Activision Blizzard workers announce open-ended strike and union drive

Warmly dressed and mostly masked workers hold protest signs.

Enlarge / Striking employees demand the reinstatement of Raven Software QA contractors who were let go last month in a photo posted Wednesday. (credit: A Better ABK)

A group of Activision Blizzard workers calling itself A Better ABK Workers Alliance announced its members are taking part in an open-ended strike “until demands are met and worker representation is finally given a place within the company.”

“We encourage our peers in the Game Industry to stand with us in creating lasting change,” the worker group tweeted Thursday morning.

A Better ABK has helped organize two previous employee walkouts to protest widespread reports of harassment and gender discrimination at the company (which have led to multiple lawsuits and executive departures). But those walkouts were time-limited efforts to send a message that employees were unhappy with the company’s management direction in general and the leadership of CEO Bobby Kotick in particular.

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#activision-blizzard, #gaming-culture, #labor, #representation, #strike, #union

Semiconductor firms can’t find enough workers, worsening chip shortage

Cartoon hands offer up wads of cash to another cartoon hand holding a computer chip.

Enlarge / Don’t expect cheaper chips anytime soon. (credit: Tommy/Getty Images)

The semiconductor chip shortage that has so vexed the auto industry looks set to continue for quite some time, according to a new industry survey. More than half of the companies that were surveyed by IPC said they expected the shortage to last until at least the second half of 2022. And right now, the chip shortage is being exacerbated by rising costs and a shortage of workers.

According to the survey, 80 percent of chip makers say that it’s become hard to find workers who have to be specially trained to handle the highly toxic compounds used in semiconductor manufacturing. The problem is worse in North America and in Asia, where more companies are reporting rising labor costs compared to those in Europe.

But only a third of Asian chip makers say they are finding it harder to find qualified workers, compared to 67 percent of North American companies and 63 percent of European companies. That may well explain why fewer Asian semiconductor companies (42 percent) are reporting increasing order backlogs, compared to 65 percent of North American and 60 percent of European companies.

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#biz-it, #cars, #chip-shortage, #labor

Instacart shopper activist group asks customers to delete the app until demands for better conditions are met

Yesterday, the Gig Workers Collective — representing a body of about 13,000 Instacart shoppers — launched a #DeleteInstacart campaign, urging customers to delete the Instacart app as a show of solidarity with workers advocating for better treatment. The collective of shoppers asked that customers refrain from reinstalling the app until five demands are met. They are asking to be paid by individual order, not by a batch of orders; to re-introduce item-based commissions; to ensure the rating system doesn’t punish shoppers for issues beyond their control; to provide occupational death benefits; and to make the default tip at least 10%, up from the current 5% default.

“We’re deeply committed to creating the best possible experience for our shopper community. Over the past several years, this unwavering commitment has led us to introduce new features, policies, offerings, and support for shoppers — significantly improving the shopper experience and resulting in the highest shopper sentiment in company history. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve invested in countless new measures to support the health and safety of the shopper community. We take shopper feedback very seriously and remain committed to listening to and using that feedback to improve their experience,” Instacart said in a statement provided to TechCrunch.

Instacart employs 500,000 shoppers, the company said, up from 200,000 before a pandemic-driven hiring spree. The company told TechCrunch that its payment structure has not changed since February 2019. That month, the company faced a class-action lawsuit over its practice of subsidizing wages with tips — Instacart had previously instituted a $10 earning minimum per order, but on small orders that totaled less than $10, customer tips would subsidize the rest of the cost (so, if a customer bought $8 of food and tipped $3, the customer would receive $10 plus $1 in tips, rather than the $10 minimum plus a $3 tip). Former CEO Apoorva Mehta wrote an apology to shoppers and affirmed that tips should always be separate from employee compensation, and Instacart retroactively compensated shoppers whose tips were included in minimums.

A Gig Workers Collective lead organizer and Instacart shopper, Willy Solis said that he was hopeful workers’ concerns would be met when Fidji Simo took over as Instacart CEO in August. Since then, the company set up an inbox for shoppers to send messages to a VP or CEO. Instacart said that Simo has been regularly conversing with shoppers about their experiences on the job, but Solis said that shoppers don’t feel like their concerns are being heard.

“While we had hope, there seems to be a disconnect from what she’s saying publicly and what she’s actually doing,” Solis told TechCrunch.

On her first day as CEO, Simo wrote an open letter to Instacart shoppers asking for feedback. In response, the Gig Workers Collective outlined the same five demands that they shared again yesterday, posing them as dire issues that needed to be addressed. But the collective said their letter was ignored, and shoppers’ emails to Simo were met with canned responses.

“Each time the company gives us one thing, they take something else away,” the Gig Workers Collective wrote. When former CEO Mehta apologized for subsidizing wages with tip money, Instacart changed the minimum order payment from $10 to a range between $7 and $10 per batch, which can contain up to three orders. The issue of batch order payment has become a key part of the Gig Workers Collective’s demands.

“If we shopped a single order, the base pay would be $7, but if we shopped three orders at once, the base pay would be $7 for the lot. Instead of a shopper fulfilling three orders for a total of $30 base, we now do it for $7 base,” the collective wrote in their post today. “This is effectively a 76% cut to base pay, and is unacceptable.”

Shoppers can see what payment is offered before they accept a batch. But Solis told TechCrunch that there is “no rhyme or reason” to the way orders are batched.

“You would think that they would be in the same geographic location that you’re delivering to, but they’re not,” he said. “It can be totally different parts of the city, so you have to drive east for one and west for the other.”

Instacart said that batching orders makes it possible for shoppers to earn three separate tips, and that the $7 base is a minimum that is adjusted based on time, effort, items, mileage, and other factors. But tipping is another hot issue for organizers.

“We rely on tips heavily,” Solis said. “Without tips, a large majority of orders that we take are not beneficial or profitable for us.”

The default tip on Instacart is set at 5%, which means customers must manually select a higher tip. Organizers want Instacart to make the default tip 10%. Instacart told TechCrunch that tipping is encouraged, but not required. Though the default tip is 5%, the company said, if a user chooses a different tip percentage, then that percentage will become the default for their following order. So, if a customer tips 15% on their first order, for example, then their second order will default to a 15% tip instead of a 5% tip.

The collective is also demanding occupational death benefits due to the risk of shoppers’ work during the coronavirus pandemic; even beyond that, one Instacart shopper Lynn Murray was killed in a mass shooting while on the job. But Instacart does offer coronavirus protections to its shoppers, as well as shopper injury protection, which is inclusive of accidental death benefits. For example, if a part-time employee or full-service shopper is diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed in mandatory isolation, they can receive up to 14 days’ pay. Accrued sick pay is also available to in-store shoppers; pay is determined by the shopper’s average daily earnings. Instacart also provides a vaccine support stipend, enabling workers to take time off to get vaccinated, and offers access to free telemedicine and safety supplies. But in May 2020, the Gig Workers Collective alleged that a shopper who was on a ventilator was denied payment and healthcare under Instacart’s COVID-19 policy. Instacart reaffirmed to TechCrunch that since March 2020, shoppers have been able to receive up to 14 days’ pay if they have COVID-19 or are in mandatory isolation.

But some of shoppers’ health benefits were only extended after the Gig Workers Collective staged an emergency walkout on March 30, 2020. At the time, the collective said Instacart didn’t provide PPE or sick pay to people who had a doctor’s note urging them not to be on the job (for example, people who were quarantined due to an exposure).

Instacart didn’t indicate to TechCrunch that it has any plans to address the Gig Workers Collective’s demands. As Instacart considers going public, Solis thinks now is a good time to take shoppers’ demands to the next level by asking customers to boycott the service.

“People that speak out against us taking action will say things like, ‘You know, if you don’t want to do this, get another job,’” Solis said. “But the problem is that this work is so exploitative that if somebody doesn’t take a stand, then the next person in line is going to be exploited. Together, we gain so much power and traction by collectively speaking out.”

#activism, #apoorva-mehta, #apps, #ceo, #economy, #fidji-simo, #food, #gig, #gig-workers, #healthcare, #instacart, #labor, #telemedicine, #vp

Since I can’t build a wall around our talent, here’s how I’m reducing turnover

As the CEO of a tech company for 15 years, I have seen employees come and go for many reasons. But in the last four months, we have seen more turnover than in the previous two years combined. We’ve lost nearly 20% of our 50-person team. It’s putting a lot of pressure on our existing employees.

What’s driving this? During the current labor shortage, many talented workers now have unprecedented opportunities to increase their salary by making the leap to another company. Nationally, the labor force has been reduced by 3.5 million people — a level not seen since the 1970s — and employees have more negotiating power than almost any time in recent history.

In the last four months, we have seen more turnover than in the previous two years combined. We’ve lost nearly 20% of our 50-person team. It’s putting a lot of pressure on our existing employees.

With big employers looking for remote talent across the country, they can sometimes offer salaries 20% to 30% higher than what we’ve traditionally paid as a small company based in a smaller market.

To stave off the threat of talent poaching, which has long been a factor in the tech world, we’ve invested heavily in our culture and staff. Even before the pandemic, employees owned 40% of the company through an employee stock ownership plan established in 2016. But to make sure our compensation package stays relevant, we’ve tweaked it continually through the pandemic.

One of our biggest moves was to redirect some of the money we’ve traditionally set aside for employee development to help team members pay student debt, recognizing that many aren’t as inclined to take professional development courses as in recent years and there were lots of unused professional development dollars in the budget. After months of pandemic life, people didn’t have the time or desire to go to professional conferences, and many of those conferences weren’t happening anyway.

We were allowed to redirect the funds because of a little-known provision of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that we learned about when some of our team members saw a tweet about it. Employers are allowed to pay off up to $5,250 a year in student debt for employees without having to treat it as income from 2020 to 2025. This started a one-year program but was extended in December 2020.

To make sure the program was relevant to our company, we did a staff survey before rolling it out. We learned that out of our 40 to 45 employees, 20 said the reimbursement program would have a positive impact on them. That gave us the confidence to move ahead.

We started the program as a pilot, offering $1,200 in reimbursement to each employee per year. When that worked out well, we doubled it to $2,400 per year. It’s a way for us to stand out as an employer: Only 8% of employers had student loan repayment plans as of 2019, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

There is a bit of setup involved in running a program like this. You need to run an educational assistance program (EAP) that complies with Section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code. And the program must benefit all employees equally — not just one group of employees. To makes sure those who didn’t have student debt could avail themselves of the funds, we continued our professional development program simultaneously. Any employee can submit for the reimbursement of professional development expenses from the same pool of money.

Fortunately, it did not take long to get set up. Once we did the research, it took us less than a month to draft our policy on the student loan reimbursements, publish it and let employees know about it.

To roll out the program, we announced it during a weekly video meeting with our staff. We made the application process very simple, asking employees to fill out a basic one-page form. To get reimbursed, employees have to submit a copy of a student loan bill from the past 12 months that showed how they made their loan payments. We cut them a check as reimbursement.

So far, the feedback on this program has been very positive. Many employees in our industry are on the younger side and struggling with mountains of student debt. Student debt forgiveness is something our employees need.

There is another benefit to the program: Tax savings. Employees can save on their federal tax and their share of payroll taxes. We, in turn, save on payroll taxes and also receive a compensation deduction equal to the amount of reimbursement we provide.

Although we’re bullish on student loan reimbursements, we recognize that this benefit, alone, isn’t enough to help us stay relevant and win the war for talent. The only way to know what matters to them is to listen to them, so we spend a lot of time doing that.

In response to concerns about the cost of living, we are now looking at programs like retention bonuses and 10-year bonuses. The challenge for a small company like ours is finding the money to support these bonuses. Most of our customers sign one- or two-year contracts, so we’d likely have to raise rates to add programs like this. And even if we do raise rates, it will take a while to see the effects in our budget.

Still, we’re willing to look for creative solutions. We want our employees to know we will take good care of them. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it ensures they can contribute their best to our company and aren’t distracted by concerns like whether they can afford to fill their gas tank to get to work.

My hope is that ultimately, once employees settle into working for us, we’ll be able to attract and hold onto the best talent by offering something that has nothing to do with money or benefit but has become more important to many people during the pandemic: A sense of belonging and purpose.

A job is more than just a job here. In a small company like ours, every person on our team counts. And in a small city like the one where we’re located, every employer matters to the community. By offering a workplace where smart people can come together to exchange ideas, enjoy each other’s company and make a difference outside of the pressure cooker of Silicon Valley, we hope we’ll keep attracting people who are looking for those things.

Will they get competitive benefits and compensation? Yes. But those things ultimately are part of a total experience that we will continue to put a lot of thought into, so we can keep our company thriving and growing.

#column, #employment, #human-resource-management, #human-resources, #labor, #talent, #tc

OnLoop launches with $2M to inject some fun into performance reviews

Performance reviews eat up a lot of a manager’s time and are often the most dreaded part of work. OnLoop aims to bring some joy into the process by enabling information-gathering to happen behind the scenes and be easier for hybrid workforces.

The Singapore-based company designed a mobile-first product that consistently gathers employee feedback and goals so that the company has better insights into how both individuals and teams are doing. The feedback is also captured and converted into auto-generated reviews that lay out all of the content collected for managers to then quickly put together a finished product.

The platform was in private beta since January 2021, and after a successful run with 25 companies, OnLoop raised $2 million from Square Peg Capital and Hustle Fund and a group of angel investors including XA Network, BCG’s Aliza Knox, Uber’s Andrew Macdonald, Ready’s Allen Penn, Google’s Bambos Kaisharis, Ripple’s Brooks Entwistle, Robert Hoyt, Nordstar’s Eddie Lee, Nas Academy’s Alex Dwek and hedge fund managers John Candeto and Keshav Lall.

OnLoop co-founder and CEO Projjal Ghatak spent over three years at Uber and said he saw his fair share of productivity tools, but still struggled to develop his own team as tasks and communication were done differently by each employee.

“This is the one problem that companies consistently complain about — not having the right tool to develop teams,” he added.

As someone who began spending more and more time on his phone, Ghatak wanted his product to be mobile-native and eliminate the need for managers to start from scratch on performance reviews each time. Rather than spend days gathering the information, as the name suggests, OnLoop continuously and automatically captures the data and converts it into a well-written summary.

OnLoop app. Image Credits: OnLoop

Having that continuous loop of information is good for morale, he said. He points to data that shows regular self-reflection and feedback increased productivity by 20%, and a Gallup study where only 14% of employees thought their performance reviews inspired them to improve.

“A lot of company culture is set by the leaders, so as they want to drive this culture in their organizations, we are the tool that drives this,” Ghatak said. “Our job is to help educate the teams on how to do that well. We hear time and time again to make it fun and convenient. Teams don’t realize that if you are helping colleagues understand, showing them a light they didn’t have before, it will drive impact.”

The new funding will be mainly invested into product development and R&D, including expanding product, data and engineering teams. The company will also look at its sales and marketing framework. The company currently has 22 employees.

OnLoop was able to convert some of its early adopters into paying customers and is now focusing on figuring out a scalable way to get the product into the hands of more teams.

Piruze Sabuncu, partner at Square Peg Capital, experienced the pain of performance reviews when she was working in Stripe’s Southeast Asia and Hong Kong region. One of the challenges she faced working with regional teams was that an employee’s direct manager could be located elsewhere, yet work closely with a manager in their respective office.

Square Peg itself uses OnLoop, and Sabuncu said she liked that it is mobile-first and was designed in a way that people didn’t open it up and dread using it.

“Who your manager is, is a big question, but it shouldn’t matter,” she added. “It would still be my duty to be capturing and developing the person even if they were not my direct person. Everyone is talking about remote and hybrid work, and it is not going anywhere — it is here to stay. We believe this is a huge opportunity, a $400 billion market to disrupt, and OnLoop is providing better ways to communicate and give feedback.”

 

#apps, #enterprise, #funding, #human-resource-management, #hustle-fund, #labor, #onloop, #piruze-sabuncu, #productivity-tools, #projjal-ghatak, #recent-funding, #square-peg-capital, #startups, #tc, #uber, #workplace

Beware the hidden bias behind TikTok resumes

Social media has served as a launchpad to success almost as long as it has been around. The stories of going viral from a self-produced YouTube video and then securing a record deal established the mythology of social media platforms. Ever since, social media has consistently gravitated away from text-based formats and toward visual mediums like video sharing.

For most people, a video on social media won’t be a ticket to stardom, but in recent months, there have been a growing number of stories of people getting hired based on videos posted to TikTok. Even LinkedIn has embraced video assets on user profiles with the recent addition of the “Cover Story” feature, which allows workers to supplement their profiles with a video about themselves.

As technology continues to evolve, is there room for a world where your primary resume is a video on TikTok? And if so, what kinds of unintended consequences and implications might this have on the workforce?

Why is TikTok trending for jobs?

In recent months, U.S. job openings have risen to an all-time high of 10.1 million. For the first time since the pandemic began, available jobs have exceeded available workers. Employers are struggling to attract qualified candidates to fill positions, and in that light, it makes sense that many recruiters are turning to social platforms like TikTok and video resumes to find talent.

But the scarcity of workers does not negate the importance of finding the right employee for a role. Especially important for recruiters is finding candidates with the skills that align with their business’ goals and strategy. For example, as more organizations embrace a data-driven approach to operating their business, they need more people with skills in analytics and machine learning to help them make sense of the data they collect.

Recruiters have proven to be open to innovation where it helps them find these new candidates. Recruiting is no longer the manual process it used to be, with HR teams sorting through stacks of paper resumes and formal cover letters to find the right candidate. They embraced the power of online connections as LinkedIn rose to prominence and even figured out how to use third-party job sites like GlassDoor to help them draw in promising candidates. On the back end, many recruiters use advanced cloud software to sort through incoming resumes to find the candidates that best match their job descriptions. But all of these methods still rely on the traditional text-based resume or profile as the core of any application.

Videos on social media provide the ability for candidates to demonstrate soft skills that may not be immediately apparent in written documents, such as verbal communication and presentation skills. They are also a way for recruiters to learn more about the personality of the candidate to determine how they’d fit into the culture of the company. While this may be appealing for many, are we ready for the consequences?

We’re not ready for the close-up

While innovation in recruiting is a big part of the future of work, the hype around TikTok and video resumes may actually take us backward. Despite offering a new way for candidates to market themselves for opportunities, it also carries potential pitfalls that candidates, recruiters and business leaders need to be aware of.

The very element that gives video resumes their potential also presents the biggest problems. Video inescapably highlights the person behind the skills and achievements. As recruiters form their first opinions about a candidate, they will be confronted with information they do not usually see until much later in the process, including whether they belong to protected classes because of their race, disability or gender.

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) concerns have had a major surge in attention over the last couple of years amid heightened awareness and scrutiny around how employers are — or are not — prioritizing diversity in the workplace.

But evaluating candidates through video could erase any progress made by introducing more opportunities for unconscious, or even conscious, bias. This could create a dangerous situation for businesses if they do not act carefully because it could open them up to consequences such as damage to their reputation or even something as severe as discrimination lawsuits.

A company with a poor track record for diversity may have the fact that they reviewed videos from candidates used against them in court. Recruiters reviewing the videos may not even be aware of how the race or gender of candidates are impacting their decisions. For that reason, many of the businesses I have seen implement an option for video in their recruiting flow do not allow their recruiters to watch the video until late in the recruiting process.

But even if businesses address the most pressing issues of DE&I by managing bias against those protected classes, by accepting videos there are still issues of diversity in less protected classes such as neurodiversity and socioeconomic status. A candidate with exemplary skills and a strong track record may not present themselves well through a video, coming across as awkward to the recruiter watching the video. Even if that impression is irrelevant to the job, it could still influence the recruiter’s stance on hiring.

Furthermore, candidates from affluent backgrounds may have access to better equipment and software to record and edit a compelling video resume. Other candidates may not, resulting in videos that may not look as polished or professional in the eyes of the recruiter. This creates yet another barrier to the opportunities they can access.

As we sit at an important crossroads in how we handle DE&I in the workplace, it is important for employers and recruiters to find ways to reduce bias in the processes they use to find and hire employees. While innovation is key to moving our industry forward, we have to ensure top priorities are not being compromised.

Not left on the cutting room floor

Despite all of these concerns, social media platforms — especially those based on video — have created new opportunities for users to expand their personal brands and connect with potential job opportunities. There is potential to use these new systems to benefit both job seekers and employers.

The first step is to ensure that there is always a place for a traditional text-based resume or profile in the recruiting process. Even if recruiters can get all the information they need about a candidate’s capabilities from video, some people will just naturally feel more comfortable staying off camera. Hiring processes need to be about letting people put their best foot forward, whether that is in writing or on video. And that includes accepting that the best foot to put forward may not be your own.

Instead, candidates and businesses should consider using videos as a place for past co-workers or managers to endorse the candidate. An outside endorsement can do a lot more good for an application than simply stating your own strengths because it shows that someone else believes in your capabilities, too.

Video resumes are hot right now because they are easier to make and share than ever and because businesses are in desperate need of strong talent. But before we get caught up in the novelty of this new way of sharing our credentials, we need to make sure that we are setting ourselves up for success.

The goal of any new recruiting technology should be to make it easier for candidates to find opportunities where they can shine without creating new barriers. There are some serious kinks to work out before video resumes can achieve that, and it is important for employers to consider the repercussions before they damage the success of their DE&I efforts.

#column, #diversity, #glassdoor, #human-resource-management, #labor, #linkedin, #opinion, #recruitment, #resume, #social, #social-media, #social-media-platforms, #startups, #tc, #tiktok

Dear Sophie: Should I apply for citizenship if I have a conviction?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie,

At Burning Man a few years ago, I was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for smoking marijuana in public (in my car) and driving under the influence.

I currently have a green card and want to apply for U.S. citizenship next year.

Can I? If so, how should I handle my criminal record?

— Remorseful About the Reefer

Dear Remorseful,

As you’ve discovered, you have to be extra careful when you’re an immigrant: Obviously, you should never break the law, but as an immigrant, if you do, it can have severe and lasting consequences.

You even need to be careful to avoid doing things that an immigration officer might consider to be outside the bounds of good moral character, even if they are not crimes. All immigrants should remember that even though limited use of marijuana for recreational and medical uses is legal in several states, it’s illegal under federal law.

My law partner, Anita Koumriqian, recently podcasted on how various crimes can impact your green card status and affect your ability to become a U.S. citizen. Take a listen and (always in this situation) consult an experienced immigration attorney. Tell your attorney about your DUI and marijuana charges, any subsequent marijuana use, any other arrests or citations, and even things you might consider minor such as speeding, parking or jaywalking tickets. An immigration attorney can determine whether you should proceed with applying for U.S. citizenship and if so, when and how to do so.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

What is good moral character?

As you know, you must be a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least five years — or three years if you have a green card through marriage — to be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. Additionally, you must demonstrate “good moral character” during the five- or three-year statutory period.

#column, #diversity, #ec-column, #green-card, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #sophie-alcorn, #tc, #united-states, #verified-experts

Glassdoor acquires Fishbowl, a semi-anonymous social network and job board, to square up to LinkedIn

While LinkedIn doubles down on creators to bring a more human, less manicured element to its networking platform for professionals, a company that has built a reputation for publishing primarily the more messy and human impressions of work life has made an acquisition that might help it compete better with LinkedIn.

Glassdoor, the platform that lets people post anonymous and candid feedback about the organizations they work for, has acquired Fishbowl — an app that gives users an anonymous option also to provide frank employee feedback, as well as join interest-based conversation groups to chat about work, and search for jobs. Glassdoor, which has 55 million users, is already integrating Fishbowl content into its main platform, although Fishbowl, with its 1 million users, will also continue for now to operate as a standalone app, too.

Christian Sutherland-Wong, the CEO of Glassdoor, said that he sees Fishbowl as the logical evolution of how Glassdoor is already being used. Similarly, since people are already seeking out feedback on prospective employers, it makes sense to bring recruitment and reviews closer together.

“We’ve always been about workplace transparency,” he said in an interview. “We expect in the future that jobseekers will use Glassdoor reviews, and also look to existing professionals in their fields to get answers from each other.” Fishbowl has seen a lot of traction during the Covid-19 pandemic, growing its user base threefold in the last year.

The acquisition is technically being made by Recruit Holdings, the Japanese employment listings and tech giant that acquired Glassdoor for $1.2 billion in 2018, and the companies are not disclosing any financial terms. San Francisco-based Fishbowl — founded in 2016 by Matt Sunbulli and Loren Appin — had raised less than $8 million, according to PitchBook data, from a pretty impressive set of investors, including Binary Capital, GGV, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, and Scott Belsky.

Microsoft-owned LinkedIn towers over the likes of Glassdoor in terms of size. It now has more than 774 million users, making it by far the biggest social media platform targeting professionals and their work-related content. But for many, even some of those who use it, the platform leaves something to be desired.

LinkedIn is a reliable go-to for putting out a profile of yourself, for the public, for those in your professional life, or for recruiters, to find. But what LinkedIn largely lacks are normal people talking about work in an honest way. To read about other’s often self-congratulatory professional developments, or to see motivational words on professional development from already hugely successful personalities, or to browse developments relative to your industry that probably have already seen elsewhere is not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s anodyne. Sometimes people just want tea to be spilled.

That’s where something like Glassdoor comes into the picture: the format of making comments anonymous on there turns it into something of the anti-LinkedIn. It is caustic, perhaps sometimes bitter, talk about the workplace, balanced out with positive words seem to get periodically suspected of being seeded by the companies themselves. Motivational, inspirational and aspirational are generally not part of the Glassdoor lexicon; honest, illuminating, and sobering perhaps are.

Fishbowl will be used to augment this and give Glassdoor another set of tools now to see how it might build out its platform beyond workplace reviews. The idea is to target people who come to Glassdoor to read about what people think of a company, or to put in their own comments: they can now also jump into conversations with others; and if they are coming to complain about their employer, now they can also look for a new one!

In the meantime, it feels like the swing to more authenticity is also a result of the shift we’ve seen in the world of work.

Covid-19 mandated office closures and social distancing have meant that many professionals have been working at home for the majority of the last year and a half (and many continue to do so). That has changed how we “come to work”, with many of our traditional divides between work and non-work personas and time management blurring. That has had an inevitable impact on how we see ourselves at work, and what we seek to get out of that engagement. And it also has led many people to feel isolated and in need of more ways to connect with colleagues.

Glassdoor’s acquisition, it said, was in part to meet this demand. A Harris Poll commissioned by Glassdoor found that 48% of employees felt isolated from coworkers during the COVID-19 pandemic; 42% of employees felt their career stall due to the lack of in-person connection; and 45% of employees expect to work hybrid or full-time remotely going forward — all areas that Glassdoor believes can be addressed with better tools (like Fishbowl) for people to communicate.

Of course, it will remain to be seen whether Glassdoor can convert its visitors to use the new Fishbowl-powered tools, but if there really is a population of users out there looking for a new kind of LinkedIn — there certainly are enough who love to complain about it — then maybe this cold be one version of that.

#binary-capital, #ceo, #enterprise, #fishbowl, #glassdoor, #hiring, #labor, #lerer-hippeau-ventures, #linkedin, #ma, #microsoft, #recruit, #recruit-holdings, #san-francisco, #scott-belsky, #social-networks

Gig workers with smartphones can help set infrastructure priorities

With all the focus on whether Congress will enact a major infrastructure law to rebuild the United States’ roads, bridges, railways, etc., nobody seems to be paying attention to the elephant in the room: Even if the legislation is passed, where do we begin? You might be surprised to learn that the gig economy has an app for that.

We can and should hire professional consultants and other experts to review our infrastructure systems to see what needs the most immediate attention, but the sheer number of roads, bridges, dams and other critical infrastructure in the U.S. makes the job of prioritizing daunting.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, there are over 4 million miles of public roads, 617,000 bridges, 91,000 dams and 140,000 rail miles in the U.S. These are massive statistics.

So as soon as an infrastructure bill passes, the big questions will be: Where do we begin, and how do we set priorities — expeditiously and at minimum cost, at least for the first step? The next step would be to bring in professional engineers and experts to begin the rebuilding process.

There are some obvious examples of infrastructure systems needing immediate, prioritized attention (see the Sidney Sherman Bridge in Houston, which had to be shut down a few years ago for a corroded bridge bearing and was recently classified as “structurally deficient”).

Fortunately, there is another massive statistic out there that can help: 216 million. That is the approximate number of U.S. adults that own a smartphone. Pew Research Center recently found that 85% of all U.S. adults own a smartphone, which, needless to say, is the highest it’s ever been. Even enlisting just a small percentage of the 216 million smartphone users out there can help immensely with this task.

Federal, state and local governments can and should consider the awesome (and relatively inexpensive) power of our smartphones and the gig economy. Gig workers can be enlisted to use the smartphones that they already own to provide inspection data and photographs of the key identified roads, bridges, dams and rails in the 50 states. The data and photos they collect can then be instantly transmitted to a national database for review and evaluation by professional engineers and consultants.

I know this can be done because my colleagues and I have done this before. We tap into a worldwide network of gig workers (data collectors or data contributors) operating from an open source app and with full transparency.

Our projects have involved contributors photographing and documenting sewer access points, bridges, water access points and other infrastructure systems. We even partnered with a major nonprofit on behalf of USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance to bolster its Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Program by providing rapid WASH needs assessments wherein our contributors can be mobilized on an emergency basis to provide photographs and other data on water access, sanitation and hygiene in Colombia.

Why can’t we do the same for bridges, roads, tunnels and other infrastructure here in the U.S.? This technology needs to be scaled, and we know it can be done.

It’s simple — and the solution is in plain sight. Our smartphones and gig workers allow us to set priorities using their photos and input from what their eyes are seeing, and then professional experts can follow up to begin implementation. There are already provisions in the Senate bill that could provide funding for this type of advanced technology research. And there is an ongoing need, even after repairs are done, to monitor the condition of our highways, bridges and tunnels.

Using this gig-worker-enabled smartphone technology will not only help our federal, state and local governments set priorities quickly; it will also allow thousands of everyday Americans to be part of the rebuilding process. This has the added benefit of democratizing the job of fixing our infrastructure and creating a grassroots movement of people using their own smartphones to help rebuild and repair U.S. infrastructure for the current and future generations.

#column, #congress, #gig-economy, #infrastructure, #labor, #opinion, #smartphone, #tc, #united-states

Dutch court finds Uber drivers are employees

Uber has lost another legal challenge in Europe over the employment status of drivers: The Court of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, has ruled that drivers for Uber are employed, rather than self employed contractors.

The court also found drivers are covered by an existing collective labor agreement in the country — which pertains to taxi drivers — meaning Uber faces increased costs to comply with the agreement which sets pay requirements and covers benefits like sick pay. (And it may be liable for paying driver back pay in some cases.)

The court also ordered Uber to pay €50,000 in costs.

The ride hailing giant has some 4,000 drivers working on its platform in the Dutch capital.

The Amsterdam court rejected Uber’s customary defence that it’s just a technology platform that connects passengers with taxi service providers — finding instead that drivers are only self employed ‘on paper’.

The judges highlighted the nature of the service being provided by drivers and the fact Uber exerts controls over how they can work and earn through its app and algorithms.

Europe’s top court already ruled back in 2017 that Uber is a transport provider and must comply with local transport laws — so you’d be forgiven for deja vu.

The Dutch lawsuit was filed by the national trade union center, FNV, last year — with the hearing kicking off at the end of June.

In a statement today, the FNV’s VP, Zakaria Boufangacha, said: “This statement shows what we have been saying for years: Uber is an employer and the drivers are employees, so Uber must adhere to the collective labor agreement for Taxi Transport. It is also a signal to The Hague that these types of constructions are illegal and that the law must therefore be enforced.”

Uber has been contacted for a response to the ruling.

At the time of writing the company had not responded — but, per Reuters, Uber said it intends to appeal and “has no plans to employ drivers in the Netherlands”.

In the UK, Uber lost a string of tribunal rulings over its employment classification over a number of years — going on to lose in front of the UK supreme court this February.

Following that Uber said it would treat drivers in the UK as workers, although disputes remain (such as over its definition of working time). In May, Uber also said it would recognize a UK trade union for the first time.

Elsewhere in Europe, however, the company continues to fight employment lawsuits — and to lobby European Union lawmakers to deregulate platform work…

The EU has said it wants to find a way to improve platform work. However it’s not yet clear what any pan-EU ‘reform’ may look like. 

The Commission has been contacted with questions on its platform work initiative.

“Digital labour platforms are clearly worried, evident through investing heavily on their lobbying power and throwing more resources on the EU level. These companies — including Uber of course — have also recently come together to create a new funding lobby group that specifically targeting to influence policies on platform work,” said Jill Toh, a PhD researcher in data rights at the University of Amsterdam, talking to TechCrunch after the Amsterdam ruling.

“We saw how Uber wielded and amended laws in their Prop 22 campaign in California, and together with other companies in Europe, they’re attempting to do so again. It’s disheartening to see that the Commission in its two consultations on platform worker regulation has only been talking to tech companies and has held no meetings with trade unions or other platform work representatives.”

“All of this is incredibly problematic and concerning especially if the EC consultations result in a directive on platform work. Overall, the wins in the courts are important for workers, but there remains the issue of corporate power and influence in Brussels, as well as the lack of public enforcement to these court decisions,” she added.

#amsterdam, #ec, #europe, #european-union, #gig-economy, #labor, #netherlands, #platform-worker-rights, #tc, #transportation, #uber

California Senate passes warehouse workers bill, taking aim at Amazon

Modern warehouse work sometimes unfolds within million-square-foot buildings, which some labor organizers say can make bathroom breaks “logistically impossible.”

Enlarge / Modern warehouse work sometimes unfolds within million-square-foot buildings, which some labor organizers say can make bathroom breaks “logistically impossible.” (credit: Jane Barlow | Getty Images)

Warehouse workers in California are one step closer to being able to pee in peace. Yesterday, the state Senate voted 26-11 to pass AB 701, a bill aimed squarely at Amazon and other warehousing companies that track worker productivity. The bill would prevent employers from counting health and safety law compliance—and yes, bathroom breaks—against warehouse workers’ productive time, which is increasingly governed by algorithms. The bill, which organizers call the first in the nation to address the future of algorithmic work, is now en route to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk for signature.

Although some observers expect Newsom to sign the bill given his record on other pro-worker legislation, such as AB 5, he has thus far remained mum on AB 701. When asked about his intentions, Newsom’s office demurred, saying only, “The bill will be evaluated on its merits when it reaches the governor’s desk.” (The governor is currently fending off a recall election, which takes place September 14.)

AB 701’s passage came as welcome news to advocates like Yesenia Barerra, a former seasonal Amazon worker who traveled to Sacramento to campaign for the bill, helping stage a mock assembly line on the steps of the state capitol. Barrera staffed the company’s Rialto, California, fulfillment center for five months until her termination in 2019. When she was hired, she didn’t realize the rigidity of the productivity system or the extent of Amazon’s camera- and barcode-based employee tracking matrix. She assumed only slackers got fired.

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#algorithms, #amazon, #labor, #policy, #workers

Why do the media always pit labor against capital?

The uproar that arose after Dolly Parton rewrote the lyrics to “9 to 5” for a Squarespace Super Bowl commercial revealed a problem with the English language: A worker is no longer a worker.

As she sang in celebration of entrepreneurs:

“Working 5 to 9
you’ve got passion and a vision
‘Cause it’s hustlin’ time
a whole new way to makе a livin’
Gonna change your life
do something that givеs it meaning…”

Some criticized it, saying it celebrated an “empty promise” of capitalism, as if people aiming to establish their own businesses were “workers” who needed to be protected from powerful corporations. Others grasped that there is more nuance in our economy than ever before and that, perhaps, Parton was on to something.

In fact, her updated lyrics represent a shift in the primacy between capital and labor in the 40 years since she penned the original. Gone is the idea that getting ahead is only a “rich man’s game… puttin’ money in his wallet.” Workers today have a different potential than they did in 1980 when she first sang:

“There’s a better life
And you think about it, don’t you?
It’s a rich man’s game
No matter what they call it,
And you spend your life
Puttin’ money in his wallet.”

There are abusive corporations, and we do need a better social safety net so that people aren’t at the mercy of the doctrine of shareholder primacy, but that truth disguises a more complicated reality. The divide between capital and labor increasingly looks like an anachronism, a throwback to the language and illusory simplicity of another time. Yet still, the media persists in pushing this false dichotomy; this mistaken idea that labor and capital are two separate and oppositional forces in our economy. Perhaps doing so is human nature.

Or perhaps it simply sells more newspapers or generates more clicks. The media certainly thrives on conflict (real or imaginary) and, along with human nature to try to group things into black and white, the continued framing of our economy as somehow consisting of individual actors who exist solely on one side of the capital/labor line makes for easier narratives.

The truth of this aspect of our economy, as with most things, exists in the gray areas. In the nuance and the movement between groups. The U.S. economy has always been uniquely entrepreneurial, from the discovery of the “new land” to the formation of our government to the expansion of our country and eventually its industrialization. Entrepreneurs have long led the way. Today, nearly 60 million people are entrepreneurial in some way.

The vast majority inhabit the frontlines of the economy. They are freelancers or the late-night business starters that Parton sang about. They are freelancing on the side to earn money to support some other dream, or are stitching together lives for themselves by being their own boss. They’re driving Ubers, delivering meals for GrubHub and selling their crafts on Etsy. Never have more people had more access to expand their horizons through pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams than right now. And they exist in the world of technology, where a single person at a kitchen table has the same power to bring an innovation to market as giant corporations did four decades ago.

Victor Hwang, CEO of Right to Start and a former vice president of entrepreneurship for the Kauffman Foundation, described the capital-versus-labor debate as “the biggest false narrative out there. It’s an artificial narrative that we’ve created: employer versus employee; big versus small; corporation versus worker. All are false narratives and contribute to the incorrect notion that the most important fight in our economy exists between these supposedly oppositional forces.”

But our economic and government funding debates are framed, often by the media, around the idea of capitalism versus socialism, corporations versus workers. That increasingly divisive conversation has some of the hallmarks of a deliberately engineered division, like the ones over climate change or gun rights. Right-wing groups with an interest in freezing the government into inaction figured out how to divide the country into two groups and get them fighting.

Why don’t we have universal health care, parental leave, working infrastructure — all things that would, not incidentally, boost entrepreneurship and small business? We’ve been too busy fighting about a socialist takeover and the evils of capitalism.

The conflict thrives in part because we don’t have the right language to describe what’s happening now: “These debates should be viewed as part of a larger discussion,” Hwang said. “We should be striving to encourage highly innovative people and companies. What are the categories we need to develop? How do you classify someone’s role in the economy?”

What we need as an economy is a system that empowers more people to be producers and entrepreneurs. To solve problems and look for opportunities to create change in their communities. Instead, we’ve built a system that supports incumbents; that thrives on the status quo; that stifles innovation and uses the tactics of division to do so. It’s a tension that stems from our neoliberal worldview that achieved an almost consensus in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Beyond just arguing that free markets and open trade make it easier and better to do business (which we generally agree with), it also implied that the only thing that mattered in our economy was making big companies bigger (while, perhaps, allowing for the occasional upstart — but only those that had the potential to grow quickly and become big companies themselves). Lost was the value of smaller businesses, operating in the in-between spaces in our economy. We don’t even effectively measure their impact.

Wanting to know how the “economy” is doing, we look no further than the fate of the 500 largest publicly traded companies (the S&P 500) or the 30 massive businesses that comprise the Dow Jones Industrial Average. No wonder people across Main Streets are scratching their heads as pundits describe the economy as thriving by citing the continued rise of the Dow when they can see the millions of small businesses closing all around them.

In our book, “The New Builders“, we describe entrepreneurs as “builders.” Builder is a word with Old English roots in the ideas “to be, exist, grow,” according to the Online Dictionary of Etymology. In a century where change is the lingua franca, builders own the value of their own labor as a mechanism to build independence and, eventually, capital.

We often forget that the majority of these builders — the small business owners of America — create opportunities with the most limited resources. According to the Kauffman Foundation, 83% of businesses are formed without the help of either bank financing or venture capital. Yet small businesses are responsible for nearly 40% of U.S. GDP and nearly half of employment. Perhaps that’s why International Economy publisher David Smick termed them “the great equalizer” in his book of the same name.

Technology has fundamentally changed the landscape for businesses of all sizes and has the potential to enable a resurgence of our small business economy. Rather than pushing a false narrative that individuals need to choose between being a part of the labor or capital economies, we should be encouraging fluidity between the two. The more capital ownership we encourage — through savings, investment in their own businesses, and by allowing more and more people to become investors of all kinds — the more we drive wealth creation and open economic activity for generations to come.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 edition of The International Economy Magazine. 

#business, #column, #entrepreneurship, #kauffman-foundation, #labor, #opinion, #small-business, #united-states

Dear Sophie: When can I apply for my US work permit?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie,

My husband just accepted a job in Silicon Valley. His new employer will be sponsoring him for an E-3 visa.

I would like to continue working after we move to the United States. I understand I can get a work permit with the E-3 visa for spouses.

How soon can I apply for my U.S. work permit?

— Adaptive Aussie

Dear Adaptive,

Thanks for your question and congrats on the new employment opportunities for both you and your husband! Listen to my podcast episode on work permits, or Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) as they are officially known, to find out who qualifies for one, when you can apply for one, what you can do with one and how long it takes to get one.

You can apply for a work permit once you arrive in the United States in E-3 status (a professional work visa for Australians in the U.S.). It’s not possible to apply for a work permit at the consulate in Sydney when you apply for your E-3 visas. To do that, you will need to submit Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) and supporting documents to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If USCIS approves your application, you will not be able to start working until you receive the physical, plastic EAD card, which proves to prospective employers that you are authorized to work in the United States.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

How long will it take?

USCIS is currently backlogged and is taking about 11 months to process EAD applications. Since any mistakes or omissions in an EAD application can create further delays, I recommend hiring an immigration attorney to submit the application on your behalf. An immigration attorney can also discuss other options that could enable you to start working sooner.

#column, #ec-column, #ec-future-of-work, #green-card, #labor, #lawyers, #sophie-alcorn, #sports, #tc, #verified-experts

Extra Crunch roundup: Options pool rules, voice tech hurdles, keeping employees engaged

“In today’s cash-rich environment, options are more valuable than cash,” says Allen Miller, a principal at Oak HC/FT. “In turn, managing your option pool may be the most effective action you can take to ensure you can recruit and retain talent.”

In an article squarely aimed at early-stage founders, Miller shares best practices for protecting your option pool, lists the mistakes many founders make and offers multiple tips for course-correcting “if you made mistakes early on.”

As we’re just returning from the Labor Day holiday, today’s newsletter is quite brief. We have much more planned for this week, so thanks very much for reading.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist


Full Extra Crunch articles are only available to members.
Use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription.


To commercialize, voice tech must first solve its ‘cocktail party problem’

Image Credits: Karnet / Getty Images

Voice and speech recognition is expected to be a $26.8 billion global market by 2025, but there’s still a long way to go before voice can be fully commercialized.

Developers are deploying natural language processing and conversational AI to overcome current limitations, but “solving these problems requires voice tech to meet the human standard for voice and match the complexities of the human auditory system.”

How engaged are your employees?

Image Credits: katleho Seisa (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

According to a recent survey, more than 70% of workers are actively hunting for a new job or are giving the matter serious consideration.

In a startup environment, employee development takes a back seat to priorities like scaling growth. As a result, few managers have any experience or interest in helping employees acquire new skills or advance their careers.

Don’t wait to be blindsided: Put an action plan in place to assess employee engagement. Remember, seven out of the next 10 people you see on a video call might be polishing their resumes.

#artificial-intelligence, #ec-roundup, #extra-crunch-roundup, #labor, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #voice-recognition

Spain’s Factorial raises $80M at a $530M valuation on the back of strong traction for its ‘Workday for SMBs’

Factorial, a startup out of Barcelona that has built a platform that lets SMBs run human resources functions with the same kind of tools that typically are used by much bigger companies, is today announcing some funding to bulk up its own position: the company has raised $80 million, funding that it will be using to expand its operations geographically — specifically deeper into Latin American markets — and to continue to augment its product with more features.

CEO Jordi Romero, who co-founded the startup with Pau Ramon and Bernat Farrero — said in an interview that Factorial has seen a huge boom of growth in the last 18 months and counts more than anything 75,000 customers across 65 countries, with the average size of each customer in the range of 100 employees, although they can be significantly (single-digit) smaller or potentially up to 1,000 (the “M” of SMB, or SME as it’s often called in Europe).

“We have a generous definition of SME,” Romero said of how the company first started with a target of 10-15 employees but is now working in the size bracket that it is. “But that is the limit. This is the segment that needs the most help. We see other competitors of ours are trying to move into SME and they are screwing up their product by making it too complex. SMEs want solutions that have as much data as possible in one single place. That is unique to the SME.” Customers can include smaller franchises of much larger organizations, too: KFC, Booking.com, and Whisbi are among those that fall into this category for Factorial.

Factorial offers a one-stop shop to manage hiring, onboarding, payroll management, time off, performance management, internal communications and more. Other services such as the actual process of payroll or sourcing candidates, it partners and integrates closely with more localized third parties.

The Series B is being led by Tiger Global, and past investors CRV, Creandum, Point Nine and K Fund also participating, at a valuation we understand from sources close to the deal to be around $530 million post-money. Factorial has raised $100 million to date, including a $16 million Series A round in early 2020, just ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic really taking hold of the world.

That timing turned out to be significant: Factorial, as you might expect of an HR startup, was shaped by Covid-19 in a pretty powerful way.

The pandemic, as we have seen, massively changed how — and where — many of us work. In the world of desk jobs, offices largely disappeared overnight, with people shifting to working at home in compliance with shelter-in-place orders to curb the spread of the virus, and then in many cases staying there even after those were lifted as companies grappled both with balancing the best (and least infectious) way forward and their own employees’ demands for safety and productivity. Front-line workers, meanwhile, faced a completely new set of challenges in doing their jobs, whether it was to minimize exposure to the coronavirus, or dealing with giant volumes of demand for their services. Across both, organizations were facing economics-based contractions, furloughs, and in other cases, hiring pushes, despite being office-less to carry all that out.

All of this had an impact on HR. People who needed to manage others, and those working for organizations, suddenly needed — and were willing to pay for — new kinds of tools to carry out their roles.

But it wasn’t always like this. In the early days, Romero said the company had to quickly adjust to what the market was doing.

“We target HR leaders and they are currently very distracted with furloughs and layoffs right now, so we turned around and focused on how we could provide the best value to them,” Romero said to me during the Series A back in early 2020. Then, Factorial made its product free to use and found new interest from businesses that had never used cloud-based services before but needed to get something quickly up and running to use while working from home (and that cloud migration turned out to be a much bigger trend played out across a number of sectors). Those turning to Factorial had previously kept all their records in local files or at best a “Dropbox folder, but nothing else,” Romero said.

It also provided tools specifically to address the most pressing needs HR people had at the time, such as guidance on how to implement furloughs and layoffs, best practices for communication policies and more. “We had to get creative,” Romero said.

But it wasn’t all simple. “We did suffer at the beginning,” Romero now says. “People were doing furloughs and [frankly] less attention was being paid to software purchasing. People were just surviving. Then gradually, people realized they needed to improve their systems in the cloud, to manage remote people better, and so on.” So after a couple of very slow months, things started to take off, he said.

Factorial’s rise is part of a much, longer-term bigger trend in which the enterprise technology world has at long last started to turn its attention to how to take the tools that originally were built for larger organizations, and right size them for smaller customers.

The metrics are completely different: large enterprises are harder to win as customers, but represent a giant payoff when they do sign up; smaller enterprises represent genuine scale since there are so many of them globally — 400 million, accounting for 95% of all firms worldwide. But so are the product demands, as Romero pointed out previously: SMBs also want powerful tools, but they need to work in a more efficient, and out-of-the-box way.

Factorial is not the only HR startup that has been honing in on this, of course. Among the wider field are PeopleHR, Workday, Infor, ADP, Zenefits, Gusto, IBM, Oracle, SAP and Rippling; and a very close competitor out of Europe, Germany’s Personio, raised $125 million on a $1.7 billion valuation earlier this year, speaking not just to the opportunity but the success it is seeing in it.

But the major fragmentation in the market, the fact that there are so many potential customers, and Factorial’s own rapid traction are three reasons why investors approached the startup, which was not proactively seeking funding when it decided to go ahead with this Series B.

“The HR software market opportunity is very large in Europe, and Factorial is incredibly well positioned to capitalize on it,” said John Curtius, Partner at Tiger Global, in a statement. “Our diligence found a product that delighted customers and a world-class team well-positioned to achieve Factorial’s potential.”

“It is now clear that labor markets around the world have shifted over the past 18 months,” added Reid Christian, general partner at CRV, which led its previous round, which had been CRV’s first investment in Spain. “This has strained employers who need to manage their HR processes and properly serve their employees. Factorial was always architected to support employers across geographies with their HR and payroll needs, and this has only accelerated the demand for their platform. We are excited to continue to support the company through this funding round and the next phase of growth for the business.”

Notably, Romero told me that the fundraising process really evolved between the two rounds, with the first needing him flying around the world to meet people, and the second happening over video links, while he was recovering himself from Covid-19. Given that it was not too long ago that the most ambitious startups in Europe were encouraged to relocate to the U.S. if they wanted to succeed, it seems that it’s not just the world of HR that is rapidly shifting in line with new global conditions.

#barcelona, #booking-com, #brazil, #ceo, #crv, #enterprise, #europe, #factorial, #general-partner, #germany, #hiring, #human-resource-management, #human-resources, #ibm, #k, #k-fund, #labor, #mathematics, #onboarding, #oracle, #payroll, #people-management, #performance-management, #personnel, #sap, #software, #spain, #tiger-global-management, #united-states, #zenefits

DoorDash workers protest outside CEO Tony Xu’s home demanding better pay, tip transparency and PPE

California DoorDash workers protested outside of the home of DoorDash CEO Tony Xu on Thursday, prompted by a recent California Superior Court Judge ruling calling 2020’s Proposition 22 unconstitutional. Prop 22, which was passed last November in California, would allow app-based companies like DoorDash, Uber and Lyft to continue classifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees.

A group of about 50 DoorDash workers who are affiliated with advocacy groups We Drive Progress and Gig Workers Rising traveled caravan style to the front of Xu’s house in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. They demanded that DoorDash provide transparency for tips and 120% of minimum wage or around $17 per hour, stop unfair deactivations and provide free personal protective equipment, as well as adequate pay for car and equipment sanitizing. 

“Dasher concerns and feedback are always important to us, and we will continue to hear their voices and engage our community directly,” a DoorDash spokesperson told TechCrunch. “However, we know that today’s participants do not speak for the 91% of California Dashers who want to remain independent contractors or the millions of California voters who overwhelmingly supported Proposition 22. The reality is, the passage of Prop 22 has addressed in law many of the concerns raised today through its historic benefits and protections: workers earn 120% of their local minimum wage per active hour in addition to 100% of their tips, receive free PPE and enjoy access to healthcare funds.”

DoorDash drivers say getting paid for the time they’re “active,” meaning actively driving to either pick up food and drop it off, rather than when they’re online and waiting for gigs to come through, leads to inadequate pay. They also say much of their living wage comes from tips, which should be an added bonus, but ends up helping make ends meet based on DoorDash’s pay structure. Prop 22 is also meant to guarantee a reimbursement of 30 cents per engaged mile, which drivers say “would be great if it were true.” DoorDash did not respond to follow ups regarding its pay structure or claims from dashers that they have not been given free PPE. 

Rondu Gantt, a gig worker who’s been working for DoorDash for two and a half years and also drives for Uber and Lyft to get by, says his base pay from DoorDash is often as low as $3 per hour, and that around 40% to 60% of his money comes from tips. Although this model sounds similar to the restaurant industry in the United States, which can be quite lucrative for servers and bartenders, for a delivery driver, it’s an unsustainable way to make a living because tipping culture isn’t nearly as strong. 

“DoorDash pays so low because they want to make it affordable for the customer, but I would say for the driver it becomes unaffordable,” Gantt told TechCrunch, citing the costs of owning, maintaining, parking and fueling a vehicle as potentially crippling. “Last week, I drove for 30 hours and I made $405. That’s $13.50 per hour, which is below minimum wage.”

Gantt said drivers also have had to deal with pressure to drive in unsafe conditions, and we can look to the images of delivery drivers in New York City during Hurricane Ida as an example of some conditions drivers feel compelled to accept. Over the past two years, DoorDash drivers have also been deemed essential workers, interacting with and providing services for many people during a pandemic at the risk of their health. 

Gig Workers Rising says DoorDash workers “have received little to no safety support” with some workers reporting “being reimbursed as little as 80 cents per day for cleaning/sanitizing equipment and PPE that they use to keep themselves and customers safe.”

“Right now gig work isn’t flexible,” a spokesperson for Gig Workers Rising told TechCrunch.  “Workers are at the mercy of when there’s demand. If they were employees the work would change as they’d work in the knowledge that they’ve healthcare and can take a sick day off.”

Because Prop 22 was ruled unconstitutional, the spokesperson said by rights it shouldn’t be in operation. 

“The gig corporations violate that law everyday by choosing not to comply with it,” he said. 

For Gantt’s part, he doesn’t necessarily want to be an employee, he just wants to make sure that he’s being paid what he deserves. 

“Which is not minimum wage,” he said. “Minimum wage would be unacceptable as well. The cost of doing this, the danger, makes minimum wage unacceptable pay. And realistically, they’re only sometimes paying you minimum wage before taxes. After taxes you’re definitely making less.”

TechCrunch was given access to DoorDash workers’ dashboards that break down their pay. For the week of July 12 to July 19, one dasher was paid a total of $574.21 for 53 deliveries, $274 of which came from customer tip. His “active time” was 14 hours and 21 minutes, and his “dash time,” or when he was logged onto the app waiting for gigs to come through and doing deliveries, was about 30 hours. 

The dasher’s “guaranteed earnings” from DoorDash for the week was $300.21. (DoorDash did not respond to clarification on how guaranteed weekly earnings are calculated or what they’re based on, but a post on the company’s site says that guaranteed earnings are incentives for dashers in specific areas.) His base pay ended up at about $257.62, but DoorDash added an additional $42.59 to adjust to guaranteed earnings. If we divide the amount DoorDash paid by the number of hours of “active time,” the worker was paid about $21 per hour. If we divide it by the “dash time,” it looks more like $10 per hour. 

Again, this is before tax. Independent contractors are usually advised to put aside around 30% of their paycheck because they have to pay self-employment tax, which is 15.3% of taxable income, federal income tax, which varies depending on tax bracket, and potentially state income tax. After taxes, this dasher’s total pay for 30 hours of work, including his $274 worth of tip, would be around $402, which comes out to $13.40 per hour. 

Tips were of concern at the protest on Thursday as drivers called for transparency. Gantt says dashers can see a cumulative amount of tip earnings per week, as well as how much tip they’re receiving from each order, but they don’t trust the amount they’re receiving is actually the amount customers are tipping them.

Gantt and other drivers aren’t just being paranoid. Last November, DoorDash agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit alleging the company stole drivers’ tips and allowed customers to think their tip money was actually going to the drivers. The suit, filed by Washington, D.C. attorney general Karl Racine, alleged DoorDash reduced drivers’ pay for each job by the amount of any tip. 

One of the rallying cries of the protest was for Xu to “share the wealth.” In 2020, the CEO was reportedly the highest paid CEO in the Bay Area, making a total income of $413.67 million, which includes salary and stock options. During the second quarter, DoorDash saw a $113 million profit adjusted for EBITDA, but was overall unprofitable with a net loss of $102 million. 

“We all work for money and how that money gets distributed when they go through their earnings is telling you who matters and who doesn’t matter,” said Gantt. “It’s a clear sign of who’s important, who has value. If they don’t pay you, they don’t value you.”

#doordash, #food, #gig-economy, #gig-workers-rising, #labor, #prop-22, #strike, #tc, #tony-xu, #transportation

A California judge just struck down Prop 22: Now what?

Every time you turn around, someone new is winning the war in California around organizing workers in the sharing economy.

Labor struck first when California legislators passed Assembly Bill 5, requiring all independent contractors working for gig economy companies to be reclassified as employees. That was expected to set off a chain reaction in state legislatures nationwide, until two things happened.

First, COVID-19 hit and quickly became all-encompassing, making it virtually impossible for lawmakers and regulators to focus on anything but surviving the pandemic. Second, Uber, Lyft, Instacart and others funded and voters approved Prop 22 in California, striking down AB-5 and returning sharing economy workers to independent contractor status.

On the same day that Prop 22 passed, Democrats captured both chambers of Congress in Washington, but their margins were so slim (50-50 in the Senate and a nine-vote majority in the House), that federal legislative action on the issue was near impossible. Across the country, politicians read the tea leaves of Prop 22 and decided to mainly stay away. That kept the issue at bay during the 2021 state legislative sessions.

But the tide started to turn again this summer. First, U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia) introduced the PRO Act in February 2021, stating that workers would be reclassified using an ABC test, in addition to rolling back right-to-work laws in states and establishing monetary penalties for companies and executives who violate workers’ rights.

The bill handily passed the House in March, but has since stalled in the Senate, despite receiving a hearing and energetic support by high-profile senators including Bernie Sanders and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The Biden administration’s appointees to the Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board are decidedly in favor of full-time-worker status. And now, a California Superior Court judge has ruled Prop 22 unconstitutional, saying it violates the right of the state legislature to pass future laws around worker safety and status.

The sharing economy companies are expected to appeal, and the case could ultimately wind up before the California Supreme Court.

So now what? The courts will ultimately determine the status of sharing economy workers in California, but since the decision will be about the specific legal parameters of California’s referendum process, it won’t determine the issue elsewhere. And despite noise from Washington, Congress isn’t passing the PRO Act any time soon (Democrats may try to include it in the reconciliation for the $3.5 trillion American Families Plan, but the odds of its survival are low). That means the action returns to the states.

New York is the biggest battleground outside of California. Democrats have amassed a supermajority in both chambers of the legislature, and New York lacks a referendum vehicle to overturn state law.

Sharing economy workers are the biggest organizing opportunity for private sector unions in decades, and labor will use all of its influence to pass worker classification reform in 2022.

However, Kathy Hochul, New York’s new governor, is a moderate, and state legislators recently abandoned a half-baked plan brokered by gig companies to safeguard independent contractor status, indicating a resolution on the issue will likely take time.

Illinois is fertile ground for worker reclassification, too, but the state remains a question mark.

There’s also a chance of movement in Massachusetts, where gig companies are making a play to establish a ballot initiative very similar to Prop 22. Legislators in Seattle and Pennsylvania have also signaled an interest in exploring the issue.

And just a few months after most state legislative sessions conclude next summer, we’ll hit the midterm elections, which could produce a Republican wave (especially in the House) that would yet again quash the chances of worker classification legislation passing anywhere.

In other words, this is going to ping back and forth for at least the next few years in the courts, in state legislatures, and in the halls of Congress and federal agencies. If you’re a sharing economy investor and you want this issue resolved once and for all, that peace of mind isn’t coming. And the market, rather than accepting that this will be an unresolved issue for the next few years, will probably overreact to each individual action, whether it’s a lower court ruling or a piece of legislation making its way through a state.

In reality, the answer is the same as it’s always been: trying to shoehorn sharing economy workers into one of two existing categories — 1099 or W-2 — doesn’t work. We still need to recognize that the inherent nature of work has changed over the last decade, and we need to recognize that both parties — the sharing economy companies and the unions — are only looking out for their own interests and coffers at the expense of what’s best for actual workers.

California is not going to resolve this issue. It’s just swung back and forth from one extreme to another. Congress is not going to resolve this issue because it almost never resolves anything.

So the game comes down to states like Illinois, New York and Massachusetts. It comes down to legislators and leaders trying to craft good public policy at the expense of their donors and supporters and Twitter followers — and then it comes down to their colleagues doing the same.

It means sacrificing politics for policy. That almost never happens. And it probably won’t happen here, either. So if you’re trying to game out where this issue is going, accept the uncertainty and expect that a thoughtful, smart resolution — locally or nationally — is unlikely. It’s a dissatisfying conclusion but, sadly, it epitomizes exactly where our politics stand today.

#bernie-sanders, #biden-administration, #california, #column, #congress, #government, #illinois, #labor, #lyft, #national-labor-relations-board, #new-york, #opinion, #policy, #sharing-economy, #tc, #uber, #washington

California’s gig worker Prop 22 ruled unconstitutional by superior court

In a late Friday night blow to Uber, Lyft and other gig worker-centered companies, a superior court judge ruled that California’s Proposition 22, which was passed in 2020 and designed to overrule the state’s controversial AB-5 law on the employment status of gig workers, violates the state’s constitution.

Frank Roesch, a superior court judge in Alameda County, which encompasses Oakland, Berkeley and much of the East Bay, ruled that the law would limit “the power of a future legislature” to define the employment status of gig workers. The lawsuit was filed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in January, after a similar lawsuit was rebuffed by the California Supreme Court and referred to a lower court.

The court’s decision will almost certainly be appealed and further legal arguments are to be expected.

The superior court’s decision is just the latest in a long line of victories and defeats in the battle between companies that heavily rely on gig workers like Uber and DoorDash, and unions and advocates representing workers. Much of the debate centers on the legal distinction between a freelancer and an employee, and to what extent companies are responsible for the care and benefits of their workers.

Such a distinction is big business: Uber, Lyft and other companies spent more than $200 million collectively to push Prop 22 to victory last year. California voters passed the proposition roughy 59% to 41% in what was widely perceived as a major victory for gig worker platforms.

Such fights are not limited to merely Silicon Valley’s home state, however. Earlier this year in the United Kingdom, Uber lost a legal battle over its employment classification decisions and ultimately reclassified tens of thousands of its drivers as workers, a decision which offered them a range of benefits not previously guaranteed.

#doordash, #employment, #freelancer, #gig-workers, #government, #labor, #policy, #uber

4 common mistakes startups make when setting pay for hybrid workers

Leaders and senior management everywhere are grappling with how (or not) to bring employees back to the office. It’s a high-stakes decision: Fifty-eight percent of workers said they will look for new jobs if they can’t work remotely, according to a FlexJobs survey.

An often overlooked and/or cobbled-together piece of this puzzle is compensation. And inside the transition to hybrid work, compensation planning encapsulates a cacophony of nuances for founders, people leaders and compensation experts.

Here are just a few new questions this group needs to answer:

  • Do we adjust salaries for people who have moved to different regions?
  • Do we alter pay for employees performing the same role, with the same title, when one is remote and the other is in-office?
  • How can we educate geographies that aren’t as familiar with the value of equity as is, say, Silicon Valley?

As we’ve seen in recent weeks, the answers to these questions are different for us all. Google employees who work from home may experience a pay cut. Adobe workers can self-select what days they work remotely, up to 50% of the time, with no salary impact. Meanwhile, LinkedIn just loosened its policy, allowing employees to work from home permanently.

The first step in developing a compensation plan — regardless of your company’s stance on distributed work — is determining how your team’s pay compares with the market.

Regardless of your startup’s stance on the topic, having a consistent compensation philosophy that you apply to your evolving workplace has a unicorn-sized influence on important growth metrics: attracting and keeping top talent, as well as creating a culture of trust and performance.

As the CEO of a compensation intelligence company, I see four common mistakes that startups commit when compensation planning that hinder successful remote or hybrid workforces. Here are the ways to sidestep them.

1. Using subpar data for competitive analysis

The first step in developing a compensation plan — regardless of your company’s stance on distributed work — is determining how your team’s pay compares with the market. To understand market rates, you need one thing: data.

If you’re moving from a strictly office-based environment to a hybrid model, 2019 data won’t work. While it’s tempting to search for free data online or use survey data that your company has purchased in the past, both approaches have risks. Traditional compensation survey information is stale, limited and often not verified. And spreadsheets are hyperprone to error and security risks because they involve manual, and often super laborious, work.

In a world that’s still reacting to a pandemic, only fresh, real-time, accurate benchmarks and pay ranges are sufficient. Both must reflect aggregated information about what others in your segment are paying employees — by experience level, role, department, geography, industry and company size.

For example, technology startups need different data sources than global financial services organizations. Both need information geared toward companies of a similar size and stage. Software engineer salaries need to reflect those of similar roles, with nuances for those that specialize in machine learning, data science, etc.

You’d be shocked how often self-reported data on free websites is inaccurate and unverified. As you seek a credible intelligence source for your compensation data, a data source must:

#column, #ec-column, #ec-future-of-work, #human-resource-management, #labor, #startups, #talent, #tc, #technology-startups

Dear Sophie: Tips on EB-1A and EB-2 NIW?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie,

I’m on an H-1B living and working in the U.S. I want to apply for a green card on my own. I’m concerned about only relying on my current employer and I want to be able to easily change jobs or create a startup. I’ve been looking at the EB-1A and EB-2 NIW.

I’m not sure if I would qualify for an EB-1A, but since I was born in India, I face a much longer wait for an EB-2 NIW. Any tips on how to proceed?

— Inventive from India

Dear Inventive,

Thanks for your question. Take a listen to my podcast episode in which I discuss the latest tech immigration news and delve into the benefits and requirements of the EB-1A green card for individuals of extraordinary ability and the EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) green card, which as you know are the main employment-based green cards for which individuals can self-sponsor.

I recommend you consult an experienced immigration attorney who can evaluate your abilities and accomplishments and assess your prospects for each green card. After an initial consultation with new clients, we’re able to provide a lot more detail to folks on their specific options since these are such individualized pathways.

There are some groups of people who might need every advantage. Those can include folks born in India or China, who might face long green card backlogs. Another such group includes people whose skills and accomplishments might be borderline for an EB-1A green card for extraordinary ability. In some cases — if eligible and to have every opportunity for green card security and to mitigate wait times as much as possible — our clients choose to file both the EB-1A and EB-2 NIW in parallel.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

The EB-1A is the highest priority green card and the standard for qualifying is much higher than for the EB-2 NIW. And that means an EB-1A is typically quicker to get, which is particularly the case now: According to the August 2021 Visa Bulletin, there is no wait for an EB-1A green card regardless of country of birth, while only individuals who were born in India and have a priority date of June 1, 2011 or earlier can proceed with their EB-2 NIW petition.

Please remember that the Visa Bulletin fluctuates and changes every month. Also, the EB-1A is currently eligible for premium processing on the I-140. Although there is talk to add this option to the EB-2 NIW one day, premium processing is not available for EB-2 NIW I-140s yet.

#column, #diversity, #ec-column, #ec-future-of-work, #green-card, #h-1b-visa, #immigration, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #tc, #united-states, #verified-experts

WoodSpoon’s food delivery service cooks up support for home chefs with $14M round

Home-cooked food delivery service WoodSpoon is planning an expansion after raising $14 million in Series A funding.

Restaurant Brands International led the round along with World Trade Ventures and a group of individual investors, including Victor Lazarte.

New York-based WoodSpoon was started in 2019 by Oren Saar and Merav Kalish Rozengarten, two Israelis in America that longed for the food they grew up with. They began reaching out to local home chefs in the area and gathered them together in a marketplace where they could share their culture and passion of food with others.

Two years later, the company boasts over 16,000 active customers in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens and 50% month over month growth. Customers can order dishes that run the gambit of world cuisine through WoodSpoon’s website or app and receive on-demand delivery to their doorstep or schedule service. Saar told TechCrunch that 35% of WoodSpoon’s customers have ordered four times in 17 days after their first order.

The new funding gives the company a total of $16 million — it raised $2 million at the end of 2020. Saar said the Series A enables the company to accelerate growth through R&D and marketing and to double its team so it can expand into new markets, like major cities across the United States, over the next 12 months.

At the same time as it brings customers culturally diverse food, WoodSpoon helps generate income for its home chefs — a mix of 150 active professional chefs, immigrants and cooks making dishes for the company at least three times a month. WoodSpoon interviews each chef, inspects their kitchens and provides training to keep consistent quality.

“When you scale, you can lose touch with your customers and lose the personal connection with the home chefs,” Saar said. “We feel every home chef is part of our family and want to help them build their brand, so it is important that this food is high quality.”

WoodSpoon has about 30 employees and plans to hire more engineers to continue developing its technology. Saar said a new product will be launching at the end of August, while WoodSpoon’s app will get an overhaul to have a new look and feel.

The Series A also enables WoodSpoon to onboard its waitlist of hundreds of home chefs that want to join the marketplace.

Meanwhile, the global online food delivery services market is forecasted to be $126.91 billion in 2021, and then reach $192.16 billion in 2025, according to consultancy firm Research and Markets.

Chris Brigleb, head of corporate development at Restaurant Brands International, said technology is a big focus for his company, which spent a lot of time looking around for potential investments beyond the traditional quick-serve restaurant space.

He began meeting with tech-enabled businesses and came across WoodSpoon four months ago. The more Brigleb learned about the company, the more he liked it, and even encouraged Saar to speed up WoodSpoon’s growth and fundraising plans, he said.

Though WoodSpoon’s concept is not new, he felt its approach was the complete package of user experience on the customer side, the ease of searching the marketplace by chef or cuisine and support for the chef in terms of providing packaging and logistics management.

“The delivery was a key for us and a differentiator,” Brigleb said. “They take all of the hard parts about delivering for home chefs off of their plate so they can focus on the actual cooking that is special to them.”

 

#apps, #ecommerce, #food, #food-and-drink, #funding, #home-chef, #labor, #recent-funding, #restaurant, #restaurant-brands-international, #startups, #tc, #woodspoon

Harassment will happen at my startup and yours: Here’s how we prepare

Sexual harassment is, unfortunately, always in the news. Of late, it’s revelations at gaming giants and governments. Yet despite how prevalent harassment is, companies often adopt an “it can’t happen here” stance — until it does, and then there are knee-jerk reactions and crisis communications.

A better approach: recognizing how pervasive it is and planning with that in mind.

When I first started Ethena, I explained the concept of innovative harassment prevention training to my father. Like any good parent, he thought my entrepreneurial genius was actually a terrible idea and advised me to stay put at my job. But when he finally accepted that I was going to start this company, he said, “Make sure you don’t have harassment at your company. That would be bad.”

He’s not wrong. My team provides a modern compliance training platform. Since our first product was harassment prevention training, it would be pretty bad if we were talking the talk without walking the walk.

Train your team members to better understand inclusion and recognize what harassment looks like so the bar is set higher than “let’s just not get sued.”

If I could prevent workplace harassment on optimism alone, I absolutely would. But I’ve seen the data on the prevalence of workplace harassment.

A 2018 Pew survey, for example, found that 59% of women and 27% of men reported experiencing sexual harassment. And the rise of remote work hasn’t changed things. In fact, there are some indications that harassment is on the rise thanks to “keyboard courage.”

Knowing that, I’ve come to terms with the fact that these are issues we’ll likely face, so I want us to be prepared. Today’s workplace demands that leaders acknowledge gray areas and engage with uncomfortable topics; it’s how companies grow in new and healthy directions. Here’s how we think about that growth.

Plan for it

As a Floridian, I grew up assuming hurricanes would hit my house. We always had some plywood and canned food because when you know something is going to happen, you plan for it.

Unlike prepared Floridians, startups tend to adopt an ostrich approach when it comes to harassment. Instead of stocking the pantry, so to speak, companies wait until they’re already in a storm.

Early on, a startup is a small group of (usually homogeneous) friends, and it’s uncomfortable to acknowledge that bad things could happen. It’s much easier to hope that building a team of stellar humans is enough.

But, unfortunately, bad things do happen, because sometimes harassment is not as cut-and-dry as we are led to believe. Rather, harassment often grows from the complexities of human interactions– intent, perception, privilege and context, to name a few. It can start with a few small jokes, a colleague who gets drunkenly inappropriate every Friday, or a team that never seems to hire anyone outside of their social circle.

Then, things can escalate, and people start to realize that what they’re actually experiencing is a hostile work environment. Unfortunately, at that point, it’s really hard to right the ship because the company is suddenly 600 people and change gets harder as companies grow.

Knowing that problems are more likely as companies scale, it’s vital that teams prepare by learning how to identify warning signs early. At a bare minimum, train your team members to recognize what workplace harassment looks like and better understand inclusion so that the bar is set higher than “let’s just not get sued.”

Out of everyone at the company, managers really need to get the memo. As a company scales, senior leaders have a limited span of control, so frontline managers become the most crucial employees in either promoting or preventing inclusive workplaces. It just so happens that training is legally required in states like California and New York.

Make feedback, not just “tell HR,” an option

The traditional way that harassment is talked about is very binary. Either a workplace is perfectly inclusive or it’s a toxic cesspool. Obviously, it’s important to take these issues seriously, but the problem with treating every act as either fine or serious, capital-H harassment is that it gives employees a choice between bad and worse.

Let’s say Elena is on an engineering pod with Jonah, and Jonah occasionally does small things that cause her to feel less than included.

For example, they’re hiring for a new front-end engineer and Jonah always refers to this future hire as “he.” In the traditional, frowny-faced lawyer version of harassment, Elena has two options”

  1. Do nothing: Bad because Jonah is going to keep doing it.
  2. Tell HR: Also bad. Elena doesn’t want to get Jonah fired. She just wants him to be more inclusive.

However, if training teaches Elena — and, ideally, everyone else on her team — to say something in the moment, Elena now has a tool she can actually use.

Next time Jonah says, “OK so when he joins…” Elena can jump in with, “Unless you’re psychic, which seems unlikely given how poorly you did in Fantasy Football, please use ‘they’ to refer to our new hire, since we don’t know their gender.”

Did Elena need to insert the burn? Probably not, but humor can diffuse a tense situation so sure, why not? Regardless, once Elena says something, it’s on Jonah to accept her feedback and make a change; and, if team values are clear, hopefully Jonah’s colleagues will hold Jonah accountable, too.

Accountability is everything

This last lesson is only applicable after something at the company happens. Let’s say Jonah’s comments escalate, even after Elena gives feedback. Jonah consistently excludes Elena and other women from key meetings, talks over them, and when confronted, says, “Look, we all know they’re only here for diversity stats.”

If Jonah’s manager at this fictitious, problematic company does nothing, that’s the ballgame. There’s literally no amount of workshops, training, blog posts or all-hands meetings that can convince Elena that the company cares. Actions speak loudest.

The best possible version of dealing with an issue involves transparency so that people can learn from what happened and see that the company does care. Obviously, it’s hard when issues involve private information and protecting those who reported the issues, but to the extent possible, it’s crucial to have accountability.

Of course, my dad is right: Harassment at my company would be bad. But we’re preparing for it because scaling a company means rapidly increasing the number of human interactions.

Thankfully, building an inclusive company looks a lot like building a good company – preparation, feedback and accountability are managerial best practices that should be put in place early.

#column, #dei, #diversity, #harassment, #labor, #lawyer, #sexual-harassment, #startups, #tc

Uber CEO calls Massachusetts gig economy ballot measure the ‘right answer’

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi expressed his support Wednesday for a ballot initiative in Massachusetts that would keep gig economy workers classified as independent contractors, fulfilling a promise he made nearly a year ago to push for laws that preserve its business model

“In the state of Massachusetts, we think the right answer is our IC+ model, which is independent contractor with benefits,” Khosrowshahi said during the earnings call with investors. “Our drivers love it. Prop 22 has proven to be incredibly popular with California drivers.”

His comments come a day after a coalition of app-based ride-hailing and on-demand delivery companies, which includes Uber, Doordash, Lyft and Instacart, filed a petition for the ballot initiative that would classify app-based ride-hail and delivery workers as independent contractors and provide them with benefits such as healthcare stipends for drivers who work at least 15 hours per week. The coalition claimed that the provision would allow drivers to earn about $18 per hour in 2023 before tips. The ballot measure, if it passes legal muster and receives enough signatures, would be included in the November 2022 election. 

Proposition 22 passed in California in November last year, a ballot measure that kept gig workers in the state classified as independent contractors. It also exempts gig companies like Uber from AB-5, the bill that entitles gig workers to self-classify as employees with usual labor protections that don’t apply to independent contractors, like minimum wage, sick leave, unemployment and workers’ compensation benefits.

Gig companies, which largely have yet to become profitable, spent $205 million in marketing for this ballot measure and made no secret about plans to do the same thing in other states. Which brings us back to Massachusetts.

Khosrowshahi said during the earnings call that the vast majority of drivers prefer the IC+ model over full-time employment. The Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights disagreed, arguing that the ballot language has loopholes that would create a sub-minimum wage for app-based workers and that few would qualify for the healthcare support promised. It also noted that the measure would remove anti-discrimination protections, eliminates workers’ compensation rules and allows companies to cheat the state unemployment system of hundreds of millions.

“Uber has been using independence as a red herring for years,” Shona Clarkson, organizer for Gig Workers Rising, told TechCrunch. “We know that drivers do not actually have independence while driving for Uber. There is no independence in working 70+ hours a week, not being able to set your own rates, not being able to see where a ride is going and having no real control at work. The benefits promised under Prop 22 were a sham that have not materialized. As a network of over 10,000 gig workers in the state of California, we have not seen Uber drivers able to access any meaningful benefits since the implementation of Prop 22.”

Khosrowshahi said Californians voted in favor of Prop 22 because they had driver support, and he sees no reason why Massachusetts should be any different.

“We absolutely prefer a legislative outcome in Massachusetts, but if we can’t get there we’ll take it to the vote and based on what happened in California, we’re quite confident,” he said.

#dara-khosrowshahi, #gig-workers-rising, #independent-contractors, #labor, #prop-22, #transportation, #uber, #uber-drivers

Bring your own environment: The future of work

The world has just witnessed one of the fastest work transformations in history. COVID-19 saw businesses send people home en masse, leaning on technology to maintain business as usual. Working from home, once the exception rather than the rule, became responsible for two-thirds of economic activity as an estimated 1.1 billion people around the world were forced to perform their daily jobs remotely, up from 350 million in 2019.

As we explain in the 2021 Accenture Technology Vision report, this transformation is just the beginning. Looking ahead, where and how people work will be much more flexible concepts with the potential to bring benefits to employees and employers alike. In fact, 87% of executives Accenture surveyed believe that the remote workforce opens up the market for difficult-to-find talent.

These benefits will only be fully realized if enterprises adopt a strategic approach to the future of work. Think back to a few years ago, when the bring your own device (BYOD) trend was in vogue. Faced with demand from workers to use their own devices in the enterprise setting, businesses had to think through new policies and controls to support this model.

Employers must now do the same thing, but on a much bigger scale. BYOD has become “BYOE”: Employees are bringing their entire environments to work. These environments include a broader range of worker-owned tech (smart speakers, home networks, gaming consoles, security cameras and more) and their work setting. One person may have a home office set up in a shed in their garden, another may be working from the kitchen table, surrounded by their family.

Businesses need to accept that their employees’ environments are a permanent part of their enterprise and adjust them accordingly.

The workplace reimagined

Looking ahead, the BYOE-style of work won’t be limited to employees’ homes. People will be free to work from anywhere, and they will want to work in the environment that’s best for them — whether that’s the office, home or a hybrid mix of the two. This is something leaders must accommodate rather than fight.

Indeed, leaders can rethink the purpose of working at the warehouses, depots, factories, offices, labs and other locations that make up their businesses. They should consider carefully when it makes sense for people to be at certain sites and with certain people. They will thereby be able to optimize their operations.

A few years from now, the organizations that succeed will be the ones that resisted the urge to race everyone back to the office and instead rethought how their workforce operates. They will have put in place a robust strategy for change that includes the adoption of technology enablers like the cloud, AI, IoT and XR. But more importantly, this will outline how their reimagined workforce model can support and enable their people and how this can be reflected in the corporate culture.

Enabling the new

The first step toward this future requires gaining visibility into the employee experience. With BYOE, the employee experience has never been more important, but it has also never been harder to monitor. Workplace analytics will therefore be critical to understanding how employees’ environments are impacting their work and finding insights that can improve their experience and productivity.

Security is another primary enabler. Businesses need to accept that their employees’ environments are a permanent part of their enterprise and adjust them accordingly. IT security teams will have to do more than ensure that a worker’s laptop is secured with the latest firewall patches, and consider the worker’s network security and the security of all devices linked to that network, such as baby monitors and smart TVs.

Once the technology, analytics and security foundations are in place, businesses will be better positioned to unlock the full value of BYOE: operating model transformation. When companies go virtual-first, they have new opportunities to integrate emerging technologies into the workforce. With a virtual-first BYOE strategy, for example, businesses can have a warehouse full of robots doing the physical work, coupled with offsite employees safely monitoring and overseeing strategy.

Cultural change is key

Success in BYOE will also come down to culture. The enterprise must accept that the employee environment is now part of the “workplace” and accommodate people’s needs. This will be a large, slow-to-emerge cultural shift, but there will be quick wins, too.

Take the disconnect between in-person and remote workers as an example. So much is currently tied to geography, but the future will be all about balance. Workers in different roles will benefit from the work environment best suited to their needs. However, without careful implementation, the approach could lead to a divided workforce, where in-office and remote workers struggle to collaborate. Quora is already looking to overcome this challenge by requiring all employees who are attending meetings, regardless of whether they’re home or in the office, to appear on their own video screen.

Reimagining the organization for BYOE is a moving target and best practices are still emerging. But one thing is already clear: You can’t afford to wait. To attract the best talent and keep employees engaged, start planning now.

#accenture, #column, #consulting, #ec-column, #ec-future-of-work, #firewall, #labor, #mobile-device-management, #opinion, #quora, #remote-work, #remote-working, #telecommunications, #telecommuting, #working-remotely

Pittsburgh Google contractors ratify deal with HCL

Nearly two years ago, contractors for Google’s Pittsburgh operations voted to join the United Steelworkers union in a bid to secure more labor rights representation. It was an early example of a building union movement for tech workers across the spectrum. But as other hard-fought battles have been waged among blue and white collar workers alike, both sides have continued hashing out negotiations. This week, those have finally resulted in something more concrete.

The contract workers held out for what they believed to be similar treatment as others in the tech industry. At the time, it seemed Google was hoping to stay out of the fray with HCL Technologies, the consulting company that staffed the workers.

“We work with lots of partners, many of which have unionized workforces, and many of which don’t,” Google said following the initial union vote. “As with all our partners, whether HCL’s employees unionize or not is between them and their employer. We’ll continue to partner with HCL.”

According to the USW, the 65 Pittsburgh-based workers have ratified the contract with HCL. It’s a three-year-deal that covers working conditions, job security and wages, per a note from the union.

“After close to two years of hard work, patience and solidarity from our members at HCL, we are proud of what we achieved in this agreement,” USW President Tom Conway said in a release tied to the news. “More than ever, our struggle with HCL shows that all workers deserve the protections and benefits of a union contract.”

Last week, with the deal nearing completion, HCL said in a statement provided to The Verge, “Throughout this process, HCL has been actively engaged in meaningful and fair discussions with the USW in good faith. We have been steadfast in our commitment to respect our employees’ right to pursue unionization should they choose to do so.”

In a release issued by USW, however, bargaining committee member Renata Nelson notes some clear tension in the process. “After ignoring our concerns, HCL tried to prevent us from forming a union, and when it failed, the company dragged out the negotiating process while sending our jobs overseas in retaliation,” Parks said in the release. “Now, with a strong union and contract in place, we’re confident that our voices will be heard.”

We’ve reached out to Google for comment.

#google, #labor, #pittsburgh, #union

Deliveroo could leave Spanish market ahead of on-demand labor reclassification

Deliveroo announced today that it is considering leaving the Spanish market, citing limited market share and a long road of investment with “highly uncertain long-term potential returns” on the horizon.

The company, an on-demand outfit based in the U.K., went public earlier in 2021. Its shares initially sagged, drawing concern about both the value of on-demand companies and tech concerns listing in London more broadly. However, shares of Deliveroo have since recovered, and the company’s second-quarter earnings report saw it raise its expected gross order volume growth expectations “from between 30% to 40% to between 50% to 60%.”

Given its rising growth expectations and improving public-market valuation, you may be surprised that Deliveroo is willing to leave any of the 12 markets in which it currently operates. In the case of Spain, it appears that Deliveroo is concerned that changes to local labor laws will make its operations more expensive in the country, which, given its modest market share, is not palatable.

Recall that Spain adopted a law in May — a law generally agreed to in March — requiring on-demand companies to hire their couriers. This is the sort of arrangement that on-demand companies in food delivery and ride-hailing have long fought; many on-demand companies are unprofitable without hiring couriers, and doing so could raise their costs. The possibility of worsened economics makes such changes to labor laws in any market a worry for startups and public companies alike that lean on freelance delivery workers.

Let’s parse the Deliveroo statement to better understand the company’s perspective. Here’s the introductory paragraph:

Deliveroo today announces that it proposes to consult on ending its operations in Spain. Deliveroo currently operates across 12 markets worldwide, with the vast majority of the Company’s gross transaction value (GTV) coming from markets where Deliveroo holds a #1 or #2 market position.

Translation: We’re probably leaving Spain. Most of our order volume comes from markets where we are in a leading position (the company competes with Uber Eats, Glovo and Just Eat in different markets). We are not in a leading position in Spain.

Spain represents less than 2% of Deliveroo’s GTV in H1 2021. The Company has determined that achieving and sustaining a top-tier market position in Spain would require a disproportionate level of investment with highly uncertain long-term potential returns that could impact the economic viability of the market for the Company. 

Translation: Spain is a very small market for Deliveroo. To gain lots of market share in Spain would be very costly, and the company isn’t sure about the long-term profitability of the country’s business. This is where labor issues like this come into play — investing to gain market share in a country where your business is less profitable is hard to pencil out.

And according to El Pais, the decision by Deliveroo comes as it was up against a deadline regarding worker reclassification. That may have contributed to the timing of the announcement.

From this juncture, Deliveroo spends three paragraphs discussing how it will support workers in case it does leave the Spanish market. It closes with the following:

This proposal does not impact previously communicated full-year guidance on Group annual GTV growth and gross profit margin.

Fair enough.

On-demand companies have made arguments over the years that changes to labor laws that would push more costs onto their plates in the form of hiring couriers — or simply paying them more — would make certain markets uneconomic and drive them away. Here, Deliveroo can follow through with an exit at essentially no cost, given how small its order volume is compared to its other 11 markets.

#deliveroo, #food-delivery, #just-eat, #labor, #london, #online-food-ordering, #spain, #uber-eats, #united-kingdom

The best way to grow your tech career? Treat it like an app

Software developers and engineers have rarely been in higher demand. Organizations’ need for technical talent is skyrocketing, but the supply is quite limited. As a result, software professionals have the luxury of being very choosy about where they work and usually command big salaries.

In 2020, the U.S. had nearly 1.5 million full-time developers, who earned a median salary of around $110,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the next 10 years, the federal agency estimates, developer jobs will grow by 22% to 316,000.

But what happens after a developer or engineer lands that sweet gig? Are they able to harness their skills and grow in interesting and challenging new directions? Do they understand what it takes to move up the ladder? Are they merely doing a job or cultivating a rewarding professional life?

To put it bluntly, many developers and engineers stink at managing their own careers.

These are the kinds of questions that have gnawed at me throughout my 25 years in the tech industry. I’ve long noticed that, to put it bluntly, many developers and engineers stink at managing their own careers.

It’s simply not a priority for some. By nature, developers delight in solving complex technical challenges and working hard toward their company’s digital objectives. Care for their own careers may feel unattractively self-promotional or political — even though it’s in fact neither. Charting a career path may feel awkward or they just don’t know how to go about it.

Companies owe it to developers and engineers, and to themselves, to give these key people the tools to understand what it takes to be the best they can be. How else can developers and engineers be assured of continually great experiences while constantly expanding their contributions to their organizations?

Developers delight in solving complex challenges and working hard toward their company’s objectives. Care for their own careers may feel unattractively self-promotional or political — even though it’s in fact neither.

Coaching and mentoring can help, but I think a more formal management system is necessary to get the wind behind the sails of a companywide commitment to making developers and engineers believe that, as the late Andy Grove said, “Your career is your business and you are its CEO.”

That’s why I created a career development model for developers and engineers when I was an Intel Fellow at Intel between 2003 and 2013. This framework has since been put into practice at the three subsequent companies I worked at — Google, VMWare, and, now, Juniper Networks — through training sessions and HR processes.

The model is based on a principle that every developer can relate to: Treat career advancement as you would a software project.

That’s right, by thinking of career development in stages like those used in app production, developers and engineers can gain a holistic view of where they are in their professional lives, where they want to go and the gaps they need to fill.

Step 1: Functional specification

In software development, a team can’t get started until it has a functional specification that describes the app’s requirements and how it is supposed to perform and behave.

Why should a career be any different? In my model, folks begin by assessing the “functionality” expected of someone at their next career level and how they’re demonstrating them (or not). Typically, a person gets promoted to a higher level only when they already demonstrate that they are operating at that level.

#career-advice, #career-building, #career-development, #column, #developer, #ec-column, #ec-how-to, #engineer, #google, #labor, #software-developers, #startups, #united-states

Catch takes hold of $12M to provide benefits that aren’t tied to employers

Catch is working to make sure that every gig worker has the health and retirement benefits they need.

The company, which is in the midst of moving its headquarters to New York, sells health insurance, retirement savings plans and tax withholding directly to freelancers, contractors or anyone uncovered.

It is now armed with a fresh round of $12 million in Series A funding, led by Crosslink, with participation from earlier investors Khosla Ventures, NYCA Partners, Kindred Ventures and Urban Innovation Fund, to support more distribution partnerships and its relocation from Boston.

Co-founders Kristen Anderson and Andrew Ambrosino started Catch in 2019 and raised $6.1 million previously, giving it a total of $18.1 million in funding.

It took the Catch team of 15 nearly two years to get approvals to sell its platform in 38 states on the federal marketplace. Anderson boasts that only eight companies have been able to do this, and three of them — Catch included — are approved to sell benefits to consumers. The other side of the business is payroll, and the company has gathered thousands of sources based on biller.

“More companies are not offering healthcare, while more people are joining the creator and gig economies, which means more people are not following an employer-led model,” Anderson told TechCrunch.

The age of an average Catch customer is 32 years old, and in addition to current offerings, were asking the company to help them set up income sources, like setting aside money for taxes, retirement, as well as medical leave without having to actively save.

When the global pandemic hit, many of Catch’s customers saw their income collapse, 40% overall across industries, as workers like hairstylists and cooks had income go down to zero in some cases.

It was then that Anderson and Ambrosino began looking at partnership distribution and developed a network of platforms, business facilitation tools, gig marketplaces and payroll companies that were interested in offering Catch. The company intends to use some of the funding to increase its headcount to service those partnerships and go after more, Anderson said.

Catch is one startup providing insurance products, and many of the competitors either do a single offering and do it well, like Starship does with health savings accounts, Anderson said. Catch is taking a different approach by offering a platform experience, but going deep on the process, she added. She likens it to Gusto, which provides cloud-based payroll, benefits and human resource management for businesses, in that Catch is an end-to-end experience, but with a focus on an individual person.

Over the past year, the company’s user base tripled, driven by people taking on second jobs and through a partnership with DoorDash. Platform users are also holding onto 5 times their usual balances, a result of setting more goals and needing to save more, Anderson said. Retirement investments and health insurance have grown similarly.

Going forward, Anderson is already thinking about a Series B, but that won’t come for another couple of years, she said. The company is looking into its own HSA product as well as disability insurance and other products to further differentiate itself from other startups, for example, Spot, Super.mx and Even that all raised venture capital this month to provide benefits.

Catch would also like to serve a broader audience than just those on the federal marketplace. The co-founders are working on how to do this — Anderson mentioned there are some “nefarious companies out there” offering medical benefits at rates that can seem too good to be true, but when the customer reads the fine print, finds out that certain medical conditions are not covered.

“We are looking at how to put the right thing in there because it does get confusing,” Anderson added. “Young people have cheaper options, which means they need to make sure they know what they are getting.”

 

#andrew-ambrosino, #crosslink, #doordash, #ecommerce, #employee-benefits, #funding, #gig-economy, #gig-workers, #health, #health-insurance, #khosla-ventures, #kindred-ventures, #kristen-anderson, #labor, #nyca-partners, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #urban-innovation-fund