Firstup Pioneers The Market For Intelligent Employee Communications
How do you communicate with your employees? I bet it’s harder than you think. There are company meetings, conference calls, emails, and lots of portals. But despite all that effort, only 28% of employees feel connected to the company’s mission and 59% are “quietly quitting.” Kind of astounding.
Why do we continue to see this problem? It’s a combination of issues (our Employee Experience research details the drivers), but one of the most important is “the ability to reach, engage, and listen to employees.” And that means developing a deep understanding of each employee along their journey, regardless of job, location, level, and role.
Well one of the fast companies in HR Tech is Firstup, a pioneer in intelligent communications (now reaching $100M in recurring revenue). And what they do is important, so I wanted to explain what it’s all about.
As most HR leaders know, it’s important to keep in touch with employees. There are new strategies, new products, new processes, and changes in the organization. Typically the “head of employee communications” runs company meetings, develops newsletters, and manages a wide range of communications to keep people up to date and engaged.
But as companies grow and expand, this job becomes harder and the comms team grows. New hires need information on basic processes, systems, and company operations. Seasoned employees want to know how to advance their career, grow, or find new projects and opportunities. And every worker needs to understand benefits, leave and pay policies, hybrid work rules, and all sorts of systems, processes, and procedures.
As Firstup (and other vendors) discovered, there is a massive market for platforms to streamline and automate this process. So the company built a platform to develop campaigns, create multi-step journeys, prioritize messages to different groups, and personalize information for each individual. And also, of course, the system communicates with people on MS Teams, Slack, email, and mobile devices.
Think about the process of rolling out your benefits every year, creating an onboarding process, or keeping different business units or job functions up to speed on who gets promoted, moves, or takes a new job. There are many steps to take, pieces of information to distribute, and interactions to capture. And none of the traditional employee experience platforms were designed for this kind of interactivity. EX platforms are excellent places to create company portals and integrate multiple applications, but they weren’t designed for complex, hyper-personalized communications and feedback.
Well, Firstup, the merger of two companies Dynamic Signal and SocialChorus, figured this out. They’ve built a comprehensive communication system designed for the complex problem of ongoing employee communications. It takes the best practices of tools like Marketo and Hubspot, which lead the market for customer communications, and goes much further.
When we send something to employees, not only do we want to know whether or not they read it, we may want to branch and change the next message based on what they said. So if we send a message to an employee about a program and they decide they do want to use it, we want to send them another stream of communications about what that program is and how to embrace it. If they say no, we want to know why they said no and possibly poll them about why they chose their choice.
And think about the problem of information overload. The system lets HR send messages by priority, making some “urgent” and others “low priority” that won’t interrupt or flood people with noise. And the system uses AI to determine when and how to send a message to achieve the highest level of engagement.
And remember that these communications go both ways. Sometimes we want to ask employees questions, take a poll, or crowdsource ideas and get a conversation going. All these use-cases are handled in the Firstup platform. And since the system integrates with the HRMS, it can trigger or customize messages based on an employee’s level, location, job history, or recent job-related events.
As the Employee Experience market continues to grow (Microsoft, ServiceNow, Workvivo, Simpplr, Applaud, and others), employee communications has emerged as important segment. We now see three distinct segments to this space:
- Intelligent Employee Communications platforms like Firstup (Staffbase and others), create and orchestrate personalized communications and provide insights when low engagement takes place.
- Employee Listening platforms like Medallia, Perceptyx, Glint, Peakon, Gallup, and Qualtrics, create surveys and passive listening, followed by analytics and recommended action.
- Employee Experience platforms (EXP) like ServiceNow, Microsoft Viva, Applaud, Simpplr, and Workvivo, bring together disparate apps to give employees a single portal, case management, and knowledge management interface.
While all the vendors overlap a bit, today these segments are distinct. And Firstup, a leader in the comms segment, offers essential communication capabilities as a complement to solutions in core HR platforms and EXPs.
Firstup’s success demonstrates the demand. The company now serves 40% of the Fortune 100. We talked with their clients (Big Lots, Ford, Sysco, and others) and the value of this platform is high. While the EXP platform makes it easy to find tools, information, and applications, the communications platform reaches out to people, monitors their consumption of information, and gives the company deep insights into who’s interested in what.
And this kind of platform does more. Since Firstup’s system tracks the level of engagement each employee has with various communications, the system can sense who is paying attention and who is not. Firstup just completed a longitudinal study which shows that people who leave the company have lower engagement with employee communications as early as six months before they quit. This means the Comms platform can sense who’s “quietly quitting” and help managers turn their attention toward people who need more help.
And that gets me to my final point: opening up the channel for employees to speak up. If you want your employees to help you make the company better, you have to keep them up to speed and listen to their feedback. When you have a tight communications process this feedback loop becomes healthy and vital.
With all the changes going on in every company, we can’t expect the HR business partner or local managers to keep everyone aligned, motivated, and informed. This new world of intelligent communications has arrived at an important time, so I encourage you to give it a look.