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Exit Interview by Patrick Donegan — Newsletter #90

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

I’ve been traveling quite a lot over the past two weeks. In between emails and transfers, I found myself indulging in a bit of reality television to pass the time. One show in particular, actually: Below Deck Mediterranean. 🛥️

Below Deck is a show that centers around the small crew of a luxury charter yacht. Between the guests, workers, and TV crew, there’s hardly room for any kind of HR department on the 150-foot vessel. So for the remaining 3-hour flight back to DC, I decided to sit back and see just what kind of work is happening below deck. 😉

The storyline that stayed with me long after the plane landed was the saga of a pantry, which fell further and further into disarray as the episode went along. 🔥 Halfway through the charter, the yacht’s captain ventured into the crew area to find the chaos and became outwardly frustrated, demanding it be cleaned up. At the end of the excursion, the head steward and a fellow crew member stayed late on the ship to clean the pantry while the rest of the group enjoyed a night out paid for by the ship’s owner. 🫤

Upon seeing the captain’s angry outburst, my first thought was to call her out for a very blatant example of leadership disconnect. 👎 For her to not realize the extent of the mess until well into the trip made it obvious that she was not taking the time to visit the crew areas. In a highly-demanding work environment, it’s crucial for leaders to be visible 👀 — not only so teams feel supported, but so leaders can experience firsthand what’s happening in their workplaces.

The next thing I thought could use some improvements was the lack of long-term problem-solving that went into the pantry cleaning. 🧹 🧠 Every pain point is an opportunity. If I were in that position, I might have asked: What crew members interact most with the pantry, and how is management actively supporting them during high-pressure sprints? Is organization a value that’s being adequately demonstrated in the crew’s culture? Was the pantry simply not set up with the end-user in mind? 🤔 I would love to see what a good design thinking session could do for that pantry. 

At the end of the episode, I had a tough time watching the manager and her close coworker stay late to clean the pantry while everyone else enjoyed some well-deserved shore leave. 😵‍💫 Even though I respect their commitment, I wanted the captain to step in and encourage them to participate in what was technically a company dinner intended for the entire crew. However, it appeared that she had already departed. And by the time credits rolled, it was also my time to depart. 🛬

If you liked this analysis, I highly suggest checking out Below Deck and watching a few episodes to see what kind of HR blunders you can spot. 🌊 🛥️

And remember: there’s nothing more scandalous than bad workplace culture. 💯

Gif of ship crew, saying "Welcome Aboard"

Tech Innovation at Work

One year after Salesforce acquired Slack, the CRM giant is finally rolling out new product features anticipated when the real-time collaboration platform was first acquired. ⌚ Slack Canvas was unveiled last week at the Salesforce annual conference, Dreamforce. ☁️ Canvas is the long-awaited, in-app info-sharing tool that’s been in Slack’s strategy since 2014 — when it acquired the document 📝 collaboration startup Spaces with the hopes of integrating the company’s tools into its own (though the plan never came to fruition). Canvas was developed using functions from Salesforce’s existing collaboration tool, Quip, and fine-tuned to match Slack’s existing workflows. 🔀

The Changing Workplace

A New York judge has set a court date for Goldman Sachs’ gender bias lawsuit, beginning June 2023. Barely a week later, however, new court filings reveal some truly abhorred allegations of sexual harassment. 😠 The documents detail at least 75 incidents between 2000 and 2011, including several instances of sexual assault against women from different male employees — many of whom were later promoted over the women they’re accused of attacking. I’ll be keeping an eye out for any more news as the countdown to the trial continues, but the evidence so far is not looking too good for Goldman.

Clothing retailer 👖American Eagle Outfitters 🦅 has been shoved into the spotlight after allegations from a popular content creator resurfaced about AEO executives attempting to silence complaints of toxic culture and harassment. Ellen, the content creator who brought the issues into the public eye, said in a recent TikTok ⏰ video that when her content started to go viral, HR brought her in. She agreed to alter the content and avoid bringing negative attention to American Eagle (even though she’d never publicly mentioned the company). Ellen chose to use this facetime with American Eagle leadership to share concerns about serious issues occurring at her store location. She quit halfway through her third disciplinary meeting, telling her managers, “I’ve brought all these concerns to HR, and your major concern is my TikTok videos?” 🙄🤳 After sharing this experience with her followers, American Eagle’s social media was bombarded by users calling out the company and demanding change. Comments on their videos were eventually turned off, and American Eagle has not addressed the issue beyond an initial formal statement. 🎤

All About Data

Between inflation concerns and student debt forgiveness, financial benefits are hot commodities. Morgan Stanley 🏦 has the latest on what employees expect and what HR leaders should look for to know if their programs are meeting expectations. 

Fast Facts:

  • Access to a financial advisor was the top-ranked choice among employees for retirement planning benefits.
  • 87% of HR leaders are concerned about attrition if companies don’t step up their financial benefits. 🪜
  • 89% of employees said their employer needs to do a better job of helping them understand and maximize the financial benefits being offered.

Actionable takeaways: With economic instability looming overhead, financial benefits are more pressing than ever. 🤑 Read the full study and start evaluating how to expand your total compensation for the upcoming year. 

People ops software company Culture Amp has identified learning and development (L&D) ✍️ 📚as the top priority for employers moving into 2023. 

Fast Facts:

  • Even if your company offers L&D, employees who don’t feel they have access to professional development are twice as likely to leave in the first year.
  • Companies that create a culture of development see an average of 24% more growth. 📈
  • Companies that focus on employee development receive $77k more funding per employee.

Actionable takeaways: L&D isn’t just training modules. 💾 Strong programs — effective at retaining employees as well as developing them — require a well-rounded set of opportunities that can include cross-collaboration or job shadowing with other teams, networking events, 🎙️ podcasts, helping employees join professional associations, and more. Get the full report and start building out your L&D program here. 👈

Editor’s Picks

Patrick Donegan Chief Strategy Officer

Patrick Donegan

Chief Strategy Officer

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