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Exit Interview by Patrick Donegan — Newsletter #97

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

Good morning and happy Thursday to everyone except the Salesforce executive team. If it seems like I’m coming in hot 🔥, let me explain why: the tech giant recently updated its policies to allow managers to fire employees without HR involvement. By eliminating the neutral third party whose existence is intended to ensure employees are treated fairly, Salesforce has essentially nixed the workplace equivalent of a trial by jury of their peers. 🧑‍⚖️🧑‍💼

In a field that is so often touting how forward-thinking, people-centric, and transparent their practices are, tech companies are showing the world what truly lies beneath that idyllic facade.

What do you risk when you play dirty in layoffs? Just a quick jaunt to any news outlet or social platform, and you’ll find the repercussions of what happens when you go viral for all the wrong reasons. We live in a world where people don’t just get laid off quietly — they can tell everyone about their experience — good or bad 🐦. Personally, I think it’s a good thing. Companies have massive power and influence over how we live and work, and it’s frankly irresponsible to act so ruthlessly toward the people who helped them grow to that position in the first place. 🤝 Even if these companies start adjusting their severance packages out of fear of backlash, at least that’s a start.

Tech layoffs are happening everywhere, and what we’re seeing right now is mostly a spectacle of what not to do when you’re forced to make the difficult decision of cutting back your workforce. If you can’t face your employees with compassion and respect when it matters most, do you really deserve to be at the helm? 🙅‍♂️

Tech Innovation at Work

Back in 2020, The Home Depot expanded its Path to Pro training program, which provides education and support to those in the skilled trades profession. 👷 The goal was to connect jobseekers to trusted companies and boost interest in the oft-underserved skilled trades field — and it worked. Now the training program has evolved into a full-fledged career marketplace with real potential to continue transforming their industry. 🏗️ This kind of growth-focused move is familiar to the company. They’ve always embraced a culture that favored people first, so naturally, when they saw a gap in their industry, they took it as an opportunity. “There is not a leading jobseeker platform for the skilled trades and The Home Depot is committed to connecting skilled tradespeople with our Pro customers for jobs. The Path to Pro Network was designed to provide jobseekers with new career networking opportunities in the trades,” says Eric Schelling, Vice President of Global Talent Acquisition for The Home Depot. While many companies tend to scramble 😵 when there’s a worker shortage, The Home Depot has paved a different path, showing us that there are other, more efficient alternatives to benefit not only your business, but your industry and those who work within it. 📈

Learn more about the marketplace here and send the link to help someone out — there are resources for parents, students, and advisors, too.


Despite economic uncertainty, the demand for HR tech is still driving a hot market. The latest acquisition brings together two SaaS organizations focused on managing HR crises 🚨 — something many of us now realize companies are woefully underprepared for. HR Acuity announced this week that it acquired Speakfully, a reporting and case management tool. Speakfully’s software focuses on preserving employee anonymity 👤, offering highly-protected communications throughout the process of investigating and determining the outcome of a report. Combined with HR Acuity’s case management tools and analytics, CEO Deb Muller believes the new synergy will excel in providing “​​end-to-end employee relations and investigation solution[s] that encompasses allegation[s] to aftercare.” No one is thrilled that such rigorous protocols and technology are necessary for managing workplace crises. However, it’s easier and much less painful for everyone to be prepared — as prepared as you can be, that is — than to just hope it won’t happen 🙈🙉🙊. Therefore, I’m excited to see the focus shifting to prioritizing protecting whistleblowers and victims by giving them access to report issues while minimizing the risk that they’ll be outed and face repercussions for doing what’s right. 

The Changing Workplace

Calling out bias is, at best, uncomfortable 😰 and, at worst, foregone. But I came across an interview with corporate coaching executives Trier Bryant and Kim Scott that really stuck with me. Their strategy, for internal use and as part of their DE&I training programs, teaches employees and leaders how to identify 🔎 and correct bias in the moment — be it in a group setting or a 1:1. In their interview with WorkLife, Bryant and Scott outline three simple steps for their approach:

  1. Establish a shared vocabulary surrounding the process of calling out bias. This includes finding a neutral term or gesture that anyone can use to raise a concern mid-conversation. Their examples include the phrase “purple flag” and throwing up a peace sign. I’m a big fan of the latter one, as it can be done with your hand or an emoji in Zoom or a video call chat.
  2. Prepare team members for this policy adoption by holding training sessions on responding positively to callouts. What I love most about this step is their rebranding of calling someone “out” to calling someone “in,” as in helping them be included in the change and inclusive in their words and behaviors.
  3. Follow through on the commitment to change, even when no call-ins are raised. If a meeting concludes without any flags raised, encourage attendees to reflect on what was discussed and identify biases that may not have been caught in the moment. 🚩

This protocol could play an important part in allyship, as well. If, for example, an employee refers to a colleague using the wrong pronouns, someone could raise a flag and advocate on their behalf. The possibilities are endless, as is the impact. Read the full interview here.


As we discussed earlier, how a company handles layoffs reveals a lot about—and greatly influences—their culture. But employees who are let go aren’t the only ones who should be treated with exceptional compassion and respect. For those who remain, continuing to provide a paycheck 💵 isn’t enough to quell anxiety and limit the feelings of survivor’s guilt that many employees often experience during layoffs. 😰 Uncertainty, grief, and other powerful emotions can keep employees from returning to a healthy and productive cadence, even when they aren’t faced with critical feedback. If you’re preparing for layoffs, take a minute to learn about these common symptoms of survivor’s guilt and how you can help employees cope with and process their feelings.

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Patrick Donegan Chief Strategy Officer

Patrick Donegan

Chief Strategy Officer

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