Navigating the employee experience era: essential insights for leaders

The energy around employee experience is reaching a fever pitch, and as businesses search for the right solutions to align, engage, and enable their people, the intranet market is poised to respond. With major analysts weighing in on the growth of the category and Unily being recognized as the only leader across all three of the latest reports, we sat down with Unily CEO Chris Ciauri to get his take on what this means for the employee experience era and what business leaders need to know to seize the opportunity.

Transcript: 

Kaz: We've reached a milestone not just as a company, but as an industry. All three analyst reports on intranets have listed Unily as a leader. That's Forrester, Gartner and IDC all calling out our credentials. And I'm joined by unity CEO Chris Ciauri to get his take.  

How did you feel when you first heard the news that Unily has been listed as a triple leader?  

Chris: Yeah, I think excited was the initial reaction. But it's also there was a bit of a build-up because you get the reports one by one. You know, first Forrester, then Gartner, and then IDC. I think when you really feel the impact of that across the three, and you think about the honor that our customers are bestowing on us by giving the feedback that they do in those processes, I just feel incredible. And I'm probably first thankful to our customers and, second, super proud of all our employees who put us in that position.  

Kaz: It's very cool because, as you say, all three came in, different periods of time. What do you think this says about the energy in the employee experience space at the moment?  

Chris: Yeah. Look, I think it's been building, and I think certainly coming out of the pandemic, you know, if I'm a large company or a company in general, how do I optimize for an employee experience that's been disrupted? And I think what you're seeing now with all of these analysts coming out with their own versions of quadrants and leadership, and waves is they're basically saying this is important. Executives and C-suite boards are talking about the importance of employees and how they increase engagement and alignment, and knowledge sharing, and social. And so I think it's a validation. I always say this: if the last decade was about spend and focus on customers, the next one is going to be about employees. And I think this really validates that.  

Kaz: I totally agree and I really like the comparison you've made that is looking ahead to the employee experience era. So we're coming up on a year at your time at Unily. How does it feel to immerse yourself in the internet space?  

Chris: Yeah, it's funny. First of all, I think our space has gone through an identity journey. I could say identity crisis. You know, we talk about Unily as being an intelligent employee experience platform, but our roots are in intranets. And obviously, part of our industry and people's work experience has negative connotations with the internet. They used to be these static places where you went to look for knowledge, but the links were broken, the information was outdated. And I think we've been part of that evolution as, as you really think about it more holistically as how do we improve a company's ability to align, engage, enable drive knowledge and even simplify the lives of their workers, obviously, to drive higher overall engagement, better experience, but ultimately to create happier, more productive employees?  

Kaz: Yes. And as you call it, an evolution there, it's kind of moving away from the idea of static information and content to this bigger picture. Tech built around the best optimum in experience. And I really love that you're getting to experience this growth.  

Chris: It's been a lot of fun.  

Kaz: It's so much fun! 

Chris: Yeah, it's not hard to get excited about, employees. And having an impact on making employees more successful when we know as businesses, our two most important constituents are our customers and our employees, not necessarily in that order, because great, satisfied, engaged employees, can drive better customer experience as well.  

Kaz: They’re constituents of the same equation. There's lots of positivity in the employee experience arena at the moment and we feel it. But one of the things that's coming out is there seems to be a bit of a winter freeze of budgets toward employee experience. What would you say to leaders that want to maybe overcome that went to freeze and unlock some budget?  

Chris: I don't I don't necessarily think there's a winter freeze on budgets for employee experience. I think in times of economic uncertainty, companies are going to be thoughtful about any investment. I think where companies like Unily and our space, in general, are incredibly well positioned. There is just an overwhelming, amount of statistics and proof points; the 8.8 trillion problem of employee engagement, almost 10% of global economy lost last year to lack of employee engagement. You're going to address that. And I think your boards and your C-level, they're looking at it probably through a few, lenses. So they're thinking about, you know, what is our culture around people, you know, what's our people's strategy? What do we do? And in terms of the physical slash hybrid workplace, they're trying to figure out what are the technology bets they could make that would be the most impactful at driving better experience? So I think while people are going to be thoughtful, I don't think this is an area where we are going to see investment slow down and we haven't seen that.  

Kaz: Yeah, I agree, and I like the way that you've put it in the bigger context as well, which is that it's not about just employee experience investment, it's understanding the bigger picture of business and how we unlock gains.  

Chris: Yeah, I mean, I'll throw another light stat out that I always find this one fascinating. So, you know, 10% of employee time is spent toggling between applications. And that's actually gotten worse, as we came through the pandemic, because companies were trying to figure out in this new world, how do we create a better digital experience for employees? On average, they went from 120 applications to about 190. So, what that means for the employee experience is I'm spending time jumping between all these different things, and a solution like ours can bring simplicity. So that instead of employees having to go find out all that information, all those different systems, what if we can bring that information into one, digital front end, their digital HQ and just make their life easier? If their life becomes easier and they stop losing 10% of their time, you're going to see better productivity. You're going to see better engagement.  

Kaz: But that's a crazy statistic there, isn't it? And it goes to show the kind of the complex tech world that exists in businesses and the way we can kind of strip that back to provide it in a simple experience for employees. What else do you see as the other big opportunities to unlock employee experience?  

Chris: We think about improving the employee experience kind of in four dimensions. You know, you want to figure out how to better align your employees, and six in ten employees today say that they're not aligned with their company's mission. You want to better engage your employees. There’s lots of stats, like I already mentioned that, you know, 10% of global GDP lost to engagement. If I can better engage employees in a conversation, sharing and collaborating better amongst themselves, if I can give them the information and tools and knowledge they need to do their job better, I'm going to move the needle for the employee. And then I mentioned simplicity; more of the key information that they consume in one place, is just going to make their, their life and their work life more productive.  

Kaz: The stat you shared about six and ten employees not feeling aligned with their company's mission, it's crazy in an era of purpose-driven work. So thanks for sharing that with me. I want to look to the future now. Where do you see the future for Unily in the space?  

Chris: I think all these conversations are really interesting and talking about, you know, in uncertain times, what bets do you need to make as a business? And I think you're going to see people center back to the two most important constituents. Where they haven't made the right spend to optimize their strategy around customer, they're going to keep doing that. But we know that not enough spend has gone into optimizing for employees. I know that's going to be a big trend in the next decade. I think increasingly the companies that make these bets, make these investments, get the strategy and culture right, figure out how to optimize for hybrid work and and create digital platforms that drive alignment, engagement, knowledge enablement, and simplicity - they're going to be the winners.  

Typically what you see in in big moves in the software industry, sort of transformational stages, is you see the people that make the right investments start to differentiate, they start to win, that starts to go to the bottom line. And then the rest of the industry follows. And I think we're very much in one of those cycles with employee experience. And it's a pretty exciting place in the middle of that.  

Kaz: Yeah, you've got a really good blueprint lined out there for companies to make investments. And what's really great to bring this round to the triple leader status is that it's the likes of Gartner, Forrester, and IDC that are identifying the ROI for businesses to help unlock that.  

Chris: I mean, very simplistically, going back to your first question, what was your first reaction? When you unpick this, what does this mean for space and what's it mean for you? I think these three analysts, Forrester, Gartner and IDC, that really validates, a category. And it's telling companies in the industry, you need to pay attention to this because this investment can deliver significant business value for you. So that's sort of, why this now? And then being named the only triple leader is basically saying, you need to do something in this sooner, and you certainly need to look at a company that's considered by the industry, and their customers, as the only triple leader in the industry. That sounds biased, but it's all true! It's really exciting to be positioned that way.  

Kaz: It's clear there's a lot of interesting research that’s gone into defining the value businesses getting out of these investments. Thank you so much for bringing that to my attention. So, for employ experienced leaders who want to dive deeper into the research and see what the likes of Gartner and IDC are talking about in the employee experience space, then you can download the full bundle of reports on Unily.com, or just click through on the video, and you can download all three reports to get into the detail. Thanks for watching.  

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