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The Real Opportunity for Employee Experience

November 11, 2021 Employee Experience
Lance Haun
By Lance Haun

What is employee experience? Is it a technology category? A set of outcomes? A feeling? Another word for engagement?

I’ve heard almost everything from HR leaders and software vendors as they’ve tried to figure out what this phrase actually means. The good news is that we are getting closer to a real, cogent definition. The bad news? Well, it may not be bad news at all. 

Workday Opens Up With Everywhere 

Last month, Workday announced the launch of Workday Everywhere. It’s what they call a “more immersive digital experience for employees.” What it really means is that some Workday processes will be surfaced in other apps in the flow of work, like in Microsoft Teams through Viva. 

If this seems familiar, that’s because it is. Workday announced this functionality in July. It might not have been named Everywhere but the functionality it describes is nearly identical.

Of course, Microsoft is not the only place Workday wants to be. As analyst Josh Bersin points out, they want to allow people to interface with Workday across a variety of apps like Slack, Salesforce, Zoom and ServiceNow. They want to be where people actually are working, or at least where people are doing work-related tasks like communicating.

Related Article: Meet the 2021 Employee Experience Leaders of the Year

Workday Catches Up to Oracle and SAP on the EX Journey 

As Bersin pointed out, Workday started out as a walled garden that has slowly opened up. The Everywhere product represents the biggest progress toward a realistic EX vision. It’s only impressive because they’ve had such a late start.

Oracle, for instance, launched Journeys in April. It was a low-code way to create a personalized structure for common and not-so-common HR-related tasks for employees. SAP has also done a variety of work in this area, including launching Work Zone and continuing their work with Qualtrics, to address employee experience challenges. 

The vision for all of that software is that major parts of the employee journey are happening on their platforms. Even Workday’s initial focus is on sharing single-step transactions and relevant insights on third-party platforms. For anything more complicated, they want to still bring people back to Workday — similar to Oracle and SAP. 

The problem is, and will continue to be, that no one outside of administrators wants to spend time inside these HR platforms. People don’t naturally find themselves in them as part of their work. Make the interface as great and personalized as you want, but if people don’t do work or get critical information there, the best you can hope for is occasionally pushing people to your platform.

Related Article: Do You Need a Head of Employee Experience?

Viva Is Closer to a Practical Employee Experience Solution for Now

Of course, this is why so many people were excited about Microsoft Viva. Unlike traditional ERP vendors, Microsoft has the advantage of owning the desktops and mobile devices for hundreds of millions of workers. When they think about the remote or hybrid work environment, a Microsoft app is likely one of the first they open. When it comes to deskless workers in a Microsoft environment, they are likely opening a mobile app to get relevant work information.

Microsoft Teams in particular has become a useful hub in the last two years. Instead of building out everything they needed, Microsoft built the apps they wanted to surface in Teams and built Viva Connections to allow any number of third-party solutions. That includes Workday Everywhere, too.

Comparison may be a thief of joy but for other vendors looking in, Microsoft is closer to the reality of one work "super app" that connects everything in a way that employees will actually use. Google Workspace isn’t anywhere close and requires many different apps to navigate effectively.  

Communication, especially in our world today, is critical. It makes chat, email and other communication apps particularly important and central to how we work. Once an organization has picked its approach to communication, it makes sense to build employee experience around it. That’s the built-in advantage for Microsoft. So where does that leave other ERP and HCM players like Workday, Oracle and SAP? 

There’s a choice to make. Do they double down to bring relevant insights and actions into another platform, essentially making whatever software customers are using behind the scenes less and less relevant? Or do they continue to try to spin their wheels and get people engaged on a daily basis with their own systems? 

Workday has plenty of challenges, but their approach is the right one. Ultimately, where these platforms will win is employee and administrator satisfaction. It’s clear that, at the least, Workday has figured out that employee satisfaction involves not going to their platform on a regular basis.

About the Author

Lance Haun lives life at the intersection of people, work and technology. He's currently a practice director of strategy and insights for The Starr Conspiracy and a contributor for Reworked and ERE.net.

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