TecHRseries Interview with Scott Absher, CEO and Co-Founder of ShiftPixy

Jul 2, 2020

PAROMA SEN — TechHRseries, July 2, 2020 |

Companies worldwide need to do whatever they can to keep their staff engaged during COVID-19, and this requires a fresh approach to human capital management practices. In this TecHRseries interview, Scott Absher, CEO and Co-Founder of ShiftPixy discusses some tips while also sharing a few thoughts from his experience starting ShiftPixy…


Tell us a little about yourself Scott and a little bit about ShiftPixy. How was ShiftPixy started?
We founded ShiftPixy as a next-gen, gig engagement platform to focus on a very damaging shift in the US part-time labor market that no one was addressing. ShiftPixy’s proposition to industries that rely on a part-time workforce to re-think their approach to human capital by elevating employee engagement through a cutting-edge mobile technology deployment. I initially began my career in product development and support, serving large national retail chains, before finding passion in the employer services industry. My co-founder Steve on the other hand is a seasoned payroll and HR expert who has established and sold five HR services businesses throughout his career. Combining our backgrounds and expertise, Steve and I began to evaluate the burgeoning gig economy and the problems associated with it for the workers, the taxpayers and other businesses relying on a part-time workforce. We recognized early on that the gig economy business model as it originally stood was not sustainable – particularly for the restaurant industry which accounts for half of the 28 million in the US part-time labor population.

ShiftPixy was designed to address the issues and challenges facing the gig economy, combining its modern-day perks with traditional employment benefits. Providing great value to restaurants, who rely on a fast-churn and tight labor pool, ShiftPixy hires workers away from the operators and then leases them back. The tech-driven ShiftPixy ecosystem enables restaurants to share and optimize human capital, and restaurant workers to pick up shifts whenever and wherever they’d like. Perhaps more importantly, these workers are also eligible for benefits like health insurance and workers’ compensation, allowing operators to rest easy knowing they’re compliant under labor laws.

How did you venture into this space?
From our original DNA in human capital management we saw how the gig economy platforms had taken part-time labor driven industries turn-over rates from a tradition of 100% to 300 to 400% in some markets. We knew we could take everything we knew about employer compliance and leverage the fast growth of mobile architecture to create an active way to engage part-time employees and better connect them to shift work opportunity. The niche we serve in the restaurant space is meeting the turn-over problem with a very liberating solution to a very large problem. We’re constantly speaking with current and potential restaurant clients, so we have a deep understanding of the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis, and know how to solve them. Particularly with the growth of third-party delivery services, we’re hearing horror stories from restaurant operators about the detrimental commission fees coming from third-parties – not to mention the loss of customer data, engagement and brand control. ShiftPixy is uniquely positioned to remove the reliance that restaurants have on third-party delivery behemoths by shifting their vetted, uniformed staff members to facilitate delivery.

Beyond helping restaurants repurpose their human capital, our unique, next-gen technology can help operators get their white-label, digital delivery platform up-and-running in just 48 hours, at virtually no cost. Through our driver management system, ShiftPixy intercepts online orders, pings the designated driver, creates a driver route and communicates with the customer as the driver completes the order. Through ShiftPixy’s services, restaurants are liberated to regain control of their delivery operations and cut ties with third-party platforms.

Amid COVID-19, what are some tips you’d share with restaurants, or other businesses leveraging a part-time workforce, when it comes to HR management?
One of the concerns we are hearing from operators who have furloughed employees is “what if they don’t come back?” Businesses need to do whatever they can to keep their staff engaged during COVID-19, which requires a thoughtful approach to human capital management. For instance, restaurants are being forced to close their dining rooms, and are therefore in the difficult position of having to lay-off or furlough their employees. Once businesses begin to reopen, restaurants will not have an adequate roster of employees to meet customer demand. ShiftPixy enables restaurants to keep these workers on the payroll, but repurpose them to complete deliveries or help with take-out orders. ShiftPixy’s ability to lease back human capital to restaurants also allows us to cover insurance coverage for existing employees that want to transfer to delivery drivers seamlessly. This cost effective approach to repurposing human capital allows restaurants to remain focused on keeping their business running instead of getting bogged down with paperwork and complex legal hurdles.

How do you think this pandemic will change regulations around the part-time labor market? How does ShiftPixy help fill this gap?
We’ve already seen some major state- and country-wide efforts aimed to keep workers on the payroll amid the pandemic, namely Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. PPP loans are a step in the right direction for businesses and their employees, but additional efforts must be made in order to benefit. For instance, businesses need to first and foremost rethink their human capital, and repurpose them to meet the demands of the marketplace. ShiftPixy helps businesses do this easily, efficiently and cost effectively, while enabling them to take full advantage of the loans.

What do you think the future of the gig economy looks like given the changing work environment due to COVID-19?
Since its inception, there have been major flaws associated with the gig economy. Independent contractors and legislators alike have been in an ongoing battle with gig economy giants for exploiting the flexible workforce. COVID-19 has done nothing but highlight these issues associated with misclassification. In these times of heightened fear and uncertainty, gig workers like Lyft drivers or Grubhub delivery personnel are risking their lives to power our on-demand economy, but are not protected with health insurance. Prior to COVID-19, we had already seen some steps in the right direction for the gig economy that aimed to provide workers with the benefits and protections they deserve, as seen with California’s Assembly Bill 5. Now, amid this pandemic, gig economy platforms will be under greater pressure to protect their workers.

What tools would you advise management use to boost productivity and team engagement during COVID-19?
Flexible work schedules are a major draw for part-time employees, particularly those in the restaurant space. During COVID-19, kids are home from school and schedules are in flux, meaning that workers need even greater understanding from their employers. ShiftPixy helps facilitate flex work for the restaurant industry, enabling shift workers to pick up gigs at their convenience with the establishments in the ShiftPixy ecosystem. Staff is not limited to a certain number of hours per week, and choose whichever location or shift that works best for them. By providing employees with this autonomy, workers will be more inclined to continue their work for the business, driving loyalty and eliminating the costly challenge of toxic turnover.

What lessons have you taken away from COVID-19?
In navigating these difficult times, a mantra I’ve found myself repeating is, “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.” Businesses, particularly those leveraging a part-time workforce, are struggling to keep their staff on the payroll and their operations afloat. In this uncertain environment, businesses need to move fast and smart to make it through, and this requires totally rethinking and repurposing their human capital and technology deployment. These unprecedented times are not easy by any means, but by staying agile, committed and taking a new approach, businesses can make it through.

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