People

On LinkedIn, remote job listings rise and a hopeful pattern emerges

LinkedIn executive Blake Barnes talks to Protocol about the realities of the new job market and LinkedIn's role in the recovery.

Blake Barnes, LinkedIn's head of career and talent solutions products

"The hiring recovery can begin quite quickly once the public health restrictions start to lift," said LinkedIn's head of career and talent solutions products Blake Barnes.

Photo: Courtesy of LinkedIn

Nearly 20,000 startup employees have lost their jobs since coronavirus hit the U.S. More than 16 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the last three weeks. Suddenly, people — so many people — are out of work. That makes LinkedIn, the world's largest professional network, with nearly 675 million users, more important than ever.

In response to the seismic and sudden collapse of the job market, LinkedIn has taken some immediate steps to help. Those efforts include highlighting open positions for frontline health care positions, as well as allowing essential services like hospitals, supermarkets, package delivery services and nonprofits focused on coronavirus disaster relief to post jobs for free for the next three months. The social network also rolled out 30 or so free LinkedIn Learning courses aimed at helping job seekers get back on their feet.

"There's no doubt this is a really hard job market," said Blake Barnes, LinkedIn's head of career and talent solutions products, who leads the team responsible for building the features LinkedIn members use to find jobs and recruiters use to find talent. Barnes cited LinkedIn data indicating that hiring dipped 1.1% in March year-over-year — the largest drop since January 2017.

The LinkedIn executive spoke with Protocol about how job seekers are using the social network, LinkedIn's responsibility to help in the economic crisis, and the future of remote work.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

It's an extremely painful moment for job seekers. The U.S. has reached an unfortunate, historic moment, with roughly 16 million people filing for unemployment claims in the last three weeks of March. What are you seeing and hearing from job seekers now?

We're seeing people come together in really interesting ways to share their advice and thoughts. I don't know if you saw, but Mark Cuban did a very cool LinkedIn Live with [LinkedIn Editor in Chief] Dan Roth last week on tips for struggling small businesses. We're seeing all sorts of people come in: We've had scientists offering to do Q&As for kids stuck at home, and CEOs are offering advice and guidance.

We're seeing people come together to find creative ways to stay connected to their communities and from afar, despite large unemployment numbers. So, it's kind of just a dichotomy of these hard facts of unemployment increasing and hiring going down, and at the same time there is the human resolve of staying positive and finding ways to help each other.

What do you see as LinkedIn's role in this economic crisis right now?

We think a lot about our community when we think about what we do at LinkedIn. One of the things that we think about when we build: What are the many ways we can help members?

A lot of us are stuck at home. Being in a sort of shelter-in-place environment, being connected to your community in some ways becomes pretty essential. So we've seen an incredible uptick with people sharing situations of how they work from home with kids to their learnings in distributed office places.

We have a section on the homepage that talks specifically about coronavirus news.

We've made some changes to help certain jobs get filled even more quickly. There are certain job listings on the platform we're making free for essential businesses, starting first with health care and hospitals, and we're going to make sure to highlight those jobs on our jobs homepage and help get the people that have the right skills for those jobs to fill those roles as soon as possible.

This is also a really good time for people to learn new things, learn new skills. So we've made a number of different courses on platforms free that are specifically geared toward finding a job. There are classes, for example, and we have one called, "How to recover from a layoff." We've got another that's for video interviews.

You mentioned an uptick on social sharing. What does engagement look like exactly?

There's a lot of news and a lot of news affecting the day-to-day jobs of many people around the country and around the world. So as a downstream result of that, we see a lot of people discussing them.

We're seeing a 55% year-over-year increase in the number of people reacting, commenting, resharing and replying to comments with their connections, and we're seeing a 60% year-over-year increase in content creation. People are social by definition. As a species, what we want to do is connect. And we think that we can be the platform to help them do that in a professional context.

From your perspective, how is coronavirus affecting job applications?

Our members are all over the world. And as the coronavirus has spread to different countries, we see a pattern. When the coronavirus begins to come to a country, and there are associated things — certain rules in place or a lockdown — we do see a decrease in the amount of economic activity happening, which also leads to a decrease in the number of jobs available, as well as the amount of people applying for jobs.

You see that kind of trend play out through other countries. As the coronavirus spread through western Europe, like Spain or Italy, you see that decline happen in those countries. You can put the U.S., or North America, in that category.

The good news here, and the silver lining of this is, that as countries begin to recover we've seen things go in the other direction. So for example, in China, their job postings have just returned back to where they're supposed to be, which is pretty similar to where they were pre-COVID-19 job postings. And so we hope, and we have reason to believe, that the hiring recovery can begin quite quickly once the public health restrictions start to lift.

What other trends or patterns are you seeing in the job market right now?

We're seeing an uptick in the amount of remote jobs on the platform, as well as people doing more virtual interviews. There's also been an increase in the amount of companies moving their events online with LinkedIn Live. And we're seeing those broadcasters using Live get seven times more reactions and 24 times more comments than native video [recorded and uploaded to LinkedIn]. Again, people want to have that human connection.

The last thing I'll mention is that we are seeing an increase in the amount of people who are teaching and learning concepts. I think it speaks to the fact that people are turning to learning to stay productive and to rescale. There's an opportunity for people that do not have a job at the moment to use that time wisely, to rescale, learn, learn a new craft or trade, and get ready.

With more people than ever working remotely in the U.S. because of shelter-in-place restrictions, how do you envision work productivity evolving?

I do feel like after this, after we are able to contain and recover from this, we will be in a different world than we were in when we started. It remains to be seen what trends will remain and what trends will revert. I do think people will, after an extended amount of time of working from home, realize that there's a lot of opportunity there. And then it actually may be harder to go back to what you've seen before.

We've seen a big spike in remote jobs on LinkedIn across a wide array of industries: 13% in March alone in remote job postings. They're a small case, to be clear, but they're growing fast.

If you actually look at the coronavirus tied to remote learning, and if you look at three of the hardest metropolitan areas hit by COVID-19 — San Francisco, New York and Seattle — we've seen searches for remote jobs jump 45% versus just 32% for the rest of the U.S.


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Do you have any parting words for job seekers looking for a bit of hope?

Recognize that this is a tough situation, and be kind to yourself as you start your job-seeking journey. There are features on the LinkedIn profile that allow you to stay open to new opportunities. You can choose to let recruiters, your network or the whole world know that, and some of the opportunities can come to you that way. And when that happens, it's a pretty rewarding feeling.

The second thing: Just stay connected with your network right now. A lot of people get their next job through a referral. Send a message to an ex-colleague, and check in to see how they're doing. It's really good to get that conversation going.

When you feel like you've got more momentum, follow up with things like learning. There are a whole bunch of courses on LinkedIn. You can funnel all that learning into skill assessments, which is our way of showcasing your skills — PowerPoints or Java, for example — on your profile for when you do go to apply for a job on LinkedIn.

It's really about this whole set of things that help you get to the front of the line and letting us do some of that work for you.

Image: Yuanxin

Yuanxin Technology doesn't hide its ambition. In the first line of its prospectus, the company says its mission is to be the "first choice for patients' healthcare and medication needs in China." But the road to winning the crowded China health tech race is a long one for this Tencent- and Sequoia-backed startup, even with a recent valuation of $4 billion, according to Chinese publication Lieyunwang. Here's everything you need to know about Yuanxin Technology's forthcoming IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

What does Yuanxin do?

There are many ways startups can crack open the health care market in China, and Yuanxin has focused on one: prescription drugs. According to its prospectus, sales of prescription drugs outside hospitals account for only 23% of the total healthcare market in China, whereas that number is 70.2% in the United States.

Yuanxin started with physical stores. Since 2015, it has opened 217 pharmacies immediately outside Chinese hospitals. "A pharmacy has to be on the main road where a patient exits the hospital. It needs to be highly accessible," Yuanxin founder He Tao told Chinese media in August. Then, patients are encouraged to refill their prescriptions on Yuanxin's online platforms and to follow up with telehealth services instead of returning to a hospital.

From there, Yuanxin has built a large product portfolio that offers online doctor visits, pharmacies and private insurance plans. It also works with enterprise clients, designing office automation and prescription management systems for hospitals and selling digital ads for big pharma.

Yuanxin's Financials

Yuanxin's annual revenues have been steadily growing from $127 million in 2018 to $365 million in 2019 and $561 million in 2020. In each of those three years, over 97% of revenue came from "out-of-hospital comprehensive patient services," which include the company's physical pharmacies and telehealth services. More specifically, approximately 83% of its retail sales derived from prescription drugs.

But the company hasn't made a profit. Yuanxin's annual losses grew from $17 million in 2018 to $26 million in 2019 and $48 million in 2020. The losses are moderate considering the ever-growing revenues, but cast doubt on whether the company can become profitable any time soon. Apart from the cost of drug supplies, the biggest spend is marketing and sales.

What's next for Yuanxin

There are still abundant opportunities in the prescription drug market. In 2020, China's National Medical Products Administration started to explore lifting the ban on selling prescription drugs online. Although it's unclear when the change will take place, it looks like more purely-online platforms will be able to write prescriptions in the future. With its established market presence, Yuanxin is likely one of the players that can benefit greatly from such a policy change.

The enterprise and health insurance businesses of Yuanxin are still fairly small (accounting for less than 3% of annual revenue), but this is where the company sees an opportunity for future growth. Yuanxin is particularly hoping to power its growth with data and artificial intelligence. It boasts a database of 14 million prescriptions accumulated over years, and the company says the data can be used in many ways: designing private insurance plans, training doctors and offering chronic disease management services. The company says it currently employs 509 people on its R&D team, including 437 software engineers and 22 data engineers and scientists.

What Could Go Wrong?

The COVID-19 pandemic has helped sell the story of digital health care, but Yuanxin isn't the only company benefiting from this opportunity. 2020 has seen a slew of Chinese health tech companies rise. They either completed their IPO process before Yuanxin (like JD, Alibaba and Ping An's healthcare subsidiaries) or are close to it (WeDoctor and DXY). In this crowded sector, Yuanxin faces competition from both companies with Big Tech parent companies behind them and startups that have their own specialized advantages.

Like each of its competitors, Yuanxin needs to be careful with how it processes patient data — some of the most sensitive personal data online. Recent Chinese legislation around personal data has made it clear that it will be increasingly difficult to monetize user data. In the prospectus, Yuanxin elaborately explained how it anonymizes data and prevents data from being leaked or hacked, but it also admitted that it cannot foresee what future policies will be introduced.

Who Gets Rich

  • Yuanxin's founder and CEO He Tao and SVP He Weizhuang own 29.82% of the company's shares through a jointly controlled company. (It's unclear whether He Tao and He Weizhuang are related.)
  • Tencent owns 19.55% of the shares.
  • Sequoia owns 16.21% of the shares.
  • Other major investors include Qiming, Starquest Capital and Kunling, which respectively own 7.12%, 6.51% and 5.32% of the shares.

What People Are Saying

  • "The demands of patients, hospitals, insurance companies, pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies are all different. How to meet each individual demand and find a core profit model is the key to Yuanxin Technology's future growth." — Xu Yuchen, insurance industry analyst and member of China Association of Actuaries, in Chinese publication Lanjinger.
  • "The window of opportunity caused by the pandemic, as well as the high valuations of those companies that have gone public, brings hope to other medical services companies…[But] the window of opportunity is closing and the potential of Internet healthcare is yet to be explored with new ideas. Therefore, traditional, asset-heavy healthcare companies need to take this opportunity and go public as soon as possible." —Wang Hang, founder and CEO of online healthcare platform Haodf, in state media China.com.

Zeyi Yang
Zeyi Yang is a reporter with Protocol | China. Previously, he worked as a reporting fellow for the digital magazine Rest of World, covering the intersection of technology and culture in China and neighboring countries. He has also contributed to the South China Morning Post, Nikkei Asia, Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. In his spare time, Zeyi co-founded a Mandarin podcast that tells LGBTQ stories in China. He has been playing Pokemon for 14 years and has a weird favorite pick.

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