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Exit Interview by Patrick Donegan – Newsletter #41

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

Facebook recently announced their latest philanthropic endeavor: the Facebook Invoice Fast Track program. The organization has pledged to purchase $100 million in unpaid invoices from an estimated 30,000 women- and minority-owned small businesses. Facebook will eventually receive the payment for the invoices, but this program will provide small businesses with much-needed cash infusions to offset losses incurred throughout the pandemic. It really is a great idea and unique way to support the community.

The thing is, the initiative feels more like damage control than philanthropy. Facebook is under fire yet again for leaked documents that prove the company was aware of the significant harm their platforms cause to young people. 😬 If that wasn’t enough, more leaked documents revealed that the company was aware of human traffickers and cartels using their platform for recruitment — going so far as to purchase ad credits to lure unsuspecting victims. 😨Although Facebook is providing much-needed relief to their advertisers, do-good initiatives aren’t a replacement for tackling major structural problems within its product set. Zuckerberg will likely find himself in front of Congress again, and maybe even a jury of his peers.

For the full coverage of the latest Facebook fiasco, I would recommend the WSJ’s report and mini podcast series, The Facebook Files.

Market Moves

As we look towards the fall season’s roster of IPOs, one trend seems to be dictating nearly all major market moves: doing goodAllbirdsWarby Parker, and other DTC startups are including unprecedented sections issues in their initial-public-offering filings that commitments to a variety of environmental, social, and governmental (ESG).With 2021 being a record year for fundraising and valuations, it’s clear that US investors are joining consumers in holding companies to higher standards of sustainability.

Canvas raised $50 million in its latest series C round, led by Owl Ventures. The company, co-founded by a high school dropout turned entrepreneurial activist Ben Herman and his partner, Adam Gefkovicz, offers a diversity-driven recruiting and benchmarking platform. This latest round of funding will be for their newest initiative, Canvas Diversity Analytics & Benchmarking, where companies can publish their diversity metrics and see how they square up with competitors. “It’s no longer about murky inferred inconsistent data,” says Herman, who is optimistic that Canvas will usher in a new standard of DEI.

Tech Innovation at Work

Facebook and Ray-Ban have come together to create Ray-Ban Stories, the latest in wearable tech. 😎📷🔈 Starting at $299 a pop, the smart shades, which are being hailed as a better version of Snapchat’s Spectacles, have two built-in cameras, a bluetooth speaker, and touchpad. Rather than going for all the bells and whistles like AR and lens display screens, Ray-Ban Stories’ primary offering is hands-free image and video capture, which are saved on the glasses’ companion app, Facebook View. No matter how you feel about sunglasses with hidden cameras, I’m just glad we’re one step closer to abandoning the selfie stick. 👎👎👎

Zoom has announced new features coming next year, including live translation and VR meetings. 👩‍💻 The company is looking to expand on its current portfolio of translation services for both free and paid accounts, with paid accounts having access to real-time transcripts in a dozen languages by the end of 2022. Zoom is also partnering with Facebook’s Horizon Workrooms, a virtual meeting room experience.  Users will now be able to schedule meetings as well as access and interact with their Zoom whiteboards inside a “Workroom.”  🖥️👾👨‍💻

Installment payment services, aka buy-now, pay-later, have made steady gains over the past year, not surprisingly spurred on by the shift to online purchasing during the pandemic. But the concept recently made headlines when leading provider Affirm announced a partnership with Amazon, whose customers can now opt to pay upfront or in four interest-free installments. 🤑💳 The growing service has both supporters and naysayers. For small businesses, partnering with pay-later companies like Affirm, Afterpay, or Klarna does more than just increase how much their customers purchase. 🛍️🛍️ Most pay-now services offer their users custom shopping recommendations, connecting them with partnered businesses and driving audience growth. 📈😀 On the other side of the fence, consumer protection groups are wary of reckless spending, as well as the fact that most installment payment programs don’t contribute to building credit like a traditional credit card. For the most part, though, many consumers feel that this is a natural step in growing consumer power, and a big step in removing price barriers for luxury items like plane tickets. Read both sides of the argument here.

PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES/MICHAEL STRAVATO

The Changing Workplace

CNBC dropped a no-holds barred piece showcasing two workers struggling to maintain their sanity as HR professionals during the pandemic. 😵🦠 They offer insight into their day-to-day over the last 18 months, including laying off hundreds of employees, creating multiple (failed) plans for returning to the office, and bearing the brunt of employee fears and frustrations. One of them even did the interview on her first day off since the start of the pandemic — before wrapping up a few meetings with her team so she could finally enjoy her vacation. As HR professionals ourselves, it’s a tough read, but an important one.

Zoom is following people back to the office. The company has partnered with Room, the makers of an in-office telecommunication booth, to create an in-office video conferencing pod, aka “Room for Zoom.” After being cooped up in our homes for over a year, tied to our laptops and subjected to back-to-back video calls, it seems like a micro-cubicle designed specifically for Zoom calls is the last thing workers would be interested in. 🏠👨‍💻😩 But the new product is admittedly a smart move if the company wants to maintain its strong market position in a hybrid work world. “We want to do whatever is best for our customers,” said Ty Buell, a solutions architect at Zoom, “So if they’re happy being fully remote, then we want to support that, and if they want to come into the office, we need to have offerings for that as well.” Zoom Rooms are soundproof and come outfitted with a high-definition camera, adjustable desk, and large desktop monitor.

PHOTO: WSJ

All About Data

Every organizational leader has been keeping close eyes on the evolving COVID-19 regulations, searching desperately for guidance on the safest ways to bring their workforce — vaxxed or otherwise — back into the office at least part of the time. President Joe Biden’s new vaccine mandates 💉 will reportedly affect more than 100 million Americans, including any employee of a company with more than 100 people. Blind, a popular anonymous forum for employees across all professional industries, surveyed 5,000 verified members following Biden’s announcement about their opinions on the mandate. Here’s what they said: 

  • 76% of respondents support Biden’s mandates.
  • 46% of respondents said they would report their company for not complying with vaccination and weekly testing requirements.
  • Tech company workers were the most likely to report their employer for non-compliance; whereas finance and bank workers were the least likely.

You can check out Blind’s survey data here.

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Patrick Donegan

Managing Director

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