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What is an employee experience platform, and why do you need one?

What is an employee experience platform, and why do you need one?

The words "employee experience platform" on pink and blue background

Focusing on employee experience (EX) is a megatrend in today’s workplaces, with “The Great Resignation” and shift toward hybrid playing into this as well. 

This public conversation makes sense. For many, it’s a hard time to be an employee. People are working more, taking on more stress, and feeling less productive than ever before. But don’t take our word for it:

  • 27% of workers say they waste an entire day a week on irrelevant emails and messages
  • Over 40% of professionals work 50+ hours per week
  • US employees are taking 15% less vacation time than they did 20 years ago

Meanwhile, traditional HR software architectures are lagging behind – and that’s where the employee experience platform came from.

What is an employee experience platform?

An employee experience platform – abbreviated as EX platform, sometimes called people experience platform – is a type of software used to monitor and manage how employees are perceiving interactions with the organization. 

EX platforms are used by People teams and other departments to improve various touch points along the employee journey – from onboarding to parental leave requests to promotions and exits. 

We all know that most companies use a vast array of tools and platforms. Research by Sierra Cedar estimates the average company has 11 HR systems of record. Eleven!

This means there are tons of places employees might interact with their employer. EX platforms often aim to serve as a centralized hub for all the channels used.

“Employees just do not have the time, interest, or attention span to log into an HR system, poke around looking for the right page, and then enter their vacation schedule,” says Josh Bersin, a leading HR tech analyst, in his HR Technology 2021 report. “At most, they would be willing to chat with the system – but ideally, this would be an easy-to-use app that just fits right into existing tools at work.”

According to Josh, the employee experience layer includes tools for communications, case management, surveys, and knowledge management and for building new workflows, chatbots, and portals. “It is clearly the hottest part of the market,” he says.

Source: Josh Bersin

These EX tools are, in many ways, helping to replace the employee portals that many companies have built over time – systems that are expensive and complex to use. Vendors in the EX space “are trying to develop single interfaces for employees – all to make people more productive, healthy, and connected to their peers.”

What are the benefits of an employee experience platform?

In the age of “The Great Resignation”, with record-breaking numbers of employees quitting their jobs, companies must prioritize the employee experience if they are to succeed at retention.

EX platforms can help with this in a variety of ways:

  • Higher employee productivity – Employees spend less time learning to navigate different software, switching between systems, digging for information, etc.
  • Employee adoption of existing processes and resources – EX platforms are embedded into the flow of work (i.e., always one click away, in the tools they use anyway), making it easier to form habits. This also makes it less likely that employees deviate from standard procedures and use loopholes, decreasing admin effort and compliance risk.
  • Flexible software infrastructure – Underlying systems and processes can be replaced without retraining employees or disrupting their experience.

Employee portal vs. employee experience platform

An EX platform may not sound all that different from the stereotypical “employee portal” used by many organizations for decades. But there are key differences between the two:

Employee portal
  • Requires employees to remember another login

  • Complex user experience – most employees portals are hard to navigate and overloaded with information, making it hard for employees to find the information they need

  • Setup and maintenance requires a lot of effort from HR & IT

  • One-way system – employees perform an action when they decide to

  • EX platform
  • Embedded into systems of productivity, no separate login needed

  • Familiar, streamlined experience

  • Easy interaction via simple actions and chatbots

  • Less effort for all teams

  • Two-way system – employees can perform an action, and HR/internal communications team proactively reach out via the same platform
  • HRIS vs. employee experience platform

    What about the difference between a Human Resource Information System (HRIS) and an EX platform?

    HRIS
  • Primarily a system of record; in some cases, also a system of engagement with self-service options (e.g. request PTO) and features for tasks like documenting performance reviews

  • Stores employment-related data

  • Replacing an HRIS is usually a large implementation project that requires change management, employee training, and significant work on the IT end. As a result, companies are often stuck for years with an HRIS that no longer meets their demands

  • Needs to cater to both HR admins and employees – it’s hard to satisfy very different use cases and expectations of these two users groups

  • EX platform
  • Embedded into systems of productivity (i.e., tools employees use every day to collaborate, communicate, and get work done) – this means easy access to HRIS functionality and other internal systems, all in one place

  • Makes employment-related data easier to access and uses it to personalize the experience

  • With an EX platform, HRIS, IT ticketing, or other systems that are running in the background can be replaced and employees will barely notice it. This eliminates most of the change management and retraining that would otherwise be necessary

  • HR perspective and employee perspective are separate, allowing for an optimized experience for both user groups
  • Choosing the right employee experience platform

    So, your organization has decided an EX platform is the right move. Choosing the right platform for your specific needs will come down to answering a few questions.

    First, is it appealing to users? When thinking this one through, consider both the admin perspective (e.g. people operations manager) and the employee perspective (for any role, from managers to regular employees).

    Second, does it integrate with your key systems? The most important integration here would be your workplace chat, directly followed by your HRIS. If it also integrates with your internal knowledge base (e.g.,Confluence, Notion, etc.), that’s a big plus.

    This isn’t about just ticking a box. Ask what your organization will gain from the integration and whether it’s a must-have, a nice-to-have, or not something you really need. 

    Finally, does the vendor have other customers similar to your company? Take a look at the industry and company size of their other customers to see if any match up with your organization. If you’re a scale-up, keep in mind that fast-growing companies have specific needs that the right vendor needs to address.

    As you research which vendor is the right fit for your company, consider Back. Back is the ideal employee experience platform for companies who are:

    • Looking to provide a one-stop shop for work-related matters that fits directly into the employees’ flow of work
    • Using Slack, Microsoft Teams or Google Chat as their main communication channel
    • Using a cloud-based HRIS such as Workday, BambooHR, HiBob, or Personio
    • In the technology sector and/or growing fast

    Back customers include Statista, Pleo, Netlify and many more fast-growing companies. To find out if Back is the right fit for you, book a personalized live demo.

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