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[HR] Technology during socioeconomic peaks and valleys

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At least 3 things happen with technology during paradigm shifts like the one we’re in:

  1. New socioeconomic challenges and behaviors lead to brand new innovations, technologies crossing industries and often new categories of technologies (led by investor interests).
  2. Some technologies become essential and habit forming, and are challenged with rapidly graduating from point solutions to enterprise solutions that can scale.
  3. Some technologies designed to solve problems during low unemployment are forced to pivot in periods of high unemployment.

Today I’d like to focus on the first two.

The emergence of new technologies and new categories

New doesn’t necessarily mean never-before-seen but rather novel applications of technologies that were traditionally used in other industries or to solve other problems.

Estimote, a company whose proximity beacons were already being used in manufacturing, retail and even healthcare, have found new opportunities in workplace safety through contact tracing capabilities. This is an excellent example of how rapid change can inspire new applications of existing technologies, creating entirely new crops of companies with unique value propositions for companies and their employees.

Source: Google Trends 5 year interest graph for “contact tracing”

Recently, investors rushed to invest in Clubhouse – a voice app that allows users to join open, virtual rooms to listen to and participate in conversations with their social networks. One of the real problems Clubhouse aims to solve is one of spontaneity, a common and important social behavior that’s difficult to experience while social distancing. Clubhouse was seemingly formed in response to global safer at home policies and represents a solution to what quickly became a problem.

Pragli has similar ideas on how to not only facilitate more collaboration but also reintroduce the possibility of spontaneous conversation for remote teams and companies. Through their virtual office, an audio (and video) collaboration tool, they’re inviting employees to step into “rooms” where everything from casual conversations and “water cooler” chats, to team stand-ups and brainstorming sessions are happening.

Source: Pragli

Prgali can be thought of as a company looking to introduce or improve the viability of virtual offices, and is part of a growing interest in a category to watch called “work tech.” WorkTech isn’t new but is of particular interest given the rapid transformation many employers have had to make shifting from on premise employment experiences to fully remote ones.

Considerations for Employers

  • What will the unintended consequences be? In the Estimote example, contact tracing = employee surveillance. This will lead to new employment contacts and likely new grievances. 
  • New technologies often retrofit old behaviors into new mediums. Remember to share that feedback – good or bad — with the suppliers of the tech. Their future depends on it!
  • Ensure you’re considerate of accessibility. Conducting events online can help you scale your event presence quickly, but can also create accessibility challenges for people with physical and socioeconomic disabilities. 

Existing technologies find [deeper] product market fit

I really loved this tweet from @gilbert on Twitter in response to a graph that purportedly shows online retail credit card spending as a percentage of all card spending in the first 20 days of March.

Of course, I’m not here to tell you online retail finally found a product market fit. What I am here to tell you is that rapid behavioral changes, forced or volunteered, can become habit forming. People who once thought of certain online retail shopping as a luxury, like grocery delivery, may now be forming habits that extend perennially.

Here’s Zoom. Any doubt that Zoom is forming habits?

HR Tech was full of examples of products with clear value propositions and industry-wide adoption.

  1. Handshake helps you scale your campus recruiting strategy without the high variable and marginal costs.
  2. Asynchronous video interviewing lets the candidate review process be flexible and self-paced. 
  3. Scheduling, onboarding, training – all high-touch tasks made simpler because of technology.

These are just three examples of products who had a clear value proposition but perhaps, save for a few, had not yet found true product market fit. That’s likely to change now and represents many new opportunities for Talent Acquisition and Recruiting teams.

Considerations for Employers

  • Spend time in the shoes of your end users. I found visiting campus careers pages was an interesting way to understand the experience for students and graduates and it opened my eyes to a bunch of companies likely now finding their product-market fit.
  • Many technology providers will likely experience growing pains; it’s part of the growth process. Give your contingency plan as much attention as you did in choosing these technologies. You likely will not need it, but it’s good to have.
  • Again, ask users how the experience was and how you can improve on it. Consider it as part of the onboarding or latter interview stages. Or use a dedicated tool like Survale. You’ll be glad you did, and so will your prospects and candidates.

Since 2010, HRTech has had a bit of a coming out party with now billions being invested each year, more interest and domain expertise from venture capitalists, and a persistent M&A market. But in many ways, the next 10 months will be as interesting to watch as the previous 10 years.

For monthly updates and our perspective on this industry, consider reading The Scoop.

Be well.

About Todd Maycunich

Todd is responsible for helping create unique opportunities for Radancy and their clients through the observation and implementation of emerging technology and defining the future of how it will all be measured. Todd is also co-founder of Radancy Labs: a design thinking focused innovation lab.

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