Consumer technology can save the digital workplace
Over the last 4 years, the concept of “going to work” changed, but the workplace itself hasn’t. Most knowledge workers are living in an infinite, monotonous loop of sending emails, logging activities, or solving tickets in a bland interface that looks like a spreadsheet and feels even worse.
For me, the physical workplace never really mattered, as the best part of the office was always the people in it – being able to learn from people who I respected, spending time helping others, and growing alongside my team. So when the pandemic moved knowledge workers from the office to logging in remotely, I wasn’t surprised about the “Great Resignation” that followed. Many of us lost the human connections and interactions that made work fun.
From my perspective, this is evidence that we need workplace technology that matches the experiences and quality of that in our personal lives. When I started my professional career in 2011, I used a BlackBerry for work and my iPhone for personal activities. Now, we’re used to having work and personal content on the same phone, switching between Slack, Instagram, Salesforce, and WhatsApp at the drop of a hat.
People Still Crave That Human Connection At Work
From 2010 onwards I saw this shift from the front lines, as I sold software to enterprises in Canada, then the United States, and finally Australia & New Zealand. No matter where I was, the story was always the same; employees wanted systems and solutions that gamified, engaged and connected their teams. 13 years later, the best workplace software is built to be loved by employees and improve their productivity.
In 2016, I joined a small startup in Toronto called Helpful.com. The first time I tried their Video Messenger, I fell in love with it and dove in with both feet. Although it was a simple app that allowed users to share short video updates with their colleagues, it worked wonders to improve the employee experience, and humanized leaders at work in ways that were previously impossible.
I went head to head against products like Slack and Workplace by Facebook, and found that people wanted to engage directly with the people who mattered to them using HD video. The Helpful video messenger went viral in organizations like Delta Airlines and the Royal Bank of Canada. Employees viewed leaders of these institutions as more human. Engagement scores skyrocketed, especially among young audiences.
Helpful was acquired by Shopify in 2019, and showed that people (and their leaders) want to make work human and fun.
The wave of technology that aims to make work more human has only grown more powerful industrywide. Consumer mechanics can be found in whiteboarding apps like MIRO, design collaboration tools like Figma, note apps like Notion, or even with Customer Relationship apps like Gainsight or Intercom. It’s gone the other way around as well – what’s Discord if not Slack for your personal life? As our consumer and work lives blend, it won’t be long until we see workplace versions of apps like BeReal (for daily check ins), HQ (running team trivia), or even Steam (company gaming), which would have been seen as a waste of time 10 years ago.
A Digital Workplace, Where You Can Find Anything
This is why I am so excited to be back solving the virtual employee engagement problem at Glean. Work can be an endless scavenger hunt for the right document, subject matter expert, or approver just to get your job done – and once you find it, you’re too exhausted to find the time to communicate or collaborate with your team effectively. With Glean, employees have a work hub that enables them to stay connected with their team, keep up with company updates, and conduct personalized searches to easily find and discover internal information… just like they would in their personal lives.
Creating a personalized, secure and intelligent enterprise search experience is a hard problem to solve, as my colleagues on the engineering team have elaborated on. But every day, our customers show that bringing together all of a company’s knowledge, across documents, CRM, chat, ticketing and so many other systems, is worth it.
Glean inspires a transparent and fun culture, especially for remote folks. I would know: most of my colleagues are based in Palo Alto, while I’m able to work remotely in Toronto. I’m not dependent on waiting for my colleagues to be awake or at their desks to find important information. And every piece of our company knowledge is credited to the people who created it, rewarding contributions to our business and promoting reuse. We are early in this journey, but are excited to build the future of work alongside our customers and partners.
Published Dec 13, 2022. Last updated Mar 17, 2023.