Within the workplace and the corporate environment, HR professionals are perhaps the most affected and burdened by the pandemic and its aftereffects. The role of HR professionals grew considerably with the arrival of hybrid/remote working plus the so-called “Great Resignation”, the ongoing trend of employees quitting their jobs en masse in the wake of the pandemic. According to a survey last August by Workvivo, a collaborative app for employees, 98% of HR professionals felt burned out in the last six months, 78% are open to leaving their jobs and 71% do not feel valued in their organizations.
What can be done to alleviate the pressure and demand on HR professionals? How can HR technology tools help HR professionals navigate, not just the current demands but have flexibility in “people operations” as their organizations grow and scale?
Humaans is tackling these issues as an HR tech startup enabling organizations to build a customizable HR stack to manage employee documents, data, payroll, contracts, and other components of people operations. Humaans believe that HR tech stacks should not be a “one-size-fits-all” and should adapt and adjust to the needs of the organization – regardless of their size and more so when they are scaling. Founded in 2020 and based in London, Humaans is already working with some well-known tech companies like Pleo, Juro and Birdie.
We spoke with Giovanni Luperti, CEO of Humaans, to find out how the startup is addressing the needs of HR professionals in growing companies, why an adaptable and flexible HR stack is important for scaling companies and what’s next for Humaans after their recent $15 million Series A funding.
How did Humaans get started?
As product people, Karolis (my co-founder) and I were always exposed to the best software to make our work better and more efficient, but the landscape of HR tools we used to manage our teams was very different. HR tools have historically been clunky, slow and not designed to provide a great user experience while at the same time the expectations from HR buyers were increasing and their needs changing rapidly. We saw the opportunity to build something meaningful in a very large market.
We also observed that people -teams in high performing organisations were adopting technology tools, at the core of the HR stack, which were misaligned with their growing needs, leading to unsatisfactory results and frustration. The market for HR products is flooded with ‘all-in-one’ types of solutions that are not very customizable and don’t meet the needs of scaling companies. There was a need for something in between to help companies grow and scale. Organisations and their people aren’t one-size-fits-all — and our HR tech shouldn’t be either.
We knew there was a meaningful way to solve this problem that companies were feeling, so we left Qubit and built the first version of what is Humaans today. We started acquiring our first few customers and then got accepted into Y Combinator. Early last year raised $5 million in seed funding from Y Combinator, Moonfire, Frontline, LinkedIn former CEO Jeff Weiner and angel investors from Stripe, Figma, Notion, Workday and Intercom early last year. From there we accelerated growth with a small team obsessed with product velocity and high-quality user experience, building our go-to market around the customer experience. We recently announced our $15 million Series A funding round led by Lachy Groom with participation from the founders of Slack and Shopify and more incredible world-class operators.
What differentiates Humaans from other HR Tech solutions?
As one of our customers, Thomas Forstner, Senior Director of People & Talent at Juro, put it: “Revenue, marketing, and engineering functions all use best-in-class product stacks to accomplish their goals, but HR has always been seen as a single function — so tools tend to cram a lot of features into one platform. But People and Talent is about four different functions wedged into one, and we need a tech stack that reflects that reality. When you have a tool with lots of different features, it’s unlikely to do any of them well. That’s never going to give you the level of accuracy and specificity you need as a leader scaling business.” At Humaans rather than providing an ‘all-in-one’ platform that doesn’t fit your companies’ direct needs, we’re empowering HR leaders to streamline workflows by combining a seamless, integrated product experience with powerful underlying technology. Our goal is to allow companies to operate with the flexibility, connectivity and tools that work best for them at every stage of their growth journey, instead of forcing a one-size-fits-all approach to people operations and company-building processes that evolve every day.
How customisable is the Humaans HR stack?
Customisation/flexibility is one of the three pillars guiding our product vision, together with connectivity and a world-class user experience. This to support the ever-changing needs of growing organisations. We invested further into our integration strategy to ensure companies can have data flow and customise their HR tech stack based on their needs at different stages of growth. We launched Okta, Google Workplace, and Microsoft to support the account provisioning side, Pento to automate payroll data sync, Contracbook and DocuSign for contract management automation, and added more Applicant Tracking Systems integrations including Greenhouse, TeamTailor, Lever, Ashby, and Workable. We’re also investing more into Workflow automation capabilities, to streamline processes such as employee onboarding, offboarding, and more, to provide fully custom experiences with processes across the full employee lifecycle.
What is your take on how crucial HR stacks must be for organizations that are scaling?
We realise how the ‘one-size-fits-all’ model might be appealing theoretically -the dream that you can do everything with just one product and at an ideally reduced cost too. But in reality, a small organisation won’t benefit from a bloated platform where they use only 20-30% of its capabilities while paying the full premium; and larger organisations simply cannot operate without specialised platforms that focus on addressing specific challenges growing teams are facing in the best possible way while deeply connecting into the wider tech stack.
The needs of scaling companies change rapidly – for example, the technology that works for managing a performance review process when you have 50 employees is not necessarily still going to work in the same way when you have 1000 employees – you need to make sure things are organised, fair and inclusive for the entire organisation and this means that you need a different type of tech stack to support you. This applies to all other processes too – the way you run hiring, onboarding, promotions, engagement, DEI tracking, budgets and financing and so on. This means you need different technology to support you and have to change your stack and evaluate your priorities.
Since the pandemic, work has changed in fundamental ways, with the hybrid and remote culture that are here to stay.
How does Humaans enable hybrid/remote working, especially in addressing employee demands for benefits/perks?
Running an in-person, hybrid or fully remote model is a complex decision that has meaningful implications on how companies set up their teams, structure communication, think about hiring strategy, evolve culture, and create a sense of belonging. These are complex decisions that are not necessarily solvable with technology alone, core leadership is crucial for making any model work.
From a technology perspective, our goal is to provide the infrastructure that you need to embrace change and support the model that best works for each organisation in a way that is not intrusive. You don’t want to design your process around the software but have the right software that adapts to your needs. For us, this means several things such as; providing people with quick data access and the ability to answer specific people-related questions in one click; enabling employees to familiarise themselves with names and faces and learn what their colleagues are passionate about; providing visibility around where people are working from – whether its home, travelling for work or enjoying time off to unwind; or not having to worry about the manual work related to changes in the company set up based on internal employee mobility
We work with some incredible and progressive companies such as Pleo who use our technology to manage its team of 1,000 distributed across close to 50 global sites, helping them with the infrastructure powering their remote culture that many organisations get inspired by.
What do you believe are the top three (3) challenges HR professionals are facing today?
The macro environment and related implications are top of mind for many HR and People leaders. In this period of uncertainty for many and the new working world we’re adapting to, every touch point from headcount planning and compensation to evaluating what infrastructure will be really needed in 6, 12, or 18 months – people teams have never been busier or more crucial. Going from a 2021 where aggressive growth was prioritised to a 2022 where we transitioned to more sustainable, long-term growth, is putting HR teams under a good level of stress. Everything is very fluid at the moment, and organisations are re-evaluating their approach and planning more closely and frequently. We have confidence that a smart, interconnected and comprehensive core HR layer such as Humaans can allow HR professionals to not have to worry about the management aspect of their data layer and take more space to focus on decision-making and strategy to help organisations navigate change.
What is next for Humaans?
We hit important milestones and experienced meaningful growth in the past 12 months. There is clarity around what we want to accomplish next to better serve growing small to medium-sized enterprises and mid-market companies, and the time is right for us to accelerate further. This funding round will help us consolidate our UK presence and accelerate Humaans’ expansion into the European market; enable us to further invest in the product and to hire world-class talent (across both leadership and individual contributors’ roles), as well as consolidate the position of the business. We’re also planning to expand our product line providing new capabilities to make it easier for companies to manage large data sets at scale.