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Work Reimagined at World of Connections 2019

| Insights, USA

Jane Sagui, Associate, NGP Capital

Rohini Chakravarthy, Partner, NGP Capital

In our Work Reimagined track at World of Connections, we had a jam-packed day of thought-provoking discussions.

Work Reimagined: Lessons Learned

We traversed from the drivers behind the gig economy to the pivotal role played by collaboration innovators and new entrants, both of which are disrupting our traditional expectations for a social safety net.

What can we expect for the future of work? Let’s take a look at what our speakers had to say.


Flexible Workforce

In her opening keynote, Nokia CIO Ursula Soritsch-Renier discussed Nokia IT’s unique challenge of managing nearly 150,000 employee accounts across 110,000 computers at 400 connected sites. Beyond maintaining a distributed workforce, global corporations – particularly telecom players like Nokia – have the added challenge of keeping distributed teams coordinated. Take the following areas of innovation:

💡 Improving team coordination. Zinier, whose platform acts as an automated dispatcher for distributed teams, helps “heads up” workers work more effectively. 52% of field service companies still coordinate functions manually, and Zinier is tackling this with its mobile-first, flexible product.

💡 Keeping workers safe. More manual work done outside the office means more opportunity for dangerous and costly injuries: employers are hit with a $300B+ annual aggregate cost due to worker injuries. Scalable platforms like Worklete, whose training programs have seen a 53% injury reduction on average, deliver a clear ROI to their customers.

💡 Streamlining hiring. Many hourly workers live in SMS, not email. Among this population, which comprises 80M Americans, 90% do not have a LinkedIn page and 40% are unresponsive after applying to a position. In addition, 50% of scheduled interviews result in a no-show. That has left an opportunity for players like Fountain – which automates the end-to-end candidate experience until their first day on the job – to improve an inefficient process for both candidates and franchise and gig employers.

Collaboration Tools

Remote work can be a divisive topic: people are either believers or naysayers. However, studies have shown that flexible working arrangements generally don’t work only when a company has not properly equipped its employees with the proper infrastructure for working remotely.

💡 Communication hubs are transforming the workplace. Slack CMO Julie Liegl shared her story in transitioning from Salesforce – where her team did not use Slack – to her new role. An interesting theme of Julie’s talk was the sense of belonging that tools like Slack can build. When leveraged to its full extent in terms of curating a wide variety of channels, employees can connect to colleagues and leadership across the organization, flattening the feeling of a traditional hierarchical structure and encouraging a strong community.

💡 In the Maker Generation, docs can (and should) be built like apps. Chances are you’ve used G Suite. But Google Docs and Sheets, as well as other collaboration technologies, still largely conform to Microsoft Office frameworks. What if we cut all ties with how we think about planning docs, and instead started anew? Shishir Mehrotra shared his exciting vision to upturn the rigidity of project and team management with the development of a "new doc" at Coda. With this platform, users can build docs from the ground up or select from dozens of pre-made templates, transcending the status quo of tracking, planning, and organizing via Word and Excel.

💡 Sometimes, less is more. We have no shortage of communication channels in 2019. That said, being able to place an order or send an email via dozens of different device and medium combinations can be both a blessing and a curse. Jay Srinivasan shed light on this issue, which his company Spoke confronts head-on with its full-stack ticketing system. Spoke takes in questions from a range of channels like Slack and iMessage, and provides personalized answers without human interaction for 25-75% of requests, routing the remainder to the proper human resource.

Social Safety Net of the Future

Our final two sessions took a step back and examined the future of work from a societal standpoint. In the US, we are accustomed to health, savings, and other benefits being tied to our employer. But that is changing in many ways as it becomes more competitive to retain employees.

💡 An expanding definition of “benefit.” Employees are requesting more than health insurance and 401(k) plans from their employers: they now expect support in areas that lead to greater life fulfillment, such as transportation and family. Rob Sadow is reinventing transportation benefits at Scoop by targeting drive-heavy markets like the Bay Area, which leads the US in commuting with 120,000 “super commuters.” Less time commuting and more time socializing with Scoop's carpooling platform results in happier employees. Family is another source of fulfillment. Platforms like Wildflower Health cater to women, who make 80% of healthcare decisions and are aptly termed by CEO Leah Sparks as the "Chief Health Officers of the Home.” The goal of Sparks is to streamline the administrative tasks associated with managing a pregnancy and young children, which helps clear the plates of working parents, which keeps employees productive and happy.

💡 Fed up with fees. At large companies, retirement plans are a given. However, at small businesses and early startups, this isn’t always the case: providing a 401(k) option is costly and time-intensive, which is how Kevin Busque, as a Taskrabbit co-founder, initially got the idea for Guideline. For a <$100 base fee and $8 per month, per employee pricing structure, even Guideline’s smallest customers can affordably help employees save for the future. We expect that outsourcing administrative functions like this will only increase with the future of work.

💡 Portability of benefits is key. For workers who bounce between part-time contracting gigs, insurance can be an expensive and complicated burden. This has catalyzed a whole new category of portable benefits that are attached to the individual rather than employer. Safety Wing, which covers contractors living outside of their home country, tackles this by offering health and travel insurance for digital nomads at <$40/month. Stride Health, which started off in the world of comparing health plan pricing, launched its Benefits Marketplace this summer to provide gig workers with an array of covered perks. We also heard from Digit, whose set-it-and-forget-it DtC savings platform exemplifies the increasing autonomy individuals are pursuing for their own financial futures.

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