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What is employee engagement software?

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Simpplr Marketing

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Published

January 29, 2019

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Employee engagement is all the rage. If you look at Google search terms, we see that people are searching for employee engagement about eight times as frequently as they search for intranets. So it’s understandable why so many marketing professionals are quick to jump on the employee engagement bandwagon.

If you search for “employee engagement” in G2Crowd, you’ll see an irrelevant blend of various companies fighting for a top position in a category that really doesn’t exist. For example, Survey Monkey (a survey tool) sits on top Jive (an enterprise social network app) amidst a slew of other providers, many of which based on their websites, aren’t clear on what they actually do.

To make sense of this clutter, we decided to research the various sectors claiming to be in the employee engagement software business. Here is what we found:

Generally, these employee engagement software vendors can be broken down into these buckets:

Engagement Surveys

Survey vendors are in the employee engagement business to help companies periodically poll the organization and gauge employee satisfaction. Many of these vendors specialize solely in engagement surveys, while others use their core survey technology that was built for other use cases (e.g., customer experience). The downside of these technologies is that they diagnose, but don’t fix the challenges.

Incentive Management

Various employee engagement software vendors come to market with technology to help dole out incentives. Points, gift cards, attaboys, or and even hard cash. They argue that dangling carrots in front of employees are the key to employee engagement. There’s been a big debate over the past decade over whether these types of incentives are beneficial or detrimental, especially for desk employees. Regardless, most see money and spiffs are only part of the equation, and most of these vendors come with their own point of view on how to spur engagement.

Talent Management/HRIS

Believe it or not, even the HR system giants claim to help improve employee engagement, especially the “talent management” arm as it relates to goal management and performance reviews. As these employee engagement software vendors continuously acquire new technology, they may seem more interesting. But at their core, they remain HR’s system of record. They fulfill the monotonous need to account for all HR-related activities and employees’ need to access the system when necessary.

Employee Newsletter Software

Other vendors market themselves as “internal communications” software because their primary user persona is the internal communications group. Most of these software applications provide newsletter-building capabilities and analytics to track usage and adoption. You can think of it as a marketing automation tool (e.g., Marketo) for internal communications.

Social Collaboration Platforms

When Facebook and LinkedIn penetrated our personal lives, businesses rushed in and insisted that the workplace needed to be social. But the real problem was that the technology was in search of a problem to solve. Employee engagement eventually arose as the answer. Social collaboration platforms have struggled to prove engagement ROI ever since.

Modern Intranet Software

Most modern intranet software has taken the most valuable components of social collaboration platforms and made them purpose-built. Whereas the other technologies are seen as a system of record, modern intranet software is truly a system of engagement. When done right, modern intranets are living environments where employees come together to connect with their coworkers and align on strategy and culture norms. Many intranets are not executed correctly and they carry the stigma of old SharePoint portals. Thus, it’s hard to convince old timers that this is the solution to their employee engagement problem.

Maybe someday these industries will consolidate to become a real employee engagement software industry. Until then, don’t focus on the software that promises to give you employee engagement. Rather, focus on the outcomes that truly drive employee engagement. These factors have been well documented (in this blog and elsewhere).

In a recent research study on what drives employee engagement as substantiated by Glassdoor ratings, Simpplr Research found that the key drivers of employee engagement rely on:
1. How well companies identify with the purpose of the organization
2. How aligned (and in the know) employees are with a company’s strategy and
3. The sense of community that employees feel at work.

If you want to improve employee engagement, employee experience, your company’s culture, or whatever you call it . . . start here.

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