Why employee experience platforms are on the rise
With the pandemic having forced employees to work remotely, and with the shift to a hybrid work environment here to stay, employers are turning to technology solutions to tackle the employee engagement and experience challenges the shift has caused.
According to a survey by the International Data Corporation last year, of more than 500 company executives in the US, 45% said they anticipate demand for enhanced employee engagement software in the wake of the pandemic.
And it’s already happening. Bonfyre, a workplace culture platform that provides employees in the digital space with the tools they need to recreate the casual ‘water cooler’ interactions that build relationships, trust and inclusion, has seen a 200% increase in usage since the pandemic began. In fact, the platform is proving so successful, it has just been recognised as the Employee Experience platform of the Year in the 2020 RemoteTech Breakthrough Awards.
According to CEO Mark Sawyier, more than ever and in light of the shift to remote working, “we need new technology designed to maintain the workplace relationships that create trust and community”.
And other technology companies are rising to the challenge delivering platforms designed to help organisations tailor approaches to engaging, supporting and retaining talent.
Microsoft Viva is a first of its kind
Unsurprisingly, Microsoft is leading the charge with the recent unveiling of a brand-new employee experience platform designed to help employees learn, grow and thrive.
According to Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella, “we have participated in the largest at-scale remote work experience the world has seen, and it has had a dramatic impact on the employee experience. As the world recovers, there is no going back. Flexibility in when, where, and how we work will be key.”
Nadella believes that in moving into a more flexible work future where the work culture will be focused increasingly on creativity, engagement and wellbeing, “every organisation will require a unified employee experience, from onboarding and collaboration to continuous learning and growth” and points to Microsoft Viva as the platform that “brings together everything an employee needs to be successful, from day one, in a single, integrated experience directly in Teams”.
Marking the first-ever employee experience platform to bring tools for employee engagement, learning, wellbeing and knowledge discovery directly into the flow of people’s work, Microsoft Viva builds on the power of Teams and Microsoft 365 to unify the employee experience across four key areas – Engagement, Wellbeing, Learning and Knowledge - enabling organisations to create a thriving culture with engaged employees and inspiring leaders.
Workday acquires Peakon to strengthen offer
Microsoft isn’t the only tech firm to rise to the remote working challenge. With the aim of marrying employee engagement and operations, cloud human capital management vendor Workday has just announced its acquisition of employee experience monitoring app Peakon.
Used by big companies such as Capgemini and The Adecco Group, among others, Peakon captures real-time employee sentiments and feedback and offers recommendations for action.
The combination of Peakon’s intelligent technology, which determines and distributes surveys and information to the right person at the right time, and Workday’s employee insight, is set to deliver a platform that “will help leaders continually discover and respond to evolving employee feelings, needs and behaviours”, states Workday.
Workday’s Co-CEO Aneel Bhusri believes that with Peakon on the “cutting edge of helping organisations turn employee insights into more connected teams and stronger organisations”, this acquisition will tap into company’s need to keep a constant pulse on employee sentiment to ensure that “employees remain both engaged and productive”.
Nexthink raises funding for platform
But it’s not just established firms who are expanding the employee experience platform space to meet the workplace transition demands of tomorrow, newer entrants are getting in on the engagement action too.
Swiss firm Nexthink, a platfo rm used by businesses to monitor software performance on their employees’ devices, has just raised US$180 million in its series D round of funding for its experience management platform, which it plans to take to the next level.
Acknowledging that the “rise in remote working has dramatically accelerated the need for digital employee experience”, Nexthink’s CEO Pedro Bados sees “a huge opportunity ahead of us to redefine the future way in which companies will provide digital workplaces to their workforce”.
With the aim of continuously improving employees’ digital experiences, the platform provides IT with a cloud-native solution that enables insight into employees’ daily experiences of technology at the device, application, and network level via a combination of real-time analytics, instant remediation, automation and employee feedback. The raised capital will be used to boost Nexthink’s innovation, rapid growth and expansion, especially in the US.
How AWS helps NASCAR delight its fans
AWS needs no introduction to readers of Technology Magazine but we rarely get an opportunity to look closely at how it serves the sports sector. All major sports draw in a huge supporter base that they want to nurture and support. Technology is the key to every major sports organization and enabling this is the driving force for AWS, says Matt Hurst, Head of Global Sports Marketing and Communications for AWS. “In sports, as in every industry, machine learning and artificial intelligence and high performance computing are helping to usher in the next wave of technical sports innovation.”
AWS approaches sports in three principal areas. “The first is unlocking data’s potential: leagues and teams hold vast amounts of data and AWS is enabling them to analyze that data at scale and make better, more informed decisions. The second is engaging and delighting fans: with AWS fans are getting deeper insights through visually compelling on-screen graphics and interactive Second Screen experiences. And the third is rapidly improving sports performance: leagues and teams are using AWS to innovate like never before.”
Among the many global brands that partner with AWS are Germany's Bundesliga, the NFL, F1, the NHL, the PGA Tour and of course NASCAR. NASCAR has worked with AWS on its digital transformation (migrating it's 18 petabyte video archive containing 70 years of historical footage to AWS), to optimize its cloud data center operations and to enable its global brand expansion. AWS Media Services powers the NASCAR Drive mobile app, delivering broadcast-quality content for more than 80 million fans worldwide. The platform, including AWS Elemental MediaLive and AWS Elemental MediaStore, helps NASCAR provide fans instant access to the driver’s view of the race track during races, augmented by audio and a continually updated leaderboard. “And NASCAR will use our flagship machine learning service Amazon SageMaker to train deep learning models to enhance metadata and video analytics.”
Using AWS artificial intelligence and machine learning, NASCAR aims to deliver even more fan experiences that they'd never have anticipated. “Just imagine a race between Dale Earnhardt Sr and Dale Jr at Talladega! There's a bright future, and we're looking forward to working with NASCAR, helping them tap into AWS technology to continue to digitally transform, innovate and create even more fan experiences.”
Just as AWS is helping NASCAR bridge that historical gap between the legacy architecture and new technology, more customers are using AWS for machine learning than any other provider. As an example, who would have thought five years ago that NFL would be using ML to predict and prevent injury to its players? Since 2017, the league has utilized AWS as its official cloud and ML provider for the NFL Next Gen Stats (NGS) platform, which provides real-time location data, speed, and acceleration for every player during every play on every inch of the field. “One of the most potentially revolutionary components of the NFL-AWS partnership,” says Matt Hurst, “is the development of the 'Digital Athlete,' a computer simulation model that can be used to replicate infinite scenarios within the game environment—including variations by position and environmental factors, emphasizing the league's commitment to player safety.”