Skip to main content
mark evans

For small and medium-sized companies, human relations can be a painful and time-consuming experience.

They need to manage new and existing employees, and implement new services and solutions to manage growth. It's particularly challenging for smaller companies that may not have the resources or the willingness to build an HR department.

This is the problem TribeHR decided to tackle by developing an online service that automates a wide range of HR tasks, processes and responsibilities – everything from hiring new employees to tracking development, vacation and sick time, goal setting and job postings.

And the Waterloo, Ont.-based company set out to make the service user-friendly and affordable.

"For small business owners, HR is a painful, crappy process," says Joseph Fung, TribeHR's co-founder and CEO. "We started off by looking at HR technology and the problems, which were not new problems. Fundamentally, what is different about us is the experience we've created reimagines the user experience from the perspective of the employee."

While technology powers TribeHR's service, Mr. Fung says the company wants to make it user-friendly for employees, while still providing businesses with the HR structure and process to support their efforts.

"Instead of saying to the HR manager that you need to track compliance and records, we say to employees: 'What would you like to use to update information?'"

Another example of TribeHR's approach, Mr. Fung says, is things such as booking a vacation. Using TribeHR, employees can see how much time they have left, and then book the days they want quickly and easily.

"Our approach to the user experience design is fundamentally different," he adds. "We have architected the product assuming social is the norm. You can have new workflow and new opportunities such as collaboration around performance reviews, sharing goals, and recognizing no longer one-to-one, but one-to-many. You can make sure employers are involved and like the HR experience instead of it being forced on them."

TribeHR's goal to become one of the leading players in the expanding online HR marketplace got a boost in August when it raised $2.5-million in financing from Relay Ventures and Matrix Partners. Mr. Fung says with TribeHR's product fleshed out, the focus is now on investing in marketing and sales, as well as adding mobile and social features.

"This is the broad SMB space so there are a lot of classic SMB marketing spaces – creating a lot of content, inbound through the content, and inbound through search," he explains. "The key differentiator for us is we only work with leads once they start a trial. We use free trial as gating function; it alleviates a lot of the sales process because you are working people already into it."

Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting, a communications and marketing strategic consultancy that works with startups and fast-growing companies to create compelling and effective messaging to drive their sales and marketing activities. Mark has worked with four startups – Blanketware, b5Media, PlanetEye and Sysomos. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshmarketing and meshwest conferences.

Join The Globe's Small Business LinkedIn group to network with other entrepreneurs and to discuss topical issues:

Our free weekly small-business newsletter is now available. Every Friday a team of editors selects the top picks from our blog posts, features, multimedia and columnists, and delivers them to your inbox. If you have registered for The Globe's website, you can sign up here. Click on the Small Business Briefing checkbox and hit 'save changes.' If you need to register for the site, click here.