Introducing Workday Peakon Employee Voice: Why Businesses Thrive When Employees Are Heard

We spoke to David Somers, Workday’s group general manager of product for the office of the CHRO, and Phil Chambers, general manager for Peakon, to hear about Peakon’s new name, our vision for it, and why listening to your employees has become so critical.

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It's no secret that employees are an organization's most valuable asset. So it follows that during a period when change truly has been the only constant, providing employees with a positive employee experience—and being able to flex to support shifting needs—has been critical. Technology plays an important role in supporting this, helping organizations understand their employees' concerns and feedback, more deeply analyze their sentiment, and take meaningful action in response.

In March, Workday completed its acquisition of Peakon, an intelligent listening platform that converts feedback into actionable insights. Today, we’re checking in with David Somers, Workday’s group general manager of product for the office of the CHRO, and Phil Chambers, Peakon co-founder and now Workday’s general manager for Peakon, to hear about Peakon’s new name and our vision for it, and to learn more about why employee listening is so critical for organizations.

To set the stage for our readers, let’s start with an overview of the product and what’s happened since the acquisition closed in March.

Somers: To start with, we have a new name: Workday Peakon Employee Voice, which reflects both brands and immediately tells people what the product does. 

Chambers: Workday Peakon Employee Voice is a platform that enables intelligent listening at scale by using machine learning to collect and analyze confidential feedback from employees in real time. Put simply, it lets organizations continuously collect employee feedback and provides a way to turn that feedback into dialog and action. 

The employee voice was always important, and it’s well known that engaged employees are not only happier but also more productive. The pandemic accelerated the need to make employees a first-class stakeholder in their own engagement, which is exactly what Workday Peakon Employee Voice does. It turns insights about topics such as engagement, diversity and inclusion, and health and wellness into action through conversations, personal dashboards, team collaboration, and contextual learning resources. 

Somers: In this time of massive digital transformation, intelligent listening enables you to get a continuous view of what's going on with your employees, and that's a superpower for an organization. It helps you get ahead of challenges by identifying them early so you can reduce the risk they may create. It can also help you reduce attrition risks and attract new talent during this time of “Great Resignation.” You can truly listen to your employees, hear what they're saying, benchmark that information, and respond in real time. It's more important than ever. 

Chambers: On the growth side of the equation, we’ve seen a dramatic acceleration of Peakon’s business. It's an impressive increase given that we’re a new business that’s getting bigger and growing faster, and reinforces how important the voice of the employee is to organizations. We're also grateful for the positive response from our existing customers—it's always fantastic to be able to deliver even more value to our customers.

How are the vision and core values at Workday and Peakon aligned?

Somers: Cultural alignment is critical, and when we mapped Peakon’s values against Workday's, there was very close alignment. When we look at any acquisition, the company can have the best technology in the world, but if the cultural synergy isn't there, we just wouldn't do it.

“With Workday Peakon Employee Voice, you can listen to your employees, hear what they're saying, benchmark that information, and respond in real time.”

David Somers Group General Manager, Product Office of the CHRO

Chambers: To add to that, in terms of culture and values, we agreed on what was important: concepts such as building a brighter work day for all, making work work for people, and empowering employees to drive change. We also share a common vision that turning insights into action is critical for the success of organizations and employees alike.

Why is adding the ability to listen to employees a benefit to our customers?

Somers: According to a recent survey from KPMG, "Organizations that invest in employee experience outperform peers by 147% in earnings per share." 

If you’re the CEO of any company right now, your biggest opportunity to execute on your strategy is people: retaining and training the people you have, helping them understand where your organization is going, recruiting new people to your company, and also encouraging and promoting belonging and diversity. 

Companies build a lot of applications that allow you to push things down, but very few allow you to get information flowing back, providing a real-time feedback loop. I don't know how you run an organization without having a product like this today—without this constant feedback.

And if you’re a manager, your team executes based on what you’re doing and your guidance. Now we can give managers a tool set that allows them to listen to their team, take that feedback, and get better at their job. Who wouldn’t want to put something like that in place? Who wouldn’t want that capability? Workday had a capability to survey employees, but it needed to be more sophisticated. So we decided to go out and get the best, and Peakon was it.

Chambers: Our platform allows customers to accurately and contextually merge both demographic information and what we call “perceptual data,” such as level of employee engagement, sentiment, and productivity. It provides a complete picture of your employees that nothing else can. 

“The pandemic accelerated the need to make employees a first-class stakeholder in their own engagement.”

Phil Chambers General Manager Workday Peakon Employee Voice

Soon we’ll provide a seamless experience for users and admins, alongside the rest of Workday Human Capital Management (HCM), with single sign-on, one security model, and one place to manage employees. We’ll also provide the ability to drive action in Workday based on these employee voice insights and then measure the impact of those actions. It’s a more powerful analysis this way.

I understand that employee insights have already been helpful to people leaders at Workday. Do you have any examples to share?

Somers: Our preliminary data is exciting. We rolled out Workday Peakon Employee Voice to our more than 13,400 employees in about eight weeks, and engagement levels are high, as are the outcomes associated with engagement, such as loyalty, job satisfaction, and product advocacy. Here are some initial findings:

  • Employees’ weekly participation rates are trending at approximately 80%, with 95% aggregate participation, meaning that 95% of Workmates have provided feedback at least once. Within my organization, participation rates are through the roof compared to what they were before. 

  • Workday employees have already left more than 81,000 comments, and 72% of people leaders have acknowledged employee comments within their dashboards, helping employees know they’ve been heard.

Chambers: In addition to these promising metrics, we instituted “thank you Fridays” starting in May. These are a few extra days off for the entire company to support mental health and work-life balance as we continue to navigate the pandemic’s effect on the way we work. Based on ongoing Workday Peakon Employee Voice feedback, we saw how valuable those days were—in fact, thank you Fridays were the most-commented topic in the platform, and we know that health and well-being concerns are the No. 1 predictor of turnover. 

This direct feedback helps us as leaders understand what our employees need and what’s working and what isn’t, and it helps them know we’re listening and making decisions with their well-being top of mind.

What can we share about the product roadmap for Workday Peakon Employee Voice?

Somers: We’ve already made big strides on the product front. We integrated the platform into Workday HCM and have introduced new custom reminders on the Workday HCM home screen; and we've also integrated Workday Learning content into the platform since that March announcement. 

Later this fall, we’ll launch a new look and feel for Workday Peakon Employee Voice. And we’ll integrate it into Microsoft Teams, so employees can respond to feedback requests without leaving the product. 

Chambers: Our customer base is going to get a seamless experience, with the look and feel of one integrated platform. When we complete the product integration and combine data from Workday Peakon Employee Voice and Workday HCM, these datasets will dramatically accelerate the time to action and the means by which we can deliver actions. 

For example, we'll have contextual learning resources, where the recommended resources will be automatically associated with the top drivers in Workday Peakon Employee Voice. So if a priority is to improve on rewards, then the recommended learning resources will surface Workday Learning courses tied to that topic. Workday Journeys will work similarly, basing next steps and recommendations on priorities identified in Peakon. That’s something no other provider is going to be able to deliver. 

Somers: We’ve put a tremendous amount of thought and effort into merging our technologies, and we have a strong vision about how we’re going to combine and enhance them. Workday has made a significant investment in the voice of the employee with this technology, and we won’t be slowing down. Just the opposite.

Chambers: I will add that to address the range of needs for our customers, Workday Peakon Employee Voice will remain available as a standalone product, too.

Any final thoughts? 

Chambers: Workday Peakon Employee Voice helps create a dialogue between employees and people leaders that’s dramatically different from what’s come before, and it’s really powerful in terms of surfacing what’s on people’s minds and turning that into actions. Ultimately this is a continuous feedback loop that can help your company as a whole become much more agile.

Somers: Workday Peakon Employee Voice allows you to have that context around comments and ratings, and I think the context is critical. And then you use technology like natural language processing, which allows you to take all of those 81,000 comments, roll them up, and slice and dice them quickly, so you can look at things you should be looking at. It becomes scalable.

Change has become the norm, and with that organizations must build resilience and adapt to constantly changing needs, especially as we think about future work models that work for everyone. To be and stay successful, organizations must be able to shift without friction. This is enabled by a workforce that feels engaged, safe, empowered—and heard. 

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