Microsoft Teams, Slack, Facebook Workplace Are Taking Over: And We Better Take Notice

by Josh Bersin · Digital HR tech

Let’s face it, the paradigm of email is broken. Research shows that employees spend over 20% of their time on messages unrelated to their jobs, and in most companies, the email system has become real-time.

The research I recently published shows that the highest performing employees respond to emails the fastest, which of course leads to stress, lack of focus, and a general sense of never catching up.

I remember the very first email systems at work (IBM Profs) and it was a revolutionary thing. In the 1980s IBM tried to sell Lotus Notes to replace email but the world wasn’t ready.

Well, it’s ready now.

Microsoft Teams now has more than 420,000 corporate customers (almost doubling in adoption in only six months), Slack has 8 million paid users, and Workplace by Facebook has 2 million users. 

We’ve been digging into Teams, for example, and it’s an amazing piece of software. Not only does it enable team-centric messaging, it includes studio-quality video, video and audio sharing, language translation, and much more. These tools are going to really change the way we work. Why the explosive growth? It’s simple: we work in a faster, more team-based environment and we need a tool that lets us quickly communicate in real time. The growth of text messaging gives you the evidence: research shows that 8 trillion text messages are sent each year, and the growth in chatbots and other forms of communication are explosive. We all prefer short, simple messages to communicate, so email has just fallen behind

Fig 1: How Messaging Fits Into Our Corporate Life

How does this impact us in HR?  I believe it’s going to be huge. And the biggest impact will affect HR Tech.

How Messaging Will Disrupt HR Technology

The HR Tech market, which I describe in detail in the HR Technology Market 2019 report, is enormous. I am tracking more than 1,400 vendors and an overall market size over $20 billion. We need software to track our time, pay our paychecks, manage our training, track our goals, and … and much much more.

Fig 2: HR Tech Categories

How do we use this software?  Well since we don’t use it very often, it has to be simple, easy to learn, and easy to use. And in most cases we only use HR tools when we have to, so the software has to be productive or else people hardly use it at all.

I recently visited one of the world’s largest credit card companies and they just implemented a world-class new HR technology platform. And how well did they like it? They spent most of the meeting telling me how hard it was to use, how difficult it was to train people to use it, and how frustrated they were with even the easiest parts of the system.

HR software is dauntingly complex, so it’s very hard to make it simple. And as much research has shown, when the systems are hard to use, they get a bad name and employees really complain. This has forced the creation of a whole new category of software I call “Employee Experience Platforms” that sit in front of back-end systems and make them easier to use. And this new category is one of the fastest growing segments in the market.

Fig 3: HR Tech Architectures

All this is about to change. 

Enter the world of messaging systems, enabling HR In The Flow Of Work.

In the world of HR technology, there has been a shift from what we used to call “systems of record” to “systems of engagement.” What this really means is we want from “forms automation software” to software that looks more like a modern website, with lots of tabs, windows, and real-time dashboards to make them easier to use.

This transition, which has taken place over the last ten years, has been pioneered by large software companies like Oracle, SuccessFactors, and Workday. These companies have studied user interfaces, and each has built beautiful, function-rich, tab and window-based web systems. And they all built mobile versions of their products too, so you can track your time, find your learning, and read your various HR communications from your phone.

But now the world is changing. We spend most of our time on our phones; we dread looking through email, and we barely have time to look at Google, nor less tab through an employee portal to find the transaction or information we need. 

At home, people are snapping up tools like Amazon Alexa so we can talk to our computers. Our phones let us text, pinch, and swipe to find what we need. But at work, we’re still stuck with these big, window-based systems that are filled with more functionality every day.

So, get ready for your HR tools to appear as “chats” and “messages” and “bots” and “cards” and “nudges” in your new messaging system. Products like Mya, IBM Watson, Yva.ai, Jane, Humu, and Disco are already there. (And I know for a fact that Workday, SAP, and Oracle are working on this.)

Microsoft is Jumping Into This Market

I know for a fact that both Microsoft and Facebook are going after this market with a vengeance. We just co-hosted 100 Chief Learning Officers at Microsoft for two days of talk about Learning in the Flow of Work. The company showed off its cultural transformation, showed us a new set of tools for Workplace Analytics, and presented examples from several global organizations using Microsoft tools for on-demand learning.

Fig 4: Matt Burr showing off our new, unannounced solution, integrated into Teams

Facebook, not to be overshadowed, now has an entire online community of HR professionals talking about how to use Workplace by Facebook for HR.  It’s growing rapidly.

What Should You Do?

Let me just assure you that this year is the time to go see your IT department and talk with them about messaging systems. Whether it’s Microsoft Office 365, Slack, G-Suite, or Workplace by Facebook – these are new employee productivity platforms, and we need to use them to deliver our HR solutions in the future. I’m not going to get into too much more detail yet but let me assure you this is going to change the HR landscape in a very big way. I’ll be talking a lot more about this at the Unleash conference in a few weeks and promise to share more soon.

If you’re an existing HR technology vendor, my recommendation is simple. Think about how you’ll go to market when all your customers use these new platforms to communicate. Is your application ready to deliver value in the flow of work?  It’s a new paradigm, but not as hard as you think. And it will save us all time and energy in a world where time is our most precious resource.