Administrate, the Scottish startup that offers a Sofware-as-a-Service for training providers, has raised a $2.5 million funding round led by Scottish angel syndicate, Archangels, with participation from Scottish Investment Bank, the investment arm of government quango Scottish Enterprise. So far, so routine. But the company is also talking up a recent HR “innovation”: Its entire staff have moved over to a four-day week, with no loss in productivity, apparently.
“The two core drivers for me are building a company that makes our customers massively successful, but also building a work environment that people love to work in,” says John Peebles, Administrate’s American CEO. “We want our team members to work super hard, not long, while they’re at work, but then go home and get recharged without worrying about the office”.
Peebles explains that his inspiration for the four-day week idea, which the startup began rolling out in May, comes initially from China, where he grew up, and from similar innovations in Scandinavia.
“During the 90s China switched from a 6 day work week to a 5 day work week, and the interesting thing was that nothing happened – productivity didn’t go down. After reading about some initiatives in Scandinavia and thinking long and hard about what we could do for our team to improve their lives, we felt like a 4 day, 32 hour work week (with 5 day pay) would be an investment we could make in them,” he says.
In practical terms, teams at Administrate work in shifts to provide five-day coverage, while Peebles admits that it was “a bit scary” at first, even though the startup’s board and investors were supportive of the idea. He says that staff gets just as much done as they did before the change but now are forced to be more organised and focused.
“We don’t view the 4 day week as a perk, we view it as a key part of our mission as a company,” says Peebles. “Now there’s no more excuses. You can be a better parent, you can write your novel, you can learn an instrument! And, you can be part of an amazing, fast growing startup with huge ambition that’s helping people learn around the world, you don’t always have to choose between the two!”
That “huge” ambition is seeing Administrate play at the intersection of employee training and administration, primarily offering a Software-as-a-Service that combines a Learning Management System (LMS) with tools to register learners and track training goals and outcomes. The combination of the two and emphasis on the latter essentially means that companies can better track ROI of the training programs they invest in.
“The typical USA company spends 1,800 USD per employee per year on training and development, but can’t get a clear picture of where this money goes or the efficacy of the training,” Peebles says. “They certainly struggle being strategic with training, particularly by job role or function. Administrate helps organisations define strategic learning tracks (by job role or function if desired), deliver that training, and report on it. This means that our customers save huge amounts of time and drive increased learner engagement.”
Meanwhile, I understand that one of the angels joining today’s round is Gareth Williams, CEO and co-founder of rather successful Scottish tech startup Skyscanner.