Media, Telecommunications]  (92%) and Financial sectors (83%).
  • 18% of global organizations report employment as their greatest litigation risk. This is particularly high in Brazil (34%) and the US (26%).
  • 46% of global organizations report environmental issues as their greatest litigation risk. This is particularly high in Singapore (58%) and the EMI [Energy, Mining, Infrastructure] (85%) and IMT [Industrials, Manufacturing, and Transport] sectors (73%).

According to a study by Forerunner Ventures, 77% of people report at least some concern about an ongoing threat of Covid-19 or new pandemics. Surprisingly, this trend bodes well for consumer behavior. 💉🛍️☁️ Over the recent 14 months, the pandemic-adaptive consumer was more likely to: 

  • spend more online (64% vs. 46%)
  • try new products (31% vs. 16%) 
  • support a creator (25% vs. 15%) 
  • shop grocery online for the first time (33% vs. 24%)
  • and use digital health services (15% vs. 5%).

Additionally, the pandemic has inspired greater curiosity about entrepreneurship, becoming or purchasing from creators, and investment. 

  • 35% of people expressed greater interest in working for themselves than before the pandemic, including 45% of 25 to 29-year-olds and 47% of parents with kids under 18 living at home. 🔥💪📈
  • 23% of respondents had purchased directly from an influencer or creator in the past 12 months. This increases to 33% for younger Millennials—a potential marker of upward trajectory for the future. 📱💅
  • Many respondents in our survey claimed that if they had extra money today, they’d choose to invest or save it versus spend it in any other category, including those who received three stimulus checks (36% vs. 25% with no stimulus) and those who were very concerned about a new Covid reality (35% vs. 26% not concerned). 💸🍾

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Patrick Donegan Chief Strategy Officer

Patrick Donegan

Chief Strategy Officer

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