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New Report Highlights Emerging Technologies to Boost Well-Being for Low-Income Young Workers

March 31, 2021

At a Glance

A year into the pandemic, JFF’s Thrive@Work market scan analyzes 1,000+ companies using emerging technologies to improve employee experience, engagement, and retention among young low-income and frontline workers.

In today’s volatile labor market, all workers, especially those who are transitioning from unemployment or unfinished education experiences, deserve tools and support that foster a sense of belonging and purpose.

New Report Highlights Emerging Technologies to Boost Well-Being for Low-Income Young Workers

BOSTON (MARCH 31, 2021) — As companies grapple with the challenge of supporting employee well-being a year into the COViD-19 pandemic, JFF, a national nonprofit driving transformation in the American workforce and education systems, today released a comprehensive report that focused on technologies designed to improve the employee experience for low-income and younger workers. With backing from the Prudential Foundation, the Thrive@Work market scan highlights companies deploying new technologies to address the most common and pressing challenges that low-income workers experience at work—from burnout and mental health issues to family care-giving responsibilities and opportunities for advancement.

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Challenges related to mental health, income insecurity, and remote work have been widespread during the pandemic, but low-income and younger workers—who often have the fewest personal, financial, and career resources—are among those experiencing these issues most acutely. It has never been more critical to help employees balance work, family, education, and personal life. We’re thrilled to see the rise of a new category of impact employers who share our conviction that employee well-being and business performance are truly two sides of the same coin.

Maria Flynn, president and CEO of JFF

Against a backdrop of unprecedented labor market volatility, the new report arrives at a time when more than 10.1 million displaced workers are struggling to find jobs. At the same time, the COVID-19 health crisis is causing historic increases in income and housing insecurity, exacerbating challenges related to family care-giving responsibilities, and raising new concerns around diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

In today’s volatile labor market, all workers, especially those who are transitioning from unemployment or unfinished education experiences, 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. This partnership is another example of our company’s $180 million commitment to connecting and advancing opportunity youth in quality jobs.

Paula D’Ambrosa, director of work & wealth, Prudential Financial

The Thrive@Work market scan was produced by JFFLabs, a team within JFF that designs and scales new technology-enabled approaches to promoting economic advancement. The market scan is designed to help employers, investors and entrepreneurs better understand the maze of new technologies designed to boost employee engagement and well-being, with an explicit focus on younger, low-income workers.

In a sweeping analysis of more than 1,000 companies, JFFLabs evaluated a wide range of human capital technologies designed to support employee performance management, boost learning and advancement in the workplace, deliver targeted coaching and mentoring, promote healthy work-life balance, and collect employee feedback. The report offers a new framework that assesses technology solutions and platforms based on their ability to tailor and deliver on-the-job support, improve employee engagement and well-being, and promote career advancement and retention for low-income workers.

Innovators to Watch in Employee Experience Technology

The report includes JFF’s “Innovators to Watch” in the employee experience and well-being market, a list of 18 companies—all founded within the past 11 years—poised to address a wide range of challenges. To assemble the list, JFFLabs reviewed companies of all sizes and at all stages of growth that are focused on addressing various needs in the employee experience, and then assessed them based on innovation, the efficacy of their offerings, and contributions to social impact.

According to data collected from the private capital markets database Pitchbook and analyzed by JFF, nearly $800 million has been invested in our 18 Innovators to Watch since 2012—98 percent of that in the past two years alone and nearly 30 percent in the past year. Valuations of employee experience technology companies grew 350 percent from 2016 to 2020—an indication of the momentum these companies are achieving and the interest they are generating.

Here are the “Innovators to Watch” (in alphabetical order):

  • 15Five works to deepen the connection between employees, managers, and peers by empowering transparency, meaningful conversations, and effective feedback, helping to improve employee-manager relationships and increase employee engagement.
  • BetterUp provides on-demand coaching to improve manager and employee skill development and to support employee health and wellness through one-on-one and group coaching and a curated library of micro-learning content.
  • Bravely offers same-day access to coaching for employees looking for guidance as they wrestle with short- or long-term challenges in the workplace, including career transitions, offboarding and other changes.
  • Cleo, a women founded and led business, is a family benefits platform, connecting prospective and new parents to a network of certified care practitioners and other resources designed to support employees navigating parenthood.
  • CultureAmp uses real-time surveys and assessments to gather and analyze employee feedback in real time, enabling employers to understand trends in workplace culture and target microlearning resources and other content to help employees thrive at work.
  • Eskalera is a platform that enables employers to translate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) insights into action throughout their organizations, helping employees at all levels build DEI skills, such as emotional intelligence, conflict resolution capabilities, and self-awareness, and enabling the broader organization to refine its people and DEI strategy.
  • Even is a financial technology platform that integrates with employer payroll systems to give employees real-time visibility and access to their earned wages before they receive their paychecks to help them avoid predatory loans, plan and budget their expenses, and boost their savings.
  • Fuel50 matches employees to internal career opportunities based on their skills and talents by identifying internal skills gaps and connecting workers to mentors, 360-degree feedback, gig assignments, and other supports.
  • Humu is a “nudge engine” that uses machine learning and feedback from employees to deliver personalized, bite-size suggestions to every employee to encourage actions aimed at increasing their happiness and effectiveness at work.
  • Imperative is a video-based peer coaching platform that helps managers reflect on their work experiences, commit to learning and action, hold one another accountable, and build relationships and networks across their organizations.
  • Modern Health, a comprehensive mental health and wellness benefits platform, addresses five domains that affect employee wellness: emotional, social, financial, professional, and physical. It offers access to a range of services, including licensed therapists, certified coaches, group learning programs, and digital content.
  • Sling facilitates scheduling, time tracking, task management and other functions in shift-based industries like restaurants, retail, caregiving, and call centers, making it easier for employees to sign up for shifts and for managers to supervise scheduling.
  • Thrive Global, founded by media entrepreneur Arianna Huffington after her own experience coping with sleep deprivation and burnout, uses stories and data combined with small suggested actions to encourage users to adopt behaviors aligned with well-being and sustainable performance.
  • Torchlight is a resource navigator for caregivers in the workforce that offers tailored content and one-on-one advice to help employees caring for loved ones at all stages of life, from children with special needs to aging parents.
  • Tribute, a peer mentorship platform, allows employees to select mentors for 30-day engagements based on shared life experiences or professional skills they wish to develop.
  • Workhound, a real-time, anonymous employee feedback platform specifically for frontline workers, is designed to help companies combat burnout and reduce turnover by enabling workers to anonymously rate their on-the-job experiences and share open-ended feedback.
  • WorkLife Partnership connects frontline employees with trained resource navigators who can help them surmount all-too-common challenges that can sap their productivity and engagement, such as food and housing insecurity, lack of child care, and health concerns.
  • Zestful is a communication platform built for remote teams that focuses on employee celebrations and challenges that helps employees build relationships, recognize one another, and earn rewards that can be converted into cash and prizes.

JFF’s Thrive@Work market scan was made possible through support by Prudential Foundation.

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