HR-tech providers are stepping up with free access to data, apps

As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on American workplaces, several HR-tech providers are offering their solutions at no cost.
By: | March 19, 2020 • 6 min read
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, some HR-tech companies are now offering free access to their platforms to employers large and small, with the main driver being a “we’re all in this together” mindset.

You might say it’s a case of desperate times calling for altruistic measures.

Whether it’s closed workplaces, canceled classes or travel restrictions—combined with financial market uncertainty—the novel coronavirus has quickly disrupted life as we know it. Despite “social distancing” and empty grocery shelves, employees are trying to preserve their daily routines under extraordinary circumstances.

To help those Americans succeed, several HR-tech companies have decided what they have to offer will fit the bill. And in the spirit of cooperation, they are not going to charge for it.

One company, Grokker, is making its on-demand wellbeing video solutions available through April 30. During this time, both employers and individuals—and their families—will have unlimited access to Grokker’s full suite of holistic wellbeing programs and videos, including fitness, mental health, nutrition, sleep and financial wellness. The offer also includes features such as expert encouragement, GrokTalk and the support of the Grokker community.

“COVID-19 is causing all of us to ask: How can we ensure we’re staying well during this time of extreme stress? We knew we needed to help,” says Grokker CEO Lorna Borenstein. “Our stress-reduction videos and sleep programs directly address the anxiety so many are experiencing and will ensure they are better able to cope and don’t feel so alone through this challenging time.”

To create a free account, individuals can go here and click on the “Get Grokker Free” button. For employers, authorized company representatives should visit here, complete the online form and click the “Get Grokker Free” button. Grokker also is providing a complete messaging toolkit, making it easier to communicate the program with their teams, Borenstein says.

“We understand that the outbreak might not be over by the end of April,” she adds. “We’ll be continuing to assess the situation on a daily basis and make updates as needed. For now, we want to help people feel their best wherever they are.”

Grokker also has released a COVID-19-specific program to give users a quick reference for accurate information based upon the published recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It includes details such as symptoms and prevention, personal hygiene and cleanliness, advice on caring for the sick and simple ways to manage one’s mental and physical health.

“We understand that at this time we all need a way to take care of our physical and emotional health and wellbeing,” Borenstein says. “As the situation evolves, we’ll continue to monitor and share updates. In the meantime, we’re in this together and want to do our part.”

ThinkHR and Mammoth HR, in Portland, Ore., have built their business around a decentralized model of human resources that scales to support employers on demand. As the coronavirus pandemic was unfolding, CEO Nathan Christensen says, the companies were able to see in real-time the growing concerns of small businesses, through both the increase in inquiries as well as the complexity of issues employers faced. To meet that need, they have been publishing coronavirus information as it comes in through the company blog and webinars (for example, there were 20,000 registrants for the most recent webinar on COVID-19).

The company also is offering non-customers access to its blog post, When Business Threats are Contagious: 10 Answers for Employers Navigating the Coronavirus.

“Our experience is every employer feels like they are in a unique situation, mainly isolated and alone,” Christensen says. “But because it is a national issue, there are common themes and we can identify those themes and trends.”

To get a gauge of the knowledge demand, on one recent day, ThinkHR and Mammoth HR supported 2,000 employers asking about COVID-19. Christensen says smaller employers are struggling with three key challenges: employee safety, employee pay and the future of their business.

“We are trying to help employers work through those issues,” he says.

Using a combination of subject-matter experts and technology, the companies fielded nearly 170,000 HR inquiries from small and mid-sized businesses in 2019. But based on recent data, that number will pale compared to 2020. For instance, they initially projected 1,100 queries for the month of March, but received 1,300 in a single day.

“Small businesses are the backbone of American business, and when they’re derailed, we all suffer,” Christensen says. “Supporting them as they build their HR and business continuity plans is not only our job—it’s our passion.

“We hope it will help employers across the country navigate these unprecedented circumstances,” he says, adding that the company itself now has employees working from home, and it also added $200 to each employee’s next paycheck as a one-time internal economic stimulus.

HR Acuity, a technology platform specifically built for employee relations and investigations management, also is providing a free version of its SaaS solution to help businesses manage employee issues related to the COVID-19 outbreak. The limited edition provides employee documentation and tracking functionality that will equip businesses to monitor the people impact of the crisis.

“The COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented for all of us, including employee relations and HR teams,” says Deb Muller, CEO and founder of HR Acuity.

HR Acuity provides the only technology specifically built for employee-relations management. For COVID-19, it enables HR and employee-relations teams to:

  • document and track any and all issues related to the outbreak, including performance management, accommodations, allegations of discrimination or harassment and more;
  • implement consistent issue tracking and reporting for all employees, including those who are working from home;
  • follow a compliant process to ensure fair fact-finding, when required; and
  • connect patterns and trends related to COVID-19 with analytics, such as productivity and volume of employee issues.

“Businesses must consistently track and document situations impacting our team members so we can appropriately support them as well as create records we can learn from in the future,” Muller says. “We want to do our part to help and are offering free access through at least July 1.”

Another HR-tech provider, Quinyx, a workforce -management platform vendor whose U.S. headquarters is in Boston, is providing access free of charge to its communication platform for any organization, not just customers, to support communication with deskless workers. This tools take only one hour to install, according to Quinyx’s CEO Erik Fjellborg.

“Coronavirus is having a profound impact around the world and, since the beginning of the outbreak, clear and constant communication—not just between family and friends but within organizations—has been and will continue to be the most important tool in helping Americans navigate this crisis,” Fjellborg says, adding that as this situation continues to evolve, it’s critical that businesses have the ability to update their employees on how their jobs, businesses and workforce are being affected.

“This is especially the case for deskless workers who don’t have regular access to a laptop, email or other communication tools like Slack,” he says, noting that the communication app offers real-time employee surveys, Qmail (an internal email tool) and more.

“Our hope is that, by creating clear communication lines, employees can remain easily informed and better supported in this time of uncertainty,” Fjellborg says.

Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.