Burnout is a big problem for companies. It can strike suddenly. Often before a manager is even aware it’s happening, the best employees are already out the door.
What can a company do to stay on top of the mood as morale slips? One of the old standbys, hiring consultants to survey workers and generate reports, is far from effective.
The process is expensive, often costing tens of thousands of dollars, usually takes months, and the results may not even be accurate. Fearing their identities might be revealed, workers are prone to minimizing or disguising their discontent.
Erudit co-founders Ricardo Michel Reyes and Alejandro Martinez Agenjo thought they could build a better solution. They developed an artificial intelligence tool that can “snoop” quietly on platforms where workers chat, such as Slack. Without specifically linking each comment to a particular speaker, the software gathers anonymized data on the types of words being used, the tone of discussions, and what problem areas are coming up.
Similar to how A.I. can identify when a customer is becoming irate on a phone call, and send them to a representative, Erudit can swiftly identify hot issues (like a bad boss or a policy that is causing gripes) and flag them for management. The software can also get a general feel for the mood.
The Miami-based company has raised about $5 million in early seed funding from investors including Athos Capital, Archipelago Next and Encomenda Smart Capital. A Series A round is planned for later this year.
We caught up with Reyes to learn more about his company and the increasing demand for tools to combat burnout amid the so-called Great Resignation.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Can you tell me more about Euridit and what it does, especially with respect to dealing with burnout?
So, we are a workforce intelligence tool. What we do is use your connector communication platforms, like Slack, or whatever communication platform they use in your company. And we perform natural language processing, or artificial intelligence, to try and measure the risk of burnout or turnover on the levels of engagement you have. We take a lot of care with privacy, so that no names are revealed. It’s all just very generic, conceptual information about what people are talking about.
Why is this such a good time to be pushing this kind of thing?
So in the generations after the second World War, the main value of society, at least, Western society was duty, right? Like, what everyone wanted to do was to just be very disciplined and very aligned to their duty. And nobody cares about happiness.
New generations want to find value and purpose and like to work in something that is sustainable, that doesn't affect the environment and where they feel they have a goal in life. So people are not as resilient as before. And also the market is so wide, and the internet has made it so easy to change work environments, and change companies. And the risk of changing companies is so low that people don't have any kind of faith or loyalty in their companies anymore. So the minute you are a little bit worried or stressed or don't like your job [you might leave].
Before, people would have been 15 years in the same job, no matter if they were burned out or stressed or anything. Now, people don't like their job and they post on LinkedIn or go and apply to six different jobs and get a new one.
Before, people would have been 15 years in the same job, no matter if they were burned out or stressed or anything. Now, people don't like their job and they post on LinkedIn or go and apply to six different jobs and get a new one. There you go. Some people now are like six months to 18 months in. So you have to be very careful with retention, and create a lot of engagement with your company, and with your team. And to be careful not to burn out your employees because those are the main triggers that lead to turnover.
And with a pandemic, it became even worse, because there's this concept of the Great Resignation. That has been very popular in the last six or seven months. Because people realized that they could work for German or British or an Australian company from a place where life was very cheap, and that there was no need to commute from somewhere in New York to Manhattan to work. They could just find a remote job and feel better. They start taking more care about well being mental health and so it's been a cultural change. Everything is changing so quickly and people are moving so fast that you will lose your team from one day to the other.
Okay, tell me a little bit about your background and your co-founders. How did you get into starting this company?
Yeah, so Alejandro, who is my partner and who is the CEO of the company, he was working in innovation in Switzerland. He's from Madrid. But now lives in Miami, because the VC funds invested in our company are in the U.S. So our headquarters are in Miami.
And he studied psychology at the same time as engineering. So he was very interested in mental health. His family has a history of anxiety. So he has lived with mental health all his life. I've been working in AI for it's gonna be 20 years now. So, yeah, pretty much all of my life I've been working with, with artificial intelligence and that kind of stuff. And we realized that people to diagnose or analyze what's happening in their workplaces, they use services. And it takes a long time; it's very expensive. So we realized that there was an opportunity to apply AI to solving the workforce intelligence problem, and we started two years ago. And now we are VC- backed.
Great. And how big do you think this market is that you’re tapping?
So we’re focusing on companies now from 100 to 1,000 employees. To do a survey of the health of your employees, it takes like, between six months to two years, depending on the size of your company. A group of consultants goes into your company, and they apply some survey in a random way. And they do some interviews, for of course, people are going to tell you whatever they think you want to hear. They are afraid of losing their jobs, if they tell you something about their manager. So it's very inefficient and ineffective.
So we think this tool can, if not replace those companies, at least work with them. Like we're open to partnering with these companies that already do the service. There are some companies like McDonald's or Starbucks, that don't care about retention, right? They just replace people one after the other.
But a lot of white collar companies have employees who are very expensive to lose, because the hiring and recruitment processes are very expensive. So it's a lot cheaper to take care of people. You don't keep them so busy that they burn out but also not so bored that they start getting unmotivated and look for another job. You have to give like the middle level, and invest a lot in making them feel part of the company and like they are important and that you listen to them and you're not using them or seeing them as another number, but rather a human being.
You were saying you have deployed this tool in some workplaces?
Yeah. Our main feature that has generated more traction and shockwaves which is what I told you that we detect whenever there's a change in burnout level or engagement level. That happens when people are talking about something different, really fast, with a lot of emotion. And then we generate a summary of what's happening. Without revealing any names or anything. You cannot pinpoint someone. We take care of that. You only know the theme, it's been happening, but not who started it, or who said it or whatever, to protect the employee from retaliation. We work for the managers, and the managers are the ones who pay, but we have a level of empathy with employees so that they don’t don’t feel watched.
Is your software actually looking at communications, like Slack messages?
So you can go and look at the Slack messages if you're paying for the premium version of Slack. So this is already happening. And also there are a lot of companies that pay for email analysis. So people think, but what about privacy? This is already happening. It has been happening since the internet exists, right? Like, Microsoft offers a lot of compliance tools. So whenever you have a call to customer service number they say like this, this call can be recorded for quality purposes, right? So this is already happening, what we're doing is just automating what was going on. And also taking care not to present anything that can put the employee in risk, or that can alter his behavior or her behavior. But rather, yeah, it actually helps to detect whenever a theme is, like a problem in the team, but also the manager, because sometimes the problem is not the team, it’s the manager.
[I]t actually helps to detect whenever a theme is, like a problem in the team, but also the manager, because sometimes the problem is not the team, it’s the manager.
And are your customers now, are they mostly in Europe? or in North America?
That's a good question. So, I'm from Mexico, and I've been working a long time in Mexico before moving to Spain. So we kind of pulled from there. We also realize that Europe has a very different culture, and that they are very privacy aware, and that this product is maybe too much for the European market. We expect that to change, particularly in Spain. So we have very large Spanish customers. But our main market is definitely the U.S. because the U.S. analytics and business intelligence and message analytics and people analytics is a more developed market, in that sense.
Ok, what else have I not asked you about that you would like to point out?
The main concern is always privacy. That's the basic, most common one. And when we tell people we are not a witch hunting tool. This is not to pinpoint the employees and say, like, “Yeah, we should fire you.” It's the other way around. There’s a huge problem keeping employees. Right? So what we are about is keeping employees because it's a win-win situation, right?
Like, your company takes care of you. And it's aware of whether you're okay, or not, because people implode, right? They don't know how to ask for help, or how to communicate their problems, or the manager doesn't listen. And they just kind of implode and quit. Right? So we are more about diagnosing the health of the company.
Yeah, and the second one is we have a very well trained team working on the AI, with three PhDs of psychology, clinical psychology and data scientists, and machine learning engineers with two PhDs and one postdoc.
So we have a very experienced team in both psychology and in AI. And we validate a lot with real people and real companies. So you can be sure about the science behind our company. Because we're more than a technology based company. We're a science based company, right? So all the science is published on our website, and people can check.