Facebook says its workplace app should be out this year. Calling their new office chat tool, “Facebook at Work,” the company has been testing the product with more than 100 companies since January. Facebook at Work, which looks similar to the company’s typical service, is geared toward sending messages to coworkers. Facebook has been using this version of its network internally for years, but news that it was being turned into a public product first surfaced in 2014. Facebook at Work will be offered on a freemium basis, with an entry-level version available for free while more powerful features reserved for those who pay. The new offering will compete with several existing workplace communication apps, like Slack and HipChat. Facebook’s competitive edge could be familiarity — there are few workers out there unfamiliar with Facebook’s interface. Facebook at Work could also challenge LinkedIn, often considered a kind of Facebook for professionals. While LinkedIn has long been known as a place to connect with workers outside your current company, it recently released an app called Lookup, which makes it easier for users to find coworkers based on their name, title, skills and so on. Facebook hopes to release its new workplace communications app by the end of the year.
Tech Firms Venture Into Lending. Intuit, PayPal and Square already know how much money millions of small businesses are bringing in each day. Now these tech firms are stepping up efforts to mine that data to get into the lending business. In the latest move, Intuit is expected to announce that it will be teaming up with online lender OnDeck Capital Inc. to create a $100 million fund to provide loans to users of its QuickBooks accounting software, as it has identified that small businesses are not receiving financing at the same levels as large businesses. Intuit isn’t the only one seeking to fill the gap. PayPal and Square are also using transaction data to provide financing to their small business customers, and even United Parcel Service (UPS) recently launched a partnership with online lender, Kabbage Inc. The loans provide added profits and a way to build close customer ties. But small business lending can be risky. Default rates for loans made by captive finance companies, a rough proxy for the new lenders, climbed to as much as 7.65% in the fourth quarter of 2009, compared with 4.5% for small business loans made by banks. The companies say insights drawn from customer relationships allow them to make smarter loans, as they are seeing sales patterns week by week, month by month, and year by year with loan payments being deducted on a daily basis, further reducing risk. Intuit first began experimenting with small business lending in 2013. Over the past two years, QuickBooks customers have taken out roughly 5,000 loans totaling about $200 million, with Intuit receiving a referral or origination fee. Loan demand through Intuit has been modest though, in part because many loans carry annual rates of around 30%, well above the 5% to 6% banks typically charge small businesses with good credit. PayPal says it now issues an average of more than $2 million in loans to U.S. small businesses each day. Square has provided more than $225 million in financing to small businesses since launching its program in May 2014 and is currently advancing more than $1 million a day. At both PayPal and Square, payments are taken as a portion of transaction volume, meaning merchants repay more when sales are high and don’t pay on days without sales. That allows for easier repayments, but makes it difficult to calculate an annual interest rate. A PayPal spokesman said the company is looking for ways to help customers make “apples to apples comparisons” with other types of financing.
5 Tech Tools to Measure Your Business’ ‘Human Factor’. While people are clearly important, any program on improving human capital is sure to raise doubts because it’s not quantifiable. If you’re a numbers person, you need to know that you can measure human capital. Here are five employee needs essential to ensure that the human side of your business is not overlooked — and the best tech tools to quantify them: (1) For “constant and never-ending improvement”, try PropelU, which is designed for the busy person who wants to grow and learn but can’t find the time to do so. PropelU believes that by seizing those tiny slivers of time (for example: when you’re standing in line), you can compound your learning and fuel your thirst for knowledge. (2) For “fulfillment and engagement”, try Satisfactionatwork.com, which offers a way to track how engaged (or not) your people are. The tool uses a simple six-to-seven-question diagnosis to measure your engagement at work. It then produces a map that outlines your fulfillment level based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It even offers
individual and team building activities to improve any weak spots. (3) For “feedback”, try Theleader.io, a great resource for tracking feedback and measuring leadership effectiveness, not only in your company, but industrywide. (4) For “goal setting and tracking,” try Grow.com, an easy-to-use resource for small and medium sized companies that serves as a metric dashboard at your fingertips. You can click and drag the goals you want to track and check in on them at any time. (5) Finally, for “teamwork”, try Teamwork.com, an all-in-one project management tool that lets you collaborate and communicate remotely with ease. You can chat with your teammates, view your projects all in one place and receive immediate help from the help desk when it’s needed.