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Exit Interview by Patrick Donegan – Newsletter #63

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

Despite their best efforts, no organizations managed to solve gender disparities with their heartfelt International Women’s Day social media posts this year. 🙁  But there was one Twitter account that seems to have moved us a little farther in the right direction. 

This year, freelance creative Francesca Lawson and software developer Ali Fensome celebrated the holiday by unleashing the Gender Pay Gap Bot: a homemade bot 🤖 ​that used the UK’s mandated gender wage disparity reporting laws to reveal whether companies are really putting their money where their mouth is. 🤑

The premise was simple: if a UK company tweeted about International Women’s Day, the program would retweet the post and add the company’s publicly reported gender wage gap. The bot bared it all: exposing pay disparities from 0.4% to the day’s peak of 73.2%. 🤭 Some companies chose to delete their Tweets, but those were also collected and their attempts to slink out of the spotlight were thwarted. All told, the Gender Pay Gap Bot did more to further women’s workplace equality than 77% of UK companies. 👎🏽 👎🏽 👎🏽

As you know by now, DE&I is one of the pillars of our organization and something I believe is fundamental to overall business success. To celebrate Women’s History Month, SEI is highlighting our female consultants in a series of blogs. Read the first post featuring Boston office’s Managing Principal, Monica Fisher, here. 🙌

Market Moves

Saying a job has “great benefits” used to mean full dental coverage for you and your spouse. But in these ✨ ​​unprecedented times ✨ your benefits package could very well include healthcare for everyone in the family — including your pet. 🐶  Pet insurance plans have been one of the latest trends employers are jumping on to attract and retain talent. And, naturally, entrepreneurs are rushing in with new offerings that blend traditional health insurance with modern tech. 📱 Globally, the pet insurance market is expected to jump from $4.5 billion to $16.8 billion by 2030, spurred by increased consumer awareness of unexpected vet bills, 💸 advancing technology, and of course, employee benefits. 

Of all the start-pups entering pet healthcare, the company with the most recent funding round, Dutch, encompasses everything that’s shifting in the industry. In late February, Dutch raised $20 million 💰 in Series A funding for its virtual vet care platform. CEO Joe Spector (yes, the Hims founder) hopes that following in the footsteps of human telemedicine by healthcare plans with tele-veterinary care offerings will help lower costs and help people get care for their pets when they need it. Fun fact: Jimmy Fallon 🎙️ was a part of the company’s seed funding round.

Thinking of adding pet insurance to your benefits package? Here’s a solid guide from Embrace to get you started. According to the puppy on the cover, it gets two paws up! 🐾

PHOTO: VCG BENEFITS AND HR ADVISORS VIA TWITTER

Tech Innovation at Work

Several weeks ago, I discussed Meta’s struggles with sexual harassment in the Metaverse. 🕹️ 🌎 After multiple reports from women that other avatars were invading their avatar’s personal space and participating in multiple forms of harassment, Horizon Worlds leaders announced a “Personal Boundary” feature, which prevented Avatars from coming within a set distance of one another. ⬅️ 👩‍🎤 ➡️ When the feature was first launched, it was a non-negotiable. But this week, Meta announced that it is refining the feature, giving users greater customization options for their personal bubble. The Personal Boundary feature will still be enabled when interacting with other users for the first time or during live events in the virtual world. 🌐 However, users now have the ability to turn it off when interacting with avatars on their friends list. Meta has based these new options on user feedback and, while they are optimistic that the new settings will make their virtual spaces safer without sacrificing interaction, the company did advise some precautions. ⚠️ Like Facebook (and, for some of us, MySpace 🦕 ), users can easily friend others they’ve never met — leaving potential for bad actors to infiltrate spaces where users have their Personal Boundary features turned off. 

In the world of digital transformation, focusing too much on the “what” and “why” can cause leaders to lose sight of the “how” 🤔 and find themselves ill-prepared for unexpected bumps or roadblocks. These types of hiccups can leave employees feeling frustrated, unheard, and resistant to new tech initiatives. 🙅‍♀️ Instead of experiencing those issues, check out the latest post from the Forbes Human Resources Council, where myself and other HR thought leaders offer advice and hands-on strategies for helping employees succeed in adopting new technologies. 😁

PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES VIA TWITTER

After years of ballooning prices and people going into debt for the latest tech, Apple 🍎 has finally announced that the long-awaited budget smartphone, the iPhone SE, is hitting the shelves this Friday. Dubbed by the New York Times as the “anti-consumer” phone, the new model is Apple’s bid to reach a segment of customers who aren’t interested in their more expensive models. The iPhone SE falls well below the standard price point at $430, 🤑 and still offers 5G ⚡ and the same computer processor as the iPhone 13. Beyond price, though, the company seems to be reaching out to the growing group of consumers who are trading in smartphones for “dumbphones.” The return of the flip phone isn’t just part of this year’s Y2K 📟 fashion trends; it’s part of a larger movement of people seeking to improve their wellbeing by reducing their screen time and undergoing a digital detox. Will we eventually find ourselves whimsically turning the dial on a brass rotary phone? ☎️ Probably not — they don’t accept Zoom calls. But still, understanding how modern consumers — aka employees — are choosing to interact will be important for leaders to create the best work experience.

The Changing Workplace

Prior to the pandemic, most companies envisioned an ideal employee as someone willing to work late and put 110% into their work. Thankfully, we’ve evolved from that viewpoint. 🙌 Employers and workers alike now understand that balanced employees are better employees, 😌 and no shift in work culture has helped employees achieve balance and wellbeing more than remote work. 💻 According to organizational engagement software company Prodoscope82.3% of employees are happier working remotely rather than on-site and more than a third report that it’s had a positive impact on their mental health. 💯

However, the data is not entirely rosy. 🌹 😟 Prodoscope’s research also found that some employees are struggling to stay engaged at work — lured away by social media scrolling or podcasts. Roughly a third of employees surveyed also reported working longer hours. Both of these factors are unequivocally tied to burnout, which The Hartford indicates is still a very real issue. 🔥 😵‍💫 🔥 

Overall, we seem to be in agreement that remote work is net positive for employees, but it’s up to leaders to ensure organizational culture encourages and supports employees to achieve a work-life balance that promotes personal and professional wellbeing. One of the most promising initiatives I’ve found is a joint venture between Harvard and MIT called the Work and Wellbeing Initiative. Check it out here. 🧰  🧘🏻‍♂️

PHOTO: QUARTZ AT WORK / REUTERS

As I mentioned last week, hundreds of international companies are now trying to understand how to manage employees who are in or fleeing from an active warzone. It’s no easy task, and I’m far from an expert in the subject. However, this piece from HR Dive has some thoughtful and actionable advice for HR leaders. If your organization does not have employees in Ukraine, but is looking for ways to provide aid, leveraging new remote work culture to hire displaced Ukraine refugees is quickly becoming one of the most flexible and powerful ways companies can provide direct assistance to Ukrainians. More on how to do that here. 🇺🇦

All About Data

We may have just discussed burnout among employees, but management is not immune to the negative impacts of the Great Resignation — and are often left to shoulder the additional burden of understaffed teams. 😫 People management software organization Humu has published their 2022 State of the Manager Report 🗣️ to help leaders understand the challenges of 2021, identify ways to help managers now, and create a better work culture for the rest for 2022 and beyond. Here are the highlights: 

We all understand how detrimental bad management is to an organization, but here are some stats to really drive it home:

  • Highly effective managers drive 48% higher profits than average managers. 📈
  • 65% of employees would take a better manager over a pay raise. ⚖️
  • 70% of variation in employee engagement can be explained by manager effectiveness. 📊

In 2022, employees expect a lot more support from their managers — but who’s supporting them? Managers are now facing a lot of the challenges employees have vowed not to tolerate:

  • 25% increase in after hour meetings 🕔
  • 49% increase in weekend work ⏰
  • 25% higher burnout 🔥

As a result, managers were reported to be twice as likely as employees to be looking for a new job at the end of 2021.

It’s likely that one of the biggest contributors to management burnout in 2022 is a misalignment in leadership’s and management’s understanding of modern managerial roles.

When asked about the primary responsibilities of the modern manager, HR leaders identified:

  1. Facilitating transformation ✨
  2. Improving team agility 🏃
  3. Leading a high-performing team 💯

However, managers who were surveyed have a very different set of priorities:

  1. Helping teams combat burnout 🧯
  2. Retaining top talent 👑
  3. Hiring and onboarding 🤝

Clearly, we have a classic case of leadership disconnect. 😐 How can organizations realign objectives, help managers, and retain talent? 

First, leaders need to make sure they’re providing the right advice. According to the study, manager development efforts are 8 times more effective if leaders first identify where a specific manager needs to improve:

When managers are supported, find work meaningful, and are given the resources they need to thrive, their teams thrive, too.

  • Employees who feel their managers offer growth opportunities are 7.9 times more likely to stay. 💪 
  • Transformations are 5 times more likely to succeed when managers [have the resources to] model change. 👀
  • Employees also become 2.4 times more likely to make measurable improvements in their work. 📏
  • Teams with managers who are responsive to their needs are 3 times more innovative as teams with less engaged managers. 🧠

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Patrick Donegan

Chief Strategy Officer

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