Storytelling about Assembly With Jonathan Fields and Josh Purvis
Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 152. This week we have storytelling about Assembly With Jonathan Fields and Josh Purvis. During this episode, Jonathan, Josh and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing Assembly.
Jonathan is CEO and a co-founder of Assembly and an expert in all things finance and culture. Before Assembly, Jonathan was at ZipRecruiter for seven years, starting as a financial analyst and working his way up to head of strategic partnerships. Josh is a co-founder at Assembly and the go-to for growth and product management. Previously, Josh worked with Honey, Slated, Pinguin and ZipRecruiter in various product management roles. The duo met at ZipRecruiter and carried their passion to help employees feel appreciated, acknowledged and create one tool that solves a handful of productivity issues into Assembly together.
Assembly is a peer-to-peer employee recognition and engagement platform where co-workers can recognize each other with meaningful messages and rewards. Leaders can manage culture spend with a positive ROI and workforce analytics.
There’s more, of course! Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.
Show length: 25 minutes
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Jonathan Fields, CEO & Co-Founder
Assembly is a peer-to-peer employee recognition and engagement platform where co-workers can recognize each other with meaningful messages and rewards. Leaders can manage culture spend with a positive ROI and workforce analytics. Backed by Homebrew, Wonder Ventures, and more.Follow Follow
Welcome to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case Podcast, a show dedicated to the storytelling that happens, or should happen, when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better, as we speak with the brightest minds in recruitment and HR tech. That’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you’re listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today, we’re talking with Jonathan and Josh, from Assembly. We’re going to be talking about the business case or the use case for why their customers and prospects may choose Assembly. And, can’t imagine life without Assembly, of course. But, we’re going to learn a little bit about that.
So, why don’t we do introductions first Jonathan, why don’t you go first, Joshua? And then, introduce Assembly to the audience.
Yeah, happy to go first here. My name is Jonathan Fields. I’m the CEO and co-founder of Assembly. And, to give a little background before letting Josh jump in here, we built Assembly to make sure employees feel appreciated, acknowledged, can have one tool that solves a handful of productivity issues. Ranging from surveys, to feedback, to career advancement, all in one, without having to go to 10 different solutions.
With that, we have Assembly. It really makes the employee journey significantly better. So with that, I’ll head it over to Josh.
Yeah. I’ll give a slightly different spiel, but a very similar one. My name is Josh, I’ve been in product management for 12 years. I’ve helped build products at various small startups, and large ones. Like Zip Recruiter, that’s where I met Jonathan. And, another one called Honey. I think this variation in size has given me a ton of perspective on how organizations scale. Not only in their product, but their people as well.
My biggest observation is that, as a company grows, the people shift from a focus on stakes, solving big challenges and helping the company survive, to ranks and thinking about ownership, responsible, hierarchy, salary, things that don’t necessarily make the business move forward. The shift isn’t inherently a bad thing, but I don’t think that organizations tend to be set up to support this kind of growth all that well, based on the multiple observations I’ve had.
I think that tool fragmentation can play a large role in this shift, but mostly an invisible one. My goal, on the product side of Assembly, is to help future proof organizations with no code and automation, so that not limited to HR, the entire organization can take advantage of Assembly in some way, to improve their workflows and hopefully save time.
It’s funny because you both touch on the same thing. It’s employee journey, the employee experience just has to get better. And maybe we would have gotten here without COVID, but it definitely heightened some of our weaknesses in our business model, and our people strategy, et cetera.
Jonathan, I love that you used the word appreciated and acknowledged, I think that’s been some of the things that has been highlighted out of COVID. That people are isolated, they’re out on an island and they don’t feel those things. I love that y’all have built a mechanism in which managers … Well, 360 degrees. People can feel appreciated and acknowledged, and other things.
Let’s start with what I usually start with at the end, or what I end with, which is usually what do people love when they do a demo and what is one of your favorite customer stories. So I’ll do that with both of you. Let’s start there. Jonathan, when you show the software or when you’ve shown the software to somebody for the first time, what do they automatically just fall in love with?
Yeah, that’s a great question. I actually work with a lot of customers, I get interactions on a daily basis.
To me, this question’s really quite relevant. It’s been fun, because our product has evolved over time. And as we’ve evolved, we started in one category and we expanded into a pretty comprehensive platform.
The goal here, as Josh mentioned, is to give people back time. With COVID, it exacerbated a lot of the issues that we’ve been seeing. There’s burnout, there’s tons of different things, as you mentioned, people do want to feel appreciated and acknowledged. But, people also need time. People start the day, their laptops, their kitchen is their workout center. You can really work all day, if you wanted to. It’s just easier now.
With Assembly, you think about time and workflow automation, the wow factor in demos these days is the fact that they come in for one or two things. They say maybe, “I want to run an employee engagement survey. I also want to give recognition. Or, maybe I want to do a team standup, or a sprint retrospective, or a company announcement.” Someone comes in with generally one of those topics. They come in and we show them you can do not only each of those things, but where the wow factor comes in is that you can automate it.
People spend time doing the most monotonous things that can easily be solved with technology. For example, if you run an employee engagement survey once every month, what ends up happening is someone, whether it’s a team lead, a manager, HR, whoever is running these surveys, can actually build it, rerun it, analyze it and then, do that whole thing over again, every single month. Put all the people into a platform, they end up finding that participation’s really low.
With Assembly, on these demos, we show them that not only can you do that in Assembly, but you can automate the whole cadence which it runs. You can run a survey, you can schedule it to run on the first of every quarter, every month. You can sit back, hands free, all the results will come into one place. You can analyze it, slice and dice. And, they don’t have to do anything.
We also have a layer of an incentive model that increases participation across the board. We have a reward system where, if you participate in something, if you give recognition, you can add points to it. We call our points carrots internally, we have a little carrot emoji, we just make it fun. But, it really does encourage people to participate, having that layer of incentive that sits on top of some of the mundane things that all these companies are doing. We do it in a way that’s engaging, and automated and we incentivize the whole process. That’s really what gets people going and that’s what makes employees, managers, directors, executives love the Assembly platform.
And Josh, you’re going to say everything about the product. They just get into the demo and they love everything.
Yeah. I just nailed it.
Seriously, I’d be very upset if you didn’t say that. No, but what have you … There’s got to be something. I know that you said no code earlier, which I picked up on. That’s intuitive software, right? This is making it really super easy and stupid-proof for everyone that gets into it, lowers that threshold for folks that maybe are software scared of having to code something or do something. What have you found, when you show it to customers and prospects?
Yeah, of course. I think the simplicity is the most important piece. This is what you touched on a little bit, how do we empower citizen developers in an organization, so people that are not technically savvy to come in and build these workflows. We’ve done a really good job at abstracting out the really difficult parts, so that really anyone can come in and build. We’ve identified 50 plus templates with our current setup, and we’re adding new templates every single day. I think the hopes are to reach 100s of templates, and use cases and nuanced versions of each template.
We have things like employee engagement templates, games and icebreakers, HR and recruiting templates. So if you’re a doing a referral program, you can do that within Assembly. Internal communications, things like one-on-ones with direct managers or with your direct report, ask me anything type scenarios, company wikis, et cetera.
You have performance management, productivity, rewards and incentives, sales and customer, so CRM, lightweight CRM stuff. And then, your general team communications, like a daily standup or a team retrospective. But, our real goal is just to decrease the time to market with new tooling, by letting our customers and their employees leverage our new templates.
And then, our builder is just super easy. If one of our templates doesn’t necessarily meet your needs, you can come into that builder and, within four steps, five steps, you can have a really robust, automated workflow that is pinging people on a cadence to actually answer and respond. That goes into a social feed, which is really easy to interact with. We all interact with Slack, it’s very, very similar.
Oh, I love that. Jonathan, without naming names of course, your favorite customer story? Just someone that’s used Assembly and you’re like, “Wow, that’s just really cool.”
Oh, there’s a lot.
Go with one from last week, then.
Last week? All right. Yeah, there’s a company-
It might make it easier.
Yeah, there’s a company in particular, I’ll keep the name out of it for this example, but they came in, just one department. It was the product team. The product team came in, they started using it for just recognition and rewards. They wanted to incentivize, motivate their employees. It ended up going so well on the product team that it started to spread into other departments. And eventually, it went company wide in the US and they have a pretty large wing in Australia, as well. It ended up going into the whole company, both the US and Australia.
They started with one category, so employee recognition and rewards. They said they had five or six different tools. They used 15Five for performance management, SurveyMonkey, Confluence for sprint retrospectives and some technology work, and some standup tools. What was wild is, once we showed them some of the functionality, other things that they can do, they said, “Not only can we eliminate all of this spend,” which by the way, we’re talking about $40 plus per head, per month, with all those tools.
They could bring them all into one tool and they could actually automate a lot of the cadences. It was the new VP of people who was actually talking to me and the responses were … It was very, very flattering. She said, “You’re saving me about one day per week, in the automation.” To me, that was a real moment of pride.
Oh my goodness.
That not only can we bring all people into one platform that they actually want to use, but we can really save people time and time is the only thing you truly can’t buy.
I love that, what a great example. Josh, I’m sure you have a favorite customer story?
Yeah. So, Connor, one of our salespeople that is front of line with a lot of our customers, he brought up a really interesting case to me where, I believe it was a construction company. Historically, we’ve focused mostly on recognition in the past. And, they came into us through our recognition flow that we’ve built out. It was interesting. They were previously, before using Assembly, they were effectively punishing their employees for damaging tools. They did this for 20 years, by the way.
They found that punishing people actually didn’t really stop people from damaging the tools that much. So what they’ve done is they’ve changed from a punishment model to a reward model, where they reward people for keeping tools in good shape. So far, the customer feedback has been absolutely amazing. Tools are damaged less often and their employees are generally happier because they’re getting rewarded for doing the right thing instead of being punished for doing the wrong thing.
Oh, that’s cool. That’s behavior change, that’s lovely.
I’ll state, for the record, that I hate categories of software, just as a concept, especially in HR and recruiting. However, there is an HR budget that has a bunch of lines in Excel. I know that y’all have seen this before. Because y’all are a little bit of a platypus, how do people classify you, how do they categorize you? And, Jonathan, you can start with this. How do they think of you, how would you like for them to think of you and where do they get started?
Yeah. Because we do many, many things, the truth is people have specific use cases.
So despite the fact that we’re in a few different categories, performance management, productivity, engagement, rewards, across the board, generally people are coming in for one or two specific use cases. So they’re not generally saying, “I want everything, all at once.”
People come in, they have a specific problem and we can solve their need without the need to buy multiple different tools, or to go to IT. They can drag-and-drop build their own use case here, which is the no code piece.
So whatever use cases that they come in through, it does sit on different versions of the PNL. It could be HR, it could be productivity, it could be team lead. We’ve seen a lot of companies want to run a daily standup or sprint retrospectives, things like that, where it actually just sits on a general expense, a team building budget. It’s really all across the board, depending on where you want it to run.
If it does go wall-to-wall, if the whole company wants to adopt it versus just a team, location or a department, generally it’ll be an executive sitting on it or an HR budget. It really depends how you’re coming in, but that’s what we see for the most part.
And, how would you like for people … Josh, I’m going to ask you the exact same thing. How would you like for people to position you? In my mind, and again this is going to be horrible, but in my mind I’m thinking workflows as a service. But, how would you love them, optimally, to think of you?
Yeah. I think that’s … Oh, go ahead, Jon.
No, no. After you, please.
Well, something that’s been working pretty well for us on our positioning is this idea of a digital HQ. We do promote our workflows pretty publicly, we promote use cases because we do want people to have a general idea of what solutions they can solve with our platform. But, if you deconstruct all of that from a digital HQ and you go down to what we can actually solve, we’re just LEGO bricks, at the end of the day.
The benefit is that we’re not one thing, we’re not really anything, and that you can take each LEGO brick that we supply to you and build it in some custom way to support a workflow that maybe other platforms can’t build for you. We do have these out-of-the-box templates, and workflow automation tools and stuff, that you can actually use out of the box. Or, slightly customized to your needs.
But, I think all in all, if you think of us as a whole, we’re a digital HQ for communication, productivity, retention, engagement and so forth.
It’s interesting. Jonathan, I’d like to get your take on this. It’s interesting because workflows, as I think about it, there might be a barrier with HR to think about workflows. Because they think about process and they do process all day long, so that’s not an issue, but workflows, especially as it relates to technology, there might be a natural barrier in terms of overcoming what that is. But, digital, we’ve been talking about digital transformation for a decade and finally, because of COVID, it happened on Thursday.
I like digital HQ, I do like the idea of thinking about digital and then all the things that the underneath it. It’s the duck on the water. You don’t really need to see the paddling to know that it’s happening. What’s been resonating for you, when you talk to customers?
Are you talking about the workflow automation piece in particular?
Yeah. Yeah, and digital HQ, and workflows and how they like to think of this. Again, I think you did a really good job of saying you know what, wherever they have a pain, we can start there. Great, off to the races.
But ultimately, you’d like to them for think of you in a certain way, as a certain, I don’t know, category or type of company. We played around a little bit with workflows and we played around with digital HQ. What are you hearing from clients?
Yeah. It really comes back to those use cases that they come in for. When we actually talk to the customers, we generally solve a few different problems to which they would really require IT or have to do some sort of manual work. That’s the workflow automation piece. Because you can schedule things, because you can run it on a cadence, because you can automate a lot of the things that you would either have to do manually, or buy an additional software, or a Zapier or something, to connect to do something to do another thing, if this then that, our software can do all of that in one.
I would love, eventually, for everyone to think about the entire employee journey, whether that be communication, productivity, performance management. Just come in here and say, “I have a one-stop shop solution that can do everything, and it can automate a lot of my day.” That would be, of course, the dream state and we’re getting towards it. It’s been a fun journey along the process.
Has anybody done this in another space, other than HR?
It’s not quite just an HR tool, just to give you context.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, of course.
When you think of HR, most people run HR as a command center. There’s really only one or two people controlling the strings.
What we’ve done is we’ve actually empowered individuals, team leads, managers, just all employees alike, where they can create new workflows. It’s not just HR who can create a workflow, an individual can create meeting notes or run individual things. A team lead can run team communications, daily stand ups, sprint retrospectives. They can recognize coworkers amongst their team, they can do one-on-ones and feedback. They can even run surveys and polls. Everyone can do that and you can automate those cadences as well. It’s not a command center whatsoever.
We like to think about some companies that have given us inspiration along the way. The first one is the one that everyone would know, Shopify. To build a website in the past, you had to have some technical acumen or you had to hire someone to do it. With Shopify, they’re so successful, especially during the pandemic because everyone wants to build an eCommerce site, and you can literally drag and drop, build your own website, with no technical acumen whatsoever.
There are companies in the productivity space, like ClickUp, Notion or Airtable, who have all done a really good job on this no code space. Where, instead of buying also 10 tools, you can aggregate into one.
We’re relatively similar, where you can drag and drop, build your own experience. But, we’re pretty different in the fact that we’re feed based. It all revolves around communication. What ends up happening is the participation is so high on our platform because you can automate things, all is in one place, and then the incentive layer that goes behind it. We’ve gamified the things that were mundane and it now makes it exciting. So there’s nothing doing exactly what we’re doing, but there are similar players who have inspired us and have done a great job paving the way for this no code movement to really start to escalate.
I love that. Okay, three things and we only have about five or six minutes. One is, Josh, I know that you get asked about this so I want to direct it to you. This is terms of in the ecosystem of other technologies, where does Assembly need to be integrated? Where have you been already asked to be integrated into other systems and other technologies?
Yeah. This is a great question. Assembly needs to be integrated everywhere. When we started this business, our whole entire thesis while we were fundraising and building the company from scratch was that be where work happens is the most important concept that we can embrace. Because we’re not going to dictate people’s workflows, and we can’t say whether or not we’re going to be a destination within that workflow or we’re just going to be another integration within that workflow itself. So anywhere and everywhere.
Today, we’re integrated within Slack. We have a very robust Slack integration. Today, we’re also integrated with Teams. And, our entire app, web app, is actually populated directly into Microsoft Teams. But, it extends beyond just these two communications platforms. You need to be in everyone’s productivity platform, their document storage, their knowledge base, pretty much everywhere. Just because most of these companies are using north of 100s of different SaaS platforms, so you have to be well connected, especially one that’s trying to become a digital HQ, it’s even more important for us.
I’ve noticed that with the language both of you have used the word templates. For whatever reason, I translate that in my old mouse brain to libraries, but I like templates better so I’m going to stick with y’alls language.
It seems like, over the course of time, there’s going to the power of Assembly is going to be this huge amount of templates that are there, that can be editable and they’re easily found and people won’t have to reinvent the wheel, et cetera. You all are going to be sitting on top of thousands upon thousands of these templates. Am I seeing that correctly, Josh?
Absolutely. Today, our templates are generated by us. We work in tandem with experts to generate some of those best-in-class templates. But, as we expand, I think what we’re going to end up doing is allowing not just Assembly but third party people to actually come in and create templates that are working for themselves, to really build a really robust template library.
Yeah. I love that. And then, again, I think it’s going to be great because people can see something and go, “Yeah, I like that. I’d just tweak this,” they edit it, and then they’re off to the races and it just gets them there faster. To Jonathan’s point, it gets them that time back in their day, time back in their week, et cetera.
Jonathan, not getting down into dollars and cents, but people will ask after this, they’ll ask me pricing. What’s y’alls philosophy around pricing?
Yeah. We have fair billing practices, just to give it a little context here. We only charge for people actually on and using the platform. We generally charge per user per month, but as you scale into the enterprise space, we have worked out some flat pricing deals.
We have a few different tiers on our platform. We really try to be favorable, price wise, to small businesses. And then, as you grow up and need more integrations, and privacy and security, we have a different tier of pricing. We do try to be on the lower end of pricing. We want this to be available for everyone, across the board, and we want the barriers to entry to be less.
I love that. I love that.
Feel free to check out joinassembly.com and check out our pricing page.
I love that. Thank y’all both, I know y’all are crazy busy. And to actually get both of y’all on one call together is probably insane. Thank y’all so much.
Kudos to Katja. Kudos to Katja, for pulling off our calendars.
Cool. Well, seriously, thank y’all for coming on the Use Case Podcast.
Of course. Thank you so much, William. I really appreciate it.
Alrighty. Until next time, thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case Podcast.
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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.