HR Tech Interview with James Scott, CEO and Co-Founder at Thrive

Hi James, please tell us about your current role and how you arrived at Thrive.App

I am the CEO and Co-Founder of Thrive.App. I was raised in Lisburn, Northern Ireland and studied Computer Science at Queen’s University Belfast. When I left Queen’s University I went back and forth to Silicon Valley, working with some very bright people.

I have worked in the mobile tech sector for over 20 years and have always enjoyed seeing the benefits of this tech, whether this was text messaging in the nineties through to the early days of the mobile internet and of course the iPhone’s arrival changed everything. The last decade of transformation has been particularly interesting, where the humble app has become the interface to almost every aspect of our lives from social media, to banking, to dating, to employee engagement – no aspect of our daily life is untouched by apps.  It’s an incredibly fast-moving sector and there’s always something new to learn about which keeps it interesting.

We began our journey at Thrive.App in 2010 with a mission to democratize the app building process.  At the time you needed to hire an expensive iOS developer, Android Developer and Web Developer to launch an app never mind keep it up to date.  The process was time consuming, expensive and prohibitive to most people.  We created a revolutionary platform that solved these challenges and opened up the world of app building and maintenance to anyone with no specialist technical or design skills required.  I’m glad to say these core principles are still true of our platform today, along with many other key features we’ve developed over the last decade to serve the B2B enterprise employee engagement and communications market.

What is Thrive.App and how does it benefit customers?

According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, 85% of employees are actively disengaged in their workplaces. This global phenomenon has huge economic consequences, amounting to approximately $7 trillion in lost productivity.

Did you know that over 50% of the global workforce have no access to corporate email – that’s over 2.7 billion people!  These teams don’t know or are “the last to know” what’s happening across the organisation they work for. When employees don’t know how their work is connected to their organisation’s mission, they often become disengaged, demotivated and inefficient. High absenteeism and turnover and lower performance follow.

It’s our mission at Thrive.App to touch and improve the working lives of millions of people who are in remote, dispersed or hard to reach, desk-less roles.

We’re helping our clients build great places to work through providing an easy-to-use platform that enables them to create, tailor and share important, relevant, information to all of their teams in real time via a secure, engaging employee app on their mobile devices.

Also Read: How to Work, Connect and Thrive Remotely  

Tell us more about your Ideal Customer profile (ICP). Which new markets are you targeting currently?

Our current and potential customers exist across multiple markets, our core industries include, Healthcare, Local Authorities, Transport, Logistics, Food and Beverage production as well as Retail and Utility organisations.

One thing they all have in common is a significant percentage of desk-less, remote or dispersed teams who usually do not have access to the corporate intranet or email. These customers need an efficient way to bring everyone together to share important information, consistently, with ease.

When I think of our ideal customer, I think of the advocates within these organisations, the people who have the passion to drive for innovation and change. They want to create a communication culture, a culture where everyone is connected to the organisation and understands their contribution. It’s those individuals who see great benefits from the deployment of their Thrive employee app and drive further growth and success for their organisation.

What is the most modern definition of ‘employee engagement’? How much of it has changed during the pandemic?

There really is no common understanding of an engaged employee. The CIPD for example, reference the 2009 Macleod Review finding over 50 definitions of employee engagement!

To borrow from Simon Sinek’s excellent book “The Infinite Game” the ultimate example of engagement for me is one where the desire of employees is to contribute to that organisation’s ability to keep succeeding not just during their time there, but long after.  If that’s not true employee engagement, I’m not sure what is.

Thinking about the day-to-day I think that employee engagement can be defined and measured differently across individual organisations and possibly departments, as the actions and feelings of an engaged employee may change depending on their personality or job role.

An engaged employee to me, is someone who is aware of, understands and is inspired by the company’s objectives, mission and culture. It’s an employee who feels connected to their colleagues, the organisation they work for and also feels like their contribution matters and their voice is being heard.

The world of work now is a very different place than we could have imagined only several months ago, with employers and employees adjusting and adapting to the new way of working.

The pandemic has forced organisations to re-think their employee experience and engagement in ways that recognise and respect role differences – from remote desk-based workers to front line, desk-less teams.

Employers are adjusting their approaches to the everyday work environment and experience, particularly focusing on employee well-being, mental health, inclusion, communication, and connectivity.

Operating in the ‘new normal’ imposed by Covid-19 has raised a range of issues for organisations world-wide – with one of the biggest challenges being employee connectivity in this new reality of most people now working socially distant or remotely online.

I’m happy to say we have genuinely been able to help organisations battle the challenges created by the pandemic.

How does having an employee engagement app on the mobile enhance business ‘digital transformation goals?

I see this on many occasions with our customers. They begin their journey with us, looking at ways to improve employee communication and engagement and we quickly identify a series of steps to go beyond communication to streamlining operations also.

Our customers move to digitalising what was once a noticeboard, team briefing or weekly or monthly newsletter into a secure mobile application which becomes an information hub that their employees have immediate and 24/7 access to from their own mobile phones.

To name a few other use cases – we have a logistics customer who has gained efficiencies in the service they offer to their customers due to quick access and employee acknowledgement of reading their customers Health and Safety procedures and other important information.

Council customers are achieving their sustainability goals with reduced paper-based procedures.

A public transport organisation has transformed how they sharing timetables, rotas and important notices using their app.

A food retailer has added gamification to their app to help employees with product knowledge.

A healthcare customer is using their app to book employees holidays, manage shifts and have digitalised paper forms.

Many customers are also using their apps as a hub for Covid-19 information, compliance and operational safety checklists.

The list goes on…

Could you tell us more about your partnership with Air France KLM European Sales and Service Centre and how they transformed their Sales and Marketing using Thrive?

It’s a strong partnership that I am delighted to say has continued over the years. The team at the European Sales and Service Centre (ESSC) needed a cost-effective platform to keep their people engaged and connected. They had successfully rolled out remote working and could see that it could potentially leave their colleagues disconnected, especially now with the current Covid conditions. The employee app was deployed to break down department silos and to future-proof their communication channel. The core reason was to align their company values with simplified, efficient communication that increased the voice of their employees.

Also Read: HR Tech Interview with Sina Chehrazi, Chief Executive Officer at Nayya

How do you leverage AI ML techniques for your app?

Thrive’s vision and roadmap, includes the widespread adoption of these techniques and percolating these components into our growing Insights facilities.  Right now, elements like Chatbots can be used within the content structure through our flexible widget system – one of the benefits of our flexible modular platform architecture.

Now that AI and Machine Learning approaches have matured over the last few years, we see these techniques as a critical step forward and is why we have already started integration analysis with Azure’s Cognitive Services.

A key shorter-term focus over 2021 and 2022, will be to drive up key engagement indicators by tooling the platform with sentiment and predictive analysis – specifically, this will target and zero-in on user group behaviour to enhance synergy between the centralised and decentralised business units.

We are actively in discussions with customers and have validated that better personalisation and the creation of subtle employee feedback loops massively helps them craft a healthier content and engagement strategy over the longer-term.

Enabling organisations to expose, analyse and dig into the ‘temperature’ of the workforce, by leveraging Machine Learning, will allow Editors to automatically see how their content behaves, how its interpreted and how their employees are reacting.

Thrive’s ultimate goal here is to not only reveal content that resonates with certain user groups but take this one step further to help suggest and guide the content strategy in practice.  With Thrive’s current reach, in conjunction with AI, we believe we can provide organisations with a whole new way to engage with their employees.  Understanding repeated group patterns, sentiment and behavioural shifts ahead of time will enhance the efficacy of the platform’s functionality and we will be able to recommend ways in which to untangle the day-to-day furore of internal communications and engagement.

What is the future roadmap for a product-centric platform like Thrive? Where do you see yourself / your company in 2025?

Our roadmap is customer-centric and product-centric. I say this because our customers are very much part of our roadmap decisions, all new features are developed to be ridiculously easy to use and are part of the core features offered to all Thrive.App clients.  New features are added to the Thrive.App to help our clients fully embed their employee app across their organization, not just to improve communication but to streamline internal processes and operations as well. We want to grow with our customers as their employee engagement partner. It’s important to us that our customers are not just happy with our product and service but are delighted, so much that they want to recommend us to other organisations.

Our 2025 vision would see the platform move beyond the conventional boundaries of an engagement and communication tool. We want to deeply entrench Thrive within the mindset of our customers and their employees – ensuring that workforces have all the tools they need through the Thrive app.  This means ramping up our integration capabilities and carefully balancing a rich suite of functionality with crafted user experience and UI design.

To help organisations establish and nourish a beneficial internal culture and really engage with employees, Thrive.App would look to lean on Machine Learning and AI approaches.  We want to take away the comms and engagement headaches that our customers experience daily and by fusing our features with Machine Learning, we can begin to automate processes, suggest pivotal content strategy updates and better target employee groups and individuals.

By 2025, we envisage Thrive graduating from helping organisations from creating and sharing content to a wholistic approach to workforce insights, leveraging Thrive’s reach and creating a powerful platform that informs, educates and remedies routine comms and engagement problems experienced by our customers.

Any advice for every employee engagement manager:

That’s a good question. I think during this time employee engagement managers play a critical role in bridging the gap between every employee and leadership teams. My advice would be, get to know your teams as much as you can, help set and communicate clear expectations, keep team members in the loop of all information, build trust between leaders and colleagues, empower line managers and teams to share information and ideas, always ask for feedback, reward and recognise team members and always celebrate success, even the small stuff.

Also Read: HR Tech Interview with Shannon Katschilo, General Manager at Medallia Canada

Thank you, James! That was fun and hope to see you back on HR Technology soon.

Thrive.App Ltd established in 2011, provides the technology and support to assist organisations in ‘powering’ up their internal communications and employee engagement.

Our intuitive content management system enables anyone in your organisation to take charge of your company communications, creating and adding content to a single employee communications platform and distributing it to your teams’ mobile devices.

Our clients range from SMBs to the largest multinational organisations who are all using Thrive’s platform to create and tailor their own employee communications apps to enhance their internal communications and further engage their distributed teams.

This software as a service solution enables HR, Marketing, Internal Comms, Corporate Comms, IT and other professionals to create and promote important, relevant, timely and customised information to their ‘Hard to Reach’ teams. Those who have no access or limited access to email.

Unlike others, we specialise in inspiring and educating our clients in their digital transformation journey through our SaaS platform and client success onboarding and continuous support.

Thrive’s employee communications platform is used globally by clients across many industries. Our clients include; HBO, Deloitte, SSE, Biffa, Waitrose, Fairchild Medical Center, Air France KLM, Santos Brasil, An Post, SGN and many more.

Inspire, inform & engage employees with a communications & engagement platform which is cost effective & ridiculously easy to use.

James Scott is a CEO and Co-Founder at Thrive

AIchatbotsemployee communications platformEmployee EngagementSAASTHRIVEThrive.App
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