Workday to Acquire Peakon: Why Employee Engagement Matters

David Somers, Workday’s general manager for talent optimization, interviews Peakon's Phil Chambers on the value of analytics in continuous listening, and driving meaningful employee experiences.

David Somers January 28, 2021
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The last year has changed the way we work. Whether it’s the global pandemic, social justice movement, or economic volatility, business leaders have had to take an inward look at their organization and step up to support employees in new ways. Never has there been such an important time to connect with and listen to our teams—to help them grow, have better experiences, and support them in moments that matter.

As I reflect on our core value of putting employees first, I know that keeping a pulse on employee sentiment helps give our workforce—and us as leaders—the real-time insight that allows us to improve and contribute to our collective success. 

With this in mind, I couldn't be happier to announce that we’ve entered into an agreement to acquire Peakon, an employee success platform that converts feedback into actionable insights. With Peakon, we’ll be able to leverage its innovative, intelligent listening technology with the power of Workday to create a continuous listening platform so that employees are heard and can get the insights they need to develop professionally. In addition, business leaders can engage and act on employee needs in a time when it matters most—across the entire employee lifecycle from recruitment to exit.

I recently connected with Phil Chambers, Peakon’s co-founder and CEO, to get his perspective on employee engagement and performance, why it matters, and how Peakon is helping create transparent dialogue. Here are some of the highlights from our chat:

Can you tell us about Peakon, including your founding principles and values and what you uniquely bring to the market?

Quite simply, we started Peakon to build the company we wanted to work for. That came down to working on a big, important problem—impactful employee engagement—and applying technology towards solving it. 

When we founded the company in Copenhagen six years ago, customer experience was being transformed using metrics and real-time data to show that by better supporting your customers and turning them into advocates, your business could grow. Could we do that within the workplace, creating better jobs and, as a result, more productive companies?

That was the premise we started the business with. To accomplish this, it’s really been about giving people a meaningful voice in how they’re managed and how their organizations respond. From there our mission was formed: Help every employee drive the change they want to see. 

I’ve always believed that a great job is one that adds to your life experience, and your growth as a person. Part of that is having a culture built on strong values and a shared purpose. If you’re setting out to innovate, and you want to foster behaviors that truly serve your customers, you can’t just instruct people to do that. They’ve got to care about the problem the company is trying to solve. 

"Our products give an objective view of your organization’s culture and management practices."

Phil Chambers Co-Founder and CEO Peakon

At Peakon, our values are reflected in our products. Transparency is one example of that. Our products give an objective view of your organization’s culture and management practices, including your strengths—what’s motivating your people—or the challenges you’re facing and things that could be improved. If you’re going to do this honestly you’ve got to do it with care. Our products are designed with care in mind. 

We want to take our users on a learning journey—from feedback, to insight, and action. That’s something we believe is unique about Peakon.

With so much going on in the world—whether it’s the pandemic, politics, or social issues—employee engagement is top of mind for business leaders. What are some of the ways they can best engage their employees during such a dynamic time?

In truth, it’s going to differ from team to team, company to company; that’s where Peakon comes in. We talk a lot about the execution gap: the gap between a change initiative and the capability of an organization to achieve that change. Engagement is the way to close that gap. But who’s best placed to increase engagement? We believe that’s the direct manager of a team. Their capabilities and management style have the biggest impact on their team’s engagement, so it’s critical they have real-time insight on what their team is concerned about.

In the broadest sense, a management approach that’s going to encourage engagement at a time like this is one that’s open, understanding, communicative, reassuring, and able to simplify situations in order to drive focus. 

Your team has analyzed a lot of data with regards to employee sentiment over the past year. What have you observed and any surprise findings?

This is one of the things I love most about Peakon: Our Heartbeat website, where we look at the macro-trends in our data. So far we’ve accumulated 153 million survey responses. 

In 2020, the focus was on how companies and employees were responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. A surprise finding: We saw that from the start of 2020 through July, employee engagement actually increased 2% globally for Peakon customers.

The industry with the biggest uplift was financial services, which had to undergo rapid changes to stay productive during lockdowns. Our data points to a positive response to working from home, perhaps avoiding some stressful office environments as a result. We also observed a 5% increase in employees feeling their mental well-being was a priority for their employers. That was great to read, and hopefully a trend that continues in the post-pandemic world. 

Where employees did miss out in 2020 was on career growth. While many of us have learned a lot—perhaps more than during a regular year—our data shows that the formal recognition of that learning through growth and career progression has slowed slightly.  

Now that Peakon is set to become part of Workday, how do you anticipate we’ll be changing the world of work together and what are you most excited about?

My background is in product and engineering, so naturally my mind jumps to the product opportunities. The combined technologies of both businesses could yield insights that may have a truly transformative effect on how people manage organizations. That’s got to be the ambition.

Workday excels at helping enable customers to leverage their data. Together, we’ll be able to help drive greater productivity, talent development, and employee retention for our customers—and unify how employees interact with their organizations. I can’t wait to get started on this, and I know the Peakon team feels the same.

**Under the terms of the definitive agreement, Workday will acquire Peakon for consideration of approximately $700 million in cash, subject to adjustments. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of Workday's fiscal year 2022, ending April 30, 2021, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including required regulatory approvals.

 

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