Front-Line Technology, Deskless Workers in the Age of Covid

Hotel Check In

We talk with John Keating, the head of partners and strategic alliances at Beekeeper, about the challenges of serving deskless workers, as well as the impact of Covid.

Transcript

Mark:

Welcome to PeopleTech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report. I’m Mark Feffer. My guest today is John Keating, the Head of Partners & Strategic Alliances at Beekeeper. Their platform improves communications with frontline workers by connecting operational systems and communication channels in one place. We’ll talk about the challenges of serving desk-based workers, as well as the impact of COVID on this addition of PeopleTech. John, thanks for being here. Tell me what is Beekeeper and why does it make a difference in the market?

John:

So beekeeper is really the forefront of a new industry initiative to connect the frontline worker. So for many, many years, we’ve had a situation where the frontline worker has been disconnected from the workplace. There’s been a lot of offline methods of communication, but nothing, nothing that’s been seamless and transparent, and they haven’t gone through that same revolution that we have sitting at the desk. They don’t have email, they don’t have the Internets, they don’t have access to all the tools that they need to perform their roles.

Mark:

Let’s talk about your customers in the market first. It’s\ been a rocky year for business for all the obvious reasons. How has that impacted your product first? Let me ask that.

John:

Sure. There’s been a couple of changes with the product. One we’ve seen people move towards more radical transparency in terms of being able to get information out quickly to a large population. In the past, there was a bit more concern about controlling when to deliver a message about controlling, what message about the approval process of messages. And now we see that speed and agility are the most important. So we focus quite a bit on that and how to get messages out to all employees very quickly and very efficiently and get a feedback loop started. That’s been one piece.

John:

The other piece that we’ve seen is a number of our features have started to be used for COVID related, I guess functionality. So everything from a daily self health check. So a form that you fill out saying, I don’t have a temperature. I’m not exhibiting any symptoms to, even now we’re getting into a situation where many companies are requesting vaccination. And so there may even be vaccination mandates at certain companies like United’s a good example. And so filling out forms where people can upload their vaccination cards, list the dates when they’ve been vaccinated and then get approved to come back into work. We’ve seen a lot more of that functionality get used in the product.

Mark:

And what about in terms of running the business, working on product development, all of those longer term forward looking things, has the virus impacted your efforts there?

John:

It hasn’t slowed us down in terms of that development. We’ve lived virtually for quite a while. We’ve a very distributed team, we’re based in Zurich. We have co-headquarters in Oakland. We have a large development team in Poland. Because of that distributed nature, we’ve always worked and it’s allowed us to continue to keep the pace of development. And we’ve grown quite a bit in terms of head count as well during this time.

Mark:

Let’s talk about integrations for a minute. First, how do you approach selecting your partners, the companies that you integrate with one way or another, and while you’re building up this set of companies and the set of integrations, what’s your goal? What’s the vision for it?

John:

Yeah, it’s interesting because we have a lot of conversations just today. So I’m at HR tech and we’re talking to lots of other vendors who may want to integrate and be part of the ecosystem. What it really comes down to though is not creating an integration or putting a partnership on paper. It ultimately comes down to customer value and can they provide that value then to their employees? So we focus quite a bit on the customers that we’re working with, the prospects we’re working with, what systems they’re using, what their ecosystem looks like, what are they using for an HRIS system? What are they using for workforce management? Do they have way in which they’re tracking KPIs against a bonus? Where is that information? Is it in a warehouse management system? Is it in a learning management system? So we focus quite a bit on what’s in actual use today, or what is the planned applications that will be used by our customers and that drives the value, that drives where we integrate and where we [inaudible].

Mark:

And do you get into situation to where you’re sort of putting together different functionality, functionality from you, functionality from the partner, maybe functionality from another company, which sort of goes out to a single process for the customer.

John:

Absolutely. So at Beekeeper, we focus on being a hub for the employees. We’re primarily a way that they can get informed and access to all the information within their organization. And so sometimes that means that there may be information natively within Beekeeper. So there may be posts or chats that are taking place. There may be documents, there may be tasks or forms to fill out, but sometimes that information lift some [inaudible]there’s a backing ticketing process. So like EKG has HRSD or ServiceNow has ticketing systems as well. Those ticketing systems, it’s important to be able to have employees be able to create tickets and see the status of those tickets. All the HRIS systems in terms of employee data profiles. That’s very, very important for how we’re going to set up the communications. So the right people are getting the right communications.

Mark:

Now, can you paint me a picture of what ultimately you think Beekeeper should be?

John:

Ultimately we want Beekeeper to be is be a trusted source for getting work done by the frontline. And so a frontline employee pulling it out and being able to check their schedule first and understand, okay, this is when I need to arrive. And that starts to cut down on absenteeism and the challenges associated with a lot of the dynamic schedules we see around COVID. Being able then to notify their team, their manager, others within the organization about what’s going on with their work, if their encountering challenges, collaborating, being able to get educated and trained on what’s the company’s purpose, what’s the company’s why, how is the company operating, but also learning basic things like safety procedures and how to use certain pieces of equipment or even operating around certain materials.

John:

So material safety, data sheets, and so forth. So all of that information easily accessible in one place. For the desk worker, many times you’re using lots of different applications. You have a chatting application and you have a browser to hit the internet and you have email and maybe a design board, like a mirror board. Maybe you have another application that you’re using that’s more proprietary or Salesforce, if you’re on the sales team. And for the frontline worker, the difficulty we have is we need to simplify and streamline it because one they’re experiencing this primarily on mobile devices. And then two, because of the sometimes high turnover in some of these industries, we don’t have the ability to spend six months or three months training someone to get up the speed on all these various applications like you would in a desk worker situation, they have to be able to hit the ground running immediately. So it has to be intuitive and it has to be easy and simple, but powerful enough to leverage all the investments that the companies have already made in all this information and technology.

Mark:

Are today’s business conditions making that more difficult to achieve, I mean, is the work, the development, even the business relationships are all of those things harder to navigate right now.

John:

It can be more difficult in some industries because we’ve obviously seen some industries go through dramatic change. Hospitality is a great example. The hospitality industry been hit very, very hard by the pandemic. And now we’re starting to see some of that come back, but there’s big open questions that remain, business travel is a big open question. And eager debate on both sides about where we’re going to end up and how business travel could have been permanently changed by this, or if it will rebound greater than it was before because there’s [inaudible]. And that uncertainty has caused challenges in terms of developing and understanding what’s most important for those organizations.

John:

Is it most important that we focus on agility with our course. Is it most important that we talk about furloughed staff and trying to get them back into the mainstream and understand what’s going on, or is it most important that we focus on procedures and efficiencies and more standard operating topics? There’s been challenges there. I’d say in other industries, we do a lot in manufacturing and especially food manufacturing. A lot of that business has really continued one because it’s deemed a central business, but two it’s grown. And so there we’ve seen a very streamlined approach. They want to move very quickly. They want to take advantage of these applications and prove their efficiencies and just move more business and more product out the door.

Mark:

John, thank you very much. My guest today has been John Keating, the Head of Partners and Strategic Alliances at Beekeeper. And this has been PeopleTech, the podcast of the HCM Technology report. We’re a publication of recruiting daily. We’re also a part of evergreen podcasts. To see all of their programs visit www.evergreenpodcasts.com. And to keep up with HR technology, visit the HCM Technology report every day. We’re the most trusted source of news in the HR tech industry. Find us at www.hcmtechnologyreport.com. I’m mark Feffer.

Image: iStock

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