“The emerging market of employee communications applications to relay organizational and operational topics, including COVID-19, to their employees is overwhelming.”

That is the opening line of the brand new Market Guide for Employee Communications Applications (ECA) published in October 2020 by Gartner, the world’s leading research and advisory firm.

The year 2020, and inevitably COVID-19, have cemented the need for employee communications applications within enterprise companies. This is not only an emerging market but one driven by an overwhelming need for organizational and operational information by employees who suddenly are forced to deal with a new working reality.

Gartner defines the core value proposition of employee communications software as such:

“Deliver a personalized communications experience that facilitates employee understanding and behavior change in ways that align with company goals, while providing employees the opportunity to provide feedback to management on those goals.”

At Smarp, we’re honored to be included as a Representative Vendor in Gartner’s October 2020 Market Guide for Employee Communications Applications.

We’ve been considered leaders in the employee communications and advocacy space by our 250+ global enterprise customers for the last 10 years – long before this was formally recognized as a software category by the industry. We feel the continued investment we’re seeing by Gartner on the employee communications applications market is a major step forward for internal communications, marketing and HR professionals.

The market for employee communications platforms is driven by a few major factors:

1. Companies can’t reach frontline employees at all

Before enterprise companies can even consider strategies around employee engagement, they need to be able to effectively reach them. The pain point here is crystal clear.

Frontline workers often don’t even have a company email address to begin with. Their needs around employee communications are significantly different than the ones of corporate employees and often heavily reliant on operational communications.

2. Corporate employees are facing information and tech overload

“ECA tools make it easier for organizations to reduce employee communications overload. It is a rising priority for internal customers of application leaders to improve the effectiveness of frontline and remote workers.”

In my opinion, this is a major factor within corporate workers where the communications technology ecosystem tends to be quite complex with several different tools being used for different primary purposes by different segments of the employee population.

Another major takeaway from the market guide for employee communications are these two statements from Gartner:

“[buyers working with application leaders are] Looking for solutions to specific business audiences (frontline versus office), communication types (organizational versus operational) and integration needs resulting in multiple products being used but desiring the least number of products possible to provide a consistent experience, consolidated analytics and reduced technology complexity.”

“Recognizing that dual solutions (frontline versus traditional office workers), is an unsustainable situation over time.”

My understanding of these statements is that companies are looking for one single platform that can allow them to communicate targeted and timely information (organizational and operational communications) to all employees (frontline, office/corporate/remote) which in turn reduces tech overload, improves the employee experience and provides a way to consolidate communications analytics.

Information overload is also a constant factor while today’s employees expect an employee experience that provides curated, personalized and targeted information only. Gartner does touch on the topic in relation to the information experience expected by today’s employees:

Gartner notes in the market description, “key technical attributes and capabilities include: multichannel/multiexperience communication delivery capabilities including mobile app, intranet, email, messaging and digital signage.” 

Companies must be able to meet employees where they are and make the channels contextual to the message instead of expecting them to find information in a specific location.

3. Companies can’t measure the impact of communications

For the last 15 years, internal communications professionals have dueled with the challenge of proving the value of their communication efforts and therefore making the case for larger budget allocations and, as referred to by the community, earn a seat at the table.

That is why companies working with employee communications platforms are looking for ways in which technology can help them drive impact around key business objectives.

Regarding market direction, Gartner states: “on the demand side, buyers working with application leaders are looking for more concrete evidence of business impact to warrant higher spend and more strategic positioning of ECA solutions to advance business strategies.”

4. Companies are unable to turn employees into brand ambassadors

Gartner states in this market guide how “Application leaders are making ECA technology decisions in a market where vendors come from different traditional end-user audiences, sometimes resulting in two or more solutions.”

I couldn’t agree more and in my own experience, the convergence of internal and external communications is a very common one. When companies communicate effectively with every employee, frontline or corporate, naturally some employees will become brand ambassadors and speak your business message for you.

Inevitably, the market guide for employee communications touches upon COVID-19 related use cases:

On the demand side, buyers working with application leaders are “using ECA to assure frontline and remote workers that they have the most relevant and timely information in response to COVID-19, especially as it relates to worker wellness and safety.”

On the supply side, vendors interacting with applications leaders are “leveraging the need for crisis and urgent communication capabilities in response to COVID-19 to make ECA investments a core part of business continuity.”

This is a very real and important use case highlighted in detail in this success story by one of Smarp’s customers, the American Medical Association.

In my role as CMO of an employee communications platform, I’m immersed every single day in just about everything covered in this report by Mike Gotta and Adam Preset. In an environment as complex and ever-evolving as the digital workplace, this market guide provides a solid framework that can help both, vendors and buyers, drive their businesses forward. It is a fundamental resource for companies looking to identify evaluation criteria, shortlist vendors and ensure a strong ROI.

Gartner, Market Guide for Employee Communications Applications, Mike Gotta and Adam Preset, 26 October 2020

Gartner Disclaimer:
Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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