Employee Engagement: A New Technology Category Emerges

The Quest for a New Category

We get it. The last thing you want to hear about in HR technology is employee engagement. It’s been the topic of conversation at thousands of conference sessions. Gallup has conducted broad employee engagement surveys since the turn of the century. Thousands of SaaS HR software solutions across many different categories have been launched like ships into the night, all promising to unlock the myriad business benefits that a fully engaged workforce offers.

30% - employee engagement over the past decade

Yet, the number of engaged employees hasn’t changed much. For the last decade, it’s hovered right around 30 percent. After the first 15 years of SaaS HR technology solutions, everything that’s ever been thrown at employee engagement has failed to make a dent. As a result, it’s not surprising that there’s widespread cynicism about employee engagement.

All of that said, The Starr Conspiracy Intelligence Unit has observed a shift in the market since 2012. We’ve talked with thousands of companies during that time. We’ve seen new solutions emerge that are doing more than automating processes that have existed for decades; they’ve fundamentally reimagined the approach behind the technology. Today, many of these solutions are making an impact that can be seen in engagement scores. These solutions are coming from many different categories and comprise entire employee engagement platforms.

As a result, we believe it’s time to group these solutions into their own employee engagement category.

What defines an employee engagement solution or platform? We believe that by design these solutions should meet two conditions: (1) have an employee-centric orientation, and (2) provide the ability to achieve strategic business outcomes.

Here are a few examples of employee engagement platforms we’re seeing emerge. Some of these companies have publicly stated they’re moving toward this goal. Some are simply acquisitions that could lead in that direction. We believe all meet our definition:

For now, most vendors with a toe in the engagement waters are sticking to their areas of expertise (be that recognition, wellness, or engagement measurement). But we don’t believe it will stay that way for long. In our minds, the Employee Engagement Platform is inevitable. There’s a first-mover’s advantage in any new category, and companies that recognize this change are executing a strategy to be first, right, or — hopefully — both.

As this category unfolds, we see it primarily emerging from three different areas:

  • Recognition
  • Wellness and well-being
  • Engagement measurement

The leaders in these areas will have a distinct advantage in the engagement play; their products already speak to the issue of employee engagement — at least a specific part of it.

If you’re a longtime follower of this space like we are, get ready. This is all going to happen faster than any of us could imagine.