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The Starr Conspiracy Podcast

The Starr Conspiracy Podcast

By Ocho
Welcome to The Starr Conspiracy Podcast where we talk about everything work tech.
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It’s not fair
As we’ve spent the last few years trying to understand what an equitable and fair workplace looks like, you would think we would have made at least some progress. Nearly 90% of Fortune 100 companies list equity as a corporate value. Mentions of diversity, equity, and inclusion on earnings calls have increased six-fold since 2017. Yet, research shows that more than 4 in 5 employees say their working environment lacks fairness. That perception is, in layman’s terms, not good. If we’ve improved fairness and equity, it’s gone from absolute rock bottom to something well short of the bare minimum. Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
July 21, 2022
Make some brainspace with grace
The human brain has a limited amount of calories to make decisions. Over the millennia, our once-smooth brains evolved to reduce complexity to stave off threats. That’s why we like straightforward directions, simple charts, and contrast. Simplicity led to survival. Nowadays, when the world’s complexity bears down on you, it can feel overwhelming... Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
July 18, 2022
The four-day work week test
In this week’s newsletter, we’re covering fixing retention with money, Microsoft’s unique approach to organized labor, a return to annual performance reviews for Google, and green energy. Yeah, it’s all in here. But first, let’s see what the latest (and largest) pilot of a four-day week will be able to tell us about how sustainable this model can be for workplaces. Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
June 08, 2022
A silver lining for Work Tech?
There’s still plenty of ugly stock market news out there with still plenty of bubble-bursting talk and layoffs. But, believe it or not, there’s actually some good news for Work Tech if you look closely. Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
May 20, 2022
Is this the future of work? Cause it’s still not great.
It’s been a long time since I’ve met a work leader who doesn’t want to see the workplace improve. While we might agree to disagree on how that will come about or what elements need to change, we all agree there is a big potential for improvement.  Hear the latest from Lance on his Work Leader Weekly newsletter. Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
May 18, 2022
Why PwC is investing $2.4 billion in EX
Today, we’re covering why people are returning to their old jobs, the global skills shortage, and why the wellness industry might need a little health check. If any company is incredibly dependent on its people, it’s professional services firms. We would know, being that we do professional services.  Being able to retain key talent is critical in these organizations. The institutional knowledge and experience that walks out the door for another job become exponentially more painful as the years go on as well. PwC knows the stakes. The company had already announced that all of its client service professionals could work remotely permanently. Nearly a quarter of their workforce has already taken advantage of the ability to work virtually full time. ... Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
May 11, 2022
Work Tech looks a lot better than the rest of tech
April closed with the Nasdaq Composite Index notching its worst monthly performance since February 2009. Time to pour bourbon on your Post Toasties? Not quite.  The fear factor in Work Tech should be lower than in the rest of the broader tech sector. ServiceNow earnings? Killing it. ADP earnings? Up as well. In fact, there was lots of good earning news last week. And Salesforce showed that the Future of Work is a big part of its growth strategy. Also, Work Tech investment YTD already makes 2022 the second-highest investment year on record after 2021. Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
May 10, 2022
Stuck between the office and a hard place
A new Work Leader Weekly from Lance coming up. This week, we’re writing about the very serious issues of why flexible work depends on men, the life and death consequences of bad private equity deals, and more return to office. Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
April 27, 2022
A down quarter with an asterisk
After Q4’s record $10.9 billion Work Tech investment, Q1 was going to be hard-pressed to beat that number — and it didn’t. When the books closed on Q1 2022, Work Tech investment was down 23% to $8.209 billion, which ended a streak of eight quarter-to-quarter Work Tech investment increases. Still, Q1 2022 was the second-best Work Tech investment quarter of all time, and a 91% increase from Q1 2021. And with the deals closed year-to-date, 2022 has already surpassed 2020 for the second-best Work Tech investment quarter ever. Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
April 26, 2022
People ops is ops
Imagine you run an airline. You’ve somehow survived the pandemic. You’re prepping for what promises to be a very busy travel season. You have a route to Hawaii that banks you serious cash. But you have to cancel all your flights there this year. Why? Fuel prices? Jets? Route logistics? Nope. People. Specifically, pilots. I’m told they are pretty important to that whole flying thing. This summer, airlines will pay for it big time. But no business is immune to these challenges. People ops is essential to the operation of any business. It’s time for the function to be integrated into the organization with the same rigor as the rest of the operations function. Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
April 26, 2022
Ransomware gangs have HR too.
So, ransomware gangs have HR too, eh? It seems a business is a business is a business.  Not sure how to feel about this, but a series of document leaks reveal operational details about the Russian ransomware gang known as Conti, as well as what’s perceived as its most prized possession of all: Its HR department details. The messages show that Conti operates much like a regular company, with an HR department, bonuses, performance reviews, and even employees of the month. All we can wonder is — what Work Tech platform do they use? Steve’s assuming it isn’t Kronos. Are they on a single platform? Or do they take a best-of-breed approach? Are its HR leaders SHRM certified? There’s a lot to wonder about here. So that’s what Steve was reading this weekend. Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
April 18, 2022
Is there a big chill coming for startups?
As someone working in Work Tech, how worried should you be about the macro-economic outlook? The reason we ask is the appearance of a TechCrunch article wondering aloud if it is time to start worrying about startup layoffs. It’s a fair question. The Ukraine war grinds on, adding to economic uncertainty. The Fed is raising interest rates and ratchets up the prospect of a recession. Inflation has proven to be non-transitory. The global supply chain continues to be disrupted. We continue to experience the tightest job market ever. There are a lot of storm clouds out there. However, there are also lots of reasons to be positive. The underlying fundamentals of Work Tech remain strong. As the books close on Q1, the $8.125 billion in Work Tech investment may be a 25% decrease from Q4’s all-time record $10.9 billion, but it’s still up 86% from Q1 2021. Also, deal volume was at an all-time high — 202 deals, up 35% from Q4. And mega-deals keep coming, like Bay Area startup Remote. They power payroll and HR for distributed global workforces, and just raised $300 million from Softbank. TL;DR: It’s too early to panic. Music by Bonkers Beat Club. “Fifteen on Me.”
April 15, 2022
Safe or not, you have to get back in the water
The pandemic seems to continually find new ways to challenge business strategies and thwart planning efforts. Then the Russian invasion of Ukraine has set the world — and your employees — on edge in a completely different way. Through it all, we persevere. With good fortune and the right mindset, we even thrive. This week, we look at how companies are thriving in different ways, all navigating the waters and finding the best boats for themselves, including a focus on abundance rather than scarcity or limitations. Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
April 14, 2022
If you ain’t people first, you’re people last
We all survived another April Fool’s Day, and, thankfully, this year we saw even fewer major organizations trying to prove how witty they are. This week we’ve gathered insights on employee compensation from the front line and beyond. We’ll also share more thoughts on new unions and celebrating Trans Day of Visibility. We promise not to try to be too clever (but we think we’re pretty funny). Email us at to subscribe! Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
April 06, 2022
Thoma Bravo buys Anaplan for $10.7B
Last week’s work tech weekly newsletter written by Steve Smith summarized some recent trends and introduced the employee engagement market map. What’s that? Stay tuned. Email us at for all the deets. Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
March 31, 2022
Power to the people
Power to the people. Lance has pulled together some great insights in his Work Leader Weekly newsletter. It’s allergy season, but between sneezes, we’ve gathered some great insights on how employees are using their newly found power to push organizations (for the better) as well as a very real take on very fake LinkedIn profiles. Plus, does a four-day work week really work? Nobody asked us but we’ve been at it for nearly a year (hint: it’s kinda amazing).  Sign up by emailing Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
March 30, 2022
New finance newsletter: Choppy waters need a steady gaze
If you hadn’t heard, we published a brand new monthly newsletter authored by your faithful podcast host focused on the finance leader. Sign up today: Feedback? Write to Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
March 29, 2022
A better solution for hybrid?
Lance Haun offers the permission-based vs. permissive-based approach to remote work in his latest Work Leader Weekly newsletter. Questions, feedback, links mentioned in the episode? Email Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
March 16, 2022
The return of employee engagement
The return of employee engagement. Thought you were done with that, eh? Well, buckle up. We have a new hot take. We’ve all spent the past two years obsessing over the Employee Experience (EX) and how to improve it. While everyone was scrambling to improve EX, Gallup's research showed that Employee Engagement dipped for the first time in a decade amid rising hiring and retention challenges. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of solutions dialed in on Employee Engagement for today’s complex reality. Starting with the 2022 Employee Engagement Market Map, The Starr Conspiracy is launching a new series of Market Maps over the next year to help you make sense of it all. Find them and more at Support our friends in Ukraine: See the Reverse Mullet webinar: See this week’s episode of ‘hey, Bret Starr!’ Hit us up at Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
March 14, 2022
When will equity come for women in HR?
Because calendars are unyielding, this podcast is coming to you a day after International Women’s Day (IWD). One of the missions of IWD is “to forge inclusive work cultures where women's careers thrive and their achievements are celebrated.” Work leaders in HR are expected to take a lead in blazing that trail, but they are filling their cups from a dry well.  Check out the latest from Lance Haun’s Work Leader Weekly newsletter. Email for the links mentioned and to sign up. Later. Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
March 09, 2022
Marketing down to the bone: Friction, sparks — and transformation
One of our top writers is Lou Chapman, a man who’s been with the agency for over a decade. He posted a blog this morning called, “Marketing down to the bone: Friction, sparks — and transformation.” The summary? You should be a little nervous when marketing. Listen to what he has to say about learning from his clients. Read the blog here: Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
March 03, 2022
Work tech hits the main stream
The invasion of Ukraine is an avoidable tragedy, and Lance couldn’t start his newsletter without mentioning it first. He wrote last week, in addition to the undeniable humanitarian crisis caused by this attack, that there will be work technology impacts for years to come. Nobody is left untouched, even for those of us thousands of miles away. If you want to help out, Bret Starr shared some resources from one of our Ukraine-based partners that we’ve been working with since 2020. Our friends would appreciate any of your support. Separately, sign up to the Reverse Mullet webinar featuring Laurie Ruettimann and Lance Haun.  Also, there are still a few days to get your free pass and watch the sessions that interest you the most. Lance cites a whole lot more in his newsletter, so do subscribe when you get the chance. That’s all this week. Leave us some feedback at See you next time. Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
March 02, 2022
What is the product delusion?
Today we’re recapping partner Steve Smith’s newsletter, the Work Tech Weekly, out today. If you don’t know Steve, he’s been a partner at the agency for over a decade and is a work tech guru. Definitely, definitely get to know him if you have the means. He is so choice. If you want to sign up for the Work Tech Weekly, send us an email at Here’s what we’re talking about. Product delusion Weekly metaverse minute Funding and acquisitions Work Leaders Weekly Industry notes Around the shop That’s it for today. Give us some feedback. Later. Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
February 11, 2022
Love is *still* in the stale office air
Our very own Lance Haun has released his latest newsletter called the Work Leader Weekly. Haven’t subscribed yet? Go here: Feel free to email for the deets.  Subscribe to the newsletter or listen for the dish on these themes: Feeling the Love at Work Isn’t It Time to Pay ERG Leads? Quick Hits From Around the Web That’s all we got today. Questions? Feedback? Email Later. Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
February 09, 2022
Season 2 trailer
What’s up, party people. We’re back, and we’re dishing out all the hot goss from every corner of the agency about all things work tech. You’ll hear short, weekly bites on a range of takes and topics. Stay tuned this season for newsletter recaps, new insights, and new voices as we decentralize our content machine. Questions? Feedback? Ideas for new episodes? Hit me up: Later. Music by Bonkers Beat Club, “Fifteen on Me.”
February 07, 2022
Stay positive for pent-up demand
Stay positive. We think next year is going to be a blockbuster year for Work Tech. When you look back at 2020, sales of everything but communication, collaboration, and wellness solutions basically came to a halt between March and May, but activity began to rebound after that.
December 03, 2020
Certified employers and reformed capitalists
Good news: The type of validation that the elusive blue checkmark provides for narcissists on Twitter may soon be coming to the workplace. But this is just one part of a broader reformation within capitalism.
November 12, 2020
SPACs come for Work Tech
You’ve probably heard of SPACs by now, right? If not, you will hear much more soon. These Special Purpose Acquisition Companies are the hottest thing on Wall Street, and they’re invading Work Tech.
October 20, 2020
Certifications and Google are on the rise
There’s no lack of professional certifications for HR and L&D professionals, with ATD and SHRM certifications, among others. But what about one that’s all about Taking Care of Business (or TCB, as Elvis might say)? That’s what Brandon Hall Group is working on. But watch out for Google.
October 12, 2020
Never, ever give up
Here’s a good news story: Our friends at Blueboard announced their $9.3 million Series A funding last week. You think your business has had a rough year? Think again. Blueboard founders Taylor Smith and Kevin Yip can beat most of the 2020 hard-knocks stories out there. Their entire business model has been built around experiential employee recognition.
September 28, 2020
The way things are
We’ve been talking a lot about “Return of the Workplace” and “The Future (or Present) of Work.” That view is an inaccurate read on the situation. Instead, let’s focus on “The Way Things Were” and “The Way Things Are.”
September 21, 2020
Two causes for work tech optimism
Last week was a wild week for tech stocks, with the Nasdaq Composite Index and the Dow Tech Index flirting with correction territory. Time to panic? Hardly.
September 14, 2020
For work tech, it’s time to W.O.R.K.
We at The Starr Conspiracy hope you had a restful weekend this Labor Day. If you’re seeing what we’re seeing, you’ll need it this fall.
September 09, 2020
Post-pandemic growth in Work Tech
Many believe this is a time for restraint and defense, when we should all wait around for the second shoe to drop. But falling into the current doom loop is missing the greatest opportunity to build market share in recent memory. However, that may not be the case.
August 31, 2020
Emerging market: Mental health and well-being
Had enough yet? If so, you’re not alone. COVID has created an enormous mental health challenge for employers, creating a burgeoning work tech market. Research from the nonprofit Mind Share Partners, conducted in partnership with Qualtrics and SAP, found that the mental health of almost 42% of respondents had declined since the coronavirus outbreak began. And according to U.K. well-being startup Unmind, more people are turning to their employers for help. Since the beginning of May, their data shows that 79% of businesses had seen a rise in staff requests. None of us can do this alone. We all need help.
August 25, 2020
HR Tech and others go remote
Well, it finally happened last week. What we all knew was coming finally became official: the 2020 HR Technology Conference & Exposition® will not be an in-person event. Instead, it will become a free virtual event held from Oct. 27–30.
August 18, 2020
Q2 Work Tech investments
Want some good news? The Starr Conspiracy has broken down the Work Tech investment numbers for the first half of 2020, and 2020 is on an almost identical pace to last year’s investments.
July 28, 2020
Quiet time and four-day weeks
It’s hard working from home. So, we made the decision to create more space in our people’s lives so we can experience the feelings of well-being and productivity that we all deserve, even in these most unusual times. We hope these changes will not only improve our work experience but also manifest in more creative energy along with even better work, results, and velocity for our clients. In fact, we’re confident that these counterintuitive moves are the key to unlocking our full potential during this unprecedented time in our shared world’s history.
April 28, 2020