'People in a Zoom world work harder.' Here's how HR can help.

Lattice CEO Jack Altman on the company’s $175 million funding round and the HR software platform’s product roadmap.

​Lattice CEO Jack Altman

Lattice’s success is a reflection of the VC world’s massive interest in the people-management space.

Photo: Lattice

HR tools are having a moment. Last month, Lattice, an HR software platform for tasks like performance reviews and goal-setting, announced a $175 million series F funding round, putting its valuation at $3 billion.

Lattice’s success is somewhat a reflection of the VC world’s massive interest in the people-management space: Investors and companies are eager to find new tools to help people do their jobs better and manage their relationships at work. Those tasks are more important and daunting than ever before, as the way we work has been fundamentally altered.

I spoke to Jack Altman, the company’s co-founder and CEO, about what’s next for the company and the industry, as well as the future of HR tools in general.

Here are excerpts of our conversation, edited for clarity and brevity.

What do you think is behind the success of HR software startups right now?

The way that companies have to treat employees has really changed. And I think that has led to the birth of a lot of different processes that require new tools, new thinking and new best practices. You can see that in the way that performance reviews are conducted, the existence of things like surveys, the way that people think about compensation, the way people think about promotions and career development, the way companies need to invest in onboarding, development and growth. That backdrop has led to companies needing to retrofit their processes for a much more employee-centric world. And that has created opportunity for us.

Can you talk about some features on the product roadmap that you're excited about that you haven't launched yet?

Here are two we're really excited about. As the backdrop, we currently have three product areas: performance management, which is where we started; employee engagement, which is surveys; and Grow, which is career development, basically job architectures, levels and ladders for people to understand how their careers are progressing. We have two more [product areas] that are in the works. One is a dedicated goal and OKR platform to set, track, align and plan goals. We've always had a product for that, but now we're building that out into a much more fully fleshed-out product. And the other is compensation management, which will launch this summer, which we're passionate about.

What's an example of a big gap in what people want from their compensation management system and what's currently available?

Oh, man, there's a lot. Everything. There's pay equity analysis and understanding what's fair and what's the market. And there's benchmark data, which there are versions of, but there's nothing that's great and in real time and all of that.

There's these moments when companies go through and review everybody's compensation at the same time. And they might do that once or twice a year. And it's chaos for HR teams to manage: spreadsheets everywhere, stuff out of date, manager conversations and approval chains. It's a real headache.

There’s also how people can understand what their own comp and equity are. Equity compensation has such a long way to go. Where is it today, what will it be like in the future and how are employees able to understand what their risks are? What's the real value? What does the strike price mean? What does this mean for my taxes? How does this unlock? What happens if I leave the company? I think nearly every aspect of compensation can be improved.

I'm curious about AI-based automation: Is that currently part of Lattice? Is it going to be, in the future?

It's not yet, but I do think there's a big role for it. AI is an inevitability. The thing that scares me would be if we got to a place where performance reviews, self-reflections and feedback were all done by a robot. I wouldn't like that. It's not just about the feedback itself, it's about the process of thinking, “What has this person done well in the last year, and how can I best influence the way that they're thinking to help them grow and succeed?” And I think the process of thinking about that stuff is really valuable. A lot of people, myself included, sometimes find doing things like performance reviews draining … but so is exercise, so is eating vegetables, and the process of these things is really important.

What do you think has changed the most in the last year or so when it comes to what employers and employees are expecting from their people management systems?

So, the last year has been wild for this. You don't have in-office drop-bys, you don't swing by someone's desk anymore. You can't have an impromptu meeting, you don't overhear people in the office. So people are going to demand more from their tools, because people still need community and connection, and they need to understand that they’ve got their manager’s ear when they want it. I think that’s going to put more pressure on software systems to stand in for the water cooler and the three-hour, in-person meeting and all the rest of it.

How often are you expecting or wanting people to check in with Lattice? Daily, weekly, monthly or just when they're doing their performance reviews once a year?

If I'm a manager, one of the things that's important is that I give recognition and feedback. And I can't do that as easily in a remote context. And I can't just walk by and say, “Great job.” In lieu of that, it’s important to have a system that captures those things for me. So it's not that I'm going to do it all day, every day. But there's a shift from verbal to written, and that gets captured in a place like Lattice.

Retention and recruitment are the big things that everyone's worried about right now. What do you think are the top three or so things that companies can do to recruit and retain the best talent at this moment, when everything's so competitive?

I believe that the way to attract and retain is to give lots of agency, trust and autonomy to people. And I think that is a shift from the historical standards. Some companies do have a mindset more of command and control, assign and push. I'm a much bigger believer in companies that have a really clear and purposeful mission and have a great system of values that employees can gravitate towards.

Does that mean more asynchronous work? Does that mean letting employees work when they want to? What are some big examples of what you’re talking about?

It means letting people manage their own time and schedules. Don't tell them exactly what hours they need to work beyond some reasonable amount of coordination across teams. Vacation policies also fit into that same idea. I think giving people general goals rather than explicit, detailed directions fits into this mentality. Even better, letting people pick their own goals when they've got the context and are in a position to do that.

The other thing that is on everyone's mind is burnout. How do you reckon with this at Lattice, and what are you doing to either proactively or retroactively deal with it?

It's really hard. People in a Zoom world work harder. There was a lot of fear that people were going to slack off. And it's like, no, they just work. It's not healthy. We've tried all sorts of stuff. We've done mental health days where we basically would give people days off randomly and periodically to just unplug and have a day to relax. And we encourage managers to be thoughtful about these things and to make sure that they're checking in with people and that for people who over-work one day, the next day we go easy. We try not to let stuff drift into the nights and weekends that much. We have a very long-term mentality on that kind of stuff. Another one is just making sure that work volume doesn't get out of hand.

The other thing I think is also really big is checking in with people to make sure that they like their work. Another big source of burnout is when people just don't like what they're doing. Working 30 hours a week on something you hate will burn you out much faster than working 60 hours a week. Managers need to be thoughtful about checking in with people and saying, “Hey, is your work bringing you joy? Are you still motivated and inspired by what you're doing?” You can easily burn somebody out even if you say, “Hey, sign off every day at four.”

Lastly, let’s talk funding. What are you going to do with $175 million?

We're just gonna, you know, buy bitcoin [laughs].

We're going to use it to hire and grow the team. We're a software company. All our costs are people costs, more or less. So this [will go toward] funding that. It lets us continue growing the team, investing in product, hiring around the world, building our go-to-market teams and all the infrastructure that we need to keep scaling the company.


To clear the FTC, Microsoft’s Activision deal might require compromise

The FTC is in the process of reviewing the biggest-ever gaming acquisition. Here’s how it could change the Xbox business.

Will the Microsoft acquisition of Activision get through the FTC?

Image: Microsoft; Protocol

Microsoft’s planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard is the largest-ever deal in the video game market by a mile. With a sale price of $68.7 billion, the deal is nearly 450% larger than Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive’s acquisition of Zynga in January, the next-largest game acquisition ever recorded.

The eye-popping price underlines the scale and scope of Microsoft’s ambitions for its gaming business: If the deal is approved, Microsoft would own — alongside its current major properties, such as Halo and Minecraft — Warcraft, Overwatch and Call of Duty, to name just a few. In turn, the deal has invited a rare level of scrutiny and attention from lawmakers and policy professionals now turning their sights on an industry that’s flown under the regulatory radar for the last several decades of its existence.

Keep Reading Show less
Nick Statt

Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at

Sponsored Content

Why the digital transformation of industries is creating a more sustainable future

Qualcomm’s chief sustainability officer Angela Baker on how companies can view going “digital” as a way not only toward growth, as laid out in a recent report, but also toward establishing and meeting environmental, social and governance goals.

Three letters dominate business practice at present: ESG, or environmental, social and governance goals. The number of mentions of the environment in financial earnings has doubled in the last five years, according to GlobalData: 600,000 companies mentioned the term in their annual or quarterly results last year.

But meeting those ESG goals can be a challenge — one that businesses can’t and shouldn’t take lightly. Ahead of an exclusive fireside chat at Davos, Angela Baker, chief sustainability officer at Qualcomm, sat down with Protocol to speak about how best to achieve those targets and how Qualcomm thinks about its own sustainability strategy, net zero commitment, other ESG targets and more.

Keep Reading Show less
Chris Stokel-Walker

Chris Stokel-Walker is a freelance technology and culture journalist and author of "YouTubers: How YouTube Shook Up TV and Created a New Generation of Stars." His work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian and Wired.


Okta CEO: 'We should have done a better job' with the Lapsus$ breach

In an interview with Protocol, Okta CEO Todd McKinnon said the cybersecurity firm could’ve done a lot of things better after the Lapsus$ breach of a third-party support provider earlier this year.

From talking to hundreds of customers, “I've had a good sense of the sentiment and the frustrations,” McKinnon said.

Photo: David Paul Morris via Getty Images

Okta co-founder and CEO Todd McKinnon agrees with you: Disclosing a breach that impacts customer data should not take months.

“If that happens in January, customers can't be finding out about it in March,” McKinnon said in an interview with Protocol.

Keep Reading Show less
Kyle Alspach

Kyle Alspach ( @KyleAlspach) is a senior reporter at Protocol, focused on cybersecurity. He has covered the tech industry since 2010 for outlets including VentureBeat, CRN and the Boston Globe. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and can be reached at


Ethereum's co-founder thinks the blockchain can fix social media

But before the blockchain can fix social media, someone has to fix the blockchain. Frank McCourt, who’s put serious money behind his vision of a decentralized social media future, thinks Gavin Wood may be the key.

Gavin Wood, co-founder of Ethereum and creator of Polkadot, is helping Frank McCourt's decentralized social media initiative.

Photo: Jason Crowley

Frank McCourt, the billionaire mogul who is donating $100 million to help build decentralized alternatives to the social media giants, has picked a partner to make the blockchain work at Facebook scale: Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood.

McCourt’s Project Liberty will work with the Web3 Foundation’s Polkadot project, it said Tuesday. Wood launched Polkadot in 2020 after leaving Ethereum. Project Liberty has a technical proposal to allow users to retain their data on a blockchain as they move among future social media services. Wood’s involvement is to give the idea a shot at actually working at the size and speed of a popular social network.

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.


Gensler: Bitcoin may be a commodity

The SEC has been vague about crypto. But Gensler said bitcoin is a commodity, “maybe.” It’s the clearest glimpse of his views on digital assets yet.

“Bitcoin — maybe that’s a commodity token. That has a big market value, but that goes over there,” Gensler said, referring to another regulator, the CFTC.

Photoillustration: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Protocol

SEC Chair Gary Gensler has long argued that many cryptocurrencies are subject to regulation as securities.

But he recently clarified that this view wouldn’t apply to the best-known cryptocurrency, bitcoin.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Latest Stories