WorkStep, a startup that helps large employers find and retain frontline workers, raises $10.5M Series A

Finding, and retaining, frontline workers has likely never been as critical as it is in these pandemic days.

Enter WorkStep, a four-year-old startup that was founded with the mission of helping large supply chain employers do just that. The fully distributed company announced this morning that it has closed on a $10.5 million Series A round, building on top of a previously unannounced $6.7 million seed funding that included equity and a convertible note.

FirstMark Capital led the Series A financing, which included participation from returning backer and strategic partner Prologist Ventures.

Dan Johnston, co-founder and CEO of WorkStep, said the Employee Lifecycle Management (ELM) software platform was designed to not only help large supply chain employers source new frontline employers, but to also onboard, train, and keep them happier with the goal of them staying on board longer. Johnston experienced some of the challenges firsthand  when he managed a warehouse in Portland, Oregon, more than a decade ago.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only highlighted the importance of the work frontline employees do – from serving food to delivering packages. But with the increasing dependence on supply chain labor came record turnover, points out Johnston – leaving many companies understaffed and remaining workers stretched thin.

WorkStep claims to provide human resources, recruiting and operations leaders “full transparency” across the employee lifecycle to help companies minimize that churn. The company had previously built out its cloud-based Hire™ offering and then last fall, launched its Retain™ product. 

 “The pandemic has forced companies of all sizes to prioritize the health, safety and satisfaction of frontline teams,” he said. 

Its customers include hundreds of industrial, logistics, transportation and warehousing employers across North America –– including regional 3PLs (third-party logistics companies) and distribution centers, as well as 16 of the Fortune 500. Customers include grocery chain Kroger, Alpine Food Distributing and TransPak, among others.

WorkStep says it has “reached” 500,000 supply chain workers over the years.

WorkStep claims that its Retain offering reduced turnover by up to 29 percent for a Fortune 100 food & beverage company with whom it conducted a case study. This saves companies money in replacement and retraining expenses, which can add up. 

As a result of launching Retain last fall, according to Johnston, WorkStep saw its business more than double in the second half of 2020. This led the company to end the year as “bottom line profitable,” meaning that its revenue exceeded expenses in the last two months of the year.

And while WorkStep did not necessarily need to take on new capital, the company saw an opportunity to double down so it could continue to scale, Johnston said.

“This was an opportunistic round,” he told TechCrunch. “The turnover in this segment has become a core focus.”

WorkStep plans to use its new funding to more than double the size of its existing team of 14 employees across engineering, product, sales and customer success departments this year and triple it by the end of fiscal year 2022.  

FirstMark Capital’s Adam Nelson was in the room with the company during its first whiteboard sessions and believes WorkStep is addressing a “massive” opportunity.

“We think the real differentiator between WorkStep and the existing solutions in the space is that WorkStep doesn’t see temporary staffing/gig liquidity as a solution,” Nelson told TechCrunch. “They see it as a symptom of a multi-hundred billion dollar deadweight loss that’s created when employers aren’t able to find, train and retain the right people.”

WorkStep, he added, is addressing the full employee lifecycle and leveraging the data  “to give a voice to frontline workers while also making employers smarter and more proactive.”

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