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Thrive@Work Market Scan

March 30, 2021

At a Glance

Employee experience technology that empowers young workers from low-income backgrounds for success. When young people who face barriers to success have the support they need to thrive at work, our entire economy benefits. A new generation of technology helps make that possible.

Alex Swartsel Managing Director
Laura Roberts Senior Director
Practices & Centers

The global COVID-19 pandemic is shining a spotlight on one of the most fundamental questions facing any business leader today: Amidst an increasingly complex and rapidly-changing social, economic, and public health landscape, how can employers position their employees to thrive at work?

This is especially pertinent for young workers from underrepresented communities who, despite their immense talent, resilience, and promise, often face barriers that make it difficult to find—and stay in—stable jobs that offer economic mobility. There are currently more than 9 million 16-to-24-year-olds across the country who are not actively enrolled in education and are unable to secure or maintain steady employment. Sometimes called “opportunity youth,” this burgeoning group includes millions of individuals who have made it into the workforce only to find themselves stuck in entry-level jobs with no security and no clear path forward.

Today, community-based organizations, employers, and apprenticeship providers who recognize the potential these young people possess have been ramping up efforts to connect them to careers. This work is especially important now, because the COVID-19 pandemic has left many young workers unemployed or underemployed, with individuals from underrepresented communities hit especially hard.

At JFF, with generous support from the Prudential Foundation, we had the opportunity to take a deep dive into what we believe could be one of the most powerful ways employers can use employee experience tools for social impact: empowering and retaining young workers from low-income communities. This market scan examines the employee experience technology market to identify solutions especially well suited to young people who have faced barriers to success and the companies that employ them, spotlighting trends, emerging innovators, and new opportunities along the way.

Thrive@Work | Market Scan

Employee experience technology that empowers young workers from low-income backgrounds for success.

In today’s volatile labor market, all workers... deserve tools and support that foster a sense of belonging and purpose. We’ve seen this firsthand, and with JFF we are excited to shine a light on innovations that will transform how we unleash the potential of workers, particularly opportunity youth, in ways that further impact the American workforce at large.

Paula D’Ambrosa, Director of Work and Wealth, Prudential Financial

Understanding The Landscape

Of the many types of employee experience technologies, we identified nine segments with especially strong potential to strengthen post-hire success for young workers from low-income backgrounds (and indeed for all employees) by playing a role in advancing and enabling one or more of the six Thrive at Work Principles we identified in the course of our research as being key to ensuring that young people who have faced barriers to success will have positive experiences on the job. While these technologies are rapidly converging and many platforms offer a variety of services, we grouped these nine segments into five categories to help pinpoint what we believe each one offers employees—and, in particular, young workers from underrepresented backgrounds—as they navigate the workplace and aim to succeed.

This five-segment framework helps identify an opportunity that innovators are beginning to seize as they push new technologies beyond the merely transactional step of connecting workers to jobs and employers to job candidates.

Our Innovators to Watch are on the leading edge of this new frontier of impact for workers.

Innovators To Watch

We chose 18 Innovators to Watch from the nearly 1,000 companies and organizations we identified in the recruiting, employment, and career planning sectors.

A select group of visionary enterprises, our Innovators to Watch are at the leading edge of market trends and they distinguish themselves from other forward-looking companies by their potential to create significant, business-aligned social impact. Many span multiple segments, introducing new product offerings seemingly every few months. Each offers a potentially transformative innovation or is led by inspiring founders and teams that we believe in.

Amid the twin crises brought on by the global pandemic, impact-focused employers are making great strides in identifying ways for their employees to feel connected, supported, and empowered to do their best work in this deeply challenging moment.

Even more encouraging is the fact that companies across the board are devising strategies to help specific groups of employees thrive at work. This scan shows that there are a wide range of promising technology-based solutions that can help businesses strengthen employee supports and improve retention rates, especially among young adults from low-income communities and opportunity youth.

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