There are few aspects of life that technology has not penetrated. Innovators continue to develop ways to optimize working systems. Humi, the Human Resources hub that streamlines everything from payroll to benefits into one easy-to-navigate application, is leading the charge with Simon Bourgeois at the helm.
In 2018, venture capital funding for HR cloud based technology amounted to $3.1 billion, tripling that of the year before. Today, cloud optimization has been pushed forward yet again as companies now rework themselves to accommodate remote working.
Bourgeois’ second startup, Humi, was born out of his own frustrations when building his first company. After investing in a payroll system that was just not cutting it, he noticed nothing existed that could streamline the multiple back end processes they were managing for hours daily.
There is no question that digital incorporation standardizes processes, limiting errors and expediting activities that once took hours to complete. With Humi, Bourgeois and his team have developed a revolutionary product that allows business owners to put time into more important tasks.
“Our mission is to make lives easier for business and their employees. While there is a long list of things we can do to that effect, so far we’ve focused on reducing the administrative burden in managing the business back office,” says Bourgeois.
In noticing that HR softwares are usually task to task systems that cater to one specific process, Bourgeois set out to create a system that can use singular date entry to inform all areas of employee management. By doing so, Humi has reduced error and time consumption for companies by 7 hours per week. “Humi combines the functionality of many disparate systems, creating a single source of truth for all employee data, reducing duplicate entry and streamlining various HR tasks,” says Bourgeois.
Just last month, the company closed a $15 million series A capital funding round solidifying their efforts to grow as Canada’s top all-in-one HR solution. In this week’s Entrepreneur of the Week Spotlight, Bay Street Bull spoke with Humi’s co-founder and co-CEO, Simon Bourgeois, on what’s next for the company, the shortcomings of HR systems and how Humi is leading in fixing them.
What are the major shortcomings of HR systems and employee management that you see now in traditional methods of practise?
Incredible volumes of time are still being wasted on manual processes. Though HR has become a critical strategic vertical within every business, given a perfect storm of reduced employee tenure and (until recently) very low unemployment creating a war for attracting and retaining talent, most companies have been slow to invest in tools that reduce HR’s administrative burden. Too many companies are still relying on excel spreadsheets and paper.
At a time where major companies like Shopify and Twitter announce that employees will be working from home indefinitely, what do centralizing systems like Humi do to help navigate those transitions?
When you can’t easily track teammates’ progress on shared projects by looking across the room and saying “did you get that done?”, managing processes digitally is incredibly important. Employee onboarding is a great example of an HR task that involves many people: managers, leaders, HR team members and peers. Onboarding a new employee with grace is critical in providing a quick ramp to productivity as well as setting the groundwork for employee retention. To aid in collaboration during this process and to ensure everyone has insight into when critical action items are getting completed, HUMI digitizes and tracks onboarding tasks and training plans. For a company like Shopify, with an international presence and strong emphasis on culture development, adjusting their employee onboarding plans and ensuring the experience is consistent would not be possible without software like Humi’s.
Creating a positive employee culture is one of the biggest challenges when building a company. What in your opinion are the most common mistakes companies make that jeopardize their employee culture and wellbeing?
The most common issue I’ve seen and made myself is hiring for skills over culture fit. It’s an easy mistake to make, as attractive credentials are often hard to ignore. However, if a person doesn’t align with your company’s values and the team’s collective personality, it will be hard to drive toward a common goal without friction. You may never see the full output from those skills that you hired for, and there is a high risk that the employee will sour and spread discontent. If I had to call out one more common mistake that kills culture, it’s micromanagement.
Innovation has been at the forefront of conversations throughout the pandemic, what does the word mean to you?
Innovation, to me, means taking an existing idea and expanding it in a new direction that others could not have imagined. At Humi, we’ve barely scratched the surface of expanding what we believe the idea of an HR or Payroll company should look like. I expect one day people will think of Humi more as a generalized technology company, like Apple or Amazon, rather than simply payroll or HR software.
How has Humi been helping Canada’s small businesses navigate COVID-19?
We take pride in our responsibility to help during these times. As soon as the government announced proposed wage subsidies, our team was in contact with the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) and other government bodies, making sure we had the most up to date information available for clients. As the subsidy structures were made official, our team immediately shifted focus to ensure that accessing the subsidy would be automated with Humi. We also launched a webinar series to make our network of experts available to anyone in need, free to the public, covering topics like the wage subsidies and the legal implications of the changing work environment.
How do you define success and how does that inform how to lead and grow Humi?
I firmly believe in caring about people’s happiness, and this general concept is one of Humi’s core values. If we can build a company where every teammate can be happy every day, we’ve succeeded. If we can build a company that imparts happiness on others by making their lives easier, even better!
There are many things that change the course of a career. What do you feel was a pivotal moment in your career that navigated you to where you are today?
Leaving Bay Street almost ten years ago to start my first technology company. It was my first role after graduating from university, working at a boutique investment bank as an equity research associate. I loved the role, the company, and working on Bay Street, but felt compelled to take a big risk while I was still without a wife, kids, or a mortgage. It was hard leaving a high paying job that many friends coveted, but without taking that risk, I would not be where I am today. Due caution, as it doesn’t work out for everyone who takes that chance, but I’m fortunate to have made it work so far.
What is the key to building a good team?
Take your time in hiring smart people with aligned values, and then give them your trust and focus on retention. Care about people’s happiness. With the loss of every employee, you lose institutional knowledge, valuable context, and company-wide morale. Whether that person is being let go or leaves on their own, there are huge costs associated with turnover that are essential in avoiding if you want a great team.
What do you see for the future of Humi?
As a starting point, quite soon, we’ll be launching new services that relate to organizing the business back office, allowing people to spend even more of their time on the strategic components of HR and business operation. Some of these tools are HR related, and others lean more towards the benefits or insurance side of our business. Long term, we expect to spend much more time elevating the employee experience and service offerings. We believe that there has been an underinvestment in truly employee-centric tools across the industry, and it’s an issue we’re excited about solving.