On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks with Brent Pearson from Enboarder about how Enboarder’s $32M Series B will reshape HR’s engagement with employees through people activation platform.
Some Conversation Highlights:
Could you expand on people activation a little bit for us?
Yeah, definitely. And so, this is actually a phrase that we termed. Last year, in the midst of the COVID pandemic, we were doing some research with our employee base or employer base and customer base. And we were really trying to understand what are their challenges and things like that. And we heard a few strong themes come out of this. Number one, people were feeling overwhelmed. They’re getting more information through more channels than ever before. Secondly, collaboration was obviously becoming a more important deal with the separation that we got from remote working. The third strong theme that we heard was that HR were feeling they weren’t getting cut through with their programs. So, there were programs that they were trying to drive, but either the employee base wasn’t reading their communications or they just couldn’t get traction in their programs.
And so, when we started thinking about that, we looked at the way our customers were using our platform, we realized that a lot of our customers were using our technology beyond onboarding and they were using that to solve those specific challenges. They were using our platform as a communication or activation program platform for whatever it is that they’re trying to drive. Is it diversity and inclusion programs? Is it around leadership development? Is it around creating a better management of the remote teams? And so, that’s really where we coined the phrase, people activation.
Tune in for the full conversation.
Listening time: 27 minutes
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Research & Development, Recruitment Strategy and Recruitment technology are Brent's passions.
Specialties: Recruitment Strategy, Workforce Planning and Demand Forecasting, Direct Sourcing, Talent Pipelining, Talent Pooling, Recruitment Technology, Applicant Tracking Systems.Follow Follow
Music: This is RecruitingDaily’s Recruiting Live Podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week, we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three year old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
William Tincup: Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today, we have Brent from Enboarder. We’re talking a little bit about how Enboarder’s $32 Million Series B will reshape HR’s engagement with employees through people activation. Brent’s been a guest on the show before. And I love him and his company, which is rare, I would tell you. And so, I’m really happy. I’m really happy when good things happen to good people, because oftentimes that’s not the case. $32 million is a lot of money and at Series B it’s never easy and I’m sure Brent could tell us a little bit about that. But Brent, do us a favor for those that aren’t familiar with you or in Enboarder for whatever reason, introduce yourself and Enboarder.
Brent: Well, thanks, William. Thanks for the intro. For those who don’t know Enboarder or myself, I’ve spent most of my career in HR technology, working for companies in the US and in Australia. I started Enboarder in 2015 and we began life focusing on an experience driven onboarding. So, we believed that you only get one chance to make a great first impression. And that’s usually not about how do you do your paperwork and your I-9 and your W-4. Neatly, it’s about how do you really welcome somebody when they join your organization. And that was the birth of Enboarder. And yes, since then we’ve been taking that same platform and really just broadening it out to help HR deliver a wider set of employee experiences.
William Tincup: Love that. I love the phrase people activation, because we activate software. We activate other parts of our lives. I activated my Fitbit. So, we activate things when we think of it like that, but I don’t know if I’ve heard of other folks talk of people activation before in the way that y’all talk about it. Could you expand on that a little bit for us?
Brent: Yeah, definitely. And so, this is actually a phrase that we termed. Last year, in the midst of the COVID pandemic, we were doing some research with our employee base or employer base and customer base. And we were really trying to understand what are their challenges and things like that. And we heard a few strong themes come out of this. Number one, people were feeling overwhelmed. They’re getting more information through more channels than ever before. Secondly, collaboration was obviously becoming a more important deal with the separation that we got from remote working. The third strong theme that we heard was that HR were feeling they weren’t getting cut through with their programs. So, there were programs that they were trying to drive, but either the employee base wasn’t reading their communications or they just couldn’t get traction in their programs.
Brent: And so, when we started thinking about that, we looked at the way our customers were using our platform, we realized that a lot of our customers were using our technology beyond onboarding and they were using that to solve those specific challenges. They were using our platform as a communication or activation program platform for whatever it is that they’re trying to drive. Is it diversity and inclusion programs? Is it around leadership development? Is it around creating a better management of the remote teams? And so, that’s really where we coined the phrase, people activation.
William Tincup: I love it. I love it when customers take the product in a direction that maybe you hadn’t intended, or maybe you’d thought about it, and maybe is this even on the roadmap, but they decide. They then say, “No, we need this elsewhere. We love what you’re doing in onboarding. You fix something that was traditionally broken for us and now we’d like to use it over here.”
Brent: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And to be honest, that’s how Enboarder was born, the idea was born. I actually had a totally different idea for starting a business and I took that out to my HR network. And I showed them the prototypes and pitched them and they went, “Yeah, Brent, it’s okay, but…” And they gave me all the reasons why they didn’t think it was going to be successful. But they very much guided me into the whole area of onboarding and the challenges that they were facing. And then as we came up with the original product idea, it has been our customers that have started showing us, “Hey, Brent, look at what we’ve done with the platform. And is there anyone else that’s using this in this way?” And now, I love it. I love being led by the customer, rather than us trying to dictate or force the customer.
William Tincup: What do we get right and wrong about onboarding in this reality. Now, dealing with the pandemic two years in, how has onboarding changed for your customers and just in general? When you look at onboarding pre-COVID and you look at onboarding now, there’s probably a kit of things that you needed to do then, and maybe the kit has changed. So, take us into the world of onboarding as you see it today with your customers.
Brent: Yeah. And it’s interesting, and I think it’s evolved a little bit, and especially in the US market. The US market is a bit different to some of the other markets. But when I started the company, I remember some of my earliest trips over to the US, and I talk about experience driven onboarding and they look at me a little bit like I had two heads. And the reason is, is because there were a lot of fundamental challenges that people were facing around onboarding, like how do I get the right paperwork done by the new employees, making sure I’ve got their computer on their desk, making sure that they’re in the right IT groups and communities and things like that. And so, it’s what I call the health and hygiene aspects of onboarding.
Brent: And the reason why I think that was such a challenge is because a lot of just the basic HR systems weren’t doing that very well. So, it’s almost like they couldn’t even start thinking about the employee experience when they couldn’t even get the basics done. So, they had to go through and get the basics fixed first, which I think largely, a lot of companies have got that done. Then the more progressive companies started thinking about the employee experience and they started realizing that, “Okay, paperwork’s great,” But no one goes home at the end of their first day and says, “Hey, honey, my first day at work was amazing. My I-9 was so slick and my W-4, it was fantastic.” It’s about the connections and it’s about how prepared their manager is and how organized and it’s about all of these things that used to be thought as more intangible. T.
Brent: Hat’s actually what’s the most important thing about whether someone has a great experience. So, the world started moving into thinking about new employee experiences before COVID hit. Now, once COVID hit, then that throws a real spanner in the works, because now the onboarding is happening remotely and it’s out of sight, out of mind. And again, the first reaction is, “Oh, my God, how do I get their laptop delivered to their home and how do I get that set up?” We went through this immediate knee jerk reaction around logistics. But I think what people then realized is actually the bigger challenge is connections with people, the connections with their team, the connections with their buddy, the social connections, the learning connections that they need to actually now grow.
Brent: It’s one thing when you’re in an office and you can look around desks and you can just reach over and ask someone, “Well, how do you do this? How do you do that?” But people feel really reluctant to do that when you’ve got to do it via Slack or via email or Teams or something like that. So, that was the next phase in how onboarding changed and experience has changed with COVID. And now, I think we’re into another phase again, which is being driven by the whole great resignation thing. Now, all of a sudden, people are resigning pretty quickly and they’re rethinking what’s important to them and they’re rethinking about what sort of employer they really want to work for.
Brent: And they’re rethinking about their work life balance or their balance between working remotely and in the office or those type things. And yeah, if they don’t like the answers they’re getting from their current employer, well, they’re resigning, because it’s a pretty tight labor market out there and they know that they can get another job pretty quickly, probably with an employer that’s more aligned with what they’re looking for.
William Tincup: You and I have been in this industry long enough to know that onboarding was the line of demarcation between talent acquisition and HR. So, talent acquisition would roll up to the offer letter, offer letter signed, now they’re officially passed over to HR. HR has them and they might or might not have insight into all the things that have happened up until that moment. So, as you’ve been going through this whole entire process, who owns onboarding?
Brent: Well, so I was actually going to challenge you on your statement because-
William Tincup: As you should.
Brent: …when you say onboarding’s almost like the demarcation between TA and HR, it kind of implies that you’ve got this line in the sand and two pieces that butt up against the line. But you’re absolutely right, it’s not like that. So, when an office letter’s signed, that may be the handoff between TA, but then often it’s being handed off into this gray murkiness and no one owns it.
William Tincup: Quicksand.
Brent: I still often will, especially in the days when we used to do in person presentations, I used to love being in a room full of HR stakeholders. And just after you do the introductions, you could say, “Well, who’s responsible for talent acquisition here,” and they’d all point to Bob or Mary or John, et cetera. And then you say, “And who’s responsible for training or learning and development,” and they’d point over to that person there. And you could say, “Who’s responsible for payroll,” and they point there. And I’d say, “And who’s responsible for onboarding and the new hire’s experience,” and you see them all stop for a moment. And they think about it and they look around the room and then usually after a uncomfortable silence, they’d say, “The manager.”
Brent: And I think, unfortunately, that’s why in so many companies, onboarding has been unfortunately a mess. And if you think about it, all of this time and effort goes into the talent attraction process to find that great person and then they sign the offer letter and they’re all excited, and then you’re leaving the onboarding largely up to the manager. And if they’re a good manager, then happy days. But if they’re not a good manager, that’s when you hear all of the stories of whoa about the experiences that people have when they join what’s normally a pretty good company.
William Tincup: I think you’d be a good manager, just not great at onboarding.
Brent: Yeah, totally.
William Tincup: It just might not be their bit or they might be too busy, might be a great manager in their job-
William Tincup: …just swamped.
Brent: I can be a great people manager and I can know my job really well, but I may never have hired someone at this company before.
William Tincup: That’s right.
Brent: So, I just don’t know what don’t know what to do. So, yeah, there’s a lot of reasons. Or I can have the best intentions, but you’re right, I’m so busy. And sometimes, when that really difficult role has been filled, then you almost shift your focus back to your existing team and working that, and then all of a sudden, next thing you know, someone’s turned up on your doorstep and it’s like, “Oh my God, they’ve started,” and then you’re just totally unprepared for them.
William Tincup: That has happened more than once to me, especially. With all the emphasis on experience, EX is the lingo of the industry, do you see a world where we have a chief EX officer, someone that goes around and looks at all the different experiences from TA? If we think of the candidate experience to the employee experience, to the alumni experience, should one person own all of those experiences?
Brent: For some companies, we are seeing that. We’re actually seeing a vice president of employee experience or VP experience. So, we are seeing that on bigger companies. For companies that maybe that they’re not of the size where they can justify it, what we’re seeing though is we are seeing the experience being woven into almost every project, or at least it’s being front of mind when people are thinking about things. So, it may be that a project team has been set up to improve the employee experience. And they’re just going through, looking at from the candidate experience, all the way through to different aspects of the HR workflow, what can be improved, especially if they’re trying to…
Brent: Often, if someone’s trying to address a problem, like turnovers rising and they’re losing good talent, then often, a tiger team is set up or a project team where it becomes a priority, and then all of a sudden that becomes identified as an issue. And then, yeah, usually a project team gets set up to identify it and try to just fix some low hanging fruit.
William Tincup: So, one last onboarding question, because I want to talk a little bit more about the raise and things that you want to do with the raise. With your best customers, how long does onboarding or how long should onboarding last in what you see with some of your best customers?
Brent: Yeah. So, we have some best practice workflows that we push out. And typically, we think onboarding usually goes for about six months.
William Tincup: A lot of different touch points?
Brent: Yeah, a lot of different touchpoint. But the first week, it’s all about making someone feel welcome, really helping them feel welcomed in that new organization. Then the first month, it’s all about giving them the tools and things to be ramped up in their role and start getting comfortable in that role. And then by the end of that three month period, that’s really when they should be engaged and attached with their new company. And then it’s really just after that, it’s then just checking in with them and making sure that they’re now off on their journey well.
William Tincup: Love that. Okay. So, $32 Million Series B for the practitioners listening, here’s the interesting thing. When you read the headlines, you read something where someone’s raised this amount of my money. You think they have a lot of money. And the truth is, when they’ve raised that money, they’ve earmarked that money to be spent in different areas. It’s called use of funds, generally speaking. And so, when Brent was doing this raise, there was a PowerPoint deck, no doubt. And in that PowerPoint deck, probably towards the end was a use of funds that basically said, “Okay, we’re going to subscribe for 32 million and then here’s what we’re going to do with that money.”
William Tincup: You don’t need to get into all the bloody details, but how does it impact practitioners? When a company like yours, it’s already a great company, puts some gasoline on the fire and all of a sudden you’ve got a use of funds, we don’t need to get into the details, but the idea is for the practitioners to understand like, “Okay, well, how does that change things for us?”
Brent: Yeah, definitely. And it’s probably two main bucket. The main bucket is, quite a few of the funds are in market for go-to market, so increasing our marketing, our visibility, our branding, our presence and recognition, and then our sales team to be able to go out there and sell that. So, that’s a good chunk of that. And so, that’s really expanding and dominating the category that we’re in. So, really making sure we become the leader in our market. Then there’s another big bucket, which is around R&D. So, it’s about making the product better or building new products that our customers can use. And so, we’ve got quite a lot of funds there. And then the last part of it is making sure that as we grow the infrastructure, our internals are continuing to scale with us so that we can serve our customers really well and operate the business in a efficient manner.
William Tincup: I love that. I love that. And I’m sure what’s interesting is, again, I thought you were already best in class in your category. So, it’s just now, it’s expanding that worldwide and getting everyone to understand that. Have you been asked in terms of like with your current customer set, not even dealing with what will become your new customers, integrations, the different workflow of where? Because again, onboarding criss-crosses HRRS, payroll, ATS a lot of different things, all finish together. Have you already been pushed into doing more integrations?
Brent: Yeah. So, we have a whole integrations team and we will continue to integrate into more systems and things like that. So, we’re just about to announce a big one that we’ve spent a lot of time integrating with, which is a US focused system, and we will continue to invest in those, because often, customers use this as kind of like the glue. So, we might connect in with an ATS and be fed the new employee data, then we’ll interact with the HRRS and we’ll push data back to the HRRS. We might then interact with workflow systems and provisioning systems so that computers can get ordered. We’ll integrate with learning management systems so that we can actually push learning content out as part of the journeys. And we’re continuously adding more and more components that we interoperate with, just so that we can actually make it easier for HR to use our workflow engine, to actually create these very seamless experiences for, not only new employees, but also existing managers and other stakeholders.
William Tincup: Yeah, you hit on it earlier about data. They didn’t have the infrastructure. They couldn’t think about experience because the infrastructures, the ATS didn’t talk to the payroll system, let’s just keep it real simple. The two didn’t talk. They had to actually manually create from one record to another, which was rotten with problems, but you’re fixing that. Brent, I want to get your take on, if we’re having this call a year from now, meaning in 23, let’s say, if we’re looking backwards, what’s people activation, what are some examples of people you’d like to see this year in people activation?
Brent: Yeah. So, a lot of our customers are using us. They’re now using us beyond onboarding, and it’s usually around key transitions.
William Tincup: Oh, interesting.
Brent: Yeah. It might be for example, okay, so I’ve transitioned into a company as a new employee and I’ll use Enboarder. It might be that I do an internal change. So, maybe I’m going from one department to another or one office to another. And we actually manage that transition and internally onboard that employee. It may be that I transition to a new role. Maybe I’m going from an individual contributor, now I’m becoming a people manager. So, how do we actually onboard someone as a people manager? Or it may be that there’s a particular initiative going on. So, a lot of our customers used us to actually manage a lot of the transition to remote working programs in their organization. So, all of a sudden, we became like a bit of a training platform, where we were helping to train managers on now, how you manage the remote workforce, how you engage remote workforce, how do you actually check the pulse of your remote employees. And we can actually manage the interactions between those stakeholders.
Brent: We’re actually doing some really interesting work with one of our third party providers, where we’re actually starting to create content, training content, which goes across multiple providers. And so, think about, for example, in the great resignation, a lot of companies are asking the question, “How do I retain my employees? Well, one way you retain your employees is by actually coaching your managers on how to have those coaching conversations with their staff around their career goals, their career plans, and things like that. And so, our platform is being used. They’re just some of the examples on how HR is using our platform to create traction around initiatives that they’ve struggled with in the past.
William Tincup: I love that. It’s different inflection points. And there’s different inflection points, again, there’s probably thousands of them. You didn’t mention out placement and as an inflection point, but you possibly could help there as well.
William Tincup: And this is probably a question with no great answer to it, but people think of you as the best onboarding software in the category, but you’re slowly growing. You’re never going to forget your roots, of course, you’ll always be great at onboarding, but you’re slightly getting bigger than that category.
Brent: Yes. And that’s why had you gone to our website a year ago, it would’ve said Enboarder, experience driven onboarding. Now, if you go to our website, it says, people activation platform. So, we are more than onboarding now and we’re really trying to show our customers or people that are trying to solve a broader set of problems how our platform, how our workflow engine can be used to create these real experience driven interactions that actually drive change and drive outcomes for them. So, we are beyond onboarding already.
William Tincup: I love that. I’m so, so happy about that, because the whole time we’re talking about onboarding, I’m thinking to myself they’re more than onboarding. They’ve been more than onboarding for a while. They’re more than onboarding. They’re already best in class in there. So, people activation platform and people understand that. You mentioned it very early on that people can use this with not just the inflection points, but with some bespoke groups. So, like you said, diversity and inclusion as an initiative, they can use this there. Give us a couple more examples of ways you think that customers in the future, if not currently, can use Enboarder.
Brent: Okay. And so, this is probably a bit of a sneak peek into one of the big areas of the new product we’re building. But I like to think about the big area that I think Enboarder is going to be able to make a big difference is in training. And I call it more tribal training or tribal learning. I think a lot of the training programs that are out there today, they’re pretty one dimensional. If you’re a new employee, you get sit down in front of an LMS and you’re going go through module after module, after module, whereas training, I think if it’s done correctly, it can be about how do you rally the team.
Brent: If I’m joining a sales team, how do I get the team to help me get up to speed? How do I take the burden off the people manager and actually share that burden around so that you’re actually increasing the teamwork and the team bonding, while at the same time, making it much more engaging for that new employee? And I think that’s one of the areas. I think COVID has created an environment where people are looking for greater connections. And I think that we can help with the connections while improving business processes at the same time.
William Tincup: Drops mike, walks off stage. Brent, first of all, congratulations. Raising $32 million is not easy, A. B, I love it when good things happen to good people. So, congratulations. I mean that sincerely from my heart.
Brent: Thanks, William. And thanks for the time. I really enjoyed chatting to you.
William Tincup: Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Until next time.
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William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.