If you haven’t started your own super-successful HR technology company it’s not too late.

Venture capitalists’ love affair with HR tech firms is on track to break records as they dole out millions of dollars to entrepreneurs who promise to transform the human resources landscape. According to HRWins by LaRocque LLC, venture firms invested $1.741 billion in HR tech companies in the first quarter of 2019 and $1.448 billion in the second quarter.

The first quarter alone was “significantly more than any quarter in 2018, and $677 million more than we tracked in all of 2017,” according to LaRocque. And Jason Corsello, founder and general partner of Acadian Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm specializing in the future of work, predicts that HR tech deals will hit $5 billion in 2019.

The continued investment interest in this space makes sense. Despite years of VC investment into promising HR tech companies, there are still a lot of problems that current vendors haven’t solved, like:

  • How can we recruit strong candidates when unemployment rates are so low?
  • Why does our candidate experience still lag despite our cool new interactive recruiting page, YouTube recruiting channel and automated email response tools?
  • Can I hire freelancers instead of full-time staff, and where do I find them?
  • How are we supposed to reskill an entire workforce when we don’t know what skills they are going to need?

These are big, difficult questions and VCs are eager to support entrepreneurs who claim to have the answers particularly because the market is strong, said David Mallon, chief analyst at Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “Companies have set aside healthy budgets for the right solution and VCs sense that there is money to be spent.”

TA and Training Lead the Pack

This year’s deals are tipping heavily toward recruiting technology firms. “Talent acquisition is a massive problem in organizations today,” said Corsello.

This year alone Jobcase, a social media recruiting platform for blue-collar workers, secured $100  million; Built  In, a Chicago-based tech recruiting and media platform received $22 million; and AllyO, an artificial intelligence conversational recruitment platform received $45  million.

The current spending spree follows at least a half-decade of heady HR tech investment. Funding and deal activity hit new highs in 2015, with firms landing $2.4 billion across 383 deals. That follows similar high rates of investment in 2013 and 2014 alike.

Also read: Venture Capital’s Love Affair With HR Tech Rolls On

This year, start-ups offering solutions to find and manage gig workers are also gaining a lot of attention because “no one has figured out how to manage the entire workforce yet,” Corsello said. He pointed to Jobble, Sense, and Instawork — all gig recruiting platforms that secured healthy VC deals in the past few months. “It’s a huge area of interest.”

Skill development is also a hot area as companies attempt to prepare for the “future of work.” The biggest deal of 2019 is Coursera, the online learning platform that offers degrees and certificates, which secured $103 million in April to push its value past $1 billion. Other learning and development companies are drawing attention and investment, though this space has been less innovative, said Mallon. “We still need a philosophical shift in how we think about developing people before the technology can catch up.”

That’s not stopping VCs from investing in this space, though a lot of these deals still feel like investors throwing money at the problem to see what sticks. Mallon points to past investments in companies offering MOOCs — massive online open courses — and microlearning formats. “It wasn’t because they were so effective as learning tools,” he said. It was about trying new solutions.

And even the biggest deals shouldn’t be seen as proof that this technology will be disruptive. “A lot of companies are still only tackling the easy stuff,” said Chris Havrilla, vice president of HR technology and solution provider strategy at Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP. Whether it is high-volume recruiting platforms or chunky content training apps, these tools may solve problems, but they aren’t reinventing the workflow — “at least not yet,” she said.

Mallon believes innovations will come sooner in talent acquisition than in learning and development, and he expects VCs to continue investing across this space.

While not all of these VC investments will pay off, HR leaders shouldn’t be afraid to experiment, added Corsello. He suggests earmarking 20 percent of their budget to pilot new solutions. “You can test software at a relatively low level of risk to figure out what works for you.”

HR tech is in dire need of innovation, which is driving venture capitalists to pour big money into the space. But pure venture capital firms like Acadian Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz aren’t the only ones making these deals. A number of enterprise software firms, including Salesforce, Cornerstone OnDemand, Workday and Randstad, are getting into the VC game, investing millions of dollars into promising start-ups to bolster innovation.

“Most are using it as a hedge strategy,” said Corsello. While these are still venture capital deals and not acquisitions, companies may invest in two or three start-ups with similar solutions to see which ones they may eventually want to acquire. It’s a third alternative to the build or buy model for innovation, he said. “They are taking an ‘invest, watch and acquire later’ approach.”

While some entrepreneurs may balk at investment from a software company, viewing it as an early stage acquisition, it can be a benefit. Corsello pointed to Workday’s recent investment in talent acquisition firm Beamery, which generated a lot of speculation that it was a precursor to an acquisition. “Some companies don’t want to be aligned with a single vendor, but that deal gave Beamery a lot of exposure to Workday’s customers,” he said.

These deals are also good news for companies seeking new innovations to address their talent acquisition, training and employee engagement issues. “All of this interest indicates that there is a lot of innovation happening,” Corsello said. “HR executives should be paying attention.”


New Jersey-based Littler Shareholders Russ McEwan and Michael Grosso discuss steps an employer can take in light of sweeping amendments to the state’s wage and hour laws, which have made the Garden State an unforgiving locale for wage violators.


As predicted, Washington’s legislature has been busy over the past few months passing new laws that directly impact how employers conduct business. There have also been several key court decisions impacting workplace law of which all employers should be aware. What happened? We’ve put together summaries of the more significant recent developments for you below.

New York Governor Cuomo just signed into effect an amendment to state law which expressly prohibits discrimination against employees based on clothing or facial hair worn in accordance with the employee’s religion. The amendment is set to take effect October 8, 2019. What do New York employers need to know about this development?

Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. of Baltimore must pay more than $16.3 million in lost earnings, benefits and interest to 2,336 black job applicants who were passed over for the company’s management trainee program.

Like many people, I followed the recent incident on a Southwest Airlines flight when an engine exploded after taking off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport. 

At 32,000 feet, the engine explosion shattered a window and caused significant damage to the aircraft forcing an emergency landing with 149 people on board. The pilot, a veteran, was able to take command of the situation and ultimately landed the plane with nearly all passengers unharmed.

I remembered listening to the news reports that were quick to label the pilot a hero. Many of the broadcasts expressed their praise once the aircraft landed and lauded the success of the pilot after “he set the aircraft down.”

What we found out shortly after was that the pilot wasn’t a “he’ after all. In command of Flight 1380 that day was Tammie Jo Shults, one of the first female fighter pilots in the United States.

Perhaps gender, and pay, wasn’t at the top of most people’s minds that day. After all, the pilot did what they were trained to do and safely landed a damaged plane saving 148 lives.

But it caused me to wonder about pay equity. I was grateful for the efforts demonstrated by Shults. I was also curious in general if female pilots were paid less than their male counterparts. I have no reason to believe Shults is paid any less, since Southwest is very well known for their workplace practices. And according to Southwest spokesman Dan Landon, “Pilot pay is based on a contract with the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association,” and not available to the public.

It does, however, reinforce our belief here at WorldatWork that gender, race and personal attributes should never be used in determining pay — skills, contributions and success, like landing a damaged aircraft, are excellent ways to determine pay variables.

Our recent pay equity study that we conducted with Korn Ferry found that a slight majority of the more than 750 organizations polled are addressing pay equity in their workplaces, one third are still only considering doing the necessary work and 7 percent say pay equity is not on their company’s radar.

We have to do better than that. But, as critical as it is to address pay inequities, we have to be willing to talk about it. Across organizations. Out loud.

Pay equity can drive positive change across an organization. It’s directly tied to engagement and buffets an organization’s bottom line.

Identifying where and how pay equity is occurring in an organization and correcting the disparities are pieces of this complicated puzzle. Pay equity issues are solvable. How companies communicate what they’re doing — why they’re doing it, how it impacts employees and who it affects — are all part of the pay equity ecosystem. Communications must be carefully crafted and delivered in any organization’s compensation and pay equity strategy. Do it wrong, and employee engagement will likely take a hit.

Why this process isn’t further along isn’t a mystery. Typically C-suite or HR departments initiate these efforts. The C-suite is largely concerned with culture. HR is concerned about compliance in an increasingly complex regulatory environment. The exercise cannot be one-time only. These diagnostics must be ongoing to identify, address and then readjust. Then, figuring out what to say, how to say it, when and to whom must be planned and delivered.

Acknowledging a problem is a start, and there is some positive movement in this direction. Recently, a pay analytics company, Syndio, teamed up with the National Women’s Law Center and released pay equity standards. Syndio clients Slack, Nerdwallet and The Match Group agreed to follow them.

The standards include transparency, calling on companies to hold themselves accountable. While transparency is not the goal, it is a great vehicle to ensure fair pay.

Our study suggests that many organizations are not leaning deep enough into the issue. Even when pay equity gaps are uncovered, large organizations are addressing them cautiously.

Roughly three-fourths of organizations have or are conducting remediation or are working to resolve causes of pay inequities, but there is still room for improvement. Twenty-three percent are considering remediation strategies but haven’t yet initiated them and 28 percent are considering working to identify/resolve root causes of pay inequities, but haven’t started yet.

Further, we found that while 31 percent of surveyed organizations agreed that the goal of pay equity programs is to build and maintain a culture of organizational trust, many keep their work to themselves. The vast majority of senior leaders are clued into findings and intent for change, and HR people are informed in 65 percent of the organizations surveyed, but only slightly more than a quarter of organizations say they’re sharing their work via broad-based employee communications. Half say they’re sharing details only with the employees affected by the adjustment.

This is a cultural miss. Full transparency on compensation topics will cultivate a greater sense of trust and fairness among employees. An openness on compensation topics and a stronger understanding of an organization’s compensation philosophy will give employees the information they need to make informed decisions about their personal employment and compensation status.

Going back to the example of the pilot, I imagine she’d like to know that her colleagues are being compensated according to the same criteria as she is. Ultimately, a workforce that trusts its leaders and feels fairly treated is more committed and motivated to deliver results.

Tell them what you’re doing. It will help. And, if your transparency efforts uncover mixed reactions from your employees, thank them, because they are giving you insight into what might work better.

Scott Cawood is the president and CEO for WorldatWork.


The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is suggesting changes to the forms employers commonly use to administer the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The DOL said its goal is to make the optional forms easier to understand, but some management attorneys worry doctors will be confused by the revisions.

Just when you thought you had a handle on how your company policies align with laws on medical marijuana, along comes CBD oil.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, comes from either the marijuana plant or the hemp plant. Made available to consumers by the 2018 Farm Bill, which allows for production and sale of CBD products.

CBD is advertised as an
anti-convulsent, anti-diabetic and anti-psychotic, as well as an aid for pain
relief, anxiety, depression and sleep.

As a result, the market is booming for CBD products in oil form, vapors, beverages (e.g., coffee K-Cups) and infused edibles (chocolates and gummies).

CBD is not psychoactive, so employees are generally not at risk of getting intoxicated or impaired with use. It can, however, show up on a drug test as marijuana. That’s where your workplace policies come in.

The CBD rub

CBD isn’t regulated by the FDA,
although some states, like Texas and Georgia, are starting to legalize and
regulate it. In most of the U.S., your employees don’t really know what they’re
ingesting with CBD products.

Furthermore, pure CBD oil won’t report a positive result for marijuana in a drug test because tests typically look for tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) levels that are too low to be detected in pure CBD.

But some of these unregulated products
that tout themselves as “THC-free” or “CBD pure” have been tested to have THC.

That’s why CBD presents the same challenges to employers as medical marijuana, as indicated on JD Supra:

•   Do job
applicants know what’s in their CBD product?
And what impact, if any, does
the CBD use have on their employment?

•   What if a worker gets a positive drug test result? Even if an employee presents you with a “CBD pure” product as proof, how will you know what really caused the positive result? Are they also using recreational marijuana or unknowingly using CBD spiked with THC?

What to do

Before taking action against CBD users, here are some guidelines when developing a CBD oil company policy:

•   Consider
revising policies to address CBD use.
Employers in states with medical
marijuana laws in place may have a duty to accommodate the underlying condition
prompting CBD use.

•   Train managers. They’ll need to know how to address situations where an employee defends a hot test by using CBD.

Finally, in this evolving landscape,
review the laws of your state, work with employment counsel and prepare to be
flexible until more CBD rules and regs are in place.

The post Developing a CBD oil policy? It gets complicated … appeared first on HR Morning.


Last week, the Department of Labor issued an opinion letter [pdf] making clear that covered employers must provide intermittent FMLA leave to eligible employees who need time away from work to attend meetings to discuss the Individualized Education Program (IEP) of the employee’s child.

Rather than discuss the opinion letter in detail, I’ll instead direct you my blogging friends — Jeff NowakSuzanne Lucas, and Eric Meyer — each of whom covered this story over the past few days.

Instead, I want to use my space today to make a broader point about the law in general.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in 2017-18, 7 million, or 14 percent of all public-school students, received special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Among those students, 34 percent had specific learning disabilities. Many are on IEPs, and even more are on 504 plans.

What’s the difference? An IEP is made available through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and applies to students with 13 specific disability categories, including, for example, ADHD and autism. 504 plans are more generally available under the Rehabilitation Act and apply to any student with a disability that interferes with the child’s ability to learn in a general education classroom. Both IEPs and 504 plans require a team effort to work. That team always should include the parent(s) or primary caregivers.

Managing a child with special needs is hard. Employment obstacles should not make it harder. A parent shouldn’t have to worry about whether their special needs child is receiving the educational support they need to thrive in school and whether they will have a job when they return from a school meeting.

Bravo to the DOL for applying a common sense interpretation to the FMLA to conclude that attendance at IEP meetings “care for a family member … with a serious health condition,” which is “essential to her ability to provide appropriate physical or psychological care to [her] children.” No employee should have to choose between their family and their job, and this opinion helps ensure these protections.

Yet, with or without the FMLA, all employers should be offering these small amounts of time off. The law is a floor, not a ceiling.

I can hear the protesting cries: “We can’t give every employee time off for every little thing they need. They’ll take advantage of us.”

Seriously? An employee is not taking advantage of you by taking a few hours to meet with the educational team for their special needs child. If you are that worried that an employee is taking advantage of a situation, then deal with that employee.

But don’t deny the time off to all employees just because one employee has taken (or might take) advantage of you. It’s a performance issue specific to one employee. And, if employee leave abuse is a systemic problem throughout your workforce, you should take a look at what you’re doing wrong. Maybe it’s you and not your employees.

Employers, we should be better than this. We have to be better than this. We are better than this.

Don’t do the bare minimum that the law requires. Strive to do more. Make yourself an employer of choice for your employees. You’ll attract and retain better employees who will work harder for you. Don’t just try to reach the floor, but establish your own ceiling.

The post The Law Is a Floor, Not a Ceiling: Granting FMLA for Individualized Education Program Meetings appeared first on Workforce.


In a recent opinion letter, the DOL decided that parents can use FMLA leave to attend their children’s special education meetings.

For employers, this adds to the list yet another reason employees could qualify for FMLA leave.

Meetings were essential

The DOL’s opinion letter discussed a mother who needed to take intermittent FMLA leave to care for her special needs children.

Her employer approved that request but denied her request to use leave to attend individualized education program (IEP) meetings at her children’s school.

The DOL ruled these meetings qualified for FMLA use, since they involved the children’s teachers and doctors discussing their health and needs.

The agency noted the mother’s attendance at these meetings is essential to properly provide care for her children.

This is a good warning for employers not to outright deny a worker’s FMLA request, since “caring for a family member with a serious health condition” can cover a lot of ground.

Employers should also be aware this decision may increase the number of FMLA requests they receive.

The post DOL: FMLA leave can be used to attend special ed meetings appeared first on HR Morning.