Connecting A Distributed Workforce With Employee Experience Platforms

By Melody Brue, Patrick Moorhead - September 14, 2023

Employee experience platforms (EXPs) are essential in modern workplaces, helping organizations prioritize and enhance their workforces’ well-being and boost engagement. These platforms offer a comprehensive suite of tools and strategies to create a positive, fulfilling and productive work environment.

This is so important because the relationship between employees and employers is evolving rapidly, and the line between life and work is increasingly blurring. EXPs go beyond traditional HR systems to optimize employee interactions, offer learning and development opportunities and help with work-life balance. By placing employees at the center of their design, EXPs aim to foster a thriving work culture that contributes to increased engagement and productivity, talent retention and overall business success. In this analysis, I’ll examine why EXPs have become a primary focus for business leaders in HR and beyond.

The digital HR hero

Any EXP should allow employees digital access to HR-related items and tasks, such as time off requests, benefits and payroll information. EXPs also play a crucial role in employee onboarding, helping employees collect essential data, finalize paperwork and become acquainted with the organization’s culture, policies and procedures. At the other end of the employment lifecycle, these platforms facilitate offboarding transitions by systematically handling tasks such as transferring responsibilities, retrieving company assets and conducting exit interviews. An EXP can also help simplify compliance by automating HR processes to adhere to regulations and labor laws.

Comprehensive EXPs go beyond traditional HR tasks, using integrations to create a fully customizable tech stack that delivers what Applaud calls “consumer-grade employee experiences”. Applaud emphasizes its approach of building on what you already have instead of the dreaded rip-and-replace, which should make a transition to its platform pretty simple. The platform has pre-built templates for things like milestones and transitions and integrates with more than 1,000 apps in the Applaud Marketplace. This means Applaud users can easily integrate with Microsoft Teams, Salesforce, SAP SuccessFactors and many others. In short, the platform unites existing data and knowledge sources to bring users’ services and tasks into one place.

The EXP connection factor

Remote or even hybrid work can leave employees feeling disconnected and disengaged. A recent study showed that engagement impacts employees’ stress levels 3.8 times more than work location or commute. How individuals perceive their job is significantly more tied to their interactions with their team and manager than whether they work remotely, hybrid or on site. Enhanced engagement is one of the key goals and advantages of EXP platforms—to create an environment where employees feel a sense of belonging and connection to the organization’s mission. Virtual collaboration spaces, real-time feedback mechanisms and peer recognition tools all play a role in encouraging employees to contribute and participate actively.

All EXPs have an HR element, but some are also geared towards connecting people on a social level. In recent years, as distributed teams have become more the norm than the exception, companies look to platforms like Microsoft Viva Engage to connect employees via communities and employee resource groups where people feel a sense of belonging and connection. Platforms like Microsft Viva are also a great way to communicate with large groups of people, including some subsets such as frontline workers who don’t even have a company email address.

Forbes Daily: Get our best stories, exclusive reporting and essential analysis of the day’s news in your inbox every weekday.

Embracing the podcast trend for employee experience

Podcasts have gained immense popularity due to their unique ability to create a sense of camaraderie and connection between listeners and hosts. The relaxed nature of podcast conversations allows for engaging discussions rather than formal lectures, fostering a more personal connection. Workvivo, a leading employee app recently acquired by Zoom, aims to “improve the working experience of every employee on the planet”; it recently introduced in-app podcasts as another communication channel for employers and employees. The podcasts are used for fireside chats, lessons from leadership, onboarding, recognition and more to connect employees to company culture and knowledge.

The podcast format provides a different approach to communication that I feel stands out amidst the daily content overload within corporations. Unlike real-time video meetings and messages, podcasts also offer flexibility so workers can listen at the best time for them, maybe when they’re commuting, working out or cooking dinner.

Employee well-being is well worth investing in

A company’s success can be tied directly to the health and well-being of its employees. A recent study showed that employees who self-categorize their mental health as “fair” or “poor” have around 12 unplanned missed days of work per year, compared to 2.5 days for other workers. The cumulative economic cost of those absences due to lost productivity is approximately $47.6 billion annually across the U.S. workforce alone.

EXPs can provide various resources to enhance mental health, manage stress and foster work-life balance. These resources often encompass wellness programs, meditation apps such as Headspace, health-tracking tools, access to employee assistance programs such as Ulliance and financial wellness resources.

Financial stress also significantly impacts well-being, and 52% of Americans report that money negatively impacts their mental health. A recent Ceridian study of employed North Americans revealed that 61% experience financial stress and 82% report thinking about personal finances during work. Nearly a quarter of those thinking about personal finances spend over an hour daily on these concerns, reducing productivity.

Ceridian’s Dayforce solution, which handles HR, payroll and talent management, enables organizations to offer financial flexibility options to their employees to help ease stress and bolster well-being and productivity. For example, the company’s Dayforce Wallet solution offers on-demand earned wage access (EWA) pay that lets employees access their earned wages before the scheduled payday. EWA can help reduce the need to tap into savings, prevent excessive credit card use and prevent resorting to high-interest payday loans or incurring high check-cashing or overdraft fees.

Employers see improved retention and productivity advantages when employees can manage their finances without the stress of stretching their paychecks. Companies are wise to provide access to more robust budgeting tools, financial adviser networks, retirement planning, credit building, investments and more through EXP integrations.

Insights into workforce trends

The right EXP can also function as a robust data repository, capturing pertinent metrics, including employee engagement, productivity, learning and development advancements and more. Each interaction, pulse survey, feedback submission, training session or similar engagement on the platform can be quantified and benchmarked.

The platform data gives companies an insightful view of the workforce. For instance, HR teams can discern patterns and trends in engagement metrics, pinpoint areas of productivity variance or discover skill deficiencies that require attention. Understanding the employee experience helps HR and management teams develop data-driven workforce strategies and influence strategic decision-making.

My analyst take

The growing emphasis on cultivating a positive work environment has become a strategic imperative for businesses. A healthy workplace, where employees feel valued, supported and empowered, leads to higher job satisfaction and motivation. This shift in focus from merely fulfilling job roles to prioritizing employee well-being contributes directly to an organization’s ability to attract top talent, enhance productivity and build a foundation for growth.

Microsoft’s Work Trend Index indicates that businesses prioritizing employee engagement during periods of economic uncertainty achieve significantly stronger financial performance than those that do not. According to the report, the most engaged companies outperformed the S&P 500 index during 2022: For every additional point of engagement reported by employees, there was an associated increase of $46,511 in market capitalization per employee. This significant increase emphasizes the need for leaders to view employee engagement as a strategic initiative, complete with business and financial objectives and outcomes.

Companies must continue to prioritize employee experience through dedicated platforms. Flexible work arrangements that have become more prevalent over the last few years have provided many employees with a better work-life balance, which is great. Still, companies must also find ways to keep employees connected and engaged, and EXPs offer a wide variety of ways to do that. As the introduction of AI into nearly everything is about to take us through another “unprecedented” change in how we work, it is as important as ever—or maybe more than ever—to keep employees connected and informed.

Melody Brue

Mel Brue is vice president and principal analyst covering modern work and financial services. Mel has more than 25 years of real tech industry experience in marketing, business development, and communications across various disciplines, both in-house and at agencies, with companies ranging from start-ups to global brands. She has built a unique specialty working in technology and highly regulated spaces, such as mobile payments and finance, gaming, automotive, wine and spirits, and mobile content, ensuring initiatives address the needs of customers, employees, lobbyists and legislators, as well as shareholders. 

Patrick Moorhead

Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.