The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), through SHRMLabs, has announced a partnership with Techstars Workforce Development Accelerator to identify and support innovative technologies that will meet the challenges of the job market.
SHRMLabs is the workplace innovation center and venture capital arm of SHRM.
“This partnership will allow SHRMLabs to bring together leading innovators and experts in human resources technology with global investors and companies,” said Guillermo Corea, Managing Director of SHRMLabs.
Techstars is an investor and accelerator of start-up technology companies, founded in Boulder, Colorado. Taylor McLemore, Managing Director of the Techstars Workforce Development Accelerator, spoke with SHRM online on the program, how to identify the winning startups and the partnership with SHRM.
SHRM online: What is the Techstars Workforce Development Accelerator?
McLemore: The Techstars Workforce Development Accelerator is one of several Techstars three-month accelerators operating around the world. This intensive program concept brings together and supports a group of startup founders to secure funding, access mentorship, and join the Techstars network for life. More than 6,000 startup founders have participated in Techstars accelerators around the world, building businesses in every industry, from space to fintech to environmental sustainability.
Our workforce development accelerator invests specifically in startups that enable human potential through work. This includes education tech companies that focus on training the workforce, employment tech startups using technology to improve the way job seekers connect with employers. and future of work companies creating solutions for employers. Examples from our portfolio include Mentor Spaces, a community mentoring platform designed to make it easier for companies to attract, hire and retain under-represented talent; TiLT, a company that is revolutionizing employee leave in the workplace; and Honest Jobs, a company that helps people affected by the criminal justice system find jobs quickly.
SHRM online: What are the key attributes you look for when choosing startups to work with?
McLemore: We focus above all on the founding team. Our goal is to identify the founders of startups who create businesses with the potential to be very profitable. and generate value in an inclusive way for a wide range of stakeholders. For example, if a startup founder is building a solution for employers, we are looking to see that they balance the employer value proposition with the employee’s agency. When we look at the founding teams, conviction and tenacity are essential because it takes years to build a business that solves difficult and important problems. These founders wake up energized by their mission. They show a natural responsibility for handling the myriad details needed to be successful, and they have the tenacity to keep going when times get tough. The founder’s conviction is a more powerful motivator than financial gain.
We have a concept of “the right founder opportunity”. The idea is to identify a strong answer to this question: Why is this founding team the team to build the solution to an important and difficult problem? We find that a founder with a lived experience interacting with the problem is usually the differentiator. For example, if the founder has the experience of a former incarceration and the ensuing challenge of finding a job after release, he has a competitive advantage in building a solution for others facing this situation.
The most important thing to remember is that technology is a tool. Technology is more powerful when used to create human-centered solutions. This is true overall, but it is essential for the tech space of HR. A deep understanding of the challenges HR teams and employees face is the starting point for any value creation.
SHRM online: What are some of the things planned to support the SHRMLabs and Techstars partnership?
McLemore: We kicked off our collaboration at the SHRM 2021 Annual Conference and Exhibition (SHRM21). Companies from the Techstars network and the SHRM Challenge Cup have come together to share their products and services in the Workforce Innovation Zone powered by SHRMLabs and Techstars. This dedicated SHRM21 space created the opportunity for SHRM members to engage with innovators in the HR technology space, sharing ideas and potential solutions for HR professionals. We will explore opportunities to create even more connectivity between SHRM members and HR technology innovators at future SHRM conferences and events. Together, we will publish a “State of Workplace Tech” report and launch a Workplace Tech Council in 2022. Finally, we will collaborate on a Workplace Tech Learning series, to support the development of tech-savvy HR talent.