Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 215. Today we have Jade from Epoch about the use case or business case for why her customers use Epoch.
Epoch is on a mission to help people teams deliver impactful employee experiences and create world-class culture across their organizations.
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Show length: 31 minutes
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Music:Welcome to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case podcast, a show dedicated to the storytelling that happens or should happen when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better. As we speak with the brightest minds in recruitment and HR tech, that’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
William Tincup: Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you’re listening to the Use Case podcast. Today we have Jade on from Epoch, and we’ll be talking about the use case business case that customers make for Epoch or their prospects also make this business case. And so we’ll be digging deep into that. Jade, will you do us a favor and introduce yourself and Epoch?
Jade: … co-founders of Epoch. So what Epoch is is an employee experience platform. So what that means is companies like Udemy, Instacart, Asana, use us for all their internal programs and events. So you can think of things from all-hands to workshops to trainings to DEI panelists, all these things that require Slack reminders, emails, scheduling and tracking reporting afterwards, it’s all centralized on Epoch.
William Tincup: So, a, I love this. Where do we start with employee experience? Where does it start, in onboarding or before onboarding?
Jade: Yeah. So how we think about it at Epoch is everything from, I’m actually coining this term from someone else, from hire to retire at a company. So the moment someone onboards, they’re often already on Epoch, which is super cool to see. So we see a lot of onboarding teams using us, and we are actually getting inquiries from recruiting teams as well to see how we can enable their recruiting events too. So we have many touchpoints within employees lifecycle at a company.
William Tincup: And gave us some examples of programs and events. Let’s go deeper into where clients are, without names, of course, but just types of events that you’ve seen them be very successful at and programs too.
Jade: Yeah. What’s been exciting is with the pandemic and everything, I think a lot of people have been doubling down on personal growth and development and companies are listening to their employees. So we’ve been seeing a huge proliferation of learning events and programs. So this can look like traditional workshops and manager trainings, new manager trainings as well. But in addition to that, there’s also a lot of new opportunities for employees to get engaged via DEI speakers and panelists to more cohort based learning. So, there’s been a variety of foundationally learning programs and events, but coming in forms for employees who develop professionally or personally from their companies.
William Tincup: And so when we think of the employee experience, we’re thinking about all employees: managers, leaders, not just the frontline folks or the junior or whatever, we’re thinking about everybody’s experience.
William Tincup: So because employee experience as a software category is relatively new, two things, who’s primarily the buyer, different from who’s the users, and where in the budget does it usually come from?
Jade: Yeah, so you’re completely right, William. This is a much newer category, but also a challenge and problem space that’s always been in existence, but with the pandemic, totally condense the timelines in which companies are investing resources and thought into it.
So often buyers within companies that really resonate with Epoch are employee experience or workplace experience teams, which are newer titles as well. But again, it’s always been a problem within companies and their job has always been, “Okay, how do we better engage our workforce and provide them meaningful experiences and moments?” So that’s primarily the team that really get Epoch.
But second to that, one other team that has been on the rise is learning and development teams. I think learning is becoming super common within all companies in many different forms. And they have numerous events from, again, those manager trainings that happen every single week to onboarding, sometimes they own too. So those are the types of teams that often immediately get Epoch and have the buying power to make that decision.
William Tincup: Do you interact with employee relations or employee communications folks at all?
Jade: Yes. So we are seeing a rise of that as well in terms of internal communications. I think traditionally they own intranets, for example, and more executive communications, which, it has its place as well definitely. But what we’re seeing is you need to meet employees where they are now. There’s so many tools. You cannot expect employees to go on a separate tool again to search for information you want them to see. You need to meet them within tools they use every day, like Slack, calendar, maybe email, but even then we know most people are on Slack or Microsoft Teams.
William Tincup: Right. What’s changed with the pandemic or before with the expectations of employees? What’s different now? I mean, we both talked about this being a newer category, but an old problem, so what has changed for you and what do you see in employees, what their needs and desires and what their expectations are these days?
Jade: That’s a great question. With the pandemic, remote work became super common within all companies. So the big two things that made employees experience the forefront for all companies now, and why employees’ expectations from the employers have shifted is because now everything’s the same, right? You’re working from home, you’re looking at your laptop. So for employers, they really have to step up to better connect and provide meaningful moments for employees that really differentiate them as an employer, as a place where their employees are spending most of their lives.
So that’s the first thing. Employees now know, okay, work is similar. I’m not going to an office. I want to see more, I want to experience more. And I wonder if my employer can provide that for me. And then second to that, I guess with digital work and remote work, there’s just so many tools out there now that, second to that part, of the employee experience is the tools you equip them with. And that’s how you present yourself as an employer to your employees. So again, putting forward tools to employees that align with your values, meaning as an employer, my value is meeting my employees where they are. So providing tools like Epoch sets that standard of, “I actually care about how you experience tools at my company. I’m not going to expect you to go on a clunky, separate tool.”
William Tincup: I love that. So let’s go a little bit deeper there, because you’ve used different phrases for this, but it’s moments that matter. Right? How do you highlight those moments that matter in the places where folks are already using technology? Where do you see that going? Or right now, what do you see the usage is. You mentioned Slack and Teams, other types of use cases? And I also want to get your take on metaverse or metaverses, plural, and do you see it moving in that direction as well?
Jade: Definitely metaverse is interesting. I haven’t given it as much thought as most of our buyers are trying to essentially just finally move their clunky workflows into more of a digital space. So I think to give them metaverse is another leap for them that we haven’t tackled with them yet. But I guess, yeah. William, to your question, could you clarify, I guess, how I could help answer that?
William Tincup: Sure. We’ll move off of metaverse for a second, because you’re right. For some people, they’ll jump right into it. I think the early adopters will jump right into it and just skip a step. But for most companies, they’re still trying to get off Post-it notes and out of Microsoft Word. So Epoch is a big step for them just to get out of that, and email, the blind copy, email, all stuff.
So we’re making strides towards that. And you mentioned meeting people where they are three different times, which, I love that phrase. My brother when he was a consultant, he used to say where the rubber meets the road. And I love that. I love that phrase. And I love that as a company, we use Slack and we’re in Slack all the time. And it’s pretty effective for those burstable things that are needed. And again, if you’re taking moments that matter and you’re putting them there where they are, consumption wise, what do you see in Slack and in Teams, the types of content and the types of moments that matter?
Jade: That’s a great question because there’s so many ways that we didn’t even expect our users to be using Epoch for, and that’s always exciting to see, the fact that our customers are so excited that they finally have some sort of tool and system to make them work better and really be effective in connecting employees and providing meaningful content experiences and events.
But to your question in terms of type of content that we’re seeing that’s super interesting is, yes, Epoch right now is starting with the instance of events, but there’s so many things surrounding an event. When we think about an all-hands, for example, it’s great, but also it’s super expensive, if you think about it, to put on an all-hands. It’s a huge production, you’re expecting thousands of your employees to sit there for an hour of their time and really pay attention to the c-suite or executives present on a topic.
So what we’re seeing on Epoch which is super interesting is companies are now being super intentional in knowing that, “Okay, we’re asking for employees’ time so let’s better prepare them for this upcoming event. Let’s provide them with pre-reads or a drip campaign of content leading up to the all-hands that’s going to be delivered directly to them on Slack. And also then lob up with Epoch a survey to see if they have any question before the all-hands so we can better prepare and put on this one-hour or two-hour all-hands to better benefit and really hear our employees out.”
So that’s been super interesting to see and the use of surveys after these programs and events too, we’ve been seeing a huge adoption from, because, again, we’re not expecting employees to now go on their emails and dig for a Google form to complete, they get that sent right inside Slack. So that’s been super interesting to see too.
William Tincup: Well, it’s constant feedback, right? So feedback on the front end, then there’s a bit, then there’s feedback on the back end. You constantly know where you stand. And that takes a lot of the ambiguity and anxiety out of things for folks, which I love. And I know practitioners, when they listen to this, they’re going to, of course, whether or not they say it this way or not, how do they know if they’re getting employee experience right? And how do they know if they’re not getting it right? It’s one of those things. They’re going to be asked, especially when they make a financial business case for this, like, “Okay, what’s the ROI?” All that type stuff.
However, you know you get recruiting right when this happens. You get performance management right when this happen, like comp, we can go around the thing. They have a pretty good idea of what right looks like and what wrong looks like. But with employee experience, again, newer software category, very old problem. What’s your advice to your prospects and your customers as it relates to, “Okay, here’s how you know you’re doing it well?”
Jade: Prospects before Epoch really struggled to get that data. It was primarily using attendance data, but there wasn’t much clarity or sometimes they would literally screenshot the Zoom meeting and see who’s attending, which doesn’t really say that much, but it was the best they can do and I totally get that. So it’s been super fascinating to say to our customers, “In an ideal world, if you could get any data, what would that look like?”
And it really pushes them to think beyond what was only available before Epoch to them. So when we are working with them and what we’re seeing in terms of data that really helps them is understanding the sentiment from employees. So really doing that pre-survey work and post-survey work, but also delivered in a way that’s super intentional and not just over questioning your employees, but really pinpointing questions that are effective. So that’s one way.
The second way is also not focusing so much on attendance as a whole. So when we talk with a lot of our customers, what’s super inspiring and interesting to hear is maybe they have a DEI panel speaker. For our customers now what we’re hearing is they’re like, “We actually don’t care about number of attendees, it’s the fact that we’re putting on this event and creating space for this conversation to demonstrate we care and giving employees the opportunity to connect with other employees that care about these certain topics is already sufficient. Even if only 10 people attend, at least we’re creating that space and employees know that we care,” which is super cool to hear.
William Tincup: I love that. So pricing and budget, let’s move over to this side of things, not the specifics, but where does employee experience, where does it lie in the typical HR budget with your customers? If they haven’t already planned to spend money in employee experience, where do they usually find the money to then spend in employee experience?
Jade: That’s a great question because it is a newer space. In fact, most of our customers in the past two years, now it’s more like they have budgets for it, to get technology to enable their work. But even last year, the common thing we heard was, “Oh, we don’t have budget for this but I will find budget,” which is super cool because then they have to make the use case and we’re helping them out to really see how we can add value and solve their challenges in a bigger way within companies.
So it’s usually a new budget that they create for a system, but in their heads, a common thing we hear is, “We don’t have to hire someone else to be tracking this manually for us. So that’s a huge lift off. And it’s a huge time saver to not have to manually create these communications and track all the data.”
And one thing as well that’s super exciting is soon enough on Epoch, they’ll be able to also track the spend on these programs and events. So also they’re able to really measure that ROI piece of their programs, which is already a huge time saver, because if you’re like, “Okay, we spent $10,000 on the speaker, was not that effective.” But now with Epoch you know to not reinvest in that because employees actually don’t really resonate with that program or event.
So that’s another piece, but closer to your question, William, a second way that people find budget for this is actually the L&D team, the learning development team. Those teams are actually used to buying software and having a tech budget. So we see a lot of our employee experience customers leaning on those teams to share the budget sometimes.
William Tincup: I see it also, especially as they’re building a business case for this, is because there’s always going to be some element or question around ROI, is retention related, that if you have a superior employee experience, you have half a chance of keeping your people. If you don’t, you have no chance. So I can see it from a certain perspective that if you’re spending any money in retention or engagement that this could come out of that budget as well.
All right. Three questions last. What is your favorite part of your demo? And I know it’s a tough question in some ways, but it’s our aha moment. When you’re showing people Epoch, and then you get to a certain place, and it’s like, “Wait a minute,” eyes just light up. What is that?
Jade: There’s two moments, but the second one is-
William Tincup: Jade, I love this. You took my one and said two. Look, no, that’s fair. I do the exact same thing. That’s fine.
Jade: I was even going to say it’s all of it, William, because really there has an never been a platform like this so they’re always like, “Whoa. I didn’t even know what I was expecting, but I like what I see,” kind of thing. But the first one is seeing that integration with Slack. They’re like, “Wow, we can finally automate our internal communications.” And it’s just exciting for them because before they would have to remind themselves, remind employees, it was just a huge mess. When you see sales and marketing teams have all these automation tools to reach their audience, whereas these teams didn’t have that for their employees until Epoch. So that’s the first one.
But again, closer to your question, the second one is probably one of the biggest moments where everyone’s like, “Oh, my God,” it’s our reporting in data. Because before, what did companies have? These tools are so good. Culture Amp and Glint, they still are super crucial. But before that was the only way they could really understand how engaged our employees are. But with Epoch, it’s more like active data they’re getting. It’s, “Where are employees putting in their time in the programs that we’re presenting in front of them? And what do they feel about that?” So that more active data that they can finally get from Epoch is super exciting for them and exciting for us to see that, “Wow, we can keep doubling down on this and really make their lives better and easier.”
William Tincup: I love it. And I also love that you broke the rules. So favorite buying questions. When you’re talking to prospects, your team’s talking to prospects, obviously, they get it. Some of it, you show people software, they get it, and that’s part of life, or maybe the timing’s off, they get it, but it’s like, “Okay, our company, we’re two years from this.” Okay, that’s fine. But what are some of the questions that you just love when practitioners ask you? You love these types of questions. What are those?
Jade: The big ones is, again, I was going to say two, but it’s all data related. They always ask, “Can I also get XYZ numbers?” And then you really see their wheels turning of excitement of, “Wow, I can finally see different types of data that would really empower me to present better programs and events for employees,” which just super exciting to hear, because, again, they’re moving from just pure attendance data to now really getting actionable data of seeing which teams are getting most involved and what does that mean? Or which regions, which offices are getting more engaged with XYZ events.” So that’s super cool to see and just get asked about, because it empowers our team to continue delivering new features and ways to support them.
William Tincup: Yeah. And with the analytics, you’re seeing who’s involved, but you’re also seeing who’s not engaged or involved. And so then programmatically, you can then try to figure out what would get them involved. I could also see people that are, especially the high potentials, high performers, top talent, et cetera, really zeroed in on what they are engaged by and programs that work for them. So I can see people using it as a tool, especially the succession planning folks, using it as a way of insight into their most important talent. So I love that.
The last question. You talked about earlier how customers use technology in ways that maybe you hadn’t quite thought of, which I always love, but what’s your favorite customer story? Right now, if you only have one, without naming names, of course, just what’s your favorite customer story?
Jade: Probably one of our early customers when we really just started out and we’re like, “Okay, let’s see if this will work, let’s just solve for the most basic use case of employee experience events.” So at Epoch in the early days, we were like, “Okay, maybe just the employee experience team will find this interesting and will hopefully use us for their all-hands or fun social events.”
That did happen with one of our earlier customers, but then within a month or two months, all the other teams are clamoring in that owns the employee programs/ events calendar, from the ERGs, employee resource groups, to the DEI team, diversity and inclusion, to the learning development, the internal communications team, all these teams are clamoring in. It’s like, “Oh, my gosh, let’s all just use Epoch so we don’t have to operate in silos and better optimize our employees’ experience and discoverability of all these programs and events we’re putting forward.”
So that was super cool because then that allowed us as a team at Epoch to be like, “Oh, my gosh, wait, we can empower all these teams, not just employee experience teams.” So now when we talk to companies, we actually ask them, “You probably want to loop in other teams for your upcoming larger demo, because they’ll probably find value in Epoch too,” and that’s been going super well. So that’s probably one of my favorite customer stories, just because of the fact that it was such organic adoption, but then really influenced now how we present ourselves to companies and continue adding values in bigger ways.
William Tincup: I love it. Jade, thank you so much for coming on the Use Case podcast. I absolutely love what you’re building and just appreciate your time.
Jade: Of course. Thank you so much, William. This was really great.
William Tincup: And thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case podcast, until next time.
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.