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The hiring, the firing and the stuff in between: The changing nature of HR

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter where we share the latest tips, tools and insights to help you stay informed about the modern tech office. Today: How the role of HR has changed in tech, Stripe’s rescinded job offers, and how Americans feel about the risk of COVID-19.

—Amber Burton, reporter (twitter | email)

Ch-ch-changes in HR in tech

HR departments have become the workhorse of tech companies. It’s hard to pinpoint an earlier time when companies depended so much on HR to solve their myriad problems. Over the course of the pandemic, HR teams have been rightfully invited to the leadership table to solve for everything from hybrid work and pandemic protocols to tech-talent hiring gaps and the Great Resignation. And they’re bringing the data to back it up.

Danny Speros, VP of People Operations at Zenefits, has spent almost the entirety of his two-decade career in human resources, and to say he’s witnessed massive changes in the role HR plays in the industry would be an understatement. Gone are the days when it was OK for an HR team to solely focus on compliance. That’s the bare minimum, he said. Speros spoke with Protocol about how the nature of people operations and human resources has evolved within tech and the new challenges facing HR departments everywhere.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

How has the role of people operations within HR changed over the past two years alone?

There were times in my 20s, many, many years ago, when I would explain to friends and family who didn't necessarily know what human resources was, “Well, I'm involved in the hiring and the firing, and all the stuff in between.” And one of the other things that kept sort of floating up in the world of human resources is we want a seat at the table, we want to be strategic. And I think what's really flipped, especially in the last couple of years, is that we're at the table.

The things that people operations teams are driving are integral to the success of the organization. And the way I approach my job and the way my team approaches our job is we're providing the tools, the technology, the information and the assistance and guidance that our people need to accomplish the goals of the company. And so that can come in the sense of learning and development or planning or goal-setting or performance alignment.

I think one of the most important things we do right now is we've always been a source of listening and an advocate for the employee, but now we need to do that at scale. And we need to not just listen in conversations, but also have methods for employees to provide feedback that can be analyzed.

How have you and your team done this at Zenefits?

The Great Resignation has obviously been in the news this last year. I feel like in some ways, we've fared well with it. However, we've still seen our share of resignations this year. So we don’t just do exit interviews, we do exit surveys where we aggregate data from people on their way out the door. And we also correlate that with other data points within our environment. Whether it be performance or departments or locations or movement or promotions or compensation, we can tie some of those things together and start to see patterns.

What would you recommend to other HR teams observing patterns of attrition at their company?

By looking at [data], perhaps we can prevent the next one and the next one from leaving. So being able to use this and communicate it to our leadership team in real time — and by real time I mean weeks, not months, certainly not a year — we're able to make better decisions as an organization to retain our people.

So my advice to other people in the profession is to start connecting the dots. You have data, or at least you have access to it — people are willing to share this information with you — and to the extent you can collect those dots it can really help you and your organization be better off next year.

How have tech companies changed the way they think about their employees?

An overarching thought on this is that it's a two-way relationship. Historically, it's really been a one-way relationship where the companies made the rules and employees either followed along or chose to leave. And I think what tech companies and a lot of other companies are realizing in light of the Great Resignation, and in light of some of the changes that have come about in the workplace, is it's no longer a one-way street. Companies need to deliver value to the employees in exactly the same fashion that employees need to deliver value for the organization.

I think as long as the company and the employee agree that it's mutually beneficial, we’re good. When that starts to get out of alignment, or perhaps the company just can't offer the employee the types of opportunities that the employee needs to be able to build their career, then it's an opportunity to move on.

Workplace scoop: Stripe is rescinding job offers

The prevailing narrative in the tech industry today is that workers hold all the power. But two former job candidates who received verbal and written offers from Stripe say otherwise. They both had their offers rescinded by the company due to “shifting business priorities.” One candidate even went as far as tweeting that she was joining the company only to hear from an executive recruiter a few days later that she would not, in fact, be joining the company.

My colleague Anna Kramer spoke with the candidates and a former Stripe recruiter who asked to remain anonymous. The situation at Stripe is just one of the many challenges facing tech companies right now as they attempt to perfect the recruitment and hiring process in a mostly remote workplace.

Read the full story here.

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A year in enterprise tech

We spent the year looking for enterprise tech to save us from our new hybrid work lives. Join Protocol for a panel discussion with enterprise executives about the biggest developments in the technology and what trends are expected to follow in 2022. Editor Tom Krazit will be joined by Sheila Gulati, managing director at Tola Capital; Corey Quinn, chief cloud economist at The Duckbill Group; and Liz Fong-Jones, principal developer advocate at Honeycomb.

Register here.


To get higher impact — and ROI — on your upskilling investment, you need a program that meets your people at the intersection of skill level and function with engaging, hands-on experiences. Today's upskilling should include training on technologies like automation that can power innovation and drive efficiency across the enterprise.

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Today's tips & tools

You’re reading an article online and come across a quote your friend would love. Chrome recently released a feature that lets you send a link navigating directly to that quote. Google Principal Engineer Kelsey Hightower tweeted about the “copy link to highlight” capability a couple of weeks ago. All you have to do is highlight the text you want to share, right-click on the highlighted text and select “copy link to highlight.” Then you can paste the link and send it to whomever you want.

— Lizzy Lawrence, reporter (twitter | email)

How do your employees really feel about omicron?

The return to the office has been a rocky one to say the least, but many companies are proceeding to open at least some of their office doors for employees to move into more hybrid work setups. While some employees are excited to get back to their desk and the office coffee machines, others remain more hesitant due to COVID-19 and new variants of the virus. Data intelligence company Morning Consult is tracking how Americans feel about COVID-19 and the associated risk. Unsurprisingly, sentiments remain mixed.

  • About 71% of American adults are concerned about the omicron variant that was officially detected in the U.S. this week and in the Bay Area yesterday. Vaccinated adults (80%) are significantly more concerned about the COVID-19 variant than unvaccinated adults (52%).
  • The percentage of Republicans who say the virus “poses a severe local health risk” has fallen to 13%.
  • Overall, as of the end of November, 72% of all adults in the U.S. say “they are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ concerned about the delta variant.”
  • 56% of U.S. adults believe employers and businesses should require vaccination for employees or patrons.

Making moves

Digital analytics company Contentsquare appointed Kat Borlongan as its first chief impact officer. Prior to joining the organization, Borlongan was a French government official under the Macron administration leading La French Tech.

FinancialForce, a business application company, appointed Heather Gille as its chief people officer. Formerly, Gille was the global vice president of People and Workplace at video game developer Glu Mobile.

Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

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You might not have to wait until your exit interview to tell your company what you really think about it.

If looking at your colleagues’ Spotify Wrapped didn’t already make you feel old, here's a look at Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for consumer technology.

Are you bringing your toxic positivity into work?

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to workplace@protocol.com. Have a great weekend, see you Sunday.

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