How do you see the current business landscape and the evolving role of HR in enabling employees to stay productive amid all this chaos?
Right now, the current business landscape is focused on the disruption caused by the global pandemic and lockdown, and how we all cope with that. It has magnified the need for organizations to be able to change and change rapidly. The new buzz words are things like “agility” and “flexibility,” and this speaks to the reality that the only effective way to deal with chaos and uncertainty is by being able and willing to react quickly and make smart changes as business conditions change.
HR, as you might imagine, is at the heart of this. The HR team has always had to collaborate across the organization, but now, this is more important than ever. HR leaders need to be collaborating more with employees at every level because they are the people that most employees look for answers in this chaotic and uncertain time.
How do you see the larger HR tech landscape today amid all this chaos? What are the areas HR and talent leaders should focus on right now?
The global pandemic has created chaos in a great many areas, and HR technology is not immune. There is a rapid evolution going on in every HR domain from payroll to recruiting to technology, and just about every tech company is trying to build an operating model or a framework to make its products future-ready because the goal today is to make sure that our clients can utilize their technology solutions to help tackle both the problems of today and the problems of tomorrow.
We are finding accelerated demand right now for an agile workforce, and for a talent marketplace solution that supports workforce agility, reskilling, and the delivery of an inclusive career experience for all employees that is based on principles of fairness and transparency.
– Anne Fulton
How are you sailing through tough times? What has been your greatest challenge and learnings so far?
Our clients have been under immense pressure and we have had to be responsive and humane in our response too. For example one of our clients in the UK is Travelodge and they pivoted to support the homeless during these tough times, so we wanted to absolutely support any of our clients who are also doing good work.
Other clients like one of the world’s leading BioTech companies that we work with, were also the first to release a COVID-19 test and we know they used FuelGigs and had delivered over a million reskilling hours over the last year, which meant their workforce was ready to pivot and respond. We are very proud to support them and the important work they do.
We are also pivoting around the new inclusivity imperative that has swept the world as a result of the BlackLivesMatter movement. We have always had a deep business commitment to fairness, transparency, and inclusivity and these values have driven the way we have responded to the pandemic we found ourselves surrounded by as we had to make some tough decisions to future-proof our business too and ensure our team could respond to the surging demands we were experiencing in these unprecedented times.
What are the key areas of HR function have you seen maximum tech implementations in the last few months, and the categories seeing the greatest levels of innovation from the service provider side?
We have seen a huge surge in the demand for inclusive talent marketplaces and for agile career frameworks, both to support the rapid redeployment of the workforce and to support workforce agility during these unprecedented times. We have also seen an increase in demand for agile career architectures as no organization has the structure it had six months ago, so there is a huge demand for the AI agile approach to career frameworks and skills architecture to ensure we are still delivering organizational clarity and building the talent intelligence that is needed across the organization to ensure there are the right people in the right places to match to their organizations’ rapidly changing demands.
What are some of the most common workplace challenges that global companies are now trying to solve with technology?
One big challenge that technology is helping with today is what Gartner refers to as “The Distance Economy.” Gartner makes the case that the global pandemic has “influenced the emergence of the distance economy or business activities that don’t rely on face-to-face activity. Organizations with operating models that depend on first-party or hosted events have switched quickly to virtual alternatives.” This has given rise to all manner of technology-driven meeting solutions that attempt to replace in-person gatherings, client interactions, and a variety of business activities that are now all virtual.
Companies are also trying to leverage technology to reskill and improve their workforces, and this is what Fuel50 has been doing.
How do you see the investment in the HR tech space? What do investors look for before investing in startups like yours?
There is still a lot of interest in the future of work space, so we are getting a lot of investment interest now. We believe that investors are looking for the ability to deliver product market validation with a proven revenue model that is built on beautiful technology execution and that delivers value back into our client organizations. We also think that a well-rounded, passionate dedicated, and innovative executive leadership team that is mission-aligned makes a difference to a true investor-entrepreneur partnership. Our investment community is a valued partner to our vision and ability to execute the vision. We are lucky to be working with the best value-add investment partners in our future like PeakSpan Capital in San Francisco and BonfireVC in LA. Our early angel investment community in New Zealand has also been valuable partners to where we are today, with support from IceAngels, ArcAngels, EnterpriseAngels, and Flying Kiwis.
What do you predict for workplace trends and HR tech in the next 5 years?
This past weekend, The Wall Street Journal published a really interesting article by Nicholas Christakis, the director of the Human Nature Lab at Yale University – The Long Shadow of the Pandemic: 2024 & Beyond. His point is that the impact from the coronavirus is going to last for quite some time and that we won’t be into the post-pandemic era until 2024 at the earliest.
Yes, that’s a sobering thought because it says that we are going to be dealing with the business and workplace chaos we’re currently experiencing for a lot longer than we have been thinking. The good news is that knowledge is power, and by having the knowledge that what we’re dealing with today will be the reality for the near future, we will be able to better plan and not continue to think this is just a temporary cycle we’re in.
I’m not sure what the biggest workplace struggle will be, but I agree with Prof. Christakis and his view that “the shift to working from home will linger.” Organizations that allowed people to work from home as a last resort will now have to confront the reality that they may need to make the decision more permanent.
Besides, workforce dynamics are changing, and how we cope with that will determine how successful our businesses are moving ahead.
We may have lots of challenges ahead, but also a lot of possibilities too, and from great possibilities come great results. Remembering that will help keep us ALL going as we push ahead and help our businesses and workplaces evolve.