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Oracle and Zoom Launch Products to Reopen the Office & More HR Tech News

February 10, 2021 Digital Workplace
Mark Feffer
By Mark Feffer

Oracle launched a new product aimed at helping HR get employees back in the office safely.

Oracle updated Oracle Fusion Cloud HCM’s Employee Care Package as businesses begin planning the reopening of their workplaces post-COVID-19. The updates include new testing and vaccine-tracking capabilities, as well as automated guidance for employees returning on-site.

The features are packaged as a Return to the Workplace “Journey,” which is Oracle’s nomenclature for stepping users through processes, training, safety protocols and the like. The product also helps HR teams review workforce data related to areas like testing and vaccination.

Among the steps covered by the Journey are reviewing new safety procedures, regular wellness checks, mask and safety protocol training, booking a COVID test and updating immunization status through self-reporting or proof of vaccination. Austin-headquartered Oracle said it’s working with healthcare providers to allow access to necessary information when users need it.

On the HR side, practitioners can use Oracle’s HCM Analytics to monitor areas such as the percentage of workers who’ve been tested or vaccinated, their distribution across multiple offices or how different regions are progressing. Real-time data helps businesses make decisions about allowing office access, timing and protocols that should be in place at each location.

Oracle’s update comes as employers put more emphasis on workplace safety, especially as it applies to communicable diseases like viruses. “As the future of work continues to evolve, it’s critical that organizations are able to make informed business decisions in real time to protect their teams,” said Chris Leone, senior vice president of development for Oracle Cloud HCM. The pandemic, he observed, “has put HR leaders front and center as they help their teams adjust to change and address new challenges.” 

Oracle began emphasizing journeys in 2020, as it sought to streamline the experience of employees who have to follow specific procedures when, say, they’re changing their address or adding family members to their benefits plan. At the time, the company said Journeys was meant to make it easier for HR to roll out new initiatives by putting together a sequence of simple steps that people could easily follow.

Zoom Launches Workplace Safety Tools

Zoom is also launching a series of features designed to help IT departments manage the health and safety of workers as they return to physical offices.

In a blog post, the San Jose, Calif., company described tools including a virtual receptionist that greets facility visitors via a “kiosk mode.” There’s also simplified room controls for mobile devices, a mechanism to count heads at physical meetings to ensure social distancing guidelines are observed, and an air quality monitor from partner developer Neat.

In addition, the company said it has several voice-controlled features in Beta, including expanded voice commands to encourage hands-free sessions and the ability to access Zoom using Amazon’s Alexa.

“As the world plans to safely reopen businesses, educational institutions, healthcare facilities and government entities, we are focused on innovating across our platform to support their needs,” said Zoom Chief Product Officer Oded Gal.

With more employees, and their employers, expressing support for the idea of a hybrid workforce, Zoom said it wants to meet customers’ current needs and be ready to address future demands, including for facility check-ins, communicating safety protocols or displaying meeting room capacity before on-site attendees enter.

The new features set Zoom down a path that’s both logical and intriguing, since the company describes them in the context of workforce safety as well as communications.  

Facilities access, on-site density and similar issues are on the radar of a range of technology vendors, from HR solutions providers to facilities management systems. It makes perfect sense that Zoom would seek to leverage its technology in ways that can help employers bring their businesses back toward something like “normal.” Of course, it also means every company must proactively determine whose job it is to coordinate safety in the first place.

Zoom’s been smart in its reaction to the pandemic, positioning itself as a simple-to-use videoconferencing tool even as businesses scrambled to set themselves up to support remote workers. According to The Wall Street Journal, the company reported sales of $777.2 million during its second quarter, ending October 31, 2020, up from $166.6 million a year earlier.

Microsoft Viva Signals New Phase for HR in Employee Experience

Could the next battle in the employee experience wars pit Microsoft Teams against Salesforce’s Slack? Very possibly.

Last week, Microsoft announced Viva, an employee experience platform that encompasses engagement, well-being, learning and knowledge. It’s designed to integrate neatly with Teams and Microsoft 365, inserting its capabilities into the user’s flow of work. 

The Redmond, Wash., software giant has organized Viva’s offerings into four modules (for now) that address internal communications (Viva Connections), help users work more productively and efficiently (Viva Insights), take advantage of new learning opportunities (Viva Learning) and connect to information from subject matter experts across the organization (Viva Topics).

In Viva’s world, Teams becomes a delivery mechanism for new capabilities that go beyond core communications and collaboration capabilities. Just as Slack provides access to HR tools, calendars, CRM apps and other business applications, Microsoft is melding new apps into a software framework many workers use as something of a home base throughout their day. 

Like San Francisco-based Slack, Teams offers access to numerous applications through a simple interface that puts communications center stage. In essence, Viva turns Teams into an environment where disparate tools can be provided in one place, through a single interface and a unified set of UI/UX rules.

Over the last several years, the notion of “experience” has grown from being a user interface issue to a concern that touches every aspect of an employee’s day. The idea of “ease of use” has been wrapped into the greater notion of “getting stuff done,” and many users aren’t tied to any particular technology. While there will always be those who feel some kind of passion for a particular product (think of those who sleep on the sidewalk to get the newest iPhone), most are focused on doing their jobs with a minimum of disruption.

That’s why the incorporation of HR and human capital management tools into Teams and Slack is so interesting, and why it’s worth keeping an eye on the capabilities and ecosystems of both.

New Tools for Recruiting Platforms

Job.com acquired Talenting, saying its end-to-end blockchain technology will expand the reach and capabilities of the Job.com platform. The acquisition will make the site one of the leading storage solutions for “a global cache” of career data, the company said. The acquisition will lead to new infrastructure and intellectual property development that will simplify and secure the process of accessing and sharing candidate data and evaluating employee viability. “Blockchain has always been a part of the Job.com vision, and adding Talenting to our roster will greatly expand our abilities from end-to-end,” said Job.com co-founder Arran Stewart.

Separately, Paradox launched new video products to streamline virtual recruiting and create a more engaging multimedia experience. The features extend across the company’s products, allowing customers to apply them in a variety of circumstances without requiring additional purchases. They enable sharing video within chats, facilitating offline video interviews and improving the experience for live video interviews. 

Hiretual launched Scholar Sourcing and G-Suite integrations. Scholar Sourcing helps recruiters in industries like biotechnology and pharmaceuticals to find talent with research experience from platforms like Google Scholar, ResearchGate and Microsoft Academics. They can search a pool of 113 million profiles with filters for areas such as publications and patents, conferences and journals, research fields and topics. With Gmail Assistant, recruiters can access Hiretual email templates and sequences, track email opens and clicks, and set reminders for candidate conversations directly on Gmail.

New Funding Rounds in HR Tech

WizeHire, a hiring solution for small businesses, closed $7.5 million in Series A funding in a round led by Amplo and Mercury. Additional investors include existing backers Ruchit Shah and RigUp co-founder Sandeep Jain. The company said more than 7,000 businesses have used its products, and that it recorded $4.7 million in run rate during 2020.

Canadian startup Certn closed $7.4 million in Series A funding, bringing its total raised to date to $34 million. Focusing on real-time background screening solutions for technology, retail, property management, financial and gig services, the company’s “human risk intelligence” solutions aim to speed the background check process without compromising accuracy and compliance.

Upkey, a Chicago startup offering students free online career tools, closed $2.6 million in seed funding in a round led by S3 Ventures. The money will be used to grow Upkey’s operations so they can serve more students and give companies access to a bigger pipeline of talent. Upkey plans to open a second office in Austin, Texas.

News Briefs

Talent mobility platform Topia announced new features for its Compass and Plan solutions to help companies become more agile and deliver an improved employee experience. Topia Compass now offers real-time solutions that reduce costs while maintaining tax and legal compliance, including city-specific location monitoring and pre-travel assessments that detect and alert of any travel that may require immigration, social security or posted worker documentation. Topia Plan added a Rapid Cost Simulation module to help managers see the impact of deploying talent on a permanent or temporary basis under various scenarios, while Compensation Worksheets helps HR calculate, update and communicate compensation in an app-based experience.  

Cultivate announced the Cultivate Culture Report, a new feature that measures different areas of company culture and correlates them to success metrics such as engagement, retention or revenue. The feature uses AI and natural language processing to map out an organization’s digital behaviors and culture so that leaders can evaluate and modify them, if necessary. The report also offers a customized action plan to help organizations capitalize on their strengths or remedy their weaknesses.

Achievers launched a Zoom plugin that allows attendees to recognize colleagues at the end of a meeting with appreciation “cards.” For Achievers customers, an automatic prompt creates recognition in their program with the option of granting points that can be redeemed for rewards.

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