Message To HR Tech Vendors: Focus On The Problem, Not Your Product

There is so much going on I’m barely keeping up. I’ve already talked with more than 20 companies this week and we’re doing a major webinar next Tuesday The World Changed Overnight: HR and Leadership in a Time of Crisis with five CHROs talking about their strategies.

But there’s one more thing going on. HR Tech Vendors are going crazy.

Listen. This crisis (and the ensuing recession) is perhaps the biggest challenge HR has seen in two decades. (I think 9/11 was similar in its impact). HR organizations are flooded with immediate issues: new policies for safety, how to enable people to work at home, taking care of people who are ill, reducing pay, designing furlough programs, or even massive hiring efforts (CVS, Wal-mart, Amazon). 

They do not have time to look at new HR Technology right now.

I know there are more than 4,000 HR Tech vendors out there, and I know many of you have amazing products with incredibly innovative features. And I know your VC funders are going to push you to “conserve cash” and “focus on revenue” right now. But that really should not be your focus.

Remember that HR teams right now are “short on time.” Their attention is highly diverted toward urgent issues. Yes, the big HR Tech projects are still going on, and companies are still working on restructuring, HR transformation, and lots of big things. But if you think they’ll rush out and buy your product just because you decided to make it free for a few months, I think your head is in the wrong place.

Now is the time to think about the problem, not your product or revenue.

Some Vendors Doing Great Things

Qualtrics has quickly developed a Remote Work Pulse and series of tools built into Qualtrics which let companies immediately survey their employees to understand wellness, family, and work-at-home issues. (We will be launching our Remote Work Bootcamp next week for this.) The offering is free, and you get access to Qualtrics in an easy-to-use point and click website. 

Betterworks Engage is doing the same thing, with a simple free login to start surveying your people.

Visier just deployed a series of free crisis management capabilities to bring together public health data with internal data so organizations have the insight to manage remote work, absences, productivity, engagement and most importantly safety. I saw this solution and it blew me away – companies can identify employees at risk in seconds.

Waggl, a company focused on Employee Voice, has now productized the Process Shredder, a crowdsourcing tool to quickly help you “fix problems that get in the way of work.” This is a big problem right now. What can we “stop doing immediately” as we focus on the urgent issues of work-at-home, restructuring, or mobility?

ServiceNow immediately launched a series of Emergency Response Apps that help companies immediately capture data on cases, infections, and COVID-19 problems. There’s an immediate time-saver and lifesaver for companies. And even more importantly, Bill McDermott is an example of a CEO who is the Chief Empathy Officer, and it’s worth watching his video here.

Perceptyx has reached out with free services to help companies immediately deliver pulse surveys. Working with CVS, they immediately started to see which stores and employees were nervous about the virus and immediately started responding with new policies and communications.

Carrot, a fertility support company, is shifting its resources to focus on real-time psychological support. There’s something we can all use right now. And they’re offering services for free.

Cleo, a leader in child-care support and family planning, just launched a whole expert-authored website focused on supporting, teaching, and helping kids while you work at home.

Modern Health is providing free counseling and mental health support for workers and HR professionals.

Arist, a company that provides a mobile text-based learning system, is now free to schools and refugee camps.

Gloat is repositioning their product (talent mobility platform) for rapid redeployment of people during change. When you have to move people quickly you need to know “who’s capable of what move” and mobilize them immediately.

Zoom is free for schools and has lifted its 40-minute meeting limit. (Zoom’s market cap is now greater than all the US airlines combined!)

Fuel 50 just launched an outsourcing service to help employees and companies find new positions and provide coaching on career advice. Something a lot of people could use right now.

Skillsoft published a free Business Continuity Learning Center which looks fantastic.

Cornerstone opened up a bunch of free content called Cornerstone Cares, new training on COVID-19 at no cost. 

LinkedIn just opened up a free learning path for Remote Working which is very useful.

Edcast offers a free version of Spark (EdCast) learning network for mid-sized companies.

Quantum Workplace has introduced a series of high-value resources to help with employee engagement.

LionBridge is linking us to lots of open third party COVID-19 datasets of cases and trends (for people analytics teams)

Babbel just made its language courses free for students at home with their (working) parents.

Sweetgreen is offering free lunches to health care workers in San Francisco and LA.

Starbucks is giving a free coffee or tea to all health care workers through May 3 as well as police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other hospital or medical staffers.

Airbnb will subsidize housing for 100,000 workers at the front lines of COVID-19 care.

Nike is helping parents promote the idea of “Playing Inside” to keep kids safe.

What If You’re A Startup?

Welcome to the real world of HR.

Sometimes there are downturns, and HR teams don’t have budgets for growth. Right now companies want vendors that can immediately add value and save them time in the process. Making your product “free” is not the whole answer.

I am always reminded of a comment by Bob Epstein, the founder of Sybase. “The most expensive software you buy is free stuff. Because you waste your time figuring out how to use it.” 

The same thing applies here. Focus on value and problem solving right now. If you can save us time, we’ll want what you have to offer. And your company may turn into a real hero, with growth you never dreamed of.

My Offer To Vendors

I am also very busy, as you can imagine. If you are offering something really value-add right now and you want people to know about it, please email me (or send a twitter message) and tell me what it is, how it helps companies make work easier or improve employee wellbeing or health, and why it will save time for stressed HR people. If you put your communication in a simple message I promise I’ll read it and I’ll update this article with everything I can find.  

I want the HR Tech market to survive this crisis, but let me say it’s not going to be easy. For the next few months I doubt there will be a lot of new platforms being sold, but if you’re creative and a good problem solver, you’ll come through this in tact. Focus on your customer’s needs, and the answer is always there.