Waterloo’s TribeHR works to keep its culture as part of NetSuite

Joseph Fung
Joseph Fung

SAN JOSE – It has been nearly 19 months since TribeHR was acquired by NetSuite, and it has been a busy time for company co-founder Joseph Fung and a greatly enlarged TribeHR team.

The Waterloo, Ont.-based human capital management (HCM) firm kept its Waterloo, Ont. offices but now benefits from the greater resources available to it as part of NetSuite, a cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendor from San Mateo, Calif. ITBusiness.ca caught up with former TribeHR president Joseph Fung, now vice-president of HCM products at NetSuite, this week at the company’s annual SuiteWorld conference.

“It’s been a really exciting time in Waterloo,” said Fung. “I’m spending a lot of time in San Jose and I’m reporting into (NetSuite founder and CTO) Evan (Goldberg) so it’s like running a start-up but reporting into another entrepreneur.”

The first six months were largely spent on business integration, but since then Fung said it has been a lot of fun seeing just how TribeHR can integrate into NetSuite from a product sense. NetSuite didn’t come in with any preconceptions; it’s been a process of discovery.

And of growth. Fung said TribeHR brought a new philosophy of talent acquisition to NetSuite – recruitment isn’t just the domain of a recruiter, but of every employee.

“Many companies treat recruiting as waiters – bring me the candidates — but we believe every team member is responsible for espousing the team, and we’ve been sharing that with NetSuite,” said Fung. “Waterloo has grown from 16 people to 52. Four started on Monday, and five more start next week. We’re the only office hiring ahead of schedule, and it’s because of our culture. We want to maintain that culture.”

TribeHR’s core product was focused on performance management, recruiting, and human resources records. Payroll has now been added and so has background checks through a partner plug-in, and being part of NetSuite has allowed it to scale to larger customers and launch an international localization effort. And its sales reach has expanded dramatically, from five sales people to more than 1,000, plus NetSuite’s partner channel.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of the acquisition, said Fung, has been having the time to take a breath and consider where the HCM industry is going, and how NetSuite should be positioned to respond to and lead that change.

“When you’re an early stage start-up you’re working frantically to meet customer requirements and requests,” said Fung. “Now we can do more research.”

One area they’re looking at is performance management, and if it makes sense to decouple compensation and performance management. Companies are asking if it makes sense to do away with traditional performance reviews and just rely on stakeholder feedback. They’re also looking at ways to measure how recognition of employees can vary by department, and the impact that can have on performance and turnover.

They’re also working on taking TribeHR upmarket, which brings new challenges around compliance, separation of data, data protection and privacy – a US branch of a company many need to track employee data that the Canadian branch isn’t allowed to.

Looking to the future of the HCM market, Fung said data and analytics are going to become a lot more prevalent. Employers will want to look at things such as the link between pay raises, recognition and performance. But the data will go beyond HR, and that’s where being part of NetSuite will be a benefit. It will allow businesses to, for example, look at purchasing and order processing data tied to employees and identify who may need more training. Analytics could help identify employees in danger of leaving the company, or analyze social data to see who is close to a departing employee and may be in risk of leaving as well.

“There’s so much opportunity to find actionable insights, not just charts and graphs you look at maybe once a year,” said Fung. “In real time, knowing that if you’re recognizing someone you should recognize someone else too – that’s powerful.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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