WorkSpace Connect recently tapped Wisq CEO Jim Barnett
for a platform demonstration and to learn how it differs from other communications channels like company email or Slack. Barnett and I also discussed how the Wisq platform increases employee engagement and encourages virtual water cooler chat.
Responses have been edited for conciseness and clarity.
Does Wisq have a video walkthrough of what the platform is like? Can you walk me through the steps?
JB: When you log in to Wisq, a feed immediately welcomes you. But before we explore that feed, we have groups if you have a particular interest, and anyone can create a group. It’s as simple as clicking and naming the group or adding a description. [The group] could be ‘Invite Only’ or ‘Open for Everyone.’ When you click create, suddenly you’ve got a group. One of the challenges with some of these other platforms, i.e., email or Slack, is it’s hard to discover and explore [people]. But you can do this with Wisq.
If I click on explore groups (see image above), [Wisq has] everything from employees in APAC to audio files, addicted to golf, backyard barbeques—we’ve got a woodworking team at Wisq, we’ve got mindfulness teams. I can click on the mindfulness group, jump in, and see what it entails. I can see the posts in the mindfulness group, etc.
I can also explore and find people. For instance, Amanda joined [Wisq] last week, so I’ll click on Amanda. If I want to view her profile, I can see Amanda’s a native San Diegan, who now lives in Miami, she’s got a little boy named Leo, she loves Pilates, the beach, and TikTok. I love TikTok too, so that’s something I can connect with Amanda around. I can follow Amanda, see what group she’s a member of, and look at her posts as well.
You can also view a feed, jump in, and see what [non-work related events] people are sharing. [For example] we can see Matthew sharing photos from a recent fishing trip. Ed posted some art he was working on, and many people reacted or left comments. Peter Hanson recently joined [the company], so he created a post in the new hires group. Every other week we have employees sharing their profiles and sharing a story about themselves and their lives. We like to say, as you get to learn [more about a person], you get to know the person behind the title.
How does the Wisq platform replace Microsoft Teams, Yammer, Slack, WhatsApp, and company email?
JB: Wisq acts as a virtual water cooler. It doesn’t replace Microsoft Teams, Yammer, WhatsApp, or company email—instead, Wisq sits alongside them. Those are work productivity platforms that help us get work done, while Wisq is about connecting around non-work [related] things.
Employees must manage many communication streams from the benefits and onboarding perspective, which is separate from how we communicate with colleagues. Wisq intends to increase employee engagement, but couldn’t this be perceived as another communications channel that employees will have to manage?
JB: Undeniably, [Wisq] is another platform for communicating, but it’s asynchronous by design, it’s social by design, it’s a visual medium, it’s a mobile medium. So it’s different from chat or email. Everybody has their methodology for getting through email during the day—some people have their folders, and some don’t delete anything. But those are fundamentally stressful platforms you have to respond to, while Wisq is something employees want to go to—and you can visit it whenever you want. We’ve discovered people visit Wisq every day a few times a day.
Mondays are very active on Wisq. We notice employees are particularly active on Wisq after a weekend because people want to share what they did. It’s another mechanism for people to connect and communicate.
Wisq’s latest release says that early beta customers whose employees are engaging with Wisq are seeing benefits in four key areas: belonging, onboarding, growth, and employee resource groups. What are some concrete examples of this? How are you measuring beneficial outcomes?
JB: In onboarding, more organizations are embedding a link to us in their onboarding process or workflow, either in Google Docs or in ServiceNow. All the employee has to do is click on that embedded link, and they can single sign-on (SSO) into Wisq. There’s no heavy HR setup—everyone can link into Wisq, create their profile, and they’re off and running. Employees can also invite people to join Wisq, find groups they want to be a part of, and connect with people.
Organizations have also embedded Wisq into all-hands meetings when introducing people. New hires will use their profiles to introduce themselves. Employee resource groups are very active inside Wisq.
Belonging is another employee resource group. Everything we do [at Wisq] is about belonging, and we're fundamentally about helping people feel less isolated, more connected, and have higher social well-being, so they feel a higher sense of belonging. It's one of the most important things you can achieve with your employees. Everything we do [at Wisq] is about helping people feel a higher sense of belonging.
What are you most excited to keep addressing at Wisq, and why? Lack of connection has been an issue with remote workers, and Wisq seems to address the “virtual water cooler” problem.
JB: My life's mission is to help people be happier in life. I love that. Wisq’s mission is to help people be happy together at work. It gets us [employees] out of bed every day. During our internal company summit, [I asked the audience] What are some things you can do to lead a happy life? That’s the mission that keeps us going, and we are very focused on how we can help people be happier together at work.
Blue Sky Time: What’s the one thing employees don’t have in their current workspaces now that you think everyone should have and why?
JB: I think what employees don't have in their current workspaces is a place where they have permission to socialize in a digital world. We had the water cooler [to collaborate around], the kitchen or the elevator ride—we [may not] have that today.
Many companies focus on work productivity and creating rooms for people to solve problems on virtual whiteboards. Those are great. But what employees don't have is a place where they've got permission to socialize. So that's what we're trying to give them.
Wisq is in beta for its employee engagement platform.