HR Tech Interview with Mike Hicks, CMO at Beezy

Mike Hicks, CMO at Beezy joins us for a chat to talk about the importance of digital workplace platforms and how they help create more cohesiveness among today’s workforce while also talking about the changing HR tech and employee culture trends taking shape in tech:


Tell us a little about yourself, your journey and what you’re looking forward to now at Beezy as CMO…

 I am a 20+ year B2B marketing veteran who has spent time at both large and small organizations. As I’ve gone through my career, I realized the importance of a great team. Ideas and vision are one thing but without the right people who can help turn that vision into reality, everything will always fall short. I’ve also witnessed the transformation of marketing move from primarily being considered a cost to being a key part of establishing and maintaining customer value. Marketing has always loved technology to create efficiencies and new ways to engage with prospects and customers. Now, we’re also seeing marketing being heavily involved in this shift inward to supporting amazing employee experience and ensuring information is readily accessible and communicated across the business.

Now being the CMO of a leading digital workplace solution, it puts me at the center of this intersection of being able to market something that has such an impact on many aspects of how a business and its employees work. I help leverage this type of technology to build use cases that influence how the marketing function can evolve to create new levels of value for a business through the concept of a better employee experience.

Over the years in tech, how have you observed businesses shift priorities on digital workplace platforms?

This is one of the most fascinating industries to watch as far as the evolution of technology goes. If you say the word intranet, most people cringe. The intranets of early days were essentially places where information went to die. They weren’t useable, they weren’t engaging and as a result, it spawned a whole new series of dedicated apps and tools that replicated pieces of the functionality of an intranet but without the cohesiveness of bringing everything together. We saw dedicated file storage systems like Box and Dropbox. We saw an increase in social tools like Yammer. Company-wide communications were happening through email. A slew of instant messaging tools came to market and then came the collaboration, workflow tools, and project management tools. In the end, this created such a tangled message of data silos, fragmented communications and workflows and skyrocketing costs. Luckily, innovation continued to happen for the intranet and we have seen that technology evolve into a digital workplace that brings all of these tools together in a cohesive way. But more importantly, creates a digital destination for all employees that’s inclusive, engaging and improves the way we communicate, collaborate and share knowledge. Today, investing in and improving the digital workplace is consistently at the top of executive priorities, especially for mid-to large-size organizations.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, how do you predict demand and adoption for these platforms will evolve further?

We’re several months into this pandemic and it’s hard to tell if there’s an end in sight or not. I believe that depends on who you talk to, but regardless, our work/life balance is completely out of whack and we’re seeing the cracks in neglected digital workplace infrastructure and digital transformation strategies that perhaps didn’t get the attention they deserved previously. Although, It’s not all doom and gloom as the path to get back on track is easy to navigate. This pandemic has shown us that we need to be ready to embrace this new way of working so the demand and adoption for next-gen digital workplace solutions will continue to rise. Essentially every organization globally is going through an evaluation and accelerated digital transformation process which is exciting for a company like Beezy. Regardless of how the world reverts back to our more traditional ways of working, we’re forever changed now with this new reliance on remote connectedness so our tools and infrastructure need to be ready to support it.

What are some of the biggest challenges you still see mid to larger organizations face when trying to use centralized technologies to boost communication and enhance productivity among their globally distributed teams?

The biggest challenge they are going to run into is change management and working through any of the misconceptions that employees have around this enhanced way of working.  Every employee, team, department and organization have their own way of working and while there are best practices that have been established for communication and collaboration, it’s not an overnight change to say we now operate a different way. We need to understand the tools that are being used currently and why. We need to be aware of data and knowledge silos so a plan can be put in place to address them. A decision needs to be made about what technology and tools we are going to retire as part of our new digital workplace implementation.

That being said, this is where aligning with a digital workplace partner that has the philosophy of being a true partner and seeing beyond just the software. This is a process; it requires governance and a plan. It requires communication, establishing objectives, benchmarks and measuring success against them. All too often organizations and providers of technology think their job is done at the point of install and go-live. Well, the best organizations realize this is the beginning of a journey that is very rewarding when the right level of resources are dedicated to it.

What best practices would you share for a team looking to further optimize their digital workplace platforms?

The first thing that needs to be done on any journey is to understand where you are and where you want to go. This can be as simple as taking an assessment of what’s working well and what isn’t in terms of how work is being done today and how you want it to be done vs. best practices. The best organizations are doing regular look backs on this situation and prioritizing what needs to be addressed. Understand where employees feel frustration and what things helped them feel engaged. For example, run analytics on your intranet and see where are people going. What are they searching for? Does your content align? You can address a lot of this proactively. Next, start thinking about the situations you need to start supporting as part of this new digital world. Here are some scenarios many organizations are addressing through their digital workplace:

  • Many employees, especially the ones without kids, are sitting at their desks longer than they ever have before. They need to feel it’s ok to step away. Remind employees about the health and wellness benefits and let them know it’s ok to use them. The best in class organizations have set up things like a health and wellness center inside their intranet. A place where employee benefits are clearly articulated and additional resources can be highlighted. We’re seeing increasing use of video and curating libraries by topic from experts in things like relaxation, stress management, depression.
  • Take that one step further and re-create the water-cooler. A place where employees can drop in and hang out for a few mins. Share photos of pets. Coordinate a game of remote chess with a colleague. Some organizations have a culture where this will just flow and others will need some champions to drive participation. The point is, create an inclusive space where everyone can participate as much or as little as they want.
  • This is also a great time for employee recognition and turning physical traditions into digital ones. People love something to cheer for, especially during a time like this when any good news is welcome, so setting up something like a recognition hub is a great idea. And many organizations use a gong for winning a deal, well bring that online through your intranet so everyone is in the know and can celebrate. Gifs and memes are more important now than ever.

As workplace culture trends keep evolving in the new normal, what are some of the top thoughts you’d share with business leaders as we move into 2021? 

Transparency and inclusion need to be top of mind. We’re in uncertain times and while some businesses like digital workplace technology and other areas that improve our ability to connect and support our new working realities are growing, Many sectors have been hit hard so being open about the state of the business is critical to keeping everyone aligned on priorities. Regular company updates and providing ways to facilitate open conversations across all layers of the organization.

Another area that needs leadership attention is departmental leaders need to find ways to sustain cross-functional collaboration and conversations. As we focus on remote work productivity inside our own departments, one of the biggest risks we face is silos and decisions in a vacuum so leaders need to be concerned about that and ensuring they make time to maintain those relationships in this new digital collaborative format. Luckily, the technology to do it exists. However, maintaining focus and dedicating time to do it is what’s easily lost in the shuffle.

What are some of the top tech trends and in-demand skills you feel will dominate HR/ HR Tech in the near future? 

The good news is, I see the tech trends continuing to move toward simplified user experiences that don’t require deep technical knowledge. Ongoing innovation toward tools and applications that integrate with key backend systems and support common processes and workflows means that the skillset that dominates HR is more of a collaborative vision as opposed to the need for technical prowess.  As this happens and companies continue to embrace the idea of inclusive work cultures and support remote global employee experience, HR will strengthen its position as a true business partner that’s focused on outcomes that have a direct impact on the bottom line like employee engagement and increased retention. We’ve seen the shift of most functional departments and their tie back to business results. I think now we’re entering the age of HR and their time to shine when it comes to being a value-creating function for the business.

Before we wrap up, we’d love to hear a little about the employee culture and experience at Beezy!

Essentially everything I described in terms of best practices and how leading organizations are leveraging their digital workplace to create innovative and inclusive cultures and drive employee experience is everything we’re doing at Beezy but even further amplified. We live and breathe Beezy and use it across all aspects of how we work. We have this heightened attention to ensuring we are open and transparent. We’re always looking for ways to be more efficient and improve things like workflows, user experience and processes and we put this right back into our product for the benefit of our customers and future customers. It’s a great place for me to invest my time and I’m looking forward to telling the Beezy story and supporting our amazing growth.

Beezy is an Intelligent Workplace solution for Microsoft Office 365 and SharePoint.

Mike Hicks is the CMO at Beezy

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