Working remotely seems to be the trend right now. Sourcing for talent has become global too. These two realities have to be factored into the post-lockdown work model by businesses aiming to compete favourably on a global scale. This interview granted by Perttu Ojansuu, the CEO of HR and employee communications technology company, Happeo, underscores the new workplace trend. The interview was conducted by Challotte Tucker of EU-Startups. The insights are as relevant to African startups as they are to firms in Europe, Asia and America.
Hello! Thank you for joining us Perttu! Let’s start with some obvious questions. With many startups working remotely right now, have you seen a boom in the need for employee communications technology?
Thanks for having me!
It’s not just startups that work remotely now: every company in the world is. Having customers of all shapes and sizes, from 100 person companies to companies with tens of thousands of people, we have experienced first-hand how the need for employee communications technology skyrocketed after the start of the pandemic.
As an example, one of our customers had rolled out their Happeo platform to 5000 users, right before the corona crisis. That’s around half of their total organization. Within four days of corona being declared a pandemic, they decided they needed to roll out the platform to the remaining few thousands of employees.
The internal communications revolution has only just started and the need for new technology will increase even more. The pandemic has shown we need to change the way we work and that the idea of needing to be physically close to get good work done is a thing of the past.
As you’re working on making work a happier place, do you have any tips for founders on increasing happiness in their teams? What have you done at Happeo for example?
Happiness comes from small things. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Also, it’s everyone’s responsibility. Not only management or HR. As a tip to other founders I would recommend the following three: Activate, Engage and Celebrate.
Everything starts when a new person joins the company. At Happeo, we want to make sure everyone feels welcomed and that they feel they belong to our culture. We do this by welcoming new people online, together within Happeo. What follows then is a maelstrom of GIFs, and a smooth onboarding process that we’ve set up as an e-learning course. Basically: by using online tools, we activate our (new) employees as well as we could offline.
Secondly, engagement – it’s important to listen to everyone’s input and use that knowledge and expertise to shape the strategic direction of the company. Even if it’s small areas, those will end up making a difference over time. One simple example: our monthly payroll date was always the last day of the month. Because of our open feedback culture, we received input that changing this simple thing would make everyone’s lives easier, because the bills come in a few days before the end of the month. Like I said, happiness is in the small things, and I would have never known it had our people not felt safe to speak up.
Important to mention: before any town-hall or meeting, the first place we discuss anything, is in our own Happeo platform. We do that because that makes discussion searchable and asynchronous. You don’t need people to be there to discuss it with you, they can give their input at their leisure, in their timezone.
Thirdly, we celebrate our wins together – during COVID this has been online. We leave time for a normal discussion that would normally happen at the office. I recommend doing these online. If a person has a birthday or anniversary we recognize those moments in our Happeo platform, but also in the physical world by mailing them a gift. It’s small things that make work a happier place.
What do you predict for workplace trends and HR tech in the next 5-10 years?
At Happeo we see three major changes happening.
First of all, a globalization of talent pools will take place due to a permanent decrease in the need for people to be in an office together – this has already been happening in major tech hubs around the world, and it will grow exponentially.
Secondly, CEOs all around the world have started measuring what really matters, instead of solely focusing on revenue gained. Business units with “soft returns”, such as HR or Internal Comms will form an integral part of the business strategy and decision making. Happeo allows you to effectively measure the effectiveness and engagement of your Internal Communications efforts, and the importance of engagement is becoming increasingly clear now that everyone works remotely. Even when the returns are soft, they can be significant.
Lastly, we’ll experience an increased fluency in digital communications. Water-cooler talk just doesn’t scale. Companies are starting to understand how their online communication contributes to a collective knowledge archive. See, what’s communicated in a company’s internal environment, stays in that environment – so it’s searchable at any time. Imagine a conversation you just had with a colleague, one that changed the way you do sales forever. What if every sales colleague was privy to that conversation?
What do you think will be the biggest workplace struggle going into the future?
I think our current struggles are fluid and will change over time. At the moment, the biggest challenge I’m seeing is how to maintain the work-life balance for employees. Parents are working together while also trying to take care of their kids, and homeschooling them. Many organizations are struggling with finding the right amount of work, and structuring our new definition of “work”.
Some companies are investing in digital punch cards. To me this is unsustainable and not the right way forward. Work and life are both part of a person, and the two should always be in balance. It doesn’t matter how long someone sits at their desk, in the office or at home. What truly matters is the value that a person adds to the company. In the upcoming years, every company will focus on outcome, not output. COVID-19 is just accelerating that shift.