T@W Weekly: Google Kills Hire

Sending employees to Burning Man, employee wellness, and $$$ news

The Word: (Un)Hire

Google is great at two things:

  • Launching interesting products

  • Killing interesting products

As those of us who used Inbox can attest, Google gives but Google also takes. Unlike Inbox, which had primarily free users, Hire by Google was actually a paid product. One that seemed aligned with its growing user base of small to mid-sized businesses. I gave my take on it a little over two years ago and I really liked it. For companies on G-Suite that made a couple dozen to a few hundred hires a year, it seemed like an easy sell.

I also wrote this paragraph where I thought it could go wrong:

Even with the tremendous potential of Hire and other enterprise products from Google, it still makes up an incredibly small proportion of their overall revenue. If they don’t get enough traction, they could eventually sunset it or reduce the offering significantly. When Google has done this in the past, they’ve given plenty of notice and have typically offered the data for easy-ish migration.

Last week, this indeed happened, as Google announced it was shutting the service down in September 2020.

What went wrong? Google claims that Hire has been successful, so did they get tired of cashing people’s checks every month?

The reward structure for years at Google has been focused on launches. Outside of core products, nobody is getting promoted or attention for fixing bugs or driving incremental improvement to existing ancillary products. That… doesn’t work in enterprise software, especially in talent acquisition. Ask the folks at iCIMS or Jobvite, who have been doing this for more than a decade.

Maybe something like Hire will come back in a few years, but business buyers have a lot longer memories than consumers (and are less forgiving, too).

What the Click?

  • Deloitte’s plan for fighting employee burnout is to offload work to AI. They point to a lousy employee experience being a key driver here but a better one is obviously costs. It worked in manufacturing but their workforce was unionized.

  • Speaking of AI, ZipRecruiter CEO and co-founder Ian Siegel spoke to Bloomberg, sharing research that AI is actually creating jobs — three times as many as it’s destroying.

  • Culture Amp raised $82M in another round of fundraising. Employee engagement, feedback, and performance continues to perk up investment ears, with other companies like Perceptyx also getting additional money to compete in this growing category.

  • HireVue has a new majority owner, with private equity firm Carlyle acquiring the stake as part of their tech investment strategy. The video interviewing and assessment company last raised money in 2015.

  • The HR Technology Conference announced the competitors in the startup pitchfest this year. 30 companies will compete and since I’m not a judge this year, I’ll put in a good word for my friends at PILOT as one to watch.

  • Friend of the newsletter Paul Hebert writes a snarky takedown of HR and the C-suite for HR Examiner. My take: Paul cuts hard on HR but it is as much of a failure of the C-suite to quantify their “most important asset” to their liking as it is HR’s. Still, the truth hurts a bit.

Should You Buy Your Employees Tickets to Burning Man?

Shane Metcalf, co-founder of performance management tech company 15Five, has offered to buy all of their employees tickets to Burning Man.

"We think that going to Burning Man is one the most incredible, profound experiences in your life, that it opens your world to higher levels of creativity than you ever knew were possible," says Metcalf, 35, who has attended Burning Man 10 times. While he's taking this year off, Metcalf's company has offered to pay for its employees' tickets to the event. Inc. called him to ask about this unusual perk and what exactly a long weekend of art, fire, EDM, and many other things best not discussed in an office setting does for his team.

The whole interview is candid and interesting, plus the marketer in me really loves the fact that 15Five got coverage for what Metcalf claims was all of four people going this year.

Whether you buy the Burning Man schtick or not, what it should do is open up organization’s eyes to less traditional development opportunities. Certainly, it doesn’t have to be a huge EDM and arts festival of course, but company L&D departments think so literally about professional development and training that they miss opportunities to expand the horizons of employees in any sort of meaningful way.

Most people have hobbies and interests outside of work that have nothing to do with their day-to-day jobs. In my experience, that makes people better and more interesting coworkers.

No need to head to the non-air conditioned hellscape that is Nevada at the end of August to offer something unique and different in the personal and professional development arena. But if anyone has an invite to one of those luxury complexes at the festival, you know where to reach me.

T@W Podcast of the Week

I’ve been catching up with my podcasts and recently caught this one on Lars Schmidt’s 21st Century HR podcast featuring Basecamp CEO Jason Fried. They talk about something that’s near to my heart: Compensation. Everyone cares about it, nobody wants to talk about it. This was a good conversation, even if it’s a few weeks old.

And Finally… When Worker Wellness Fails

Corporate wellness has a long history but has gained new ground in the last decade and a half as tech-first approaches (and the introduction of ACA in the U.S.) have dominated the landscape.

These were supposed to save companies money, improve productivity, and get employees in better health, but what happens when they don’t work (via The New Republic):

But recent research suggests that wellness programs aren’t even accomplishing the goals of promoting health or increasing productivity. In a large-scale study, 33,000 employees at BJ’s Wholesale Club were randomly assigned to be in a group taking part in the BJ’s wellness plan or a control group that was not. The study, published in JAMA in April, found that while workers showed a bump in a few self-reported health activities, there were no significant changes in clinical measures of health, absenteeism, or work performance—all supposed money-savers for employers.

While the article takes on a characteristic political and anti-corporate tone, it’s hard to argue with some of the failures of wellness programs or their problematic nature, both from a privacy perspective and also accounting for those with disabilities. While disconnecting health care coverage from employment would be the best solution in my mind for many reasons, I don’t think wellness is near the top of the list for why.

I don’t think there’s harm in offering broad perks, like gym membership and wellness tools. No person takes advantage of every perk offered by a company, so it’s hard to see the disadvantage here. The proliferation of I/O psychologists into workforce software have killed many (but not all) of the “Biggest Loser” types of events that have proven to do more harm than good to health. Many leaders have them to thank for a more nuanced understanding of things like the nature of habits or change.

But, we also have to look at real results and consequences. There’s definitely a version of corporate paternalism taking place and, like parenthood itself, it can manifest in positive and negative ways. Offering resources for the willing versus requiring it for a discount or an incentive seems to be the thin line that organizations have to thread.

Cheers, Lance