Workplace, Facebook’s foray into the workplace collaboration technology market, has already come a long way from its highly anticipated launch in late 2016. As Facebook has added more features to Workplace, a key element of the platform’s evolution has been integrating it with a growing number of commonly used enterprise software tools (also a major selling point of competitors like Slack and Microsoft Teams).
Its most recent integrations reveal that Facebook’s ambitions for Workplace go well beyond intra-office communication. The social media giant has entered separate partnerships with the human capital management systems ADP and Paychex, HR Dive’s Kathryn Moody reports, which will enable employees to access pay and benefit information through Workplace:
Employees using the ADP integration — which links the ADP Virtual Assistant with Workplace by Facebook — will be able to access their pay statement summaries, pay deductions, time-off balances and other pay-related information. They’ll also be able to get notifications on when they’ve been paid, and generally can access this information from anywhere and on any device that supports Workplace.
Slack announced last week that it was integrating its platform with Workday to enable users to access the Workday suite of HR tools from within Slack’s platform. The integration will allow users to request time off and share information about their leave, provide peer feedback, and look up coworkers’ information without leaving the Slack interface. Other integrated features are in the pipeline, including custom notifications and a tool for IT functions to easily assign employees to the right Slack channels. These features are expected to roll out this coming fall, Slack says.
For Workday, the integration is an opportunity to reshape the way employees engage with HR, Chief Technology Officer Joe Korngiebel wrote in a blog post discussing the move:
We believe that the integration of Workday and Slack will be a game changer in terms of empowering employees. Employees will be able to engage with HR in a way they haven’t been able to before. Without having to move to another application, they will be able to resolve many of their questions and issues in an intuitive and familiar way. Slack and Workday are tools people enjoy using and derive significant daily value from. As a result, together we can empower people to work more intuitively and with less friction to more simply get things done at work.
From Slack’s perspective, the partnership is part of its efforts to turn its chat and collaboration platform into an all-in-one enterprise technology tool. Slack has been engaged in a feature war with a growing field of competitors, including major players like Microsoft, over the past year, and last week’s announcement illustrates the degree to which integration with other platforms is a central battleground.
Microsoft on Monday marked the first anniversary of the global launch of Microsoft Teams, the tech giant’s entry into the burgeoning workplace chat and collaboration software market, noting that the platform is now used by 200,000 organizations in 181 markets and 39 languages. Teams is also introducing new features this year, including a cloud recording system for meetings, inline message translation, and integration with Microsoft’s voice assistant, Cortana.
TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez takes a closer look at the new features and how they fit into the accelerating race to become the ultimate enterprise communication tool:
The added integration with Cortana’s voice assistance could give Microsoft an edge in its battle with Slack, given the increasing importance of voice-based computing in the workplace and within business productivity applications.
Microsoft and Amazon announced last year their voice assistants, Cortana and Alexa, would work together, for example. Meanwhile, companies – including Microsoft – have been working to make their applications and services work well with voice assistants given the potential of voice computing in the workplace. …
Since taking control of the company in 2014, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been on a mission to transform its culture from one of fierce internal competition to the collaborative ideal of “One Microsoft.” Nadella’s tenure has seen an increase in the number of “boomerang” employees returning to Microsoft after stints at other companies, Seattle Times business reporter Rachel Lerman observes—over 2,200 in total:
During the few years before Nadella stepped into the role, about 12 percent of the company’s new hires in the U.S. each year had previous job stints at the company. But that number ticked up to 16 percent, or 621 boomerangs, between July 2014 and July 2015, starting a few months after Nadella took over as CEO.
These returning employees, who remember how Microsoft operated a decade ago, are particularly attuned to the change in the company’s dynamic, which in many cases, was part of the reason they decided to return:
When [Dean] Lester, an engineering director, left the company at the end of 2009, he was craving some time off and new challenges, but he was also feeling frustrated with the way Microsoft teams were being run — they were so focused on rapid project launches that people were burning out. That was changing, the chorus of former co-workers told him. He should take another look. …
Microsoft has rolled out the biggest update to its Microsoft Teams collaboration software since the product was launched in late 2016, adding an array of features “allowing users to better work with apps – something Microsoft Teams accomplishes via integrations, new search and discovery features, commands, and more,” Sarah Perez reports at TechCrunch:
Some of the features are, in fact, quite Slack-like. For example, Microsoft Teams now offers a way to search for apps from the new app store where you can browse by category or search by name, category or integration type – like Project Management or BI. … In Microsoft’s case, however, there’s a bit more emphasis on the apps your organization has added and assigned to you, as well as those you regularly work with.
A new “personal space” displays all the items that you’ve been assigned across your apps, like your tasks in Planner or issues in Jira Cloud, plus those from apps you’ve recently accessed, like OneNote notebooks or videos from Microsoft Stream. Microsoft even added its own new app called Who, powered by Microsoft Graph. This lets you search across your organization for people by name or topic. The updated version of Teams also makes it easier to launch apps.
The new update continues the feature war that has been ongoing between Teams and the startup Slack, its chief rival, over the past year: Microsoft first introduced third-party applications for Teams at its Build conference last May, while both services beefed up their features in September to compete both with each other and with new entrants to the increasingly competitive workplace collaboration software market.
Facebook has made a number of rapid-fire improvements to its enterprise offering Workplace since launching the bold play for the workplace productivity market last year: Earlier this year, it introduced a free tier of the service and added a collection of new features like file-sharing integrations to keep up with the rapidly developing standards of collaboration platforms as Facebook vies for dominance in the market against Slack, Microsoft, Google, Atlassian, and a growing number of new competitors.
This week, the social media giant released another package of new Workplace features, including a desktop app that allows screen sharing and will soon introduce group video chat. TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden checks the specs of the latest update:
Previously, the video features in Workplace were limited to live video broadcasts and one-to-one video conversations. Alongside the new apps and features, Facebook is also updating the overall design of Workplace to simplify the interface and make it consistent across Android, iOS, desktop and web[.]
Workplace has positioned itself as the collaboration platform for everyone in your organization — not just those who are so-called “knowledge workers” who are at desks most of the day. The idea is that everyone, from executive to barista to warehouse assistant, will find Workplace easy to use because, well, it looks and feels a lot like the hugely popular Facebook. However, the new desktop apps — for both PC and Mac — are a hat tip that there are, in fact, a lot of those desk-sitters using Workplace, too.
Facebook had said the app was a response to user requests, but Lunden argues that these new features are also aimed at boosting user engagement, as that metric is critical for Workplace’s business model:
Caroline Cotto, culture content creator at HubSpot, writes at Fast Company about how her organization trains employees to be more empathetic, likening it to how athletes build strength though steady, diligent exercise. HubSpot’s empathy-building program begins with measurement, having employees take a quiz based on the Toronto Empathy Questionnaire and providing tailored resources to them based on their results. The inbound marketing and sales software company then uses several techniques to encourage employees to see the world through their colleagues’ eyes, including storytelling:
It’s not easy to train one person to be more empathetic, and it’s even more difficult to do the same for 2,000 coworkers across seven global offices. As we contemplated empathy building at scale, we decided to host “Humans of HubSpot,” a live storytelling show focused on sharing personal anecdotes, which conventional office settings might not always leave room for.
Drawing inspiration from NPR’s The Moth, employees share stories about their own lives and identities. This kind of unfettered vulnerability breeds trust between colleagues, and trust is what ultimately drives results. As it turns out, we’re not the only one preaching the power of storytelling to build a more empathetic work culture. Our event has already inspired other companies, like Wistia, to start storytelling nights of their own.
HubSpot’s approach here is notable because one of the key benefits of empathy in the workplace is improved communication. Building empathy helps employees not only communicate with external stakeholders but also collaborate more effectively with their peers, which is increasingly important in today’s highly networked work environment.