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Leaders and Employees at Odds About Hybrid Work, Prince Harry Joins Coaching Firm & More HR Tech News

March 24, 2021 Digital Workplace
Mark Feffer
By Mark Feffer

While there seems to be consensus that work will be markedly different once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, precisely what that world will look like, and what it will encompass, remains up in the air.

One issue lies with the perspective of corporate leaders. The 2021 Work Trend Index from Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft says executives are pretty happy right now — 61% describe themselves as “thriving.” However their subordinates aren’t feeling the same kind of inner joy. Just 38% of employees without decision-making authority are as optimistic.  

In addition, while Microsoft believes hybrid work is all but inevitable, it found that 42% of employees lack basic office supplies at home. Ten percent don’t have an adequate Internet connection.

Some 37% of global workers told Microsoft their companies are asking too much of them in the midst of the crisis. One in five say their employer doesn’t care about their work-life balance, while 54% feel overworked and 39% say they’re exhausted.

One reason for all this is an increased workload. “Signals” from Microsoft 365 show that employees are spending more time working digitally, Microsoft said, with the average number of meetings and chats steadily increasing since last year. Between February 2020 and February 2021, time spent in Microsoft Teams meetings more than doubled, the average meeting became 10 minutes longer and chat use rose more than 40%. Nearly two-thirds, 62% of these calls and meetings were unscheduled or ad hoc.

Despite all this, workers like the idea of hybrid work, with 73% wanting flexible remote work options to continue. And many seem to believe hybrid work will provide them with more options in terms of finding an employer that suits them: Over 40% are considering leaving their company this year, and 46% plan to move now that remote work is an option. Said the report: “Addressing flexible work will impact who stays, who goes and who joins a company.”

Coaching Firm Makes a Royal Hire

Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, is joining employee coaching and mental health firm BetterUp as chief impact officer. 

"As a true citizen of the world, he has dedicated his life's work to bringing attention to the diverse needs of people everywhere and advocating for mental health initiatives," said BetterUp founder and CEO Alexi Robichaux in a blog post announcing the news.

In the newly created role, the UK royal will drive advocacy and awareness of mental fitness, guide the firm's social mission and impact, influence the direction and content of BetterUp's technology and content, and help expand the firm's community of coaches and customers.

"I firmly believe that focusing on and prioritizing our mental fitness unlocks potential and opportunity that we never knew we had inside of us," the Prince said in the announcement. "As the Royal Marine Commandos say, 'It's a state of mind.' We all have it in us."

San Francisco-based BetterUp, started in 2013, specializes in mobile-based professional coaching and mentorship, combining coaching and technology to improve individual resilience and adaptability and the overall effectiveness of the workforce. The company doubled revenue in 2020 and raised an additional $125 million from investors in a Series D round in February that valued the company at $1.73 billion. Clients include Hilton, NASA, Chevron, Mars, Genentech and Warner Media.

Recruiting Tech Firms Bolster Diversity Tools

Recruiting technology providers Greenhouse and Circa partnered to expand the delivery of job postings to underrepresented communities, while Appcast, which develops programmatic job advertising software, launched an index to help employers measure their efforts to reach diverse candidates.

Based in Lebanon, N.H., Appcast launched the Audience Index Report for users of its Xcelerate network. The feature provides insight into candidate demographics including race, ethnicity and gender identity, and compares an employer’s results at reaching diverse groups with a US benchmark average.

Demand for diverse candidates has led to fierce competition between employers, said Appcast Chief Product Officer Tom Chevalier. Their task is complicated by the number of recruitment advertising options available today, which makes it “extremely challenging for hiring organizations to identify which job sites lead to the greatest number of diverse, qualified candidates,” he said.

Separately, New York City-based Greenhouse and diversity software developer Circa announced an integration that will post jobs to Circa’s network of 15,500 community organizations and 600 local employment sites.

Headquartered in Milwaukee, Circa provides OFCCP compliance management and recruiting technology solutions, and said it’s expanding its product and service lines through partnerships to meet increasing demand.

Well-Being Platform Focuses on ‘Social Determinants’ of Health

A technology firm focused on well-being and a Midwestern health network have launched a platform designed to help organizations address “social determinants of health,” the social and economic challenges that can lead to employee health issues, lost productivity and reduced engagement.

Called Resourceful, the solution is powered by the PurposeCloud platform of Kumanu, an Ann Arbor, Mich., “purpose-centered well-being technology firm.” The company partnered with not-for-profit ProMedica to develop the product. Based in Toledo, Ohio, ProMedica’s health system includes 13 hospitals and 300 post-acute facilities in Michigan and Ohio.

The launch comes as employers recognize the growing toll COVID-19 has taken on the workforce. According to a recent study by the HR.com Research Institute, 64% of HR professionals agree that employee well-being has been significantly reduced, and organizations that take a proactive approach to well-being have been more effective in responding to the crisis.

SDOH impacts nearly one-third of all working Americans, according to a Harris Poll conducted for the companies in late 2020. Such issues include food insecurity, financial stress, housing insecurity, childcare or eldercare challenges, emotional well-being and a lack of reliable transportation, the companies said. 

In August 2020, Kumanu received $3 million in Series A funding from ProMedica. The funds were intended for platform and market development, Kumanu said at the time.

More Enterprises Hire DEI Executives

More US companies are hiring chief diversity officers, with members of the S&P 500 bringing on as many as a dozen a month, according to a report by Russell Reynolds Associates, a New York City management consultant. Meanwhile, at least 60 public companies in a broader group have hired their first diversity leaders. 

“What’s different this time is that the whole world is focused on it,” Tina Shah Paikeday, leader of Russell Reynolds’ diversity and inclusion practice, told Bloomberg

Still, only about 53% of the S&P 500 have CDOs, Bloomberg said. That’s up from 47% in 2018. And chief diversity officers seem to move around frequently, staying with their company for an average of 3.2 years, compared to 5.5 for a CEO. While they were there, they were given relatively paltry budgets—of about $100,000, said Paikeday. That’s changing, however, as more companies give their CDOs a staff and budgets closer to $500,000. “Historically, people talked about the quick wins,” Paikeday said. 

“When they don’t see the quick wins right away, all of a sudden the chief diversity officer is out the door. Now people are looking for longer-term change.”

News Briefs

ZipRecruiter now offers candidates feedback about how strong a match they may be for a job. The guidance is generated using AI algorithms run against data from employer and job seeker interactions in the ZipRecruiter marketplace, the company said. For each job, ZipRecruiter shows job seekers a match score to provide an idea of how likely they are to be received favorably by a hiring manager. The system also recommends ways job seekers can improve their odds of success, such as by updating profiles or resumes with more relevant qualifications.

SAP launched SAP Fieldglass Assignment Management, which helps manage contractors performing ad hoc work under existing supplier agreements. The module simplifies assigning and managing work projects across multiple workers and variable pay rates, SAP said.

DailyPay plans to launch a new module later this year that will facilitate the awarding of bonuses and similar payments to help incentivize employees. REWARD by DailyPay allows managers to make on-the-spot payments for everything from bonuses to special incentives for picking up additional shifts

eLearning Brothers acquired the Game Agency to strengthen its game-based learning offerings. CEO Andrew Scivally said the growth of remote work “demands learning solutions that engage employees and build teams differently than ever before.” Game-based learning is seeing annual growth of almost 30%, the company said, with U.S. sales expected to reach $7.5 billion by 2025. The companies have collaborated since 2017, jointly serving clients such as Chick-fil-a, IHS Towers and PayPal.

EdCast updated its talent experience platform on Salesforce AppExchange to provide new ways to upskill, train and learn without leaving Salesforce. New features include easy access to skill-building within Salesforce, enhanced corporate learning leaderboards, badges and sharing, and an integrated search component.

London-based learning company EduMe opened an office in Palo Alto, Calif., “to accelerate their growth.” Last summer, the company completed a $5 million Series A funding round. In addition to North American growth, the company said it plans a range of new features.

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